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A legendary foe contests the ascension of a Keeper Elect in the first ever serial to feature an aubergine

The Fourth Doctor and now sole companion Adric are summoned by the Keeper of Traken, a millennia old chap in a teleporting armchair, and told that something terribly evil and dangerous is afoot on his home world. A Melkur, an alien creature thought to be malevolent, recently landed on the paradisiacal planetoid and was promptly petrified, and because the locals are such a friendly bunch they’ve nominated one of the three women on the planet to leave flowers at its feet at regular intervals.

The Keeper is the ruler of Traken, and is strong with The Source and super-powered by a device, amazingly named The Source Manipulator. This machine controls everything including the weather and guarantees endless happiness for the inhabitants. Alas, the Keeper’s life is soon to come to an end and a new Keeper has been appointed in the form of paternal figure and single scientific chap, Tremas. Does democracy mean anything to these people, though? Will Tremas ever get to be a Keeper? And is the Melkur truly petrified or is some legendary Whovian baddie residing within?

 

(The eleven (11!) Listen Minis will be added below shortly — Thanks, Everybody, for writing in!)

Here's what we think of C115 The Keeper of Traken

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.7

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what we think of C115 The Keeper of Traken

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.7

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what you think 12 Responses to “C115 The Keeper of Traken”
  1. Ben / Tanz

    A few notes in reaction to your podcast.
    1) Traken is a Union of star systems, not a single planet or city. The Doctor and Adric are brought to its capitol city, where they have a small compound, including the Source Manipulator, the council chambers and residences, and the gardens.
    As it is just the capitol, when he’s not there he could be at any number of other planets within (or without) the Union. Or he could be in a palace with topless servants ala Tommy Chong in “Yellowbeard.”
    2) The counsel of Five are the ones who disseminate the Keepers orders, and they are the pool from which the new Keeper is selected. I assumed they were elected to that position, and that events took place so quickly they haD to choose another successor from among themselves when Tremas, and later Kassia, were disqualified.
    3) Nyssa is Tremas’ daughter. I thought it was mentioned directly, but I may be remembering the novelisation.
    4) In the time between “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Keeper of Traken”, the dessicated Master built a machine with which he could meld with another body, taking over that person. He had planned to do this to the Doctor, thus waiting all those years in the garden, biding his time (Or maybe he was still perfecting the machine), but settled on Tremas as his time was almost up, and he had missed the Doctor.
    Tremas didn’t grow another heart; the Master remained human (or non-gallifreyan). This was/will be made clear in the twentieth anniversary special, “The Five Doctors”, when the Time Lords enlist the Master’s help by offering him “a complete set of new regenerations” in exchange, confirming he cannot regenerate from his current form. (PUT A PIN IN THIS)
    5) The feedback from the Source Manipulator failing was absorbed by the Melkur, i.e. the Master’s first TARDIS, which is why the Melkur sat on the throne, and not the Master. The grandfather clock was the Master’s second (backup) TARDIS.

  2. Steven from Canada

    The master is back in the flesh… sort of. (Still feels weird replacing the late Roger Delgado with a shambling corpse but I’m a bit late to the game in criticizing that)

    This story introduces new companion Nyssa and reintroduces the Master very well. Both characters will become key features of the upcoming seasons.

    You can tell uncertainty is ahead when they start adding companions. Very general rule of thumb, the more companions, the less confidence the studio has.

    Speaking of companions Adric and Nyssa have more chemistry than he had with both the Doctor and Romana in all the previous stories combined. It’s definitely a nice change of pace and I’m glad to see him properly settling in to the crew.

    Costumes and makeup in this story are excellent with the titular Keeper exemplifying that fact.

    The only real criticisms I can give to this story is that I find it drags a bit in the middle two parts and the effect used for the keeper popping around was a tad silly, especially after similar effects were used for comedy in many Pertwee stories.

