The Master Rewatch – The Keeper of Traken

keeper1Written by: Johnny Byrne
Original airing: BBC One, 31 January – 21 February 1981
Rewatched: Horror Channel

Synopsis: the Doctor and Adric learn from the wizened Keeper of Traken that a great evil has come to his planet in the form of Melkur – a calcified statue. The Keeper 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.

I don’t remember watching The Keeper of Traken as a child, though I most probably did. It has a very different feel to most Doctor Who stories; with its slow-burn plot and intricate costumes, it has more in keeping with an historical play than a sci fi series. It’s extraordinarily lovely.

The Master only reappears towards the very end of the last part, with Anthony playing the very sweet Tremas for the majority of the story. I like Tremas. He’s a decent bloke and I always feel a slight pang at his death.

There’s some debate on the Master’s physiology in the Ainley years. Is he Traken, Time Lord or a blend of the two? It’s not a question answered directly by the show. What is known is that Tremas gets visibly younger on being taken over by the Master. The fact he continues to pursue a new set of regenerations would suggest his DNA is altered enough to allow for one.

But what is a Time Lord? As far as the Doctor goes, he has two hearts and a stolen Tardis. It’s never clear that he needs to have two hearts to regenerate (if we look at NuWho, the Doctor’s daughter Jenny has two and can resuscitate after death, whereas River can regenerate in full but I don’t recall her physiology mentioned.)

As far as the Master is concerned, I’m not sure it matters. Even with a new body – and the ability to recall some of Tremas’s memories – he’s still the same selfish, power-obsessed person he was beforehand. The only difference is his sudden affinity for black velvet and a sharp line in snark.

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