Serial 5T:
The Keeper Of Traken


The Union of Traken is governed by a Keeper gifted with the powers of the Source. The current Keeper is nearing the end of his thousand-year tenure, however, and asks the Doctor and Adric -- who have escaped from E-Space -- to go to Traken and stop an evil he believes is plotting to destroy the Union. But the source of the evil, the Melkur, has already infiltrated the Consuls of Traken, and has the Doctor declared a criminal. Allying himself with Consul Tremas and his daughter, Nyssa, the Time Lord must uncover the true power behind the Melkur -- someone who knows the Doctor of old.


Johnny Byrne had come to England from Ireland as a travelling poet, and originally became involved in the country's music scene, even living with the Beatles for a time. He also wrote short stories for publications such as Science Fantasy, and by the early Seventies had begun moving into film and television, including the movie Adolf Hitler -- My Part In His Downfall. During the mid-Seventies, Byrne became a key player on the Gerry Anderson science-fiction series Space: 1999, for which he contributed a dozen episodes and also served as script editor.

Byrne had been approached several times to write for Doctor Who, having been courted on separate occasions by script editors Robert Holmes and Douglas Adams. In late 1979, Byrne was even offered the post of Doctor Who script editor himself: he had worked with new producer John Nathan-Turner when he wrote episodes of All Creatures Great And Small, but was unwilling to relocate to London. However, Byrne did indicate his interest in providing scripts for the series.

With only 20 years left until the year 2000, Johnny Byrne felt that millennialism was a timely topic

The man who ultimately accepted the Doctor Who script editor's position was Christopher H Bidmead, and he met with Byrne around the spring of 1980. Byrne suggested a story that dealt with millennialism: the belief that the turn of each millennium will be heralded by a period of cataclysm and upheaval, as espoused by Zoroastrianism and by some Christian sects. With only twenty years left until the year 2000, Byrne felt that this was becoming a timely and interesting topic. He wanted to tie this notion into the tumult that sometimes results when a long-serving head of state dies or retires. The resulting adventure, The Keeper Of Traken, was commissioned on July 18th.

Byrne's initial scripts were set in a mediaeval-type society, divided between the scientific Greys and the zealous Blacks, led by Hellas and Zorca, respectively. Zorca summons a being called Mogen he believes is a demon, but whom the Doctor later realises is the last survivor of a race of super-beings with fantastic mental abilities. Mogen wants to take control of the powerful Source in order to use Traken as the launching pad for galactic conquest. Zorca frames Adric for murder, and the cliffhanger for episode two originally involved the Doctor, Adric and Hellas on the brink of execution, about to be crushed between blocks of steel. A key element of part four was a stolen component from the TARDIS, which Mogen uses to construct a time disintegrator with which he plans to kill the Doctor. Byrne also introduced Hellas' daughter, Nyssa, whom he named for a friend of his called Nerissa.

Around this time, Tom Baker decided to leave Doctor Who at the end of Season Eighteen after starring in the series for seven years. Although Nathan-Turner felt that it was time for a new Doctor, he was very concerned that viewers would no longer accept a change of lead actor. To this end, he wanted to reintroduce a popular element of the programme's past in order to bridge the changeover from Baker to his successor. Since Romana would be leaving Doctor Who partway through Season Eighteen in Warriors' Gate -- the story that would preceed The Keeper Of Traken -- he initially thought to bring back a former companion for a handful of adventures. To this end, he approached both Elisabeth Sladen (who had played Sarah Jane Smith from 1973 to 1976) and Louise Jameson (who had been Leela in 1977 and 1978), but both actresses declined his invitation to return to Doctor Who. Nathan-Turner was also mindful that although K·9 would be exiting the programme along with Romana in Warriors' Gate, the version of the character left on Gallifrey (in Season Fifteen's The Invasion Of Time) could be reintroduced if the need arose.