    Overall this story earns 3.9 painted eyes out of 5

    Steven from Canada

  3. Ed Corbet

    This is Adric’s first serial as the primary companion. I enjoyed the way he plays to the Doctor’s ego as it allowed him to play their repartee differently from Romana. Nyssa works well as an ally, so well in fact that they decided to make her a regular companion during production. Anthony Ainley is likeable as Tremas, making his next role as the Master all the more contrasting.
    The shots of the TARDIS in space looked like they were made by schoolkids who won a competition, the sets of Traken however, were far superior and were dressed with lots of little details to look lived-in, while not looking cluttered.
    The Keeper establishes early-on that Traken is a peaceful place and it’s citizens are nice people. This is in no way the case; death-sentences are handed out without trial and the Fosters have no qualms when ordered to carry-out the on-the-spot execution of the Doctor.
    The problem with this story is that the Consuls are stupid just to create opposition for the Doctor. It’s established that any evil arriving on the planet is petrified, yet they accuse a clearly mobile Doctor of being a great-evil. They completely overlook the fact that this ‘Great-Evil’ is being man-handled by Proctor Neman and the Fosters, who are basically glorified gardeners.
    While the story is good, it does a poor job of conveying the idea of anything existing beyond the 3 locations we see on-screen: the Traken Union is 5 boobs ruling their gardeners.
    3.5
    Ed Corbet

  4. Kristaps Paddock

    I’ll get to the story in a moment, but first want to get this out of the way: This is absolutely the most beautiful set in all of Classic Who. It faces fierce competition from Robots of Death but just about edges it out for the lush organic touches that Robots lacks. It also features the introduction of Anthony Ainley, the Master-est Master that ever Mastered (in my opinion).

    Nyssa also appears, and while I don’t like her that much, she’s far better than that other guy what’s his name who can’t even walk like a human. In all, a lot happens here, and what it lacks in likeable companions, it makes up for in continuing the rich and engaging story arc that leads up to Tom Baker leaving the show. The BBC really brought everything to bear in these final stories to give him a decent send off. Four point four.

  5. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    As a result of being one of the earlier Fourth Doctor stories to be released on VHS (yes I’m old), I have watched The Keeper of Traken many times over the years, and it ranks highly on my list of Classic Who stories.

    The thing that strikes me most is how well Adric works as a sole companion. He has agency, contributes to the plot, and is trusted by the Doctor to perform important tasks such as sabotaging the Source, whilst never needing to be rescued. This doesn’t happen again sadly, although there are some stories where he gets some screen time with just the Doctor, and those also work well.

    It’s good to see the return of the Master, which I didn’t suspect on my first viewing, although with hindsight a character called “Tremas” should have given it away (a common way to hide the reveal of the Master in Classic Who was to use an anagram of his name or the actor).

    As always, there are a few questions left unanswered. Why is the Doctor told he can’t move a muscle in the Master’s TARDIS, but is able to speak? Why does the Master choose Tremas as his new body, as opposed to someone else? The Keeper is clearly familiar with a TARDIS, so why does he not recognise Melkur as one?

    Overall, I think nostalgia plays a part in my rating this time, but this story gets a big thumbs up from me. 4/5

  6. Peter Zunitch

    Doctor, yes, Traken, yes, Set design, yes, costumes, BIG yes, Tremas, yes, Kassia, yes. Melkur, yes, Master, yes! Nyssa yes, yes YES! Yes, yes! Backstory and mythology, yes. Great cliffhangers, yes. Worldbuilding, yes, intrigue, yes, Adric, welllll… He’s actually okay.
    Seriously, what’s better than Peladon? Traken. What’s a great way to end a story? This episode 4. Which series does fantasy and technology properly? This one. Did I mention Nyssa?
    Does it relate to past stories? Perfectly. Does it set up future stories? You betcha. Is it perfect? No, but overall everything just comes together, not only continuing threads but setting the stage for so much yet to come.
    So what doesn’t work? Unfortunately the usual running up and down hallways is reduced to mildly sauntering short corridors. Characters get to B, only to do nothing and then state, “we need to get back to A”. Well why the Melkur did you leave then? Cassia has justifiable motivation for siding with the “baddie”. She does mean well, yet I feel that knowing Melkur is “pure evil”, she comes off just a little too willing at first. The only other flaw? That dopey writing pad Nyssa gives Adric.
    So the only remaining question, why would Tremas leave his daughter at home alone with a teenage boy accused of being evil? It’s a deep, solidly written story that hits every production mark, yet it’s slightly let down by bouts of repetitiveness. I’m totally in love, and perhaps with the story too. 4.0

  7. Nick aka The Doctor

    Another season 18 atmospheric, late Baker classic (in my eyes!) Once again, we get a people who are highly advanced due to their governance, scientific knowledge and the influence of the mysterious Source. Traken is an important planet in later Who and audios. I like most of the characters here and it helps that we build them up before the great reveal. Cassia is the master’s puppet all along. Pre-Master Ainley (Tremas) is a good character and funny to watch him when you know what he becomes (longest serving master if I am not mistaken).

