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The Keeper of Traken

The Doctor is invited to the tranquil planet Traken, a world of peace and ordered calm. But all this is to change, as one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies has designs on being the new Keeper of Traken…

The Fact of Fiction

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales…

Valentine’s Day, 1981 – and my heart nearly burst. Not because I got a card, and learned I had a secret admirer (as if! I was a ten-year-old Doctor Who fan – I shrank from a world that quite rightly despised me). Round about 5:33pm, the creature that had been watching the Doctor and friends from behind the eyes of Melkur for the last three weeks swung round to face out of my TV screen, and it was only the Master…!

Or was it? That was the thing, early in 1981 – hardly anyone had a video, there was no way to check. I’d been too busy hyperventilating to think to look at the closing credits, to see whether or not they said: ‘The Master – Peter Pratt’ (they wouldn’t have helped, as it turned out). No tens of thousands thumbing touchscreens in tandem, tweeting #omg #the Master #whats wrong with his eyes. No-one to talk to, to compare notes with. Just me, alone in my bedroom on Valentine’s Day, wondering whether or not what I’d just seen was real; just a few thousand of us, alone in our bedrooms lined with black-and-white Doctor Who Weekly pin-ups, all equally thrilled and equally unsure. Confirmation didn’t come for another week – seven whole agonising days, when they upped the ante even further by making the Master young again.

The Master (Geoffrey Beevers).

We were lucky, I suppose: no-one will ever get to see The Keeper of Traken exactly the way that we did. But there’s more to Traken than the Master, of course; in all our excitement, we forgot (or never noticed) just how good it looked – it’s the best-designed all-studio Doctor Who to that point, probably. Watching it again, in 2017, there’s a Part Three scene that strikes me as forcefully as that Master reveal did, 36 years ago – when kindly Consul Katura says that on Traken, “We’re all proud of our liberal tradition, but this superstitious mania, this cult of Melkur, is growing…” That ‘but’, used by good people to justify betraying their most cherished values, and unleash “a Keeper Nominate who will not shirk what must be done”; that ‘but’ is chilling.

Part One


The TARDIS has returned to N-Space, bringing Doctor Who (Tom Baker) and his companion Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) to the planetary system Mettula Orionsis…

■ “We’re supposed to be on our way back to Gallifrey,” the Doctor tells Adric. Indeed: three adventures earlier, in Full Circle (1980), the TARDIS had been just 32 minutes from returning ex-companion Romana to the Doctor’s planet of origin when, by chance, it had passed into the universe of E-Space.

… home to the harmonious Traken Union – an empire held together by “people just being terribly nice to each other.”

■ “Well, that makes a change,” says Adric. In the rehearsal script (dated 15 September 1980), he added: “I mean, after all the other nasty places you were telling me about.”

The controls have been set for the planet Traken itself, determines Adric – but not by the Doctor…

Soon: the TARDIS goes into orbit.

■ The Doctor’s hat-stand – on which his cape from The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1976) and Romana’s hat from City of Death (1979) are hung – was the focus of an extended opening to this scene recorded, then cut for timing reasons. According to the camera script, it opened with a ‘Deep 2-shot’ showing Adric ‘earnestly checking the controls’ in the foreground, and the Doctor behind – trying to prop up his wobbly hatstand. “You’re the mathematician, Adric,” he asked. “Why does this thing always wobble?” Seen from the foot of the hat-stand, the Doctor complained: “You put a book under one leg, and then you need a book under the next leg, and then…” Adric, meanwhile, had noticed something wrong with the controls: “I can’t get any response…” Seeming unconcerned, the Doctor continued: “Round and round, doing all the legs in turn. It’s perfectly infuriating.” Then, ‘sensing Adric’s impatience’, he rose to join his companion beside the TARDIS console – hence his line, “Now, what seems to be the problem?”

” A whole empire held together by people just being terribly nice to each other.”

■ This opening was even longer in the rehearsal script – in which, despite ‘sensing Adric’s Johnny Byrne. impatience’, the Doctor suggested they “just wait” instead. “Do you even know what we’re waiting for?” asked Adric. “Not exactly,” came the reply. “But then anticipation is half the fun.” Whereupon a light on the console bleeped – indicating that the TARDIS had gone into orbit.

The Doctor and Adric see that an ancient figure in a throne (Denis Carey) has materialised beside them…

■ According to stage directions, ‘Adric is about to panic at the sight of the almost mummified Keeper, but is restrained by the Doctor…’

This, the Doctor guesses, is the Keeper of Traken – who knows of the Doctor by reputation. The Keeper’s Time of Dissolution is near; his power is fading. Despite the “great danger”, he asks the Doctor and Adric to go to Traken – which “faces disaster”, he fears.


■ On being appointed Doctor Who’s producer late in 1979, former All Creatures Great and Small unit manager John Nathan-Turner offered the job of script editor to Johnny Byrne, who’d dramatised 12 episodes of the veterinary saga (and had script-edited much of Gerry Anderson’s Space: 1999, too). Not wanting to move to London, Byrne turned him down. Coincidentally, eventual script editor Christopher H Bidmead also knew Byrne of old…

Johnny Byrne.

■ Based on a storyline submitted sometime in spring 1980, Byrne’s draft scripts for the fourpart The Keeper of Traken were delivered by the end of August. The story was scheduled as the last-but-one in the 1980-81 season – but it had since become clear that leading man Tom Baker would leave the series at the end of the run. Nathan-Turner decided that the Fourth Doctor would face a revived version of his nemesis the Master in his last adventure…and so Bidmead was instructed to rewrite Byrne’s scripts, turning the evil Mogen into the Master, who then occupied the body of the scientist Hellas – renamed ‘Tremas’ in anagrammatic (and illogical) tribute to the Master’s tortured aliases of old.

■ Late in September, John Nathan-Turner began to consider retaining Tremas’ daughter Nyssa as an additional, possibly shortterm companion for the Fifth Doctor. Former child actress Sarah Sutton, noted for her starring role as the blind Diana in the children’s fantasy serial The Moon Stallion (1978), was cast.

■ The serial was planned to be recorded entirely within the walls of the BBC Television Centre studios, in two three-day blocks: the first between Wednesday 5 and Friday 7 November 1980, covering scenes set in the Courtyard, the TARDIS, the Grove, plus Tremas’ and Seron’s Quarters; and the remainder between Friday 21 and Sunday 23 November. A wildcat electricians’ strike, however, caused the final day’s work to be rescheduled for Wednesday 17 December – just six weeks before the serial began transmission.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • exclusive interviews with JOHN SIMM (the Master) and MICHELLE GOMEZ (Missy) • an exclusive preview of the series finale, THE DOCTOR FALLS • showrunner STEVEN MOFFAT reveals what's going on behind the scenes in PRODUCTION NOTES • the adventure continues for the Doctor and Bill in part 3 of the latest comic strip story, THE SOUL GARDEN by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty • reviews of THE LIE OF THE LAND, EMPRESS OF MARS and THE EATERS OF LIGHT • The Fact of Fiction looks at 1981's THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN • the latest books and audios are reviewed • previews of forthcoming releases •prize-winning competitions, official news, the WOTCHA! column and much, much more!