“You cheated us, Rohm-Dutt, just as the dryfoots have always cheated our people.” – Varlik
I like how this story uses its location setting well beginning with having the TARDIS appear buried among the head high rushes and reeds of the swamp. There’s lots of tramping about in mud and water that would never have worked well on set, and of course the story greatly features the use of watercraft from boats to canoes to a real hovercraft. (And how nice to have them set a story on the inhabited moon of a planet rather than a planet itself. It just feels more like real scifi that way.) I also like how in the end the key to time had the effect of mutating what was otherwise a normal creature. They’ve been doing a good job of keeping the search for the pieces interesting.
You do have to imagine that it was bit odd filming with a bunch of nearly naked men in loincloths painted green running around. It’s definitely a odd effect when they have a huge group of them running in place for their worship of Kroll—it looks more like some weird exercise program!
It’s not Robert Holmes’s most engaging script but the subtext about the treatment of Native Americans is clear—like how after moving the “Swampies” onto an unwanted area as a reservation the “Dryfoots” then suddenly find something they want there and start to force them out. The Doctor effectively calls out their claims to be helping the natives to “progress” as racist and self-serving. (“Progress is a very flexible word. It can mean just about anything you want it to mean.”) There’s also a lot of negative commentary on religious leaders creating their own signs and having no compunction about fooling the people to keep their mythology alive. Other than that, it’s a bit of a standard Doctor Who story about blind greed driving bad decisions that wake a sleeping giant.
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
When the creature first breaks through the pipe of the refinery, the moment that its tentacle violently snatches Harg and drags him in is rather shocking. It’s equally disturbing to see Rohm-Dutt dragged away looking imploringly at the Doctor despite the fact that he’s getting his come-uppance.
As a child, all I remembered about this episode was how the split screen effect at the appearance of the giant Kroll was way too obvious. It doesn’t seem so bad thinking about it now but that will probably always be my first impression of this story. It doesn’t help that there is some poor editing and direction right at his first appearance as well.