31st January – 21st February 1981

Magnificent. It’s a pity about that poor chap having to sit for thousands of years in a chair, but it is magnificent.

The Doctor to Adric and Tremas, episode 3

Tom as the Doctor and Anthony Ainley as Tremas examine the Melkur statue. Picture © BBC

The planets that form the Union of Traken are bound by an atmosphere of peaceful tranquillity, maintained by the Keeper (Dennis Carey), guardian of the ‘bioelectronic source’ which forms the organising power of this small empire. So benign is the atmosphere that arriving evil creatures are literally calcified into statues on arrival. One such statue, termed Melkur, stands in the grove of the Keeper’s sanctum, tended by Consul Kassia (Sheila Ruskin).

The dying Keeper is due to hand over his powers soon to Consul Tremas (Anthony Ainley), a fact that greatly distresses Tremas’ wife, Kassia, as it will effectively part them. She expresses her grief in front of Melkur, and is astonished when the statue replies, promising to help…

The transition of power is always a traumatic time for Traken. In a rare moment of clarity the old Keeper telepathically asks the Doctor and Adric to support his people through this changeover, but when they arrive the Keeper’s fevered warnings about alien interference (from Melkur) are misinterpreted by the other Consuls to mean the Doctor. They are locked up!

Melkur has seized upon Kassia’s fear of Tremas’ impending destiny to corrupt her for its own purpose. Desperate not to lose Tremas to the Keepership she is cajoled into ever greater acts of deception, treason and even murder – ultimately imprisoning Tremas with the Doctor and becoming Keeper herself. But such are the conditions of her pact with Melkur, that as she replaces the deceased Keeper and adopts his throne, the sinister shape of the statue materialises in her place.

Tremas’ daughter Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) helps her father and the time travellers escape, but when the Doctor confronts this new Keeper, he recognises the Melkur statue is actually another TARDIS, housing his enemy, the Master (Geoffrey Beevers). The Master intends using the Keeper’s powers to repair his decrepit body (see The Deadly Assassin synopsis) and achieve a full regeneration.

Nyssa and Adric short-circuit the ‘bioelectronic source’, overloading the Master’s link to it, freeing the Doctor and consuming the Melkur statue. Just in time another of the Consuls, Luvic (Robin Soans) takes on the suddenly vacant mantle of Keeper. Believing all is well again, the Doctor and Adric depart. But the Master has escaped as well, in a secondary TARDIS. Still imbued with some of the Keeper’s power, he melds himself with Tremas, finally attaining his goal of, “A new body, at last!”

Video © BBC

The Keeper of Traken is available on Region 2 DVD

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The Keeper of Traken is available on Region 1 DVD

To find out more click on the cover.

The Keeper of Traken is available on Region 1 DVD

as an individual release. To find out more click on the cover.