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Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Keeper of Traken originally aired in 1981. It was the first instalment in the “Master” trilogy.

He dies, Doctor. The Keeper dies!

– Tremas heralds the end of an era

Of course, the entire season has been less than subtle about the point, but The Keeper of Traken is the point at which Tom Baker’s final season builds to critical mass, and reaches the point of no return. Entropy, decay and death have all been crucial ingredients in the year’s collection of adventures, but The Keeper of Traken is the point at which it seems like our character has set himself on an incontrovertible course, a path from which he cannot diverge. Baker’s approaching departure gives The Keeper of Traken a great deal of weight, and helps balance a story that might otherwise seem excessive or overblown. There’s melodrama here, but it feels strangely appropriate.

Lawrence Miles has argued that Logopolis was the funeral for the Fourth Doctor. If so, The Keeper of Traken is his wake – and it’s fitting that Irish poet and writer Johnny Byrne should provide this strangely lively (if morbid) celebration.

Hell of a wake...

Hell of a wake…

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Doctor Who: Frontios (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Frontios originally aired in 1984.

“You know, we can sort this all out in no time at all, if everyone just stays calm.”

– The Doctor sums up the tragedy of Peter Davison’s time as the Timelord

Towards the end of Peter Davison’s time in the title role, Doctor Who was becoming gradually darker. While Colin Baker’s brightly-coloured take on the character would convert this grim fare into a surreal and grotesque pantomime, there was something tragic about Davison’s iteration confronting a quickly darkening universe. Steven Moffat once explained, “this Doctor takes the emphasis off the eccentricities and turns it into a pained heroism of a man who is so much better than the universe he is trying to save but cannot bear to let it stand”, and that’s very much the case here. While the cynicism and pointless darkness would reach their zenith during Resurrection of the Daleks and pay off spectacularly in The Caves of Androzani, Frontios feels like the perfect illustration of these ideas.

The Doctor's surgery...

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