    I did not see the reveal of the Master the first-time round or the Melkur (apart from knowing it is somehow evil). It is a good character, sinister looking and intriguing, and if I am not mistaken, the only TARDIS that can talk, stand up and sit down (Return of the Melkur will see it learn to clap its hands). It’s another transition story where we gain another companion (and we still don’t get to Gallifrey yet – a thread started in Meglos). Nyssa is a good character to follow Romana (Let’s not talk about Adric although he is slightly better). The story demonstrates what happens when a place where everything is good suddenly turns bad, and then everything is resolved by 337 sorts. The end.

    But not – love the Ainley regeneration (if that’s what it is?) epilogue and plenty more to come from him.

  8. Tanz Sixfingers | @TanzSixfingers

    Greetings Who Back When team (and loyal listeners)! My name is Ben O’Neill, but probably more people know me as Tanz Sixfingers, my online gamer tag.

    The Keeper of Traken is the first in a trilogy that sees the return of an old foe, and is also the penultimate story of the Fourth Doctor; therefore it is heavily weighted in the Whoniverse. Although it begins slow, it picks up pace by the end of part 1. The Doctor is invited to the Traken Union by the Keeper, who is nearing his end. He has nearly limitless power, from “The Source”, enabling him to both teleport onto the TARDIS in flight, and to take control of its navigation.

    Thus the Doctor’s timely arrival avoids the “coincidentally arrive at the most opportune moment” trope. The Master, disguised as a Melkur, has arrived on Traken, and intends to steal the power of the Keeper during the transition, to allow himself to regenerate and to rule Traken, and the rest of the Universe.

    Continuity: The Doctor welcomes Adric to N-space, there is a reference to the laws of probability, and talk of continuing on to Gallifrey, but oddly no mention of either Romona or K-9.

    Foreshadowing:

    • there are hints the Fourth Doctor’s time may be at an end when he is talking with the Keeper.
    • The Doctor mentions to Tremas the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is pivotal in Logopolis, the next story.

    Likes:

    • the music, especially at the wedding.
    • the unhidden corruption of Proctor Neman
    • Tom Baker is back in top form
    • Adric and Nyssa working together on their science project, a device to interrupt the Source
    • The deceptive way in which they brought back the Master (hopefully back then the BBC didn’t ruin the surprise with spoilers in their trailers like they have now.)
    • The parallels between this story and “Utopia”

    Dislike:

    • the makeup on the Keeper

    Overall rating: 4.2
    rewatchability: 2.5

  9. Matt Tiley | @Matt1701e

    Wouldn’t the Traken Union be a dull place to live? That is always the first impression that I take away from this. Everyone is so NICE and all overacty. It has always REALLY grated on me. However – I still love this episode.

    The Good

    • While obviously studio bound, I love the sets. It’s kind of medieval and future tech combined.
    • The Melkur – If it didn’t move it would be imposing – but when it does it becomes so creepy!
    • The Master – The slow reveal through the 4 episodes is truly delicious. The last time he featured was 5 years ago, and the Master we meet here is desperate, because he is at the end of his life cycle, and that makes him a real threat. Oh and his TARDIS(es)! It still makes me sex-wee a little now
    • Adric – Yes , you read that correctly. I feel this story where he is the Doctor’s only companion is a turning point for both the actor and the character.
    • Tremas – He was an anagram of the Master all along!

    The Beefs

    • The afore mentioned over-acting by the extras is cringe-inducing.
    • The pacing – I do feel the first two episodes are allowed to meander too much.
    • That net in the second cliff-hanger. Just…rubbish.

    Also, could this be the first appearance of an aubergine in Who? It’s a shame that we didn’t have a sweaty peach as well, just for the full set!

    All in all a healthy 4.0 out of 5. Bring on Logopolis!

