Doctor Who: New Beginnings - Stories 115 - 117 (The Keeper of Traken / Logopolis / Castrovalva)
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Doctor Who: New Beginnings (DVD)
These three stories saw the return of the Doctor's arch-enemy, The Master, as well as the transition from Tom Baker's Doctor to Peter Davison's. The Keeper of Traken: A distress call brings the Doctor (Tom Baker) to the tranquil planet of Traken, where a living statue poses a deadly threat. (4 eps, 98 mins) Logopolis: The Doctor's (Tom Baker) plan to enlist the help of Logopolis's mathematicians for a small favor become sidetracked when the Master's interference leads to disaster on a universal scale. (4 eps, 98 mins) Castrovalva: The Doctor's (Peter Davison) regeneration is failing, and his last hope rests with Nyssa and Tegan, who struggle to steer the TARDIS to the remote haven of Castrovalva. (4 eps, 96 mins)]]>
Keeper of the Traken
The Keeper of Traken was the beginning of the end for Tom Baker's tenure as the venerable TV sci-fi hero Doctor Who. By the end of the next serial, Logopolis, Baker had been replaced by the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davidson (whose debut, Castrovalva, is also available on DVD, as is Logopolis; both, along with Keeper of Traken, can be found in a three-disc boxed set titled New Beginnings). But fans got one more witty and suspenseful dose of Baker's Doctor with this story, which sends the Time Lord and companion Adric to the planet Traken, a peaceful haven ruled by the all-wise Keeper for a thousand years. The Keeper feels his reign is coming to an end, and with it, the rise of evil from within Traken's governing council itself. The Doctor, however, recognizes the presence of a old and familiar foe at the heart of the mystery--one he thought had been vanquished long ago.
Well-played by the cast (especially Baker, who is given a wealth of amusing lines), and an excellent launching pad for new companion Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), The Keeper of Traken is both a fine addition to the Baker canon and an enjoyable serial for new and old Who fans alike. Extras on the single disc include commentary by Sutton, actors Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) and Anthony Ainley (Consul Tremas), and writer Johnny Byrne; a 30-minute documentary on the serial, which includes interviews with most of the cast and production team; a clip of Sutton on the BBC series Swap Shop; and a featurette on the true identity of the evil plaguing Traken. The by-now-standard photo gallery, text-only commentary track, and PDF of the Doctor Who Annual (here from 1982), Radio Times listings, and BBC sales literature rounds out the crowd-pleasing supplements. --Paul Gaita
After seven years as the Doctor on England's long-running science fiction series Doctor Who, actor Tom Baker hung up his scarf and retired from the role in this four-part serial from 1981. )(The second in a three-part story arc focused around the Doctor's longtime adversary The Master (Anthony Ainley), (The other parts of the arc, Castrovalva and The Keeper of Traken, are also available on DVD as single discs and in a three-disc set titled New Beginnings) Logopolis finds the Time Lord in a contemplative mood as he attempts to repair the TARDIS' broken chameleon circuit, which has left the shape-shifting vehicle in the form of a police box. The Doctor and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) travel to Logopolis, a planet run by mathematical geniuses, but encounter the Master as he plots to steal the secret of the planet's massive radio telescope. His scheme accidentally releases a wave of entropy that threatens to destroy the universe, and the! Doctor and the Master must work together to prevent the end of existence itself. A sense of finality pervades Logopolis, and certainly for Baker fans, it does mark the end of the actor's run in the role, as well as a period of considerable popularity for the series. Baker's replacement, Peter Davidson, faced an uphill battle when he assumed the Doctor's mantle, and for many fans, his arrival signaled a downward turn for the program that was not reversed until its revival in 2005. The story itself is an intriguing one, and well played by its cast, which included newcomer Janet Fielding as airline stewardess Tegan Jovanka, who became one of the Doctor's companions for several seasons. Extras on the disc include commentary on all four episodes by Baker and Fielding, as well as writer Christopher Bidmead; a trio of BBC news program interviews with Baker on his departure and Davidson on his assumption of the role; a terrific 50-minute featurette titled "A New Body At Las! t," which interviews many of the principal cast and crew on the transi tion from Baker to Davidson; and the usual PDF of printed material from The Doctor Who Annual and Radio Times, as well as the excellent text-only commentary and isolated music tracks fans have come to expect from the discs. -- Paul Gaita
