Doctor Who-The Keeper of Traken (1981)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 6-Mar-2007

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Anthony Ainley, Sarah Sutton,Johnny Byrne,Matthew Waterhouse
Informational Subtitles
Featurette-The Return of the Master
Featurette-Sarah Sutton on Swap Shop
Featurette-Making Of-Being Nice to Each Other
Featurette-Trails and Continuities
DVD-ROM Extras-1982 Doctor Who Annual
DVD-ROM Extras-Radio Times Billings
DVD-ROM Extras-Doctor Who Season 18 Sales Literature
Isolated Musical Score
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 98:17 (Case: 165)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Black

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Baker
Anthony Ainley
Geoffrey Beevers
Matthew Waterhouse
Sarah Sutton
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI Box Music Roger Limb
Rod Waldron
Tony Burrough

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Alternate Music/Sound Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Anthony Ainley Dedication

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    An unknown force hijacks the TARDIS while the Doctor (Tom Baker in this incarnation) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) are travelling and directs them to Traken, in the Doctor's words "an empire held together by people being terribly nice to each other.". After some initial confusion, a decrepit old man materialises before the pair and confesses to being responsible for the TARDIS' new course. That old man is the Keeper of Traken, one of only a few beings in the universe capable of such a feat. The Keeper explains his actions and in doing so pleads for the Doctor's assistance.

    The Keeper is the leader of the council that governs Traken and a being who lives for thousands of years, though who drops in and out of physical manifestation during that time. This ability is controlled by a device that draws on the life force of all Trakens. The Keeper is nearing death and means to pass on his position to a council elder named Tremas (Anthony Ainley), but he fears that a plot exists to usurp the power of Traken.

    Some years earlier an evil creature named the Melkur had landed in Traken and calcified into a statue in the gardens of Traken. Kassia, now Tremas' wife, has cared for the gardens and the Melkur for some decades, and as the succession nears the Melkur gradually comes to life and plays on Kassia's fears over losing her husband to the entire people of Traken. No sooner does this plot begin than the Doctor arrives in Traken, just in time to be accused of the misdeeds that have begun. Little does the Doctor know that an old foe stands behind the plot and there is little anyone can do to stop them... If you don't want to know who that foe is, as it is a bit of a twist in the story, don't read the "Extras" section of this review!

    The Keeper of Traken is top shelf Doctor Who. The plot builds to a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions and design. It exploits the family dynamic for a calculated powerplay by the story's nemesis and does so with a good degree of plausibility (and not too much overacting!). The dialogue is well pitched. It doesn't over-explain anything or resort to excessive jargon to cover plot holes (not that there really are any). The pacing of the story is spot-on.

    The set and prop design warrant special mention. They reach for a rather timeless neo-Victorian look and manage to pull it off quite well. The look of this episode is quite a testament to what the Doctor Who team could do when they had a modest budget.

    This story also sees the introduction of the companion Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), the daughter of Tremas who virtually loses everything by the conclusion of the story.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good, not to mention consistent, for a TV show that was shot entirely on video more than 25 years ago.

    The episodes are presented in their original 1.29:1 full frame aspect ratio.

    The image is reasonably sharp, particularly given its heritage, but hardly compares to modern video. The colour palette is a little soft by today's standard, but it is quite true to its source and consistent. There is a good level of detail in the dark areas of the picture. A modest degree of low level noise is visible throughout, as is typically the case for older video. One or two brief shots suffer considerably worse noise than the rest of the video (eg. at 66:47, where a large out of focus object is in front of the focal point of the video), but these shots are brief enough so as not to be a real distraction.

    The MPEG compression is very good and suffers no significant artefacts. A number of analogue video artefacts are noticeable, however, but none are terribly distracting - they really just emphasize the age of the video. Cross colouration and a mild blur when fast actions take place are the biggest culprits.

    English subtitles for the hearing impaired are present and appear to be quite accurate and well timed, based on the small portion I sampled.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer change occurs between episodes at 72:45 and is not noticeable even when the episodes are played together.

    A good deal of information about the restoration and transfer is available on the Doctor Who Restoration Team website.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The remastered audio is excellent. The mix is surprisingly clean and well levelled.

    An English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps) audio track and a music-only Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps) audio track are available.

    The dialogue is clearly audible and in good sync throughout.

    The Roger Limb's score is a fairly typical Dr. Who synth work, but is quite epic in it's style. The score sounds excellent in both the main soundtrack and the music-only track.

    There is a modest degree of pro-logic surround usage in the soundtrack, mostly by the score. The subwoofer picks up very little bottom end, however.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A typically well-stocked bag of Doctor Who extras is available on this disc.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Fairly standard animation with clips and audio from the show.

Audio Commentary with Anthony Ainley (Tremas), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Johnny Byrne (writer) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)

    A fairly chatty commentary that talks about all kinds of things going on-screen. The writer is a bit pretentious, but has a lot to say about where he was coming from with the story. It's also worth noting that it is one of only a few Doctor Who commentaries to feature the late Anthony Ainley and he is a bit of a character.

Informational Subtitles

    A set of subtitles with production notes and other trivia about the episodes. These notes are often more interesting than the commentary (and it's a good commentary on this one)

Being Nice to Each Other Featurette (30:03)

    A recently recorded "Making of" featurette that details the development and production of the story through interviews with the writer, script editor and cast. This is a fairly interesting "Making of", but doesn't go into too much detail - more of a chat and reminisce about what was done rather than how it was done.

The Return of the Master Featurette (9:41)

    A featurette about how and why the Master was re-introduced to Doctor Who. This is a bit of a simplistic character study on the Master's development through the episodes of this story and his transformation throughout it.

Sarah Sutton on Swap Shop Clip (11:17)

    A series of clips from an episode of the old UK weekend kids' show Swap Shop that introduce Sarah Sutton as the Doctor's new companion.

Trails and Continuities Clip (5:57)

    A series of clips of the continuity announcements bookending the episodes during their numerous broadcasts in the UK.

Photo Gallery (8:24)

    A fairly run-of-the-mill set of production stills done as a slideshow and backed by one of the better passages of music from the episodes.

DVD-ROM Extras - 1982 Doctor Who Annual

    A PDF copy of the 1982 Doctor Who annual, faithfully re-produced. This is the same document that appears on Logopolis and Castrovalva.

DVD-ROM Extras - Radio Times Billings: Illustrations, Articles and Listings

    A 5 page PDF document that collates a variety of clippings about the episodes from the Radio Times (Britain's equivalent to the TV Guide) when the episodes first aired. Interesting archival material.

DVD-ROM Extras - Doctor Who Season 18 Sales Literature

    A 14 page PDF file with synopses, images, cast information and technical details of the episodes, used for international sales of the series. This is the same document that appears on Logopolis and Castrovalva.

Isolated Music

    A gloriously remastered isolated score.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Keeper of Traken is only available in regions 2 and 4 as part of the New Beginnings box set. It will be available separately in Region 1 as of around June 2007 and features an identical set of special features to the Region 2/4 disc. I would favour the Region 2/4 release as it preserves the original PAL formatting.


    The Keeper of Traken is Doctor Who at its' best. It is innovative sci-fi that brings together an epic tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. This is not one to miss.

    The video and audio look and sound great for a show of this age.

    There is a decent swag of extras and all are worth a look.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Friday, May 04, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE