The Keeper of Traken was the sixth story of Season 18 of Doctor Who. It was the first story to feature Sarah Sutton as new companion Nyssa, and featured the return of the Master after a long absence, here played by Geoffrey Beevers and (briefly) Anthony Ainley. It is also the first story in "The Master Trilogy".
The Doctor and Adric learn from the wizened Keeper of Traken that a great evil has come to his planet in the form of a Melkur - a calcified statue. The Keeper of Traken is nearing the end of his reign and seeks the Doctor's help in preventing the evil from taking control of the bioelectronic Source that is the keystone of the Traken Union's civilisation.
In the TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor and Adric have arrived back in N-Space near the star Metulla Orionsis, home to the Traken Union, famous for its universal harmony. Suddenly they find themselves in orbit of Traken, and the figure of an elderly man on a throne appears within the console room. The Doctor identifies him as the Keeper of Traken. The Keeper reveals that he will soon die and have to pass on his powers to a successor, and asks the Doctor to come to Traken, but warns him of great danger. On the scanner, he reveals images of Traken and of the arrival of an evil creature known as a Melkur years ago. The creature's baleful influence cannot go beyond the groves and becomes calcified. A young Trakenite woman called Kassia is seen pitying it.
On present day Traken, consul Tremas is marrying Kassia. Tremas and Kassia enter the Keeper's chamber to receive his blessing. Tremas is the Keeper's named successor. In the grove, Kassia tends to Melkur for what is supposed to be the last time. She pours out her heart to the inanimate statue about her concerns, that once Tremas becomes Keeper, he will be taken from her. A voice is heard emanating from Melkur echoing her word "soon". A short time later, Fosters find a body outside the Grove and the Consuls are summoned to a meeting by Kassia. Tremas scans the area, but the readings are off the scale of his instrument. He says that it means some force is taking control of Traken. Believing the man to have been murdered, Kassia says that the great danger necessitates that the Fosters be armed, but the Consuls cannot agree between themselves, and summon Proctor Neman.
The TARDIS emerges in the Grove, opposite to the Melkur statue. As the Doctor and Adric exit the Grove, they are surrounded by armed Fosters. The consuls vote to summon the Keeper, just as the Doctor and Adric are brought before them. Neman and the other Fosters are sent to check the presence of the Doctor's craft in the grove, but before they arrive, red light is seen shooting from the Melkur's eyes towards the TARDIS, causing it to disappear. Melkur is later seen striding from the Grove towards the Court room. The Consuls ask about the identity of the Doctor and Adric, and Melkur stands at the doors of the room seen only by the Keeper, its eyes glowing red. The Doctor asks the Keeper to identify them, but he cries out "evil! the sanctum is invaded! … evil, infinite evil!" The Fosters then point their weapons at the Doctor and Adric...
Kassia describes the Doctor and Adric as creatures of evil before becoming overwhelmed and fainting. Seeing Tremas's instrument, the Doctor says that he could use it to detect the high energy beam used to attack the Keeper. Meanwhile, Melkur is seen attacking Fosters with lasers shooting from its eyes. Tremas speaks up for the Doctor and Adric, and invokes Consular privilege to protect them. Kassia is particularly displeased. Consul Seron says that should they breach any law, Tremas's life will also be forfeit.
Meanwhile Kassia rushes to Melkur and starts hiding the bodies of the Fosters. The following day, Tremas and the Doctor go to the Grove to search for the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Adric and Tremas's daughter Nyssa are conducting a Fourier analysis of the energy readings. In the Grove, Kassia is seen again conversing with Melkur. He gives her a band and asks her to wear it as a token of her allegiance, and she places it around her neck. When the band glows red, Melkur commands her to go forth and be its eyes and ears. Kassia informs it that Seron will enter rapport with the Keeper instead of Tremas, but Melkur is not concerned.
Tremas and the Doctor enter the Court room, where they see Kassia emerging from the source chamber in some sort of trance. When she has gone, they descend into the source chamber and enter the grove through a secret entrance. There, the Doctor realises that the TARDIS is in fact present in the Grove, but has been displaced in time. Later, the Source manipulator activates; the Keeper is being summoned — it is Seron's rapport. Watched by Kassia, Seron is enveloped in a column of light. Kassia's band and eyes glow, and she shoots later beams killing Seron. At that moment, Tremas arrives, but as the other Consuls arrive Kassia declares that Seron was dead because he was rejected by the Keeper. She orders the Fosters to seize Tremas, the Doctor and Adric, but they flee to the grove, where they are found by Kassia and the Fosters, who catch them in a net. Kassia returns to the Melkur and tells him that the deed is done. However, he answers back: "Oh, no Kassia. It is only beginning..."