The four-episode serial Castrovalva not only kicked off the 19th season of Doctor Who, but introduced the fifth incarnation of the venerable British sci-fi hero in the younger (and blonder) form of Peter Davidson, who replaced fan favorite Tom Baker at the end of the previous season. Castrovalva picks up where the Baker finale, Logopolis (also available on DVD), left off, with the Doctor in a weakened state after his transformation, and in need of rest and recuperation. His companions set a course for the planet of Castrovalva, but all is not as it seems on the peaceful and educated world: Could the Doctor's old nemesis The Master be setting a trap for the ailing Time Lord? It's a strong debut for Davidson, who quickly sets his own path as the Doctor (while referencing his predecessor's traits and quirks in several clever bits), and the single disc DVD's extras do an excellent job of covering the transitional phase that the cast and crew underwent during the serial's production. Davidson is front and center on the commentary tracks for all four episodes, and he's joined by castmate Janet Fielding (Tegan), director Fiona Cumming, and writer Christopher H. Bidmead. And he's the focus of two featurettes: "Being Doctor Who," which covers his tenure as the Doctor, and "The Crowded TARDIS," in which he joins Baker, Fielding, and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) to discuss the Doctor's multiple companions in the Davidson years. Cumming is also profiled in a short feature on directing the episode, and the BBC vaults yield interviews with Davidson from the period on the children's shows Blue Peter and Swap Shop. A pair of deleted scenes, continuity announcements, a photo gallery, the usual above-par text commentary, a PDF of printed material on the show, and a music video for a remix of Peter Howell's theme music round out the supplements. -- Paul Gaita
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Tom Baker had been playing the part of the Doctor since 1974 and although it was by now very accepted for different actors to play the part, he had become so entrenched in the role that the public very much saw him as "The" Doctor and for a whole generation of younger viewers, he was the "Only" Doctor. Behind the scenes, Baker had become more and more difficult to work with and changes in the production team at the start of season 18 had irritated him even further. His annual threat to leave the show was presented in due course and this time - it was accepted! New producer John Nathan-Turner was eager to stamp his own identity on the show and recasting the central role was one that certainly excited him. Although he briefly considered Richard Griffiths for the part, his one and only choice was the much younger actor Peter Davison, who was already very well known to TV viewers from his work on All Creatures Great and Small.
By the time The Keeper of Traken, the penultimate story of season 18, was in production, Baker's departure had been announced and plans were well under way to ease the transition to the new Doctor, to be played by 29-years-old Peter Davison, the youngest actor yet to take on the part. In order to make the change over smooth and take the opportunity to halt the declining ratings and re-launch the almost eighteen-years-old show, Nathan-Turner made many sweeping changes to the look of the programme as well as many cast changes in addition to the role of the Doctor. At the start of the season, new music, opening titles, costuming and design elements had given the show a very much needed lift although in retrospect, they may not all have been particularly successful. Despite the departing lead actor, he also made many other cast changes, including dropping the Doctor's companion Romana (played by Baker's wife Lalla Ward) and his robot dog K9. Three new companions were introduced throughout the season, with Adric, a teenage boy played by Matthew Waterhouse arriving in story three and Nyssa, a teenage girl played by Sarah Sutton, appearing first in The Keeper of Traken. Tegan Jovanka, an Australian air hostess played by Janet Fielding came on board in the last story of the season, the middle segment of this set, Logopolis, the last of Baker's tenure. As if all these changes weren't enough, The Master, the Doctor's fellow Time Lord and bitterest enemy, was resurrected after a few years out of the show, played by both Geoffrey Beevers and Anthony Ainley. Finally, with another needed revamp of the graphics and a move to a new day and time slot, plus the scheduling two episodes per week, Peter Davison takes on the role in the third of the set, Castrovalva. So many changes...
