CRRRRS 466 Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis

By Roy Mathur, on 2022-12-19 at 23:05:36--23:59:07 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show, Listen

Revisit Journal

I should have given more attention to both the Melkur suit and the Melkur suit actor, in CRRRRS 463 Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken.

First of all, that suit is really quite excellent, portraying a strangely immobile, but artistically appropriate modern art-style sculpture. It embodies sadness, power, and the deeply sinister.

The seven foot Melkur suit, made of plastic, was designed by set designer, Tony Burrough, and made by costume designer, Amy Roberts. It was based, with limited success, according to Burrough, on a reference photograph of a sculpture from the Tate Gallery. (Umberto Boccioni's Italian Futurist Forme uniche della continuita nello spazio (1913); unconfirmed, but I can see the connection). So I was right about describing it as modern art in 463.

The Melkur suit actor was Graham Cole, an actor I know well from UK TV show, The Bill. There is a publicity shot of him looking extremely uncomfortable in the suit (and uncharacteristically moustachioed), but still managing to do a wonderful job portraying the evil Melkur.

The novelisation was written by Terrance Dicks and published by Target in 1982.

The Keeper of Traken was released on VHS in 1993 and DVD, along with Logopolis and Castrovalva, as part of the New Beginnings box set. Oh, that BBC marketing department strikes again!

The late Anthony Ainley was really really sporty, loved cricket, and was, apparently, re-introduced to it as an adult by his friend, Sophie Aldred. I can't find anything to back this up, other than what I read in Wikipedia and my wild assumptions. I don't know what, if any, relevance this titbit has. Also, I thought I already mentioned this in 463, but, on the slightest off-chance I didn't, here is that glorious piece of thorough investigative journalism again, or maybe for the first time. Thank the gods I was once a columnist, not a reporter. Opinion and supposition are so much easier. How did I make this about me? I have been doing this too long.

An aside: I'm again using the Shure SM58 microphone and will edit this podcast, at least partly, with the JVC HA-S160 Flats headphones. This is in complete contradiction of what I did and said in 465. I'll offer a brief, and no doubt extremely boring, explanation next time.

Notes

Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker

Companion(s): Adric: Matthew Waterhouse, Nyssa: Sarah Sutton, Tegan: Janet Fielding

Notable Cast: Peter Davison is a very well-known British actor, who played beloved character, the hapless Tristan Farnon, pre-Who on All Creatures Great and Small. Janet Fielding is a UK-based Australian actress, whose geek credits include Hammer House of Horror: Charlie Boy. The Detective Inspector, Tom Georgeson, is another frequent face on Brit TV, particularly when cast as a copper, including on The Bill, like his colleague, Melkur suit actor, Graham Cole.

Director: Peter Grimwade was with the Beeb since 1960, production assistant on Spearhead from Space, model shot director on The Robots of Death, director of The Omega Factor: Out of Body, Out of Mind, director of Full Circle, Kinda, and Earthshock, writer of Planet of Fire, finally ditched as director by JNT for failing to invite him to a cast and crew dinner (unconfirmed, but hilarious).

Writer: Christopher H. Bidmead

Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Locations: On location in London, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire in 1980 and BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush in 1981.

Broadcast: Story 115, season 18 (finale), serial 7, following The Keeper of Traken covered in 463, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 28 February to 21 March 1981.

Media: Released on VHS in 1992, released in 2007 as New Beginnings trilogy on DVD (The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis, and Castrovalva), there were other releases too, as well as a special showing at some US cinemas in 2019. Christopher H. Bidmead's Target novelisation was published 1982, and an audiobook released in 2010.

Zeitgeist

Joe Dolce's, of Joe Dolce Music Theatre, horrific earworm, Shaddup You Face was number one in the UK.

What Happens

The Master's TARDIS, disguised as the Doctor's police box, eats a flatfoot in Barnet and we hear the Master's echoing laughter.

The Doctor tells Adric that the TARDIS is falling apart due to age (entropy), then the TARDIS cloister bell rings signifying a serious problem. So, instead of going immediately to Gallifrey, the Doctor goes to Earth and materialises around a real wooden Earth police box to record its exact dimensions. He does this so that he can ask the Logopolitans to use their special mathematics, block transfer computation, to restore the TARDIS. Unfortunately, the aforementioned police box is, in actuality, the Master's TARDIS, who then rematerialises it around the Doctor's, leading to a confusing complicated loop in which one TARDIS is inside the other and vice versa.

On Earth, new airline stewardess, Tegan Jovanka and her aunt are on their way to the airport. Her aunt's unreliable sports car breaks down, leaving them stranded near the police box. Tegan goes in to seek help in the police box, ending up in the Doctor's TARDIS, while her aunt enters the same space, but instead enters the Master's TARDIS, whereupon she is set upon, shrunk, and murdered by him.