John Nathan-Turner wanted to make the Master a less humorous, more malevolent echo of Roger Delgado's incarnation

As the summer progressed, Nathan-Turner began to consider alternative plans for the end of Season Eighteen and the start of Season Nineteen. Since his efforts to bring back an old friend of the Doctor's had failed, he instead decided to reintroduce an old enemy. This was the Master, an evil Time Lord who had originally been played by Roger Delgado until the actor's untimely death in 1973. The Master had already been resurrected once in 1976's The Deadly Assassin, in which Peter Pratt had played the character in a condition of near-complete physical deterioration. Nathan-Turner now wanted to restore the Master to an echo of Delgado's incarnation -- albeit in a less humorous and more malevolent form.

At this stage, The Keeper Of Traken was designated Serial 5T, and was planned to be the penultimate story of Season Eighteen. Nathan-Turner and Bidmead felt that the character of Mogen could easily be replaced with the Master, and that The Keeper Of Traken could be revised as an effective vehicle to explain the villain's transformation from his cadaverous state to a rejuvenated body. This would also presage the Doctor's own imminent regeneration. The new Master would then appear in both Baker's final adventure and the first story to feature the Fifth Doctor, forming a loose trilogy of serials to guide the audience through the major upheaval of Baker's departure.

In late August, Byrne complied with Nathan-Turner and Bidmead's request and introduced the Master into The Keeper Of Traken. Mogen was replaced by the statue-like Melkur in order to keep the true villain's identity a surprise until the final episode. Byrne then left on vacation, but gave Bidmead permission to make any further changes necessary. Bidmead subsequently excised the Grey and Black factions -- which bore similarities to the Savants and the Deons of the same season's Meglos -- and replaced Hellas and Zorca with the married couple of Tremas and Kassia. The name Tremas was chosen to be an anagram of “Master”, foreshadowing the fact that the Master would now possess Tremas' body at the serial's conclusion.

To play the revitalised Master, Nathan-Turner cast Anthony Ainley, son of noted Shakespearean actor and silent film star Henry Ainley. The younger Ainley had enjoyed small roles in movies such as You Only Live Twice but his career had chiefly been spent working on television. He had appeared in programmes as varied as The Avengers, Out Of The Unknown, Spyder's Web and Upstairs, Downstairs, often in villainous roles. Nathan-Turner remembered Ainley from an appearance in The Pallisers, while executive producer Barry Letts had worked with him on an adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. On September 12th, Ainley was contracted to appear in the final eight episodes of Season Eighteen, with an option for as many as eight more during Season Nineteen.

John Nathan-Turner had become very keen on Nyssa, and thought that she might be retained as a companion

The director appointed to The Keeper Of Traken was John Black, whose previous credits included a Play For Today and Softly, Softly: Task Force; Black was recommended to Nathan-Turner by costume designer Amy Roberts. Amongst Black's first duties was to secure a cast for the serial, including the role of Nyssa. Nathan-Turner had become very keen on the character, and thought that she might be retained as a companion for at least a few stories, providing another familiar face for viewers in the wake of the Doctor's regeneration. This was in spite of the fact that the introduction of another new companion, Tegan Jovanka, had already been planned for the season finale, Logopolis, for more than a month. Byrne agreed to the use of Nyssa beyond The Keeper Of Traken, although he would retain his copyright on the character. Bidmead was skeptical of Nathan-Turner's last-minute decision-making, but agreed to expand Byrne's original concept of the character. In the process, some early ideas were lost, such as Nyssa exhibiting a preternatural sensitivity.

The actress Black selected to play Nyssa was Sarah Sutton. Sutton had been acting since childhood, including starring roles in Alice Through The Looking Glass and the supernatural drama The Moon Stallion. On October 9th, Sutton was booked for The Keeper Of Traken, with an option for up to twenty-eight episodes to follow. It was decided that Nyssa would not join the Doctor at the end of The Keeper Of Traken, but rather would be reintroduced in Logopolis if Sutton's option was indeed taken up.

Recording for Serial 5T began with a three-day block in BBC Television Centre Studio 6, from November 5th to 7th. The first day dealt with material in the courtyard and in the TARDIS console room. Baker was in a dour mood: although the romantic relationship between him and Lalla Ward (who had played Romana) was going through a difficult period, Baker still missed her presence on set, and disliked being surrounded by so many newcomers. During supper, Nathan-Turner confirmed to Sutton that the option on her contract had been invoked.

