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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who – The Keys Of Marinus (BBC DVD)

Doctor Who – The Keys Of Marinus (BBC DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: D



The latest DVD issue of the first Doctor Who adventures is The Keys Of Marinus, which is labeled story number 5.   The arc of stories starts with great promise – the premise and the 1st 3 episodes of the 6 episode set suggest that it might be one of the better story arcs yet, Daleks not withstanding.  Unfortunately, the early promise slips quickly away in a combination of bad writing and abysmal budgeting.


The premise, which in a very broad sense foreshadows the Doctor’s later quest for the six fragments to the Key to Time, begins on an island surrounded by a sea of acid on the Planet Marinus.  They encounter Arbitan, who is the keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, a vast computer that has controlled the planet for years but which is beginning to lose that control as a result of attacks from the evil Voords.   The five keys that control Marinus have been scattered in various locations on the planet and need to be recovered in order for the computer to reestablish control.  Arbitan attempts to enlist the Doctor and his companions in the task and, when he is refused, blackmails them by denying them access to the TARDIS.  Thus the adventure begins.


The group travels to the various locations encountering obstacles that run the gamut from engaging (“The Velvet Web” and “The Screaming Jungle”), to so-so (“The Snows of Terror”), to laughably bad (“Sentence of Death”).   The final episode, “The Keys of Marinus,” attempts to pull it all together, but it is too little, too late. 


Points of interest include the fact that William Hartnell doesn’t appear in two full episodes (the Doctor Who Wiki notes that he was “on holiday”), along with development of the characters of Chesteron and the Doctor himself.  Hartnell at times has a certain Wizard of Oz quality about him, being not wholly present in the moment and, even when he is, he seems largely ineffectual.  Chesterton, in contrast, has many of the qualities the later Doctors would develop – inventiveness, quick thinking, compassion, bravery, and generally a chum one might rely on with assurance.   Some of the Doctor’s flaws may be more glaring for his lack of full participation in this story arc yet, if one is truthful, the story picks up considerably when he is absent and slows to a grinding halt when he isn’t.   


Part of the problem is the writing, which scores high on the ludicrous scale as the story degenerates into a locked room murder mystery cum trial in “Death Sentence,” the absolute nadir in concept and execution.  It is also of note that the writers have lost a real opportunity with the character of the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, who has degenerated by this time in the series into a whiny, weepy, screamy liability rather than the odd, independent woman she originally seemed destined to become.


\As with many of the earliest episodes, extras are nearly non-existent.  In this case, no real effort has been made to shore up an astonishingly paltry product.  In fact, the only extra of substance, “The Sets of Marinus,” betrays the game entire; for 9 minutes, beleaguered set designer Raymond Cusick starkly portrays the lack of money as one of the most embarrassing professional moments of his career, chronicling how he stole props from other shows, his copious use of black back drop curtains, and low lighting in many scenes just to get by.


Much as I’d like to say differently, this one is for Whomanics only.



 -   Don Wentworth


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