Tremas, Adric and the Doctor are placed in a cell in the penal wing by the Fosters. In the grove, Melkur informs Kassia that Tremas will continue to live as long she continues to obey, and that she must become the next Keeper. Tremas informs the Doctor that Melkur could not come in contact with the Source, as the bio electronics only permit access to a Trakenite. Kassia meets with Katura and Luvic to persuade them that she should be the Keeper-nominate, which they readily do. Meanwhile, Nyssa attempts to get past Neman to see her father. When he will not budge, she shoots him and another guard with a green energy beam. She proceeds to the cell and frees the Doctor and the others. When Kassia finds the stunned Neman, she furiously orders him to search the sanctum and the Grove. The Doctor goes to Tremas's quarters, hoping that they have already been searched. The Doctor asks him if he has the master plans for the source manipulator.
The Keeper is dying, and Kassia is summoned by Katura and Luvic. The Doctor and the others try to get to the TARDIS, but are caught in the Grove by Neman and the Fosters. Neman informs them that the Keeper-nominate has sentenced them to death, but a sudden thunder storm terrifies the Fosters and they flee before carrying out the execution. Kassia enters the Sanctum at the moment of the Keeper's death, and seats herself on the Keeper's throne. Inside Melkur, a hideously deformed figure is seen, while behind him is a black wall with roundels...
The Melkur statue dematerialises from the grove with a TARDIS-like sound. As Katura and Luvic prepare to use their Consular rings to connect Kassia to the source, the Doctor bursts into the chamber and pleads with Katura not to complete the transition, but she ignores him. Kassia screams in agony, and disappears. The Melkur statue materialises in her place…
Melkur commands Neman to confine the Consuls to their quarters. As he does so he begins to fade from the throne before disappearing. The Doctor and Tremas discuss how they might be able to defeat Melkur before he has complete access to the Source. They do not have the five Consular rings, but with the Source manipulator blue-print, the Doctor thinks there may be a way. Melkur dispatches Neman, now adorned with a control band, to secure the blue print document. He enters Tremas's quarters, and asks for the blue print to be handed over. The Melkur statue materialises within the room, and when Tremas refuses to release the document, Melkur shoots energy beams from his eyes at him. The Doctor releases the document, and Melkur burns it with its energy beam.. The Doctor knocks Neman and the Fosters' heads together, and retrieves Tremas's Consular ring.
Nyssa and Adric complete construction of a servo-shutdown, with which they can sabotage the source manipulator. The Doctor goes to the sanctum, and prepares to try to break the encryption of the Source security system. Nyssa and Adric enter the Source manipulator chamber and prepare to attach the device. Tremas tries to make a defiant stand against Melkur, but Melkur mentally controls him. Neman is brought forth and hands his weapon to Tremas. Under Melkur's willpower, Tremas shoots down Neman. Melkur outlines its plans of conquest. The Doctor is drawn within the Keeper's inner sanctum, before both he and the Melkur disappear. Inside Melkur, the Doctor immediately recognises the disfigured creature as the Master.
The Doctor is paralysed when the Master keys his TARDIS's systems to his bio rhythms. The Master explains that he is nearing the end of his twelfth regeneration, and that with the powers of the Keeper of Traken he can extend his life beyond this final limitation of a Time Lord. Just as he is about to attack the Doctor to take his body, the servo-shutdown begins to destabilise the Source. The Doctor, able to move once again, smashes through a glass panel to escape.With the encryption broken, Adric's sabotage of the Source is reversed. Luvic runs to the throne to become the new Keeper before the Source dies. Adric and the Doctor return to the TARDIS. As things settle down on Traken, Tremas investigates a mysterious longcase clock. When he touches the clock face, he is transfixed and the door of the clock opens. The Master emerges and merges with Tremas… "a new body at last…". Laughing, the newly-regenerated Master enters the clock, which is in fact his TARDIS. Seconds after the Master's TARDIS has dematerialised, Nyssa comes looking for her father. She calls to him, but there is no answer...
