Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken
(4 episodes, s18e21-e24, 1981)
An old face gets a new face.
Finally back in N-Space, the Doctor and Adric travel near the Mettula Orionsis system, a place known for its universal harmony. In a move that surprises the Doctor, the TARDIS falls into orbit around Traken and an old man appears in the console room. He is the Keeper of Traken, he has taken control of the TARDIS, and he is dying soon and will need to pass his powers to a successor. He asks the Doctor to come, but warns him of danger in the form of a Melkur, a supremely evil creature that was trapped in a garden and turned into a calcified statue. The creature has a fan: A woman named Kassia seems smitten by it.
You know, Adric has an uncanny knack for the TARDIS controls. Is he supremely intelligent and learning how to pilot the blue box, or is he just getting lucky like he did in Nowhere?
Flash forward to present day where Kassia is marrying Consul Tremas, a man who has been blessed as the next Keeper. Kassia is relieved of her self-imposed burden of tending to the Melkur, and Tremas’s daughter Nyssa is prophesied to take up the task. After the ceremony, Kassia returns to the garden to bid farewell to the Melkur, and it speaks to her in a single ominous word: “Soon.”
In the morning, the Doctor and Adric review the Time Lord’s logs (the latter being far more confused about them than the former) to see if he has ever visited Traken. On the planet below a dead body is found under mysterious circumstances. Kassia organizes a meeting of the planet’s consuls and, believing that the event was a murdered, declares that the Fosters (the local guards) be armed. The consuls are unsure.
The Doctor and Adric arrive on the surface and investigate the Melkur. After some wandering about, they are surrounded by armed Fosters. They are taken before the consuls, who have just voted to summon the Keeper and are surprised to discover that their leader has summoned the Doctor to appear before them. The consuls send Proctor Neman and his Fosters to verify the Doctor’s story by visually sighting the TARDIS, but the Melkur shoots red light from its eyes and the craft vanishes before the Fosters arrive.
The consuls summon the Keeper for his advice. As the Doctor asks him to verify the story, the Melkur arrives. The Keeper declares that infinite evil has invaded the sanctum and disappears, and the assembly draws the conclusion that the evil is the Doctor.
To quote another famous doctor, oh boy.
Kassia declares that the travelers are agents of the Melkur before dramatically fainting. The Doctor, believing in more a scientific reasoning for the events, offers to help Tremas scan the area. Consul Tremas offers them asylum under his privilege, which means if the travelers are at fault, Tremas will share their fate. As they investigate the strange energy fields, the Melkur continues to rampage through the courtyard, and Kassia discovers the corpses in its wake. She hides the bodies before the consuls find them, but the Doctor finds evidence anyway before asking for breakfast. As they eat, Kassia consults with the Melkur, and after the meal, the Doctor and Tremas search for the TARDIS while Adric and Nyssa analyze the data.
The consuls gather in secret to discuss Tremas’s actions and analyses. When it is revealed that Consul Seron also knew of the studies, the assembled consuls suggest that Seron should enter rapport with the Keeper instead of Tremas. Kassia reveals this to the Melkur, receives a special band as a token of its allegiance, and is commanded to be its eyes and ears in the court. Unbeknownst to her, the Melkur is being controlled from a remote location. She leaves the grove through a secret passage, unknowingly witnessed by the Doctor and Tremas.
The Doctor detects a time cone around the TARDIS which has displaced it in time. As he moves off with Tremas to investigate it, Nyssa and Adric attempt to enter the grove, but Nyssa is pulled aside by the consuls. Adric finds the Doctor and Tremas, and they move to a secluded location to discuss the young man’s findings. Adric has found readings consistent with a TARDIS, but not with a Type 40. They are interrupted by Seron’s attempt at rapport, which is successful but disrupted by Kassia as she kills the consul with her new laser vision. She declares the travelers and Tremas as agents of the Melkur, and they are forced to flee into the grove. The Doctor reveals the TARDIS against the protests of the Melkur, but before they can get inside Kassia stuns Tremas and the travelers are captured by the Fosters.
