Monday, 29 January 2007

The Keeper of Traken

*Doctor Who related post*

I've just seen Keeper for the first time in ages thanks to the new DVD boxed set with this, Logopolis and (My!) Castrovalva - which are all extremely cool.

It occurred to me watching it that there is a political subtext. Traken is a Union held together by an old boy in a chair (the Keeper) who organises the Union for maximum advantages using a bioelectric system (or something) - it guarantees crops, calmness, good weather and the ability to shrivel up evil whenever it appears. The Keeper is aided by 5 Consuls, who serve the Traken state. Into this haven at the end of one Keeper's reign, when his powers are failing steps Melkur, a poisonous individual -a statue, believed to be calcifying - who is able to exploit firstly a gullible Trakenite and secondly the increasingly weak powers of the Keepership to subvert decency and Traken law.

The analogy is weak but there: in 1979 the powers of the welfare and statist consensus "keepership" were failing in a society distrustful, like Traken, of money and individualism; an old keeper (Callaghan) unable to stem the flow of chaos but sensing evil (change). Into the mix falls the evil Melkur (Thatcher); it is wrongly assumed that this Melkur will fade away because the environment is just too nice for its horrid ideas (which is exactly what happened to Heath in 1970-4, who was forced -or really wanted to, whatever - to join the consensus). Melkur proceeds to smash the system, though he starts off slowly with his powers only growing bit by bit. By 1981 (transmission time for Keeper of Traken) the evil Thatcher was able to use Howe (Proctor Neman - "the man's too fond of money to be trusted") to ratchet up the pain, as Melkur does at the climax of the story. In which case the Doctor and Adric function as the unions - the moral authorities who could save everyone from this disaster.

Of course Melkur turns out to be the Master's TARDIS, whereas, unless you want to go even further and read the Master as Reagan, Thatcher was indeed the Master herself.

Time for me to get a proper job I think. But Traken is exceptionally cool and looks brilliant. Geoffrey Beevers has a top voice as the Master too. The trouble is, that like the 70s and 80s, none of it makes a lot of sense: meaningless pseudo-scientific verbiage is scattered around like "recursive integrator", "source manipulator" and so on, but at no point is it actually explained what is going on. I imagine people being thrown out of work because of "monetarism", or sitting at home watching pitched battles between miners and the police, or watching Threads - might have really wanted everyone to shut the **** up and make some sense for once too.


Matt M said...

It's not up for rental yet - though with with those three stories I might seriously consider buying.

While I haven't seen KoT, in my experience the analogies in Dr Who aren't quite that precise. They may tackle something like fascism in a general way (in Genesis... for example), but a critique of British politics in the Callaghan/Thatcher era seems a bit of a stretch.

Still, I've found that Who stories are often great starting points for debates on a whole range of subjects.

The Tin Drummer said...

Matt - my tongue was planted firmly in the side of my cheek, though I found it amusing to think about. It's really just about another side of entropy - socio-political this time.

james higham said...

Interesting mind you have, Tin Drummer. Society in terms of Doctor Who. Like it.

james higham said...

This is the eighth time I've tried to comment here, TD. Now I've forgotten what I was going to say.

Ian Grey said...

TD, as a possible Whospert, I wonder if you can fill in the gaps of the following?

As a nipper, I can remember an episode where the assistants (2 or 3 of them) went exploring in the Tardis and kept on going through more and more rooms, all of the white walls with large recessed circles in. As far as I remember, it was the first Doctor Who but my mind might be playing tricks.

My own Son thinks that the new version is great, although some of the monsters are a bit scary. He even went and hid behind the sofa when the Daleks appeared, but that could have been irony as I told him that I had when I was his age.

The Tin Drummer said...

Ian can you give me a rough date for this, otherwise I'd say it sounds just like Castrovalva - just out on dvd as the 3rd part of the trilogy which Keeper of Traken begins!

Ian Grey said...

Rough date? Maybe 1968?

The Tin Drummer said...

Ach - I haven't seen that much Troughton, and lots of the 60s Whos that I have seen have loads of TARDIS bits in them. Can anyone help here?

Ian Grey said...

I suspect it may have been a late Hartnell so 1966 is more likely.

I was certainly at Junior school so 65-68 is the time frame. I think the Doctor may have disappeared in that episode and the companions were looking for him. The doors were sections of wall that hinged inwards like the inside of the Tardis door.