Chapter 68. Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken (1982)

Synopsis: The Keeper of Traken presides over a union of harmony. Nearing the end of his very long life, he visits the Doctor and invites him to visit Traken. Instead of being honoured guests, the Doctor and Adric find themselves mistaken for the evil that the Keeper has warned about. In a nearby grove, Kassia, the wife of a consul bares her soul to a lonely statue, fearful that her loving husband will be taken from her if he is nominated to be the new Keeper. But then the statue speaks – and promises everything will be okay, so long as she obeys without question. Within the statue, in an impossibly large chamber, a decaying figure observes his plan coming together, a plan that will find him power to regenerate his husk of a body – and enact revenge on his nemesis, the Doctor!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Escape to Danger
  • 2. Melkur Awakes
  • 3. Intruders
  • 4. The Voice of Melkur
  • 5. Melkur’s Secret
  • 6. The Net
  • 7. Prisoners of Melkur
  • 8. A Place to Hide
  • 9. Death of a Keeper
  • 10. The Rule of Melkur
  • 11. The Last Resort
  • 12. The Enemy

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Johnny Byrne’s 1981 scripts, which followed Warriors’ Gate on TV, making this the second time that three consecutive stories have been released together.

Notes: The first chapter is called ‘Escape to Danger’ (yay!) and it directly follows on from Warriors’ Gate, explaining the disappearance of Romana and K9. Adric’s standard description now tells us he’s ‘a smallish, round-faced, snub-nosed lad with an expression of cheerful impudence’. We’re also told he ‘usually eats enough for two’ and Adric observes that ‘practically everyone on Traken was old, eminent, and bearded’, which is a brilliant line. We only discover the identity of Melkur at the same time as the Doctor. The description of the Master matches that from The Deadly Assassin:

The figure in the chair was both wizened and decayed, the body as worn out as the tattered robes. One eye glared madly from the crumbling ruin of a face and blackened lips drew back in a ghastly chuckle.

As he confronts the Master in his TARDIS, The Doctor recalls his nemesis back in his prime:

The stocky, powerful figure, the darkly handsome face with its pointed beard and burning eyes, the deep, hypnotic voice. All of that was gone, decayed, so that all that was left was a walking corpse.

The new Master’s first words are ‘Now begins my new life!’

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a simple scene of Nyssa and Melkur. Alister Pearson’s 1993 reprint cover is another montage of faces, depicting the Doctor, the Keeper and Melkur, along with the screaming, decaying face of the Master.

Final Analysis: A lot more effort with this, even though it’s largely a straight translation from screen to page, as Terrance provides points of view and character insights throughout. One slightly odd thing is that it’s not exactly clear in the TV episodes when exactly the Keeper reveals that Tremas is to be his successor, as this is merely reported by the Keeper after he shows the Doctor and Adric the wedding scene. Here, the appointment is very much part of the wedding, meaning Tremas and Kassia are married for less than two days before they’re both killed.  As on TV, Nyssa is not signposted as the new companion and if anything her role is minimal, even though Terrance makes sure to tell us that she and Adric quickly become friends.

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