18x6. The Keeper of Traken
Writer: Johnny Byrne
Director: John Black
Script Editor: Christopher H. Bidmead
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Synopsis: The Doctor and Adric
are summoned to Traken, a world known for presiding over a remarkably
peaceful political union, by its Keeper, an individual who communes
with the biolectronic "Source" and who seeks the Doctor's help against
an impending threat. Soon, the Doctor is drawn into a conflict over the
choice of the Keeper's successor and the manipulations of the "Melkur,"
a creature that has been present on Traken for many years but is
actually the Master's TARDIS. Although the Doctor prevents the Master
from taking control of the Source, he later takes over the body of
Tremas, a Traken consul who had sided with the Doctor in the conflicts
over the choice of a new Keeper.
Review: My reaction to "The
Keeper of Traken" may admittedly have more to do with personal taste
than anything else. To be sure, there are a few interesting ideas here,
such as the concept of an unusually peaceful society where evil is
literally frozen in place (as happens to Melkur), and Tremas makes for
a convincingly intelligent ally to the Doctor when they are both
falsely suspected of conspiracy. But stylistically, we have another
alien society with robe-wearing aristocrats and characters who
generally behave as if they're in some sort of theater production set
in the late Renaissance. The aesthetics on display here have never been
all that appealing to me in the first place - whether as part of a
"straight" period piece or in a modified science fiction context - and
it certainly feels like Doctor Who has
gone to this well often enough by now. The plot device of having the
Doctor falsely accused of a crime and facing execution is hardly a new
one either, and it's never quite clear whether this is meant to
undermine the notion of Traken as a peaceful society or if it's just a
misplaced bit of Doctor Who formula.
The script does a reasonable job of structuring the plot around the
Master's return. Rather than presenting his recovery from his weakened
state in "The Deadly Assassin" as a fait
accompli, the conflicts on Traken are set in motion by his
scheme to gain control of the Source and use it to rejuvenate himself.
There is one real head-scratcher of a moment when "Melkur," having
already revealed that he and the Doctor have met before, disappears to
the unmistakable sound of a TARDIS dematerializing, and yet the Doctor
still doesn't seem to figure out Melkur's true identity. Otherwise, the
plot-and-counterplot between the Doctor and the Master are believable
enough to make the story work on the "what's going to happen next?"
level, and Adric and Nyssa are effectively portrayed as intelligent and
resourceful but still somewhat wet behind the ears.
This certainly isn't a clunker, and it's competent enough in its
mechanics. But I guess the style and the more formulaic aspects felt
too stale for me to rate it as much more than an average Who serial.
Rating: **1/2 out of four
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