Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, and John Leeson
with Michael Cochrane and Veronica Roberts
Released July 2015
When is a story not really a story? Doctor Who's famously flexible format, whether you watch, listen, or read has so many possibilities - good or bad, and so many different types of pace to play with.
One episode cutaway with Daleks and no regular cast? Check. Epic serials with serials tucked within? Check. Trilogies, season-long arcs, Doctor-lite episodes, box sets, monologues? Check. It's a versatile old stick.
The Fate of Krelos represents a bit of a departure from the tight storytelling of the recent Fourth Doctor Adventures. The structure is unique, as three quarters of it is set-up for the following story, season finale Return to Telos - more about that later.
The Fate of Krelos is ostensibly a story about the Doctor and Leela taking a day off to climb a mountain and go fishing. They chat, bicker, and discuss the purpose of fishing. It's all quite uneventful for them, until they meet a collapsed mechanical man whilst climbing. The mechanical man is actually a vessel for the consciousness of the elderly mountaineer Geralk (played delightfully by Michael Cochrane) - who's safe at home in the opulent city of Krelos. They while away a little time together until a frenzied K9 attempts to climb the mountain to rather incoherently warn them of a terrible danger that he can't.....or won't explain. Then they make their apologies and leave Geralk to it.
The Doctor dutifully 'parks' the TARDIS in hover mode, and next thing they know, they step back out to find Krelos decimated - overrun by parasitical creatures as a by-product of K9's meddling with the TARDIS's architectural configuration.
And what has K9 done? Well, for reasons best known to himself, he's plugged himself into the TARDIS and taken it upon himself to flip the desktop theme back to what us fans might describe as 'Lime Grove '67', complete with a bit of Jamie's kilt snagged on the console, and possibly the odour of foam and the odd kirby wire. Much is made of this change of atmosphere and configuration. It's odd to hear this Doctor, never one to look back, musing over his past. It's not that subtle, and with the Doctor and Leela talking at length about Jamie and the past in general, it's quite clear that it's building to something.
What's less clear is why neither the Doctor or Leela notice that K9 is behaving very strangely right until the end, he basically disobeys every order given, puts everyone in danger, and makes no sense whatsoever. The listener is given every clue that something is seriously awry, and John Leeson works hard garbling and stuttering his delivery to emphasise this. K9 is, essentially, possessed - and the culprit is clear when he utters a familiar phrase at the cliffhanger. But, he is acting oddly throughout, and it's painfully obvious that we're supposed to know something is wrong. I'm not sure if the point was to highlight how little the Doctor and Leela really listen to K9, but it sticks out a mile, and it's jarring how unaware they are, when everything from script upwards is screaming at us that K9's having something of a metal breakdown.
The Fate of Krelos is really just build-up for the big finale of Return to Telos. We don't learn a lot about Krelos, bar some engaging scene-setting by Geralk. We also only meet two of its inhabitants, so it's hard to get too involved in what happens to its civilisation. Writer-Director Nick Briggs gets some nice stuff in about the technology and culture of Krelos, but the meat of what goes on in these two episodes is the conversations between Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, and John Leeson's off-kilter portrayal of the possessed K9.
Baker and Jameson are coming to the end of their time together, as we edge towards the end of Season Fifteen - so this is the Doctor and Leela's pause to reflect. Very effective too, from fairly trivial exchanges to the weightier stuff when the Doctor spells out his reasons for not crossing his timeline and saving Krelos. Tom and Louise are, as ever, wonderful. Leeson gets a meatier role than usual, and has a lot to do, which he does well. Selling the character of a robot dog suffering from possession by a malign force whilst still staying true to your character can't be easy.
The Fate of Krelos is very enjoyable. It proves that you can continue to do different things with a set format, and will no doubt make a lot more sense in context next month when Return to Telos is unveiled. This is perhaps the least individually effective of this years series, but it proves in more ways than one that you can teach an old dog new tricks.