The three stories themselves stand up quite well, although all are rather indicative of the Nathan-Turner approach to the show - hugely complicated story lines that often don't make much sense before repeated viewing. Perhaps script editor Christopher H. Bidmead, who also penned the scripts for both Logopolis and Castrovalva, is more at fault here, but scripting and story telling is often cited as the key weakness in Nathan-Turner's ability. Indeed, the wonderful extras included on these three discs feature many interviews with the cast and writers, most notably Tom Baker and Peter Davison, who are nearly all somewhat critical of Nathan-Turner and his approach to the show. Costuming seems to be something that irritates both the lead actors, but the ever changing cast list and the expansion of the companions is something that clearly neither was happy with, as the writers and Directors involved echo. The "in-jokes" that were beginning to pepper the scripts is also clearly an irritant to all but the producer.
The disc's extras are really phenomenal and even if these stories aren't your favorite, the extras will make it all worthwhile. Apart from many, many new and extremely frank interviews, there are all sorts of news and archive shows to enjoy, including many features on Davison's winning of the role. Each disc has its own commentary, The Keeper of Traken featuring the late Anthony Ainley, who thus marks his one and only commentary contribution. For me, Ainley is one of the problems that overshadows these three stories. He starts off in the role of Tremas; a character that is taken over by The Master at the end of the Traken adventure, going on to appear as The Master in the next two stories and throughout the subsequent nine years of the original show. A hammier actor is unimaginable. His pantomime-like performance did a lot to destroy the integrity of the character. Geoffrey Beevers, who plays The Master in the majority of the Traken story would have made a much, much more sinister and believable character and it's such a shame he wasn't offered (or at least didn't accept) the role full time. One extremely annoying feature of the Traken commentary is that Ainley and Matthew Waterhouse keep repeating lines from the show, which actually makes it sound like there's a time delay echo on the disc. It takes some getting used to. Sarah Sutton and writer Johnny Byrne add their thoughts to the Traken commentary. Tom Baker and Janet Fielding (together with Christopher H. Bidmead) provide the Logopolis commentary and alas, Baker is almost silent throughout the recording. He contributes very little indeed. Peter Davison joins Fielding and director Fiona Cumming for Castrovalva.
The new dawn for the show really did arrive with Davison. Although I'm no fan of his portrayal of The Doctor, the revamp came at the right time and salvaged an otherwise dying show, giving it a complete new lease of life. The move away from Saturday tea-time to a later weeknight slot proved a hit and the ratings improved dramatically. What Baker, Davison, Bidmead, director John Black and others in the accompanying documentaries have to say about the new (and passing) era of the show is fascinating. The honesty from Baker is extremely revealing and almost makes this set an invaluable addition to the Doctor Who library on its own.
What can I tell you? "Traken" is about a threatening statue in the garden of Traken. "Logopolis" involves the repairing of the Tardis and the regeneration of the Master, who threatens everything. "Castrovalva" is about the failure of Peter Davison's Doctor to stabilize the regeneration. Nyssa and Tegan try to help the Doctor's regeneration by bringing him to Castrovalva.
Fun and engaging.
The stories still hold up fairly well, although they sometimes require much suspending of your belief to make them click. I was surprised how strong Keeper of Traken still is
Picture and sound are superb.
Bonus features are a mixed bag. The commentary tracks are highly entertaining (Tom Baker rarely does commentary, and was in top form here) but the behind-the-scenes featurettes don't really offer much information fans aren't already likely to know.
All in all, this package is well worth the price.