November 6th saw the completion of scenes in the Grove, along with model shots. As the decrepit version of the Master, Black had cast Geoffrey Beevers on the strength of his vocal abilities. Beevers' credits included Coronation Street and the final episode of the 1970 Doctor Who serial The Ambassadors Of Death. He was married to Caroline John, who had played companion Liz Shaw ten years earlier. The block concluded with a day spent taping sequences in Tremas' and Seron's rooms, as well as those in the corridor.

On November 21st the British press reported the addition of Sarah Sutton to the regular cast

The second studio session was held in TC8, and was scheduled to run from November 21st to 23rd. It came on the heels of the surprise announcement on the 19th that Baker and Ward were engaged, and planned to marry during December. As a result, press interest in the production was unusually high. The first two days of the session were dedicated to scenes in the Keeper's sanctum and the sanctum antechamber, with some material in the service vault also taped on the opening day. Peter Pratt's Master costume from The Deadly Assassin was refurbished for Beevers' use, although the mask was altered so that more of the actor's face was visible. Also on the 21st, the British press reported on the addition of Sutton to the regular cast; a photocall was subsequently held on the 26th.

Unfortunately, recording on November 23rd had to be cancelled due to a sudden strike by BBC electricians. Acting quickly, Nathan-Turner managed to schedule a replacement date on December 17th in TC6. Taking place four days after Baker and Ward's wedding, this completed the remaining sequences in the service vault, as well as those in the cell and the adjoining corridor and inside the Melkur.

Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner had begun the search for a new script editor to replace Bidmead, who would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of 1980. Nathan-Turner approached Ted Rhodes, who was the script editor on All Creatures Great And Small, but Rhodes was not interested in moving to Doctor Who. To ease the transition between Bidmead and his successor, a trainee named Antony Root was assigned to Doctor Who. Root had spent several years working in the theatre before joining the BBC as an assistant floor manager; one of his first jobs in this capacity had been on Season Seventeen's Destiny Of The Daleks. Seeking a more ambitious position, Root had secured an attachment to the BBC's Script Unit and impressed Bidmead with a critique of an unused Doctor Who submission. Root joined the production team during November for a three-month stint.

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fourth Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20369 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 680 0.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #236, 13th March 1996, “Archive: The Keeper Of Traken” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #9, 22nd December 2004, “Another One Bites The Dust” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #51, July 1994, “Production” edited by Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 31st Jan 1981
Time 5.09pm
Duration 24'05"
Viewers (more) 7.6m (72nd)
· BBC1 7.6m
Episode 2
Date 7th Feb 1981
Time 5.09pm
Duration 24'50"
Viewers (more) 6.1m (106th)
· BBC1 6.1m
Episode 3
Date 14th Feb 1981
Time 5.09pm
Duration 23'49"
Viewers (more) 5.2m (112th)
· BBC1 5.2m
Episode 4
Date 21st Feb 1981
Time 5.12pm
Duration 25'11"
Viewers (more) 6.1m (103rd)
· BBC1 6.1m
Appreciation 63%

Doctor Who
Tom Baker
Matthew Waterhouse
Anthony Ainley
Sheila Ruskin
The Keeper
Denis Carey
John Woodnutt
Sarah Sutton
Margot Van Der Burgh
Robin Soans
Roland Oliver
Geoffrey Beevers
Liam Prendergast

Written by
Johnny Byrne
Directed by
John Black
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Incidental Music
Roger Limb
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Production Assistant
Alan Wareing
Production Unit Manager
Angela Smith
Director's Assistant
Jean Davis
Assistant Floor Manager
Lynn Richards
Visual Effects Designer
Peter Logan
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Vision Mixer
Nigel Finnis
Technical Manager
Bob Hignett
Senior Cameraman
Alec Wheal
Videotape Editor
Rod Waldron
Don Babbage
John Holmes
Costume Designer
Amy Roberts
Make-up Artist
Norma Hill
Script Editor
Christopher H Bidmead
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
Tony Burrough
Executive Producer
Barry Letts

Updated 2nd November 2008