Friday, 20 September 2013

The Keeper of Traken

I don’t know what to say. After two good stories, Johnny Byrnes’ ‘The Keeper of Traken’ falls terribly flat in my opinion. I can’t say I was ever drawn into this story, or grew to like the characters save perhaps Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). Despite Bidmead’s wish to make the series more ‘scientific’, this story is full of mysterious ‘sources’, and a man that appears and disappears at will in his chair.

The Doctor and Adric meet the Keeper

And it’s so dull. It’s terribly serious for most of the time and there is a lot of capture, escape, recapture even more that the standard Doctor Who tale. Let me start with a positive, I love the design. It’s beautiful, really, this story features some of the most ornate and detailed corridors in the show’s history. They were not lit well at all sadly, in particular the outdoor scenes which were shot in the studio and it’s very very obvious. It’s  case of never knowing whether the scene is indoors or outdoors, which shouldn’t be an issue for the audience, but it clearly is.
Geoffery Beavers as the Master.
The Master returns, played very well I think by Geoffrey Beavers. He underplays it wonderfully, his soft, chilling voice adds another dimension to the part. The make-up is based on the job done for Peter Pratt in ‘The Deadly Assassin’, but doesn’t go as far in being hideous. As a result people will compare the two appearances and frankly this one is not as convincing as the previous.
Anthony Ainley as Tremas.
The plot is a bit confusing. The Melkur. Appears to be a TARDIS. With the Master’s TARDIS inside. Although I would prefer to believe it was a sort of shell connected to the Master’s TARDIS. He has two TARDIS’s now? The whole plot is basically political manoeuvring to get Kassia (played well by Sheila Ruskin) into the Keeper’s position so that the Master can take the power of the Keepership and rule the Universe or something along those lines.

The acting is strong. We also have John Woodnutt as one of the council, and of course Anthony Ainley as Tremas who would become the Master by the end of the story in a bizarre scene where he loses his long white hair, becomes much younger and appears in a frilly costume. Despite excellent casting, the story has very little action, goes round and round in circles and does not feature much humour either. The result is a very dry and unengaging story sadly.
John Woodnutt - always good value
Tom Baker of course is always great, and Adric (Mathew Waterhouse) quickly forms a strong bond with Nyssa, you wonder if he’s found a girlfriend at one point! Every story in Season 18 seems to have a fair bit set in the TARDIS. ‘The Keeper of Traken’ features a little less, especially compared to ‘Warriors Gate’ and ‘Meglos’. I wonder if it was a directive to use the TARDIS a lot more before the start of the season? Perhaps they felt the set was under-utilized. Whilst I enjoy stuff set in the TARDIS, it often prevents the story from moving on or even starting. Here a lot of the first episode is rooted in the TARDIS, which
Kassia looks up at Melkur
means we are waiting for the story to start properly. Perhaps the story was just not meaty enough to last four episodes. I think ‘The Keeper of Traken’ would have worked quite well as a single 45-minute episode.
It’s not bad per se, not at all, but it didn’t hold my attention either. It’s back to the dryer sort of feel of ‘The Leisure Hive’.


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