The Doctor exits his TARDIS, is confronted by the police who demand an explanation for the red sports car; empty except for the dead shrunken police man and Tegan's aunt. The Doctor sees a mysterious pale humanoid watcher in the distance. He and Adric escape to the river Thames and see the watcher again. The Doctor goes to talk with the watcher.

On Logopolis, the Doctor seeks the help of their leader, the Monitor. The TARDIS shrinks, due to the Master's killing off of Logopolitans while on a gleeful killing spree.

To force the Logopolitans to explain the facsimile of Earth's Pharos Project's radio telescope's presence, the Master, with an enslaved Nyssa, silences Logopolis, halting all block transfer computation planet-wide. The Monitor begs him to stop, but by the time he does, it is too late. The planet begins to disintegrate and then the universe itself. The Monitor explains that Logopolis is the "keystone", the "casual nexus", maintaining the universe by using block transfer computation and the Pharos dish to create Charged Vacuum Emboitments to prevent the end of the universe.

The Doctor and Master agree a truce. Putting into action the Master's brilliant plan to save the universe, they leave for the Pharos Project on Earth in the Master's TARDIS.

Adric and Nyssa follow in the Doctor's TARDIS, piloted by the pale watcher who takes them outside the universe, which is where they witness Traken destroyed. They then make their way to the Pharos Project.

The Doctor and the Master initially work together, but the Master betrays him and holds the universe hostage. After disconnecting a cable and foiling the Master's plan, the Master escapes, but the Doctor plummets from the radio dish. Watched by his companions, he lies dying. He remembers old friends and foes, then melds with the pale watcher, his future self, and regenerates into Five.

What I Thought

I couldn't quite work out the sequence of both the TARDISs movements within one another. The loopy recursion made my head spin. As we'll soon find out, after the Italian Futurism of The Keeper of Traken and the mathematical oddity of Logopolis, things are going to continue to become increasingly arty, in a weird Escher-like way, as we hurtle towards Castravalva. (Though I haven't revisited it yet, so I could be wrong).

It's a very British problem to have a vintage British red sports car break down.

The Doctor's fleeting interactions with the pale figure is always filled with pathos. It's an effective, poetic, and deeply sad foreshadowing device.

I like the idea that somewhere out there are a bunch of people holding the universe together. It reminds me of Time Bandit's rebellious cosmic maintenance crew or, on a smaller scale (ha ha ha), the planet builders of Magrathea, or even smaller than that, Dean Motter's Mister X.

Block transfer computation; maths with externalised physical effects. What a crazy creative idea: that simple (okay, complex) calculations can have an effect on matter is absolutely fascinating. To think; it's just a throwaway piece of fiction dreamt up by Bidmead for a few episodes of Doctor Who. Amazing!

Regarding character development: we learn that the Master is brilliant, psychopathic serial killer, and not averse to ending the entire universe if it doesn't capitulate to his whims. In other words, he's a nasty bastard. I'm slow warming to Nyssa, though seeing her face as she morns the loss of her parents and planet made me feel empathy. (That scene almost certainly was influenced by Princess Leia witnessing the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars). On the other hand, I immediately liked Tegan. She is down-to-Earth, very human, but also resourceful, e.g. distracting those Pharos Project guards.

Regarding that scene with the guards, there is some extremely funky music as the Doctor and Master make a run towards the radio telescope dish.

The Doctor goes extra 80s microcomputer geeky as he explains non-volatile bubble memory. Then he says they'll have to go to Earth to find a computer to read it. At one point, I'm sure I even saw the top casing of a BBC Micro on a pile of discarded parts and a Sony PVM CRT; no doubt borrowed from the Beeb studios. It made me feel very nostalgic.

The thought that an alien could re-purpose SETI, to blow us all up is ironically funny.

The TARDIS shrunk to comedic proportions by the Logopolitan's cocked up calculations is straight out of New Who's Flatline.

Overall, it's a great, if overly complex story, and like Warriors' Gate, too much happens in the last episode.

Goodbye, Tom Baker, we'll miss you, and hello, Peter Davison.

Trivia

And that is it from me, Roy, recording from Earth, sector 8023, 3rd quadrant. At least that's where Adric says I am.

Let Me Know

Yes, that was supposed to rhyme with Let It Go, but don't do that, do the opposite and get in touch. Let me know your views on this, what I missed, or any other story from Old Who.

I put in a lot of effort to make these shows, so it is a pity that listener interaction has again petered off. So, please say, hello, talk to me about classic Doctor Who, or any other geeky thing. I'm always happy to hear from you.