Referring to the Traken Union, The Fourth Doctor tells his new buddy, Adric, that it’s “famous for its universal harmony. A whole empire held together by people just being terribly nice to each other.” Let’s be honest, they’re not that nice. Indeed, Tommy B and Matty W have barely had time to locate the nearest bar before they’re captured and accused of skullduggery.
It’s an unusual start to The Keeper of Traken with The Doctor and Adric being quite chummy in the TARDIS. When one thinks of their relationship it’s easy to forget the cordial way the Time Lord treats the Alzarian maths wizard. They also spend quite a bit of time in the console room before they join the action on Traken – mainly down to the appearance of the titular Keeper in the Doctor’s ship.
And what a moment! Quite a remarkable entrance and so well played by Denis Carey, not unlike a slighty older, nearly dead version of Slartibartfast. The use of the TARDIS scanner to tell the back story of Traken and the Melkur is rather inspired and moves things along quite nicely (though the rest of the story does sag a tad in the middle). It’s a good old-fashioned “Doctor turns up and gets into trouble” scenario as the “terribly nice” people of Traken are not terribly nice to everyone’s favourite Gallifreyan.
The rest of the cast are solid (featuring the stout Who stalwart John Woodnutt) if slighty stagey at times, coming off very Shakespearian on a number of occasions due to the sheer wealth of characters on display. But this is no bad thing, it adds to the atmosphere of Traken and its harmony.
But the main character that steals the show, and really makes this story for me, is The Melkur (pictured right). The calcified evil terrified me as a child and still cuts a chilling figure (despite his rather shifty-looking hiding-behind-doors schtick). Not unlike the Weeping Angels, it’s a statue that moves and has a problem with eye contact. “Don’t look at it’s EYES!” yells Tommy B pronouncing the last word in a slightly bizarre fashion.
Speaking of voices, Geoffrey Beevers provides the most spine-shivery of tones as he calmly makes his way, hiding his identity as his plan hatches. His reveal as The Master is fantastic though his appearance isn’t quite as horrific as his emaciated form in The Deadly Assassin; his evil essence, however, is still as strong as ever. And tops to see the Master’s TARDIS too.
Oddly, there’s very, very quick goodbye scene after evil is defeated and order restored – The Doctor doesn’t even look the Trakeners in the eye as he bids farewell; he just trots off for some more TARDIS fun with Adric. Typical Baker.
Of course, that’s not quite the end. We’re presented with a delicious return of The Master proper as he takes over the body of Tremas and pops into his Grandfather Clock TARDIS (a neat nod to his previous story).
The Keeper of Traken deeply affected me as a child (in a good way) and it’s stuck with me ever since, despite a couple of flaws in the tale. It’s a glorious little tale with big consequences and one of the most iconic villains in the Whostory.
Check out No. 47 HERE
Check out No. 48 HERE