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The Keeper of Traken


Chase - Posted on 16 June 2009

1

 

Well that was more of a chore than it used to be. The thing is that I've probably seen this episode more than any other episode and probably know most of it by heart and better than the others. I've gone into why elsewhere. It was the first "NEW" ep I saw after years and years of Tom Baker reruns from ROBOT to INVASION OF TIME and then ROBOT to ARMEGGEDON FACTOR or possibly HORNS OF NIMON. And then I saw just this ep and it was back to the rerun of RIBOS.

Anyway ALL the Adric/Doctor scenes are amusing, clever, and fun. This Doctor gets on so well with Adric, who's maybe just trying to cope with him being so bossy (like in real life between Baker and Waterhouse maybe?) and the one in charge, that he's holding back some of his criticisms. There are factions of fans who think Adric works better with Tom Baker and I think it was THE UNFOLDING TEXT that also claimed this. Certianly this ep shows that but it's debateable. Had Adric only been the only companion with the Davison Doctor (who's himself alot like Adric) perhaps Adric would have had his day or days longer with the Davison Doctor too.

Anyway the story ably sets up the world of Traken and for once, it's a fully realised world but frankly the set up is boring but it had to be changed to be different than MEGLOS..and is all the better for it, I say. Nyssa DOESN'T impress in this ep, not yet anyway and her acting...the others act their socks off and Anthony Ainley is impressive and solid as Tremas. The actress who plays Kassia is fine. The others all make their presense felt. THing is: as peaceful as Traken is supposed to be, it's not. In fact, I cannot believe that it's ever been the peace planet it's claimed to be, even by the Keeper (who cannot be the same person who played Prof Chronitis in SHADA can he? He is!). it turns out maybe it is the evil that comes to the planet that slowly infected it but I suspect it's been a bunch of evil to begin with. In fact, in future episodes, we find out that Nyssa doesn't mind knocking people out, others plot and have political agendas, and even here Tremas and the friend (forget his name but he played the Duke in TERROR OF THE ZYGONS way back in Tom's first season!) seem to tell white lies and whisper in order to keep truth from others. Kassia seems obsessed with Melkur and the Tree Masters or Guards as they are called here, carry guns! So it seems to me to be a more hypocritical messed up culture, planet than even Alzarius was.

Again, Tom's jokes don't really register ("I thik I've been to Traken, it's so difficult to keep track of'). But his rapport with Matthew is apparent, despite whatever it was he was thinking. To his credit, years later in THE TOM BAKER YEARS he seems to wish Matthew well, possibly feeling guilty as how awful he treated Matthew ("why don't you go piss off!"), a true blue Doctor Who fan. In any event, the whole "as for your handwriting"  and "Alot of the time you don't really seem to make a lot of sense" and "on this page it says..." bits come off well and Mattahew comes off well in this. This may be his best story, bar EARTHSHOCK, where they had something for him to do but unforutunately there is was the goal of having him die and making it meaningful. I also like how the Doc is trying to get through the gate but Matthew just opens it on the other side. Tom apparantly forget about this and had to be reminded by Waterhouse to do it that way in rehearsal or after that, not sure.

The Keeper is an interesting make up job and the costumes and sets quite nice. It is a bit...claustrophobic, not having anything really outside and makes the whole planet seem like an indoor planet but you can't have everything. Nowadays exterior location stuff would have added to the gardens and the whole planet but what they had is nice.

The cliffhanger is pretty cool and Melkur...well more later. A good episode, setting up the rest and doing it's job and not at all bad, just a little slow when the Doc and Adric aren't on screen...talking...            

2

That's more like it. Easy to watch. This episode moves faster and the sets are if possible, even better looking in morning light. The DVD text made me realize that there are more than just the writer and Sheila Ruskin (Cassia) linked to the second season of SPACE: 1999. Johnny Bryne who wrote THE METAMORPH for SPACE: 1999 used some of the aspects of Pscyhe and Rapport and even Mentor and Maya for the Keepership and Tremas and Nyssa here.

Once more it strikes me that a TV writer like Bryne can write well for Adric and Bidmead can give some pointers but Adric takes the lead role of companion well, seems smarter than Nyssa, doesn't brag about learning new science from either her or the Traken science, is useful to both Nyssa and the Doctor and comes up with stuff before even the Doctor does. In almost all ways, he is a useful,but vulnerable companion and fits the role totally and perfectly. He's pleaseant when he meets Nyssa and relates well to her and Tremas. He picks locks, too. In fact, the Doctor does little here and Adric does a great deal more.   

