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THE KEYS OF MARINUS


Chase - Posted on 10 November 2009

1

Acid seas, mers...submersibles (sorry Hartnell style flub there), keys of Marinus, the machine, Aribitron, the Voord, glass sand on a glass beach.  A huge building. An old man. I mean another old man. I'm so sorry, I really somehow like this story and in particular this episode. We have DW falling into itself here: a strange alien planet with strange things...most of them peculiar enough to be visually interesting and to keep us guessing as to why they're there. Susan wanders off, gets hysterical for almost paddling in an acid tide pool, and then gets saved by an old man from a man in a rubber suit. What other story does this? In addition, later on we get a full planet: at least two continents on the map but what other story had a planet like Earth that's...well, like Earth with different climates and locales? Usually all we get are ice planet, or jungle planet. Mind you, Jupiter must be all gas all over the place but anyway, here we get a full planet. Indeed, though, we do get the feel of an old FLASH GORDON chapter here and things start  off well but get a bit creaky especially when we see a Voord fall down a shaft---in a struggle with Ian--into the acid sea. It sounds more gruesome than it looks. Anyway, this story kept moving and was one of the only ones not to put me to sleep seen in all one go when WLIW-21 showed it in the ...what? 1980s!? Hartnell thinks, unlike Tennant, that travel bracelets are a good thing...or at least these ones are. The Doc seems most happy to be trying this, exhilariated. The DVD text tells us that many lines were cut out, including those that would have given us some insight into the Voord and the planet. What a strange way to enlist the help of the travellers but they wouldn't help otherwise. Arbitron appears only here, I think, and at the same time he does'nt want the Voord to find the keys but enlists the foursome to find the keys for him...is there something wrong with this plan? Anyway, I like this ep for its out there-ness.  Almost only DW can do a story like this (I'd say that THE TOMORROW PEOPLE and maybe almost any of the four main IRWIN ALLEN shows can also do this). And you have to admit, it is imaginative and creative.    

2

We get to meet Altos and Sabetha (Aribiton's daughter) and at least one of them has REALLY great legs. Guess which one. Altos was a late minute addition to the cast of characters, a mere ten days before recording. Hartnell, at the end of this, starts his two weeks off and his character goes off to Millenius a civilized society. Oh and the reprise to last week is REDONE as happened on DARK SHADOWS from time to time, more there than here. It's fun to see these redone scenes. The Morphotron rooms, seen in color in the photo gallery, are quite nice and colorful, well made sets. The idea that Barbara can see things as they really are is well done from her point of view. Altos, as one of the taken over couriers, makes a scary villain, intent on killing Barbara for the brains in the jars. One seems to be, according to the DVD text, from a much earlier ep of FIREBALL Xsomething or other, a Gerry Anderson puppet show. Seen from behind the brains are not that bad but from the front and up close they look really really silly. So too is their screams as Barbara attacks them. They sound much too human. Barbara manages to crack one of the jars but attacked all of them. Ian, as a taken over human, doesn't manage to do much but perhaps he's fighting them back from within. Also: the brains yelling, "KIll her," over and over again makes this rather embarassing. I thought the sets were pretty good, the ideas okay and for the most part the guest actors and actors okay. Too bad the brains were blowing the whole thing. Still, once that's over, the adventure here is over and everyone is moving on to a new locale. Susan, for all her stupidity moves on first, and Carole Ann Ford goes into more hystronics as the jungle seems to be screaming at her. She screams back and it's rather annoying how she does it. It's hard to imagine the Doctor letting her go on without him and separating but he does seem to trust Barbara and Ian by now fully. In the first ep, there was some talk about their first meeting and how the Doctor was irrtated and mean and that was originally in the script but not the finished show. In any event, Susan also wanted to go with her Grandfather (who btw does call Susan his grandchild in MARCO POLO) which reminded me of how Tegan wanted to go with her Doctor (5th) in THE FIVE DOCTORS. This ep is not terrible but the attack on the brains is embarassing and terrible. The rest is okay and lives up to the promise of an adventure...just. And yeah HE does have great legs, that Altos.       

The set designer or the man interviewed on the dvd says this was awful but honestly it's not. Oh, there's a lot wrong: Ian knocks on a door and it almost caves in and he says two seconds later that it's too solid to buckle; Ian turns his back on a statue of a soldier which then comes alive and almost kills him; a camera seems to hit something and move a bit, someone coughs in the background ten minutes ten seconds in; the hands on the statue are real and strange enough; and more. The statue is lamer than a FLASH GORDON one and the spikes are a bit shakey but they seem to really be just half an inche from Barbara's body. and another BUT: it is also quite entertaining. Some reviewers mention a lack of urgency but honestly...there is some. Susan also mentions having heard that sound of the jungle before and...doesn't recall where. Could it be she's been here before? Or maybe Gallifrey has LIVING vines that MOVE!

Susan also doesn't like long goodbyes just like the Fourth Doctor and probably all the Doctors. She's also quite hysterical in this ep. Barbara mentions Ian treating her like a Dresden China (DRESDEN FILES?!no, i'ts a name of  breakable plates) then goes wandering, gets herself lost, trapped TWICE or more, loses a FAKE key, and has to be rescued by a man. Still, she does save Ian's life. Ian seems to think Sabetha can drop the key in outer space as she uses the bracelet to teleport...she's moving through space but is she moving through outer space? Ther'es probably more to complain about but again, it all moves fast...and the traps are not that bad. Okay Ian's cell has a loose bar BEFORE he starts  to try to get out but whatever. ALSO; the dying old man claims that anyone warned by Arbitan could get away from his traps...obviously Arbitan didn't warn Ian and Barbara at all because they were caught and only got away by luck and strength. WTF?

Some of that doesn't make sense--also why hide the Keys where you can't get them and the main idea of the quest is to get something that can control others' minds. Other than all of that, this can be an enjoyable ep but while it seems to want to be an alien planet version of Marco Polo and...it's not as good. It does seem to succeed at replicating different locales for the same planet...although Altos and Sabetha, who both come from this planet are as surprised by the adventures as are the four travellers.

The trap idea is a good one as is the moving plants although the science is poor, who cares about that? It's a good adventure. Oh and dvd text tells us that the script once mentioned that the Doctor was trying to steal color tv tech from the BBC and that was why he was in England in 1963!!!!WTF? Oh and one of these episodes has the title THE VELVET WEB, which was stolen as a title by a gay porn writer who used a fake name to write it. He used his real name to write DW novels.

Speaking of that, Althos does have NICE legs and we see more of them than before. And at the same time he says something like, "They're as thick as small trees."  What a handsome man. :) 

I was sure Ian said something about vegetation being alive! And being startled by that. But that happens in THE CHASE, the first truly so bad it's awful and awfully funny story.

I rather like this episode. It has atmosphere, it has Althos's legs on show again and good ole Ian gets to rub them! WTF!? In any case, there is styrofoam snow and wind sound effects, soldiers in the ice that come to life when a block of ice is melted to get another key of marinus out of it in a huge cave of ice in a mountain. Wolves. A huge man played by JEDIKIAH from THE SLAVES OF JEDIKIAH in THE TOMORROW PEOPLE (also REVENGE OF JEDIKIAH) actually Francis De Wolfe, who does not go over the top here. We get the first ice melting monsters here AND the start in the cliffhanger to DW's first murder mystery. We also get Barbara in trouble again and nearly raped. The entire thing is not without faults but it does have that certain something that keeps it moving and ...to be honest, I read the novelization and the archive in DW Magazine (then probably the Monthly) and other things about this and I imagined the soldiers the way they were originally in the script ...frozen in the ice and melting out of it. It was all much scarier in my imagination but that said I really do think that Ray Cusick, the set designer I think, did a great job here with what he had. We have a rope bridge, collapsing ice bridges, falling ice boulders, snow, a hut in the middle of the snow storm, wolf stock footage and a hut.

