“The Keeper of Traken”

keeper_2065I’ve been plagued this week with pains in my mousing hand, probably from trying to carry too many things for too long last Sunday, so I took the day off from work. The problem is, staying at home is pretty boring when you can’t use your hands. What to do? Doctor Who, of course! I spent most of the day listening to the audiobooks from “The Destiny of the Doctor” series, finishing the first seven, so only four more to go. Expect a discussion of them by the end of the weekend.

On our third attempt to watch “The Keeper of Traken,” we finally succeeded! Back in September when we first starting watching the classic Doctor Who episodes, I wanted to see the Fourth Doctor to Fifth Doctor regeneration, so I ordered from Amazon the “New Beginnings” trilogy consisting “The Keeper of Traken,” “Logopolis,” and “Castrovalva.” When it arrived, I popped “The Keeper of Traken” into the DVD player, and it didn’t work. The other two discs worked, so we knew it wasn’t our equipment. We watched the other two episodes and returned the trilogy, and sadly, Amazon didn’t have any other copies of it. My husband was especially disappointed because Nyssa is one of his favorite companions and he really wanted to see her genesis episode.

A few months later, we subscribed to Netflix, and one of the first discs we added to our queue was “The Keeper of Traken”: we would finally get to see this episode. The disc arrived and… it didn’t work. We have multiple DVD and blu-ray players, and it didn’t work in any of them. Just our luck. So, back it went to Netflix with a “This disc is broken” post-it on it.

Last month, I reordered “New Beginnings” from Amazon, and this time, the disc worked! So, we finally got to watch it.

Spoilers ahead.

Having just returned from E-space with his new companion Adric, the Fourth Doctor is summoned to the tranquil and harmonious planet Traken by the Keeper, the elder of the planet who keeps the peace on the planet through powers granted by the Source. He’s dying and will be passing on his powers to the next Keeper, but he knows there is danger and wants the Doctor’s help. An evil creature called Melkur landed on the planet years ago and, though it was captured as a statue and isn’t a threat, the Keeper is concerned about it. Meanwhile, a consul named Tremas is about to marry his love, Kassia, but he is also likely to be named the Keeper’s successor, which worries Kassia, as he won’t be able to be her husband if he becomes the Keeper.

It’s impossible to describe more of this episode without revealing the whole plot, so if you don’t want to know what happens, skip ahead to the next paragraph. Since the arrival of the evil Melkur and its calcification as a statue, Kassia has been taking care of it, and she becomes influenced by it, doing things it suggests because she believes it is helping her. She starts out trying to subvert the the Keeper process because she wants to keep Tremas as her husband, but more and more, the statue causes her to manipulate people so that Tremas cannot become the Keeper and the consuls choose Kassia to be the Keeper instead. By the time she realizes that the statue is not helping her (she can’t keep her husband if she’s the Keeper either), the statue is able to fully control her. The Doctor and Adric spend the episode trying to prove that they are not the evil saboteurs the Trakenites think they are and figure out who is subverting the Keeper succession and why.  Finally, the Doctor discovers that this has all been engineered by the Master, who is at the end of his final incarnation and wants to take the Source to extend his life. The Doctor is able to foil his plans, but unbeknownst to him, the Master merges with Tremas and leaves in his TARDIS.

I think I really enjoy episodes like this one in which the Doctor is considered to be hostile, so he has to not only solve the problem at hand but do so while trying to clear his own name. It adds a bit more tension to the overall story, simply because everyone is hunting him. It causes more twists and turns in the plot, too, as different characters come to trust or distrust him as events occur. The episode also handled the supporting characters well. Since Traken is a harmonious planet with no conflict or distrust, the Trakenites are incapable of understanding deception, and so they jump to conclusions very quickly on flimsy evidence.

This episode was also Adric’s first adventure outside of E-space, and he was instrumental in saving the day. One thing I noticed was that both he and Nyssa were very technologically capable, something that modern companions are incapable of, as they are always human. It was nice having companions that actually understood the science and technology they were faced with and could build a device to accomplish what was needed. Interestingly, Tardis Data Core notes that this is the last episode of Doctor Who that did not have a single human in it.

Overall, this was an enjoyable episode: not one of the best, but better than average. It also sets the stage for the next two episodes, as it introduces the characters who are going to be instrumental in the Doctor’s regeneration and recovery. The only one who is not in this episode is Tegan, and she arrives very quickly in “Logopolis.”