Doctor Who #555: The Keeper of Traken Part 2

"So, your sheep stray from the fold, Doctor."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.7 1981.

IN THIS ONE... More people die at the Melkur's hands (err, eyes), and only Tremas is willing to listen to the Doctor.

REVIEW: Ok, let's talk about Adric, because there's something (else) bothering me. For a kid raised on Alzarius in E-Space, he sure knows a lot. He knows TOO MUCH. In the previous episode, he already had a handle on the TARDIS console as if there were missing adventures in there somewhere (between State of Decay and Warriors' Gate?). In Part 2, he's read all about the Keeper and Traken's technology (when?!). And then he says he's good with locks and picks the one in the grove's gate... not that we ever saw a traditional lock on Alzarius! Adric just doesn't make sense. It's like the script editor is doing backflips to explain why he's playing Romana's role (reading for straight knowledge, lockpicks for the sonic screwdriver). It's a bigger concern than the acting skills, though there's some of that going on too (that sarcastic smile... does he actually mean to cause Tremas to get himself executed?).

But there's another character we really must talk about. Who's the Melkur manipulating Kassia? Any guesses? The Doctor recognizes Geoffrey Beevers' voice (it's a great one, but he shouldn't). He's got a crispy, burnt hand. Adric has detected a TARDIS wave-form and it's more powerful than the Type-40's. And there's even a door with a light on top that ISN'T a TARDIS, but feels like an early clue nonetheless. I think the first time I saw this, I knew it was the Master, but I can't confirm that. But is he playing a long game, eating at Kassia's mind since she was a child, or is he preying on an obsessed woman by substituting an old statue with one of his machines? Making a woman betray her husband is just another cruelty he inflicts on Traken, along with murders and disharmony. This is the most engaging element in the episode.

Otherwise, I'm sad to report it's a little inconsistent. For example, the art direction is on the whole spectacular, but then they plug some ugly real-world consoles into the decor. There's a visual ordinariness than clashes with the artfulness of the sets and lets them down. And it's really not consistent to see needle gauges next to the "Source" (a Kirbyism?) that controls the entire Traken Union. Or whatever. The technobabble is strange in this one. Even the Melkur's weapon doesn't quite make sense - it disintegrates the floor, but leaves bodies looking like they've had heart attacks. Another inconsistency is one I'm not ready to condemn, because it does intrigue me, and that's how this supposedly Lawful Good society still manifests a rather dark streak. They have guards who can be bribed, crowds that let superstition take the place of reason, and even Nyssa seems rather nasty as she pulls rank on the Fosters (it's a trick, but she seems at ease with her own imperiousness). Is this behavior symptomatic of the Keeper's dying days or the Master's influence, or is the Traken Union's "goodness" more talk than walk?

- The reintroduction of a major villain, a revelation well-paced, is the star of an episode that's otherwise a bit too inconsistent in its execution.


Zundian said...

The nice thing about Time Lord longevity is it allows for "long con" stories like this without continuity nuts complaining about trying to fit everything together neatly.

Siskoid said...

It actually makes them look more powerful.

Zundian said...

Oh, no doubt. I kind-of want to see The Doctor run into an early-in-his-personal-timeline The Master and have him not understand why The Doctor is harshing his groove, so to speak.

Oh! The Master as The Doctor's #1 fan!

"I'm just doing what you did!"

snell said...

" this supposedly Lawful Good society still manifests a rather dark streak."

I suspect those are meant to be consequences of the Keeper's fading. Much of the story can be read as a treatise on "millennialism," I think, and hoe even "good" societies can go to hell in times of crisis, sometimes set off by tiny things, which was a popular subject in cultural theory at the time, as I recall.

And obviously, a convenient compare/contrast with Gallifrey, another Lawful Good society that manifested many a dark streak,,,


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