Video: 4:3 Non-Anamorphic
Audio: English 2.0
Subs: English HOH Production notes
Running time: 150 mins approx.
Release date: September 21st 2009
The TARDIS lands on Marinus where the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan stumble across Arbitan and his machine the Conscience which controls the mind of everyone on the planet. With the deadly Voord closing in ready to capture the device he forces the team into helping him recover four of the five keys needed to reactivate it. Equipped with travel watches they brave blizzard stricken wastelands and living jungles as they search for the instruments but could the most civilised society of all kill off the travellers and will they return in time to stop Yartek, leader of the Voord, from seizing power?
One of the main laments about the classic series is that more often than not the actual production fails to live up to the writer’s imagination and “The Keys of Marinus” is a prime example. It’s a rare Terry Nation script which does not feature the Daleks and this sprawling story certainly shows the broad imagination of the man as he transports the every growing TARDIS team into various alien landscapes.
The TARDIS materialises on an island of glass surrounded by a sea of acid which is a marvellous idea and it’s a shame the various other locations the team go to aren’t as exotic. In fact the further we get along this story the more muddled it seems to become and in fact it’s odd that for once the Doctor has to be blackmailed into taking the mission rather than offering to help (the folly of youth perhaps). Each episode, much like many early stories, has a wonderfully B-movie title such as “The Velvet Web” or “The Screaming Jungle” which adds a little to the feel of the thing and it’s possibly those self same monster movies or adventure serials which inspired Nation as indeed they did quite a bit of the early series. Once we get through the mind bending Morphoton not only do we lose the Doctor for two episodes but we gain two new characters. Altos and Sabetha don’t really get much to do apart from either saving or needing to be saved and the latter seems to become a glorified key fob until they declare a romance akin to that of Leela and Andred in the final episode. From Morphoton we journey to a living jungle, a frozen wasteland and finally the ultra civilised society Milennius where we meet a rejuvenated Doctor. Here the story turns into a crime drama as Ian stands trial for murder with the Doctor as his defence lawyer and everyone else running round like the Scooby gang. Ian and Barbara are great throughout despite the former still wearing his “Marco Polo” costume and looking like he’s just stepped out of a Chinese massage parlour.
The Voord (or Voords) are a curious addition to Doctor Who’s D-List roster of villainy. They only appear in the first and sixth episodes and even then we never see their true form only the wetsuits they wear to cross the acid sea. The strange shape and odd symbols poking out the top of these however add to their eeriness and make them distinct despite in these modern times they resemble a fetish version of the Teletubbies. Any good villain worth their salt should’ve pursued the Doctor and his companions through the various lands but instead they take the lazier, and perhaps more intelligent, route in waiting for them to return with the various keys. They appear to have made their mark though and, despite never appearing on screen again, have returned a few times in new stories and comic strips. One even went so far as to suggest that Marinus became Mondas and the Voord are destined to become the Cybermen. Apart from some freaky brains in jars (who are very well done until we see them turn around) other villains come in more human form such as the hunter Vasor and the four frozen soldiers, or ice warriors (hmm nice name, note that down for later), standing guard over the key. Once more a situation which could have been a clever puzzle is thrown away for an action sequence.
In many ways a dry run for the season long “Key to Time” in fourteen years “The Keys of Marinus” is a sprawling serial which aspires to be special yet leaves something to be desired in its translation from page to screen despite some good model work. Again this is one story which makes you wonder what it would be like with today’s production values; it certainly has more imagination than some stories. While not being that highly regarded this serial did provide inspiration for later stories and Nation even reused some ideas on his own Blakes 7. One to enjoy with the three Fs: friends, food and fresh alcohol.
Extras: Commentary with William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, John Gorrie, Raymond Cusick and Clayton Hickman. No ‘Making Of’ on this one but “The Sets of Marinus” sees designer Raymond Cusick talk about the trials and tribulations of his work on the story. There is also the ever present text commentary, photo gallery, subtitles and advert for the next release.
Trivia learnt from the disc: Cut dialogue from this story reveals why the Doctor was so grumpy when he returned to the scrap yard that fateful night in “An Unearthly Child”. The colour rays on the TARDIS scanner weren’t mixing properly so he visited the BBC to ask their advice but found them ‘infernally secretive’.