The trio are taken to a cell and the consuls are clamoring to resolve who will be the next Keeper since both candidates are now ineligible. Kassia consults with the Melkur who states that Tremas will only continue to live if she continues to serve, and that she must be the new Keeper. On a similar line of thought, the captives discuss the situation and come to a similar conclusion. Since a non-Trakenite cannot touch the Source, one would have to do so through a Traken native. As such, Kassia sways the remaining consuls to her cause.
Nyssa forces her way into the cell block by stunning Proctor Neman and the guards, then frees the captives. Nyssa leads them through the Sanctum as Kassia and the consuls find a recovering Proctor. As the Fosters close in, Tremas leads them all to his quarters, which is the last place that the guards would presumably look. There, the Doctor asks for the master plans for the Source Manipulator, the device that harnesses the Source for the Keeper. After some soul searching, Tremas provides them.
Meanwhile, Kassia reports her failure to the Melkur and is forcefully reminded of her task. Because the universe has a quirky sense of timing, the Keeper enters the last phase of his life, and the transfer of power must occur at the Keeper’s last breath. The consuls summon Kassia for the ceremony.
The Doctor, Adric, Tremas, and Nyssa converge on the TARDIS but are ambushed by the Fosters. At that moment, the Keeper enters his death throes and a storm rages across the planet. Kassia arrives and takes the title of Keeper, allowing the Melkur to touch the Source through Kassia. Inside the Melkur, a hideously scarred form taunts the Doctor, and as the Time Lord’s group leaves the grove, the statue disappears with the sound of a TARDIS.
Ah, yes. We know who this great evil is, don’t we?
The Doctor rushes to the Sanctum to prevent the final transfer of power, but it is too late. The Doctor sends Adric and Nyssa to the TARDIS as a screaming Kassia is enveloped in an energy field and the Melkur materializes on the throne. The Melkur summons Proctor Neman and orders the two remaining consuls, Tremas, and the Doctor confined to quarters. Meanwhile, Adric and Nyssa try to prepare the TARDIS for departure, but the engines are blocked. Adric explains a plan of last resort: Melkur can be defeated by destroying the Source.
Tremas and the Doctor discuss their options. They don’t have the five Consular control rings, but they do have the Source Manipulator plans so there is a chance. Unfortunately, the Melkur knows of the plans and sends Neman and his fancy new control band to retrieve them. When Tremas refuses, the Melkur materializes and forces them to relinquish it. Before fading away in weakness, Melkur destroys the scroll. Afterward, the Doctor ambushes the Proctor and the guards and steals the rings they hold. The Doctor and Tremas head to the Sanctum and attempt to break the Source Manipulator’s source code.
While they work, Adric and Nyssa construct their last resort device and install it at the Source. Melkur also arrives and stops the Doctor three digits shy of success. Tremas attempts to key in the remaining code, but Melkur stops him and forces the former consul to kill Proctor Neman with his own weapon. The Melkur outlines its plans for domination and reveals its true identity after taking the Doctor to its deepest sanctum.
The Melkur is the Master. The statue is his TARDIS.
The Doctor kindly offers to put him down like an rabid dog, but the Master restrains him. The Master reveals that he is on his last regeneration and near death after their battle on Gallifrey, and he plans to steal the Doctor’s mind and use the Source to extend his life beyond the regeneration limit. At the right moment, the Source is disrupted and the Doctor is able to escape the Master’s TARDIS and disconnect him from the Source. Consul Luvic leaps onto the throne to continue the line of Keepers, and the Doctor and Adric take their leave.
All seems well as harmony returns to Traken, but Tremas feels compelled to investigate a newly arrived clock. The consul touches it and it opens to reveal the Master. The evil takes over Tremas’s body and steps back inside the clock, a TARDIS he had hidden inside his old one, before dematerializing.
Nyssa returns to the Sanctum, but her father is nowhere to be seen.
The stage is set with this wonderful story. Next week, the Doctor falls.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
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