Doctor Who episode 548: The Keeper of Traken – Part Three (14/2/1981)
‘Now this Traken web of harmony is broken, I am free!’ An episode of killing time before all hell breaks loose at the climax: if this really were a Shakespeare play, this is the bit of the text that would be abridged for performance. The best moments are Melkur turning Kassia’s betrayal back on her: her motive was to prevent Tremas from becoming Keeper so she could keep him for herself (a nice secondary meaning to the title there). But, in a cruel twist, Melkur’s plan now relies on her becoming Keeper in her husband’s place. Hoist with her own petard.
This leads to the other best scene: as the heavens rip open and ‘Nature reverts to destructive chaos’, Kassia takes her place on the throne – only to be consumed by Melkur, appearing with the trumpeting sound of a TARDIS, as the Consuls and the Doctor watch helpless. This comes moments after the occupant of Melkur has been revealed to the audience with a turn to camera. It’s the trademark moment of the JNT era: a returning villain revealed directly to the audience rather than the characters (see also Earthshock). I’m not sure how many people recognised this was the Master (last seen four years earlier) – I imagine a reasonable proportion, perhaps helped along by Baker’s repeated emphasis on Melkur’s ‘MASTER plan’.
Between these, there’s a lot of wandering about (very gorgeously designed) cloisters, which at least gives space to appreciate some of the incidentals: good lines that suggest Traken isn’t quite the paradise it claims to be: ‘We’re all proud of our liberal tradition… Not really our way, this judicial blood-letting. Still, if it must be, it must.’ Nyssa gets to stage a rescue (shooting down the Fosters with her ion bonder, and prompting the Doctor to remark, ‘I must remember never to fall out with your daughter, Tremas’). Adric gets practically nothing to do. The name ‘Katura’ sounds a bit like Margot Van der Burgh’s last Doctor Who character, ‘Cameca’.
Next episode: The Keeper of Traken – Part Four