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Apr 3, 2008 (Updated Apr 3, 2008)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Tony Ainley is wonderful (before he was forced to do camp)

Cons:The story is dreadfully boring

The Bottom Line: The Keeper of Traken fails on pretty much all fronts. We do get a nice package of extras tho to ease the pain.

Ah, the Keeper of Traken, the beginning of the end for Tom Baker, and the start of one of the shows' biggest period of change. Pity the episode aint no damn good.

But I get ahead of myself. Here, let me enlighten the new people reading. From 1963 to 1989 (and a couple of false starts thereafter) the BBC ran an immensely popular family program called Doctor Who. The main character is called The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels the universe in the TARDIS, a wondrous spaceship that can go anywhere in time and space - provided that the Doctor can steer it correctly. During his adventures, he and his companion (usually a young human female with weak ankles and good lungs) combat evil and injustice wherever they find it. Key to the longevity of the series - Doctor Who can do what the James Bond movies have done several times. When fatally injured, Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, totally changing their faces and personalities, allowing the ability to swap out the lead roll when the actor wants to leave the series. So there have been several Doctors with different faces (ten, so far), but all of them the same character.

Oh, and the name of the show is Doctor Who. The main character is simply called The Doctor.

The Doctor (the one with the scarf) and Adric are visited by the wizened Keeper of Traken, who informs them that a Great Evil has come to Traken in the form of a Melkur - a calcified statue. The Keeper is nearing the end of his reign and seeks the Doctor's help in preventing the this evil from seizing control of The Source, the bioelectronic power core that is the keystone of the Traken Union.

Arriving on Traken, the Doctor and Adric are caught up in the various political double-dealings and backstabbing. Meanwhile the Melkur manipulates his way into becoming the next keeper, receiving the awesome powers of the Keepership. However, things take a more disturbing turn as the Melkur is revealed to be the Master's TARDIS - and the Master is poised to use the Keepership to gain a whole new regeneration cycle and turn his evil loose on the universe once again. . . .

The Keeper of Traken is maddeningly uneven story that holds loads of potential but somehow always leaves me wanting. The core premise is solid enough - a society held together “by people just being terribly nice to each other”, a society so pure that it literally makes evil shrivel up and die. Unfortunately this isnt carried out very consistently.

The ruling council seems to be in a position to swiftly deal out justice based on some really flimsy evidence - the Doctor and Adric must be evil because the keeper shows up and goes "EVIL! EEEEEE-VIL!" before passing out just as the Doctor enters the room? This is grounds for execuition?

Of course if the Doctor was such an evil being, then why is he walking around and not shriveling up and dieing (or becoming a statue like the Melkur).

This is of course putting aside the completely subjective nature of evil. Oh sure, there are things that everyone can agree on as evil (Nazis, flying planes into buildings and so on), but just how much evil is necessary to turn you into a statue? The bribery that we see a Traken leader commit in episode 3? Some of the stuff the Doctor has done? It's not a very well defined system - and to base a whole story with that system as a corner stone, well we need more to hang our writers hat upon.

The problems don't stop there - the whole projection has this air of being a community theater about it. The "exterior" sets don't convince me at all, the cast (save for Anthony Ainley) are either instantly forgettable, acting for the back row or twirling their mustaches and chewing on the scenery. The worst offender of the lot is probably Kassia our main heavy. Sheila Ruskin completely over-acts every fainting, hand gesturing step of the way.

Actually, that's not quite entirely true - Geoffrey Beevers as the Master is over-the-top, but then the Master is suppose to be barking mad anyway, so it fits right in with the character. Beevers delivers a wonderfully Eeee-VIL performance with menace dripping from every pore. His confrontation with the Doctor is pretty good stuff and of course the very final scene is really wonderful indeed.

You know, I'm running out of ways to say that the Restoration Job on this episode looks fantastic. The Keeper of Traken' was fairly straightforward, the episopde was in pretty good shape with just a modest amount of tape dropouts that needed fixing. So between the manual cleanup and standard noise reduction and color grading, the episode looks damn fine.

Released as part of the New Beginning boxed set along with Logopolis and Castrovalva, we get a wonderful selection of extras on all three stories.

On the Traken disc, we get commentary from Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, writer Johnny Byrne and the only commentary ever recorded by Anthony Ainley before his death in 2004. It's a damn shame too, since he's wonderful in the commentary - and seeing him in person, I know that he was a great speaker filled with all kinds of fun stories. Still we got one in the can from him.

Following that up is a half hour documentary about the making of the Keeper of Traken with interviews from Sarah Sutton, Sheila Ruskin, Geoffrey Beevers, director John Black, writer Johnny Byrne and script editor Christopher H. Bidmead, and then a short feature on the Return of the Master about bringing the Doctor's nemesis back.

There's a segment from the show Swap Shop with Sarah Sutton with questions phoned in from young viewers, a selection of trailers and episode bumpers, an isolated music track and of course the photo gallery and subtitle trivia track, along with the 1982 Doctor Who Annual, Radio Times listings for The Keeper of Traken and the BBC Enterprises Season 18 sales literature in pdf format.

Not the best of stories, but it does give us the Master back - so that's saying something. And the commentary with Tony Ainley is a treat, bittersweet tho it is - so that right there makes it worthwile to pick up.


The Beginning * Doctor Who and the Daleks * The Aztecs * The Dalek Invasion of Earth * Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. * The Web Planet * The Lost in Time Collection

Tomb of the Cybermen * The Seeds of Death * The Mind Robber * The Invasion

Spearhead From Space * Doctor Who and the Silurians * Inferno * The Sea Devils * The Three Doctors * Carnival of Monsters

Robot * The Ark in Space * Genesis of the Daleks * The Pyramids of Mars * The Robots of Death * The Talons of Weng-Chiang * Destiny of the Daleks * The Leisure Hive * The Keeper of Traken * Logopolis

The Visitation * Earthshock * Time-Flight * The Five Doctors * Warriors of the Deep * Resurrection of the Daleks * The Caves of Androzani

Vengeance on Varos * Timelash * Mark of the Rani * The Two Doctors * Revelation of the Daleks

Rememberance of the Daleks * Ghost Light * The Curse of Fenric * Survival * The Television Movie

Doctor Who - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Two * Torchwood - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Three * The Infinite Quest

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