Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Keeper of Traken - "I thought you might appreciate it if I gave you the impression I knew what was happening."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Keeper of Traken - Details

Season 18, Story 6 (Overall Series Story #118) | Previous - Next | Index

This may be the story I've watched the most times in the last couple years without writing about it yet for this blog, but I still don't have a heck of a lot to say about it. Which, I suppose, is why I've cycled through watching it, taking a few disinterested notes ("dull stretch, this," "Adric not the worst he's ever been here," "The Master's TARDIS is miles ahead of the Doctor's, what type is it?"), let the weeks drift into months, decide I can't write about it in good conscience without watching it again ...

The very last impression I took away from the most recent re-watch was just how uncomfortable it was to watch Nyssa's stepmom-to-be, Consul Kassia, allow herself to be manipulated by the Melkur. Yeah, the Anthony Ainley Master debuts here, Nyssa debuts, it's the beginning of Four's final (loosely organized, if at all an) arc leading up to the regeneration that brings Peter Davison aboard ... but all these things that should be interesting are just part of this story's drone. Kassia's willing subservience to a bad boy (though a statue) is an implied weakness in her character that derives from an willingness to accept her proper place in the social order. Her compliance when given a collar to wear by the Melkur seems to be a out of a thwarted desire to control her soon-to-be-husband's career choices, like a reverse Lady Macbeth. It left me with the feeling the story was being disrespectful to the character, trying to make a point about the hidden evil in the heart of women, emotional vampires adored by their husbands who just can't help themselves.

Still, I've watched this one enough times that I've kind of settled into a groove with it. There's just enough of what this could have been making its way to the screen that its flaws don't hide its potentiality. At this stage, Doctor Who is still capable of looking like show that isn't necessarily forever past its peak.

  • So, if I'm following, the Master had two TARDISes, the Melkur-shaped one, and the grandfather clock one that was inside the Melkur one. He's the Jay Leno of dastardly Time Lords, this one.
  • Nyssa debuts here, but I suppose it's too early to call her a companion, as she doesn't actually leave with the Doctor and Adric. It's not until the next story that the Watcher collects her and brings her to Logopolis where they all meet again.
  • Trivia bit: one of the Trakens, Katura, is played by Margo Van der Burgh, who also played Cameca in "The Aztecs." 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry transcript

Shabogan Graffiti
Fourth masterpiece in a row. 
The ancient man in the throne. The statue in the decaying grove. These are images that are hardwired into my brain. I saw them as a small child and they have stuck with me, the way that ideas from myths and fairytales do. The rest of the story may not always live up to the amazing aesthetic impact of these two elements (it all gets a tad twee and art nouveau for my taste...) but still, there's no denying that this is a richly drawn world... richly drawn in story too... because this is a "real" world... with living rooms and safes, cloisters and private offices, groves and public streets, bribeable petty officials and weddings and step-mothers and kings and... ahh, we're back to fairytales now, aren't we? But that's okay... fairytales have their origins in real times and places, in real fears and social conditions.

Sandifer post
[T]here’s some distant interesting aspect here - the way in which Bidmead and Nathan-Turner navigate the nearly impossible task of writing Tom Baker out of Doctor Who is an impressive piece of television show-running. They take the counter-intuitive but likely necessary approach of declining to make Baker’s departure the climactic event or allowing him to be the star of it, instead opting to build the Davison era’s trappings up around Baker and then finally delete him from a show that’s no longer his own. Certainly several major steps in that direction happen here.

Wife in Space post
Sue: Oh great, another ****ing meeting. That’s just what this story needs.

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