The Keeper of Traken
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - The Keeper of Traken

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1982
ISBN 0 426 20148 5
First Edition Cover Alistair Pearson

Back cover blurb: For ages past, the Union of Traken has lived in peace and harmony thanks to the power of the Source, controlled by generations of Keepers. But the current Keeper, his powers waning, senses some all-pervading evil about to invade his world. He summons the Doctor to his aid. To save Traken the Doctor fights the terrifying Melkur - only to find that this new enemy conceals an older and even deadlier foe - one the Doctor has encountered before...


Attack of the Deadly Lawn Ornament by Andrew Feryok 10/2/14

"That's the Traken Union - famous for its universal harmony. A whole empire held together by..." the Doctor paused, groping for some way to express the incredibly complex bio-electronic structure that held the Traken Empire. "Held together by..."
"Just by people being terribly nice to each other!"
- The Doctor describing Traken to Adric, The Keeper of Traken, Chapter 1, Page 9
The first story of the Return of the Master Trilogy is adapted by none other than Terrance Dicks who had utterly nothing to do with this story in the first place! The Keeper of Traken is a slow and stagey story depicting the crumbling of an Edenic society at the hands of the Master who is seen for the first time since The Deadly Assassin in his degenerating body (a story also adapted by Terrance Dicks by the way).

It's rather ironic that the Master is able to unravel the Traken society through the love of a woman for her husband! This story almost comes across as a sci-fi "Garden of Eden" story with the Master as the snake tempting and corrupting Kassia's Eve against Tremas' almost divinely good Adam character. On TV, the story has some gorgeous imagery and direction, memorable set designs, and a convincing alien society. Some of this comes across in Dicks' story, but I'm afraid this is one of his more phoned-in efforts. What you see on TV is pretty much what you get in print here even down to the paragraph structure, which is more like that of a camera script than a book. The Keeper of Traken is a strong story in itself so if you liked the original story, you are going to like this book. But if you go in expecting some deeper understanding of the Traken society, the Master, the Source or any other elements of the story, then you are going to be gravely disappointed. Dicks does make some alterations here and there, but they are so few and subtle that you wouldn't recognize them unless you meticulously studied it side by side with the TV episode.

One good thing about the book is that Dicks does a nice job of making it clearer exactly who the Fosters are and why they seem so corruptible throughout the story. It's also made much clearer exactly what Adric's machine does to the Source at the end of the story, which always confused the heck out me, and what the Doctor and Tremas are trying to do by keying in "337". Dicks also seems to really enjoy the final moments when the Doctor confronts the Master in his TARDIS and when the Master steals Tremas' body since he goes into a bit more detail here and makes an effort to connect the continuity between this story, the Delgado incarnation of the Master and the previous The Deadly Assassin. However, he bizarrely changes the Master's iconic final line of "a new body at last" to "now begins my new life!" Actually, now that I've read this book, I'm beginning to wonder if the Master's miraculous abilities in the years since, especially those seen in the TV Movie, are remnants of the Keeper's powers that he acquires in this story.

On the whole, this is a pretty bland novelization of a good TV story. It doesn't try to do anything new but it does give a few explanations that were missing on TV, such as why an Edenic society has such a corruptible class known as the Fosters and how exactly the Doctor and Adric end up foiling the Master.

The story sets the scene for the epic regeneration story that follows and I can't wait to read it! 5/10