Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken

In his introduction to the unofficial fan-published novelization of the Doctor Who serial "Revelation of the Daleks", author Jon Preddle states, "There are only two ways to write a Doctor Who novelisation - the proper way and the Terrance Dicks way."   I really don't know what he means by that.  After reading Dicks' official adaptation of the Fourth Doctor adventure "The Keeper of Traken," I can't tell you what exactly Preddle sees as wrong about Dicks' approach.
The story begins as the Doctor and his young companion Adric are returning to "N-Space"; the "N", I shall assume, standing for "normal"; from a parallel dimension called "E-Space"; with no indication given here just what the "E" is for; where one of the Doctor's companion's, Romana, along with the robotic dog K-9, had chosen to remain.  Immediately upon their return, the pair are diverted from their planned journey to the Doctor's homeworld of Gallifrey to the Union of Traken, a planet with a reputation as one of the most peaceful and serene in the universe, by the Keeper, the centuries old ruler of Traken. He warns the Doctor that a great evil has come to Traken in the form of an alien presence the Trakens have named the Melkur, but which is in reality an old enemy of the Doctor's, who seeks to influence the passage of power as the  ancient Keeper prepares to step down and pass on the mantle of Keeper to one of the members of the planet's ruling council.  This old enemy, who is near death, seeks to use the power of the "Source", which is, as the name implies, the source of the Keeper's power and longevity, to renew, or (big SPOILER), "regenerate", himself.
"The Keeper of Traken" was the penultimate serial in Tom Baker's seven year tenure as the Fourth Doctor.  From a continuity standpoint, it is important for the introduction of Nyssa, the daughter of one of the Traken council members, who would begin traversing time and space alongside the Doctor and Adric in the very next story,  and Tom Baker's last, "Logopolis", thus being, I suppose, more associated with the Fifth Doctor, as well re-introducing the aforementioned old foe (OK--I'll just come out and say it, spoilers be damned.  It's the Master), who would figure prominently in the next couple of story arcs.
At 124 pages; and I've read that the publisher of the Doctor Who novelizations was at the time imposing a limit of 128 pages on the length of the books; Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken appears, although I admit that I've never seen the original serial, to be a straightforward, no-frills accounting of the events of the TV episodes.  Little time is spent introducing the reader to the main characters, although with this being, as the title page tells us, the 37th in a series of novelizations of a TV show that had by time of the book's publication in 1982 been running for nearly two decades, it can reasonably be assumed that the target audience for the novel was no doubt quite intimately familiar with the Doctor and needed no such exposition.
Keeper of Traken is a quick--you could probably devour it in a single afternoon if you weren't distracted---yet entertaining read.  I still don't know what Mr. Preddle, as quoted above, sees as deficient about Terrance Dicks style or approach. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading more Doctor Who novelizations by him--and he did write quite a few I understand.

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