5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN
"Interesting stuff, isn't it?"
A civilisation held together by people being incredibly nice to each other. How interesting's that gonna be? Well, not very.
The Keeper Of Traken's plot is, not to put too fine a point on it, a total mess. So the Traken's Union's all joy and peace because of the power of the Keeper, is it? How nice. But how does that work, exactly? Presumably by taking away the free will of the inhabitants. Charming.
Evil can't survive on Traken, yeah? So how's the Master been flourishing away all these years? And how come Kassia falls in with him? Why on Traken do the consuls agree to support Melkur? And if they've been peaceful for so long, where did the Fosters' guns come from? And where the hell did the superstition come from that the Melkur would revive the Union?
The Master wants to become the Keeper so that he can regain his mobility (and also, presumably, for unlimited power, ahahahahaha). Bit ironic, then, that if he'd succeeded he would have been stuck in a chair for a thousand years. And wasn't it nice of him to take Tremas's word for it that the roll of paper he got out of the safe was really what he said it was? Mind you, he's not the only thicko here. Despite the Master dropping increasingly desperate hints, the Doctor's still wandering around in a cloud wondering vaguely just who this guy is who says he's met him before.
In fact, the Doctor's intellectual acuity isn't at its best here in any arena. The entire Traken Union depends on this whole Keeper/Source arrangement, yet the Doctor can't come up with any better plan to stop the Master than to destroy the Source. And he's so casual about it, too. Sorry about that, chief. Incidentally, one minute he's playing a game of statues in the Master's TARDIS under dire threat of death should he so much as bat an eyelash, and the next he's galloping around. That Master, eh? What a kidder.
So the plot's full of absurdities. But worse than that, it's also horribly flat and static. The Keeper appearing in the TARDIS would probably have been a brilliant wheeze had the exact same thing not happened in the previous adventure with the Tharil. He then proceeds to tell us all about what's going on, thereby stripping out any interest by making it an academic lecture.
Back on Traken, things get off to a promising start: the wedding gives us a real sense of the society, and it's a wonderfully low-key start for Nyssa. But it all starts falling apart immediately. What's the point of setting up a society where everything's peaceful and good if you're immediately going to undermine that? What with Kassia, the guns and that guy on the take, it's very hard for us to believe Traken society ever did what it said on the tin. After that, the story seems mainly to consist of running back and forth down a corridor with bendy arches, interspersed with machinations only interesting if you like political party conferences.
The Keeper Of Traken isn't helped by some very sad acting. It's by no means one of Tom's better efforts: he's either overacting or phoning in his lines. Sheila Ruskin's not great as Kassia, either, with a particularly dreadful comedy flop to the floor and some wildly theatrical armwaving. Anthony Ainley plays Tremas pretty much as a scaled-down version of the Master. Adric is an utter third wheel in this plot, but when he does appear, he's absolutely appalling. Let's face it, Matthew Waterhouse couldn't act his way out of a toffee wrapper. His leaden banter with the Doctor makes us want to throw heavy objects.
The one bright spot, character-wise, is Nyssa. She's sharp and clear-headed in the face of danger, and we were particularly impressed when she floored Mr Bribable and friend. We were fully expecting them to disarm her in that usual wibbly girly way, but no, she plugged 'em, as cool as an ice cube on skis. Superb.
There might have been a vaguely interesting idea in here once. But if so, it's been smothered by a pile of plot stupidities and a story that goes nowhere in decreasing circles. Boring, boring, boring.
MORAL: Look where being nice gets you.
THAT WOULD BE RUDE
Melkur comes at an anonymous Foster at a speed of about three miles per century, and the Foster tiptoes backwards at the same pace, shrieking "No! No!". Why didn't the silly bugger just run away?
At one point, Melkur addresses Kassia as "console".
The costume designer does a nice job with all those big puffy velvet sleeves, doesn't she? Although we're not sure about Nyssa's tutu.
MAKE UP SOMETHING
You'd think they'd know better after Image Of The Fendahl, but no. There are those stupid painted eyes again.
The whole point of Kassia's deal with the Melkur is to keep her husband with her - so why does she tell the Proctor he's disposable?
YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN
Down on the floor, Anthony Ainley asks "Did you key the whole number in?" Tom shakes his head, then realises Ainley's line had been muffled and says "What?"
AND WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, COULD YOU PICK UP A PIZZA?
This must be the only time in the TV series we see a walking TARDIS. Handy.
When the door to the Master's TARDIS in its clock form is opened and closed, the reflection of the camera, cameraman and assorted studio bits and bobs can be seen.