Shelia Ruskin did a great job in a strange second season SPACE: 1999 ep, LAMDA FACTOR, almost like a first season story of that series. Here, she's a bit annoying as the evil minded Cassia, but she's being controlled. She does seem to want to be controleld, however, but she does try to resist Melkur's control but fails utterly.  It was intresting to note that Melkur knew the Doctor was  a Time Lord and seems to know him by name.

I'm still perplexed by the Traken ways. Why rapport with the Keeper with just two people, one to watch behind closed doors. In the first ep, they seemed to ahve everyone around to summon the Keeper but now I guess rapport is different? Also: if the Keeper can do some much, why can't he stop Cassia as he seems to know she is behind all the bad stuff? Not sure if it was due to his waning powers.

It's intresting to note Adric mentions sleeping in the TARDIS. Not sure I've EVER heard that since MARCO POLO!

Anyway anther good episode, TOm's a bit sedate but still okay and at times, his physical presencse seems to eclipse the guest cast in the way he's filmed, almost giant at times.  

     

Troy Baker's picture

I don't know whether or not you noticed but the cliffhangers for the story are a little different than the usual stories. They are more subtle and indirect.

 

For example in episode 1:

  the counsel calls the Keeper and the keeper was attacked, but the threat was to imply that the Doctor and Adric were the threat and not a direct confrontation.

 

In episode 2:

   we have the Doctor, Adric and Tremas captured and Kassia comes to the Melkur and the cliffhanger was Melkur telling her that "This is just the beginning". again not a direct threat but a subtle one.

 we have a similar cliffhanger in episode 3 as well.

 

Hey Troy, not to be contentious or anything. I did notice the later ones but the first one is really the guntoting guards advancing on the Doctor and Adric with guns drawn, ready to fire so that's really a traditional cliffhanger. The others are just...well, I liked them at the time but to be honest, compared to the Sarah Jane cliffhangers  in almost all her stores (being ravaged by a Zygon, having her hand near an erupting Krynoid, falling off a gantry, spotting Davros testing a first time Dalek, trying to free the Doctor's neck from a baby Dalek, recovering her sight as a monster advances on her from behind, the Loch Ness monster fondling the Doctor from on high, etc etc) these are really dull. Not terrible for the story mind you and different because as you say subtle but I wouldn't want cliffhangers like this all the time. Just my opinion.     

3

Gosh, that was a good episode! I mean ep3's are not often but this one was just bloody fun, bloody brilliant, and bloody good. I'm sorry but I didn't notice it then but I do now: Sarah Sutton's just not very good an actress. And people pick on Matthew. I just don't find her very believable. Likeable, yes, believeable no. Still she gets a chance to shine here and warm to the character and make the audience like her, which she invariably did.

There's action galore here for once and the sets that involved the chase and just about everything else are brilliant, colorful in all the right places, and dark in the others. The cell looks like a dank cell for once and the tree groves and sanctum are just all well made and well filmed.

Tom has a ton of Tom-isms that are just...fun, funny and fit in well. There's more in this episode than the last two or three. I love his "what can't be cured must be endured" and then Adric's' "that's the silliest thing you've ever said," to which Tom replies, "Yes, yes, shh, don't listen to me, I never do."  And there's much more. Someone says there's snot coming out his nose in the cell scene and I don't recall seeing it on first viewing nor in this one but if  you look for it, I think you'll see it as once before I did. Also at times, Tom plays it pretty straight and again, he reminds me, I don't know why, of Richard Basehart in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA particulary the later VOYAGEs. It could be that Basehart, like Tom, was unphazed by the bad scripts even though hating them, and that he felt the only way to cope (besides drinking, like Basehart) was to play it competely straight at times with some quips at others. The two have a lot more in common than one might first think, which is why I think a fan ficction writer once had the companions wonder if Admiral Nelson was somehow the Doctor regenrated when the Doc was lost and had his memory taken or something.