  10. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    This is the first story I remember seeing as a kid. It sees the addition of a new companion, and the return of an old enemy in The Master!
    It has a somewhat Shakespearean quality with a dying leader, squabbling courtiers and a treacherous wife/wicked stepmother. Throw in the sinister Melkur and Tom Baker’s penultimate story is a tale of a peaceful and harmonious society thrown in to turmoil by its own well-meaning intentions.
    It features a supporting cast with many familiar faces-
    Margot Van der Burgh (Katura) was previously in the First Doctor story The Aztecs as Cameca
    John Woodnutt (Seron) was Hibbert (Spearhead from Space), The Draconian Emperor (Frontier in Space) and the Duke of Forgill (Terror of the Zygons)
    Denis Carey (The Keeper) we last saw as Professor Chronotis in Shada
    Also, in something of a whoniversal cosmic alignment Robin Soans plays Luvic and also plays the dude condemned to death for stealing medical supplies in Face the Raven which you’ve just reviewed!
    Geoffrey Beevers is brilliant as the Master, and as much as I enjoy Anthony Ainley’s portrayal I wish they’d left him as a decaying skeleton!
    Ainley is good as Tremas (I did not see the anagram as a kid but it’s so obvious now!)
    Sheila Ruskin is a little OTT as the scheming Kassia and I didn’t shed any tears when she got her comeuppance.

    Beefs:

    • Traken is a planet where peace and goodwill that defeats evil – so how does the Melkur/Master manage to thrive and nearly destroy them?
    • Nyssa states that she stunned the guards and they’ll be out for a while yet, but 30 seconds later the consuls emerge and the guards wake up!
    • Kassia’s painted on eyes – eurgh!
    • The Master’s TARDIS can walk (as a Melkur) wait! What? Also where is the entrance? On second thoughts maybe it’s best not to know

    Overall, a decent story (even Adric is ok!) that sets us up for Tom Baker’s finale. Whilst it’s by no means a classic, there’s enough to keep you interested.
    I award this 3.7 source manipulators out of 5

  11. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:

    • Holy moly – Adric is not annoying! There’s almost a paternal relationship. I don’t like it. Go back to being a total tool Adric, we love to hate.
    • Steampunk Traken and the looney egg-head Keeper.
    • Creepy Melkur (the pics of it in Doctor Who Magazine always freaked me out).
    • Radicalisation of Kassia – believable given she has been worshiping Melkur since she was a kid. Also loved her freaky eyes (clearly fake eyes stuck over her eyes, but awesome).
    • The return of skeletor Master (way better than Mr Googley Eyes in Deadly Assassin). Though he must have been very bored hanging around all those years stuck in his Melkur Tardis.
    • Anthony Ainley! Last seen (by me) in a really gory, grindhouse horror The Blood on Satan’s Claw! Tremas is such a nice guy – his body theft is horrible. But looking forward to more Ainley Master action (particularly VS a certain Seventh incarnation…)

    Beefs:

    • Where the dickens is Romana and K9? [checks TardisWiki] Ah, the elusive Episode Four of Warriors Gate. I hate you BritBox. I hate you.
    • For a society built of eons of peace, the Trakens seem a little trigger-happy to issue death sentences.
    • The Master-Doctor confrontation felt very brief – I guess it’s lining up for a ton of upcoming Master stories. The exploding Tardis and the Doc diving through that glass thing was terrific.

    Summary: Pretty darn good.

    Rating: 3.9/5 steampunk redshirt Traken people getting zapped by a giant stompy Melkur Tardis. Why can’t the Doctor’s Tardis do that! That would have got him out of a whole bunch of scrapes!

  12. Kieren Evans

    A fun little story with interesting design but a familiar plot. The studio bound garden setting looks fairly good for the period. Not bad, Adric is Adric, Tremas is nice. Now, what else…?
    Oh yeah, the Master! While he is in crispy form from The Deadly Assassin, he has been given a more natural face (the old mask didn’t survive in storage) and is now played by Geoffrey Beevers, husband of Caroline John (Liz Shaw).

    Beevers would go on to play the Master on a number of occasions in Big Finish (Dust Breeding and Master being particular favourites). Beevers’ voice is particularly good for that creepy seductive vibe that this one is often going for. Once again the Master is trying to extend his life and this time it seems to have done so…
    In itself this is a nice little story but it really is here to set up the next story. 3.3/5 laser eye statues.

    “So, a new body at last…”

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