The Keeper of Traken (TV story)

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The Keeper of Traken was the sixth and penultimate serial of season 18 of Doctor Who. It 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 what is sometimes referred to as "The Master Trilogy". It was the first appearance of Nyssa, although she doesn't officially become a companion until the next story.

This was also the first of the Master's annual appearances on the show that would continue until 1986's The Ultimate Foe, the final two episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord.

In this story, the Master assimilated a new body to replace the one that was withering, and thus changed physical appearance without the aid of regeneration. Anthony Ainley would now portray the Master until the end of the classic series with his substitute body.


The Fourth 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 bio-electronic Source that is the keystone of the Traken Union's civilisation.


Part one[[edit]]

The TARDIS receives a visitor - the Keeper.

In the TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor and Adric have arrived back in N-Space near the star Mettula Orionsis, home to the Traken Union, famous for its universal harmony and where evil is non-existant. 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. He asks the Doctor to come to Traken but warns him of great danger. On the scanner, the Keeper 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 it becomes calcified. A young Traken woman called Kassia is seen pitying the Melkur, leaving a bunch of flowers at its feet and saying she will come and visit it again soon.

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 the body of one of their colleagues 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 among 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 courtroom. 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 Keeper then vanishes, and Melkur moves out of sight. The Consuls and the Fosters then point their weapons at the Doctor and Adric and close in on them...

Part two[[edit]]

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.

Adric and Nyssa hard at work.

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. A band appears at Melkur's feet and he asks Kassia to wear it as a token of her allegiance, and she places it around her neck. When the band locks around Kassia's neck and 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 courtroom, 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 laser 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..."

Part three[[edit]]

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 Traken. 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 thunderstorm 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, there sits a hideously deformed figure, 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...

Part four[[edit]]

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 blueprint, the Doctor thinks there may be a way. Melkur dispatches Neman, now adorned with a control band, to secure the blueprint document. He enters Tremas's quarters and asks for the blueprint 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 Decayed Master.

The Doctor is paralysed when the Master keys his TARDIS's systems to his biorhythms. 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 the exploding control room, while the Master struggles through the flames to reach the far side of the room where a grandfather clock stands...

"A new body at last..."

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, which the Doctor feels is in need of a complete overhaul.

As things settle down on Traken, Katura tells Tremas that the new Keeper has been inaugurated, and Tremas says perhaps they will have peace again. Katura leaves the sanctum, and Nyssa tells her father that his help will be needed in putting things to rights. Tremas decides to start with his quarters and sends Nyssa on ahead, saying he will join her in a minute as there's something he wants to look into. However, Tremas is distracted from his planned task by a mysterious long-case clock standing in an alcove. He goes to investigate, but when he touches the clock face, he is suddenly transfixed, and calls out desperately for Nyssa. The clock's door opens, the Master emerges and his body merges with that of Tremas: "A new body at last." The newly rejuvenated Master enters the clock, which is in fact another TARDIS. Seconds after the Master's second TARDIS has dematerialised, Nyssa comes looking for her father. She calls out to him, but there is no answer...


Uncredited cast[[edit]]



The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor consults his time logs. Adric is able to read them.
  • The Doctor is able to tell the energy readings of a TARDIS, and he can tell there is a more advanced TARDIS than his own on Traken.

Food and beverages[[edit]]

  • Wine is consumed during the wedding of Tremas and Kassia.

The Master[[edit]]

  • The Master appears to have two TARDISes, the Melkur and his grandfather clock, which is inside the Melkur TARDIS.
  • The Decayed Master is nearing the end of his twelfth regeneration, making him the thirteenth incarnation.
  • The Master plans to turn Traken into the centre of an empire.
  • The Master is a strong hypnotist; he's able to freeze Tremas from inside his TARDIS.


  • The Doctor mentions the law of probability and the second law of thermodynamics.
  • Adric applies a Fourier analysis on the energy readings from the Melkur.



  • The Doctor's TARDIS is displaced via a time cone.


Story notes[[edit]]

