Utopia 2018: Traken Tidbits


Image Credit: James Ashworth – All Rights Reserved

Image Description: Geoffrey Beevers, Sarah Sutton and Graham Cole

Fantom Events have run the Utopia Doctor Who convention in Oxfordshire for several years now. James Ashworth went to Eynsham Hall this June and found himself on Traken, at Coal Hill School, under the sea and at the dawn of Doctor Who itself. Here is the first of his articles from Tides #42:

Tom Baker’s penultimate story, The Keeper of Traken (1981) introduced several cornerstones of Doctor Who mythology. Guests Sarah Sutton joined as Nyssa, Geoffrey Beevers played the decayed Master, and Graham Cole wore the Master’s disguise, the Melkur statue TARDIS.

Graham Cole remembered the many issues that affected the Melkur costume. It was uncomfortable from the beginning. The various parts required a long period of moulding, and they somehow became more uncomfortable when worn in studio. This was only exacerbated by the cables needed to power its glowing red eyes, which initially entailed dragging them around the set, making the costume heavier than it was already! After getting them caught on various bits of the set, he eventually received an upgrade in the form of a battery and switch to turn the lights on. The costume’s limited vision also necessitated it have a microphone and earpiece, something that was quickly forgotten about by the rest of the production. As such, Graham often heard increasingly irate comments from director John Black on performances on set.

The Master’s costume was also not without contention. Geoffrey Beevers argued against the fake eyes worn by Peter Pratt in The Deadly Assassin (1976), insisting that with the large mask, his eyes would form a crucial part of the performance, though he does admit that his predecessor was still able to do a great job.

All the cast remember the story fondly, especially its Shakespearean qualities. Geoffrey related how the story shows the development of television acting. Initially, television plays were much more static as large and unwieldy cameras could only move over limited angles, and along fixed tracks. As cameras became more mobile, this allowed a greater fluidity for the actors, yet still deeply rooted in the theatrical styles that preceded it.

Sarah in particular recalls when she was asked if she wanted to stay on during rehearsals, accepting excitedly. While she got on with Tom Baker, she felt more comfortable when Peter Davison arrived, as they were both still settling into their roles and so could support each other, while Tom had seven years of experience behind him, as well as knowing he was soon to leave. She also had more time to get to know Peter, so their offscreen chemistry could contribute to a better onscreen relationship.

Tides 42 is, at time of publication, available to buy through this link

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