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Adric - Matthew Waterhouse
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- The Master - Geoffrey Beevers
- Tremas - Anthony Ainley
- Kassia - Sheila Ruskin
- The Keeper - Denis Carey
- Seron - John Woodnutt
- Katura - Margot Van der Burgh
- Luvic - Robin Soans
- Neman - Roland Oliver
- Fosters - Liam Prendergast, Philip Bloomfield
- Writer - Johnny Byrne
- Assistant Floor Manager - Lynn Richards
- Costumes - Amy Roberts
- Designer - Tony Burrough
- Executive Producer - Barry Letts
- Incidental Music - Roger Limb
- Make-Up - Norma Hill
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Alan Wareing
- Production Unit Manager - Angela Smith
- Script Editor - Christopher H. Bidmead
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Don Babbage
- Studio Sound - John Holmes
- Studio Sound - Alan Fogg
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Peter Logan
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Director - John Black
- The Doctor's TARDIS is displaced via a time cone.
- Continuing the tradition of the Master having aliases of 'Master', Tremas is an anagram. Geoffrey Beevers is credited as the Melkur to conceal the plot twist of the Master's return. Even after the identity of the person inside the Melkur has been revealed the credits still credit Beevers as the Melkur. The Melkur statue was actually played by Graham Cole.
- This is the first story to feature a Master body change - though it is not a true regeneration, but rather the acquisition of another person's body.
- Denis Carey, who plays the Keeper, also played Professor Chronotis in the uncompleted Fourth Doctor serial DW: Shada, and the Old Man in the Sixth Doctor story Timelash, whilst Margot Van der Burgh had previously appeared as Cameca in the First Doctor serial DW: The Aztecs.
- The Master's TARDIS is shown to have offensive weaponry, which it uses in its Melkur form, and will again in DW: Castrovalva.
- To date, this is the final televised story not to feature at least one human.
- Geoffrey Beevers would later reprise his role as the Master in BFA: Dust Breeding, BFA: Master, BFA: Trail of the White Worm and BFA: The Oseidon Adventure. He previously played Private Johnson in DW: The Ambassadors of Death.
- Graham Cole would later reprise his role as the Melkur in BFA: The Guardians of Prophecy.
- Part 1 - 7.6 million viewers
- Part 2 - 8.1 million viewers
- Part 3 - 5.2 million viewers
- Part 4 - 6.1 million viewers
- Kassia's red eyes are clearly 'painted' on her eyelids.
- This story was the first part of a trilogy featuring the Master. The two following stories, DW: Logopolis and Castrovalva continue the story of his return.
- The Master in this story is in his burnt/crippled version implied to be the same form as that portrayed by Peter Pratt in DW: The Deadly Assassin.
- Nyssa is introduced but does not leave and begin travelling with the Doctor until the next story (Logopolis).
- BFA: Primeval also takes place on Traken, and is more or less a prequel to this story.
- The Fourth Doctor has already met Nyssa in PDA: Asylum (however this took place in her future after Terminus).
Home video and audio releases
- Commentary by Anthony Ainley, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse and Johnny Byrne.
- Episode 4 is extended slightly to incorporate a dedication to the memory of Anthony Ainley, who died between recording his commentary and the DVD's release. The dedication includes a brief outtake of Ainley from his recordings for the videogame Destiny of the Doctors.
- Being Nice to Each Other - A new 30-minute documentary looking at the making of The Keeper of Traken, featuring contributions from actors Sarah Sutton, Sheila Ruskin, Geoffrey Beevers, director John Black, writer Johnny Byrne and script editor Christopher H. Bidmead.
- The Return of the Master - Geoffrey Beevers, Christopher H. Bidmead and John Black talk about the return of the Doctor's arch enemy.
- Swap Shop - Noel Edmonds interviews Sarah Sutton in an excerpt from January 1981.
- Music-Only Option - The original score for this story is included on a separate soundtrack.
- Trailers & Continuity Announcements
- Radio Times Billings (PDF DVD-ROM)
- BBC Enterprises Literature (PDF DVD-ROM)
- Doctor Who annual 1982 (PDF DVD-ROM)
- Photo Gallery
- Production Subtitles
- Editing for DVD release completed by Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- The Keeper of Traken at the BBC's official site
- The Keeper of Traken at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)