  • This story was the first part of a trilogy featuring the Master, who had not appeared since The Deadly Assassin in 1976. The two following stories, Logopolis and Castrovalva, continue the story of his return.
  • 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 in part three, the closing titles still credit Beevers as "Melkur". The Melkur statue itself was actually played by Graham Cole, who remained uncredited both on-screen and in Radio Times.
  • The hooded robe that was worn by Geoffrey Beevers as the disfigured Master was the same garment worn by Peter Pratt in The Deadly Assassin. However, on this occasion, the original rubber mask — which had deteriorated too badly to be saved — was replaced with green makeup and face paint, the latter being used to paint teeth onto Beevers' lips, to allow the character a greater degree of facial expression.
  • If Nyssa's pre-companion appearance is discounted, this is the first TV story since The Massacre in which the Doctor travels with only a male companion throughout, and would not happen again until 36 years later in TV: The Return of Doctor Mysterio.
  • This is the first story to feature the Master changing bodies on screen — though it is not a true regeneration, but rather the acquisition of another person's body. The Master would change bodies again in TV: Doctor Who. He would not regenerate on-screen until TV: Utopia.
  • The Master's TARDIS is shown to have offensive weaponry, which it uses in its Melkur form, and will again in Castrovalva.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part four was accompanied by a black and white head-and-shoulders photograph of Nyssa, with the accompanying caption "Will Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) help to defeat Melkur? Doctor Who: 5.10 p.m."
  • As of 2024, this is the final televised story not to feature any humans. Prior to this, only The Deadly Assassin, The Pirate Planet, The Armageddon Factor, The Creature from the Pit, The Horns of Nimon and Full Circle did not feature any humans.
  • It was also the final televised story of the classic era not to have at least one companion from contemporary Earth (not counting in the early stages of Planet of Fire, where the Doctor technically only has Vislor Turlough as his companion prior to Peri Brown joining). The next story not to have such a companion would be Voyage of the Damned, in 2007.
  • A phallic image is hidden inside the art of a prop wall on Traken.[1]
  • Francesca Annia, Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson, Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and Fiona Walker were considered for Kassia.
  • Philip Locke was originally cast as Seron.
  • Mary Morris was originally cast as Katura, but dropped out.
  • Anthony Ainley was considered to voice the Melkur.
  • Johnny Byrne's original outline was set in a medieval-type society, divided between the scientific Greys and the zealous Blacks, led by Hellas and Zorca, respectively. Zorca summons a being called Mogen he believes is a demon, but whom the Doctor later realises is the last survivor of a race of super-beings with fantastic mental abilities. Mogen wants to take control of the powerful Source in order to use Traken as the launching pad for galactic conquest. Zorca frames Adric for murder, and the cliffhanger for episode two originally involved the Doctor, Adric and Hellas on the brink of execution, about to be crushed between blocks of steel. A key element of part four was a stolen component from the TARDIS, which Mogen uses to construct a time disintegrator with which he plans to kill the Doctor.
  • Johnny Byrne was on holiday during the rewriting process, so Christopher H. Bidmead rewrote much of the story in a locked office, adding the medieval look, the name Tremas and the clock.
  • Christopher H. Bidmead claimed that Tremas was John Nathan-Turner's idea. He disliked it because it made no sense.
  • Matthew Waterhouse immediately liked Sarah Sutton and recalled that he wanted to hug her. He did and she slapped him.
  • Tom Baker was in a dour mood during recording; although the romantic relationship between him and Lalla Ward was going through a difficult period, he still missed her presence on set and disliked being surrounded by so many newcomers.
  • The Melkur statue's design was based on a 1913 statue by Umberto Boccioni.
  • The Traken blaster rifles are the same props used for the Skonnos blasters seen in The Horns of Nimon.
  • Sheila Ruskin played Sarah Sutton's stepmother despite being just fifteen years older than her.
  • Anthony Ainley and Sheila Ruskin previously appeared in The Pallisers. John Nathan-Turner served as production assistant on that series.
  • Johnny Byrne had a great interest in Irish mythology, and the inspiration for the Melkur's collar came from the Jodhan Moran or Moran's Collar, which was worn by a legendary judge so certain of his righteousness that the collar would strangle him if he ever made an unjust decree.
  • At one point, Nyssa was going to exhibit a preternatural sensitivity.
  • John Black was appointed director on the recommendation of his girlfriend, costume designer Amy Roberts.
  • During rehearsals, Robin Soans sought a motivation for the tendency Luvic to speak more rarely than the other Consuls. He and John Black agreed that Soans could play the role with a stammer, but this was vetoed by John Nathan-Turner.
  • A vortex machine meant to overlay a tornado effect on the climactic sequence broke down shortly before recording, and so basic wind machines had to be employed instead.
  • Filming ground to an abrupt halt when a sudden strike by BBC electricians over a parking dispute led to the cancellation of the serial's final studio day. Acting quickly, John Nathan-Turner managed to schedule a replacement date during location filming for Logopolis.


  • Part one - 7.6 million viewers
  • Part two - 8.1 million viewers
  • Part three - 5.2 million viewers
  • Part four - 6.1 million viewers

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Kassia's red eyes are clearly painted on her eyelids.
  • The opening and closing credits are noticeably off-centre, appearing slightly lower than usual.
  • To make the Keeper appear and disappear, two takes are shot, one up to when the Keeper is just about to disappear and one from when the Keeper has disappeared. When the Keeper disappears from the TARDIS, there is a lack of continuity of takes. In the second take, the lighting is brighter and both Adric and the Doctor are in slightly different positions.
  • In the same shot, the top of the TARDIS walls are visible, showing off the roof of the studio.
  • The reprise to part one's cliffhanger is different in part two. In part one, the Keeper says "Evil, Evil! The sanctum has been invaded!", however, in part two, the Keeper says "Evil! The sanctum's been invaded!"
  • In part two, when Kassia runs out and finds the body of the Foster, a crewman or the shadow of a crewman is visible behind a bush.
  • When Seron runs in to take the place of the Keeper, he stumbles and has to grab onto the door of the chamber to steady himself.
  • There is a lack of continuity in the Master's TARDIS. Before the Doctor enters, the Master's workbench is cluttered, but later it is tidied up — despite there not being time for this to be done.
  • The moss on Melkur's back has stitches in it.
  • Keep a close eye on Tom Baker's nose when the Doctor, Adric and Tremas are trapped in the prison cell; maybe he didn't have a hankie.
  • When the Doctor calls out to the Foster when he is in the cell, a crew member's shadow is visible.


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

This story was released on DVD together with Logopolis and Castrovalva as part of the New Beginnings DVD box set. It was released:

Part four 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 video game Destiny of the Doctors. The clip's inclusion is technically an easter egg as it isn't listed on the DVD menus or cover.

Special features:


New Beginnings[[edit]]

VHS releases[[edit]]

This story was released on VHS in June 1993 in the UK, in September 1993 in Australia and in February 1994 in the US.

External links[[edit]]