Anyhow I don't see the science in the Keepership...it is really more like magic. Bryne supposedly used some of the Space: 1999 concepts in METAMORPH to copy but it still comes off as magic here, but in 1999 at least some attempt was made to call it psyche or something or other. Not to matter, I've always accepted DW as magical anyway, I just hate it when it gets all  hypocritical and starts behaving like science is the only thing as in Pertwee stories or as in "there is no magic" type stories. Clearly in this DW universe, there is. I also hate Traken. The politics and agendas are worse than on Earth and clearly they are not a peace loving society. Even those not taken over the ...well, the Master in his emaciated form frm DEADLY ASSASSin...a LOVELY touch to have him back in THAT form! And if anything he looks even more creepy as if he's tried to regenerate again and failed or something. He has some more flesh on him. And looks burned! Ahhh, yes, those not taken over the Master include almost everyone but Kassia but the Fosters can be bribed, Kutura doesn't trust Tremas or the Doctor and is generally stupid as is Luvic.

The storm: laughable. Again, I've mentioned Irwin Allen shows and if they did one thing correctly (alot of things in my book imo but...) it was storms. A windstorm on LOST IN SPACE is a lot more dangerous looking than what was going on in the lightning wind storm in this ep and it just looks silly here in KEEPER OF TRAKEN. Having an old woman and a goofy guy move around while wind and lighting effects lamely try to show us the "danger" is just...lame. Ditto the scenes of the Doctor (notice how Baker goes for laying around on the ground with Sarah!) and company falling on their asses during the said "storm". Not a good storm to be honest but it does the job I guess. Also note how Sarah touches the Tardis doors and they almost open.

And again, the writer of this story is giving Adric mature things to say and do and in a way making him more mature than the Doctor and even advanced beyond maths and in science. I also like how Nyssa mentions Adric's name before the Doctor's when talking about them in one part. That says something. Adric is sort of like Robin to Tom's Batman in this ep and I wished to heaven that this could/would have continued. In the next story we get, unbelievably an air stewardess chiming in "for what it's worth" as she puts it herself. And it's pretty poor to see the early Tegan trying to be all serious and scientific.

I like the ion bonder. Why didn't the Doctor keep it for later eps? Or maybe he did? I can't recall but he certainly didn't use it. I do think it would have been yuet another problem solver like K9 or even THE TARDIS or the Sonic Screwdriver. But for pete's sake, the Doc has to have some leverage over something. He certainly can't fight...not really. I know that the Pertwee Doctor could but...in all truth, he hardly even had the upper hand in physical confrontations most of the time and as for the other Doctors...I guess they could get lucky in some fights but they were no Bruce Lee...

All in all,   a good ep to bring back the Master and it's particulary cool that the Melkur is actually the Master's TARDIS! Who can't wait to see the Doc and the Master meet in the last ep? THIS is how to do a Master returns story, not...well you know what i mean.

4

So it ends and so well too. What struck me most was that Adric was pretty much the savior here, acting on the Doctor's work and advice but free to do so and Nyssa pretty much helped him, watching him do the hard stuff. Also: Adric's most sympathetic here to the Traken way of life and seems very upset that perhaps they will have to destroy the source. He's a much rounded character here and the build up from his start is rather good.

Anthony Ainley does a great job in this ep but so does Tom Baker. "I used to know a remedy for mad dogs..."  the Doctor finally is told it is the Master...or rather shown it is the Master. The Master Tardis scene is a bit strange in set design but no matter, it's a great scene and how the Doctor gets out is dramatic in itself but...is that the way out of the dimensional threshold? In any event the entire thing is well done if a bit ...not explained in every detail.

Again, it is Adric who saves the day by clocking in the two numbers of the three so that the Doc can get out and clock in the last one. And the Doc is shown as falliable as the end is a shocking ending...the Master takes over Tremas's body. Now, here it's not explained or shown that Tremas was killed in any way...that comes later and that's  a good thing...for it  keeps us guessing if Tremas can somehow come out of the Master's hold...

JNT it has been said, added the Master to this story. If so that's yet ANOTHER brilliant thing JNT has done for DW in this season. Bravo to him. Hope he keeps that inventiveness up and not introduce any companions who just start out in mid season...or anything like that. Or let female companions take over again....when this is working out so well and so fresh...

Anyway, a good episode, a great ending to a great story with fleshed out planet, fleshed out characters and a bit wonky science but great ideas and great acting for the most part. Nyssa still did not really make an impression. Too bad Beavers couldn't play the Master longer in this form but Ainley will follow to do a GREAT job too.   

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