Doctor Who #556: The Keeper of Traken Part 3

"Well, clarity is the soul of knowing what the other chap's going to do. What are you going to do?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.14 1981.

IN THIS ONE... Kassia becomes Keeper of Traken, which spells her doom.

REVIEW: Kassia really did make a deal with the devil. The Melkur (come on, Doctor, if you know who he really is, use his real name) has granted her wish that her husband not be taken away from her by the Keepership, but in exchange, she herself must become Keeper. That's Gift of the Magi stuff, right there, and she doesn't even survive the experience, consumed by the Source. (Does Highfather know?) I feel sorry for Kassia. By the end, she wasn't even really allowed a motivation of her own. That control collar took all her will away, and though we see her upset at the Melkur's plans, there's very little of her fighting back as she orders the execution of her beloved husband, and so on.

Traken continues it descent into chaos - the death penalty ordered on four people even though it's "not our way", spontaneous thunder storms when the Keeper dies, and so on. And I'm just not sure what to think of the Doctor manipulating Tremas into breaking his oath and showing him the Source schematics. The Doctor and Adric were never proven guilty, nor were they proven innocent of being the evil the Keeper spoke of, so trusting them seems a bit naive. Look at that scene again. The Doctor forces Tremas to show him the blueprints, and then he and Adric seem to identify the circuit that can, what, destroy the Source? They're going to save Traken even if they have to destroy Traken's way of life to do it! But what can Tremas do? Even his daughter Nyssa, rather adept at making her own gun, is on the side of the Doctor. (Perhaps too much. When she boosts them from their jail cell, she calls out to the Time Lord, NOT her father. Seems she knows she's auditioning to become a companion.)

There's a cool bit involving the Master at the end, a bit I'd forgotten all about even though there have been clues all along. When Kassia dies, the Melkur appears seated in her place... and there's that familiar wheezing and groaning sound accompanying his appearance! Yes, the Melkur itself is a TARDIS! We always think of those things as a moving door, but what if you didn't need to go out? Couldn't you materialize as a smaller object? It explains the Master's twin viewers - portholes/eyes! The Master himself, now that we see him, looks like he got better. Not better enough, obviously, he's still kind of dessicated, but at least he's got flesh over his skull. The teeth drawn over his lips are part of the stylized style of the piece - just like Kassia's laser eyes drawn over her eyelids - so best accept them. Always thought Geoffrey Beevers looked like a zombie verison of Michael Palin in that get-up, and for good or ill, that impression hasn't changed. Now to have him face the Doctor...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The court intrigue is well done, Nyssa gets up to some companionly shenanigans, and there's a fun twist at the end.


Anonymous said...

Interesting point about doors. In theory, a TARDIS could be configured to shape itself as a door inside a door frame, and that's it. You could prop it against walls, you could hide it at Home Depot, and I bet it would work differently depending on which side you're on.

I've always found it impossible to take the Melkur seriously; somehow he reminds me of one of the Monty Python Gumbies.

Siskoid said...

He does have that expression :)

I've often had the chameleon circuit in my Doctor Who RPG turn into a simple door on a wall. It's good camo.


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