Carole Ann Ford gives Susan some gumption as she takes the rope bridge back across the ice bridge that is about to fall any second and she does not allow Susan to scream or go into hysterics. In fact, in this entire ep, Susan does not. Was Vasor a bad or really bad guy? I also seem to recall the soldiers in the novel killing him in a more grisly fashion and one source claims that the soldiers were robots, which makes sense really. But who hid all these keys in these spots? Arbitron?

Anyway all of this is pretty effective I feel, even if not as good as MARCO POLO or THE DALEKS. I like it.

5

The Doctor defends Ian who is on trial for his life for killing Altos's friend Efrim, a guard at Millenus. Despite some muddled dectective stuff and a stuffy trial, this makes a refreshing change of setting and pace. Hartnell has been rested for two weeks and it shows in his enthusiam and excitement, even though he makes at least two flubs and almost another, one of them actually scripted. Kala is played by the same woman who will play Lady Peinforte in SILVER NEMESIS years later. There's not much more to say about this except that the killer and accomplice kidnap Susan because she knew something when she already told them that and also they should have assumed she also told Barbara. How'd they get her? And why did she blab to them in the first place. There's some strange dometic scenes here that haven't really been a part of DW yet and some nice speeches by the Doctor but...the actual crime, well it's not exactly MURDER IN THE RUE MORGUE or CASE OF THE SPECKLED BAND is it? The actual murder could have been more puzzling, mysterious, etc. In any event, not a bad ep but it was reviewed poorly at the time as having a trial, the reviewer stating that a series that is lacking any real ideas usually resorts to a trial...he's almost 19 years too early for that criticism but see or rather don't see TRIAL OF A TIME LORD. In the meantime, enjoy this change of pace and it does rather move quickly and we get to see more of Altos's legs. Seriously, though, I'm surprised they got away with his outfit...in this ep as he rises toward the end of the trial sequences, we see quite a lot! What were they thinking? I bet I know.   

6

A rousing climax. Well, yeah it is but there's some clunky things wrong. For one, the entire scene where Ian and Susan are confronted by Yartek acting as if he were Arbitan is a curious one. They don't recogonize him and after they walk out, Ian says, "You know I think something curious was going on in there."  Still, Yartek (called Yartext by the Doctor), isn't given the key by Ian and he also gave some flimsy explanation about radiation from the machine has effected him. Add to that he might have killed Altos and Sabetha but didn't....giving us both a tied up Altos (and Sabetha) and another great look at those great legs. 

In all honesty, the Voord have been given some flak over the years by fans and non fans alike. True, their execution is not the same enjoyed by the Daleks, nor were they popular by any means. Yet...somehow they managed as the DVD text tells us, to be in several spin offs including some kind of card game with a story where they want the TARDIS (Susan, the text tells us calls it TARDIS but when you turn on the subtitles, THEY say she says THE Tardis) and battle the Doctor but then turn on their allies, the Daleks, to stop them. All the Voord die by the Daleks including their leader. The Voord also featured in other spinoffs, the Text tells us including being on the cover of an annual (possibly from 1965) and others I cannot recall. 

The Voord do feature in a Marvel DW Magazine comic where they are linked to being...the Cybermen. A strange idea that almost makes sense.

We never see what is inside the Voord rubber suit. It is only apparent that they are not the suit, not made of rubber as some other aliens from SMITH AND JONES. They might be reptilian, amphibian, or something else entirely. We never found out and might never know either way. In one scene they ARE effective. It is toward the end when the Doctor and his FIVE companions are looking for a way out of the building. In the background, one of the Voord is looking at them through a screen or  a window. If given the correct execution, the Voord might be effective again today. 

There are also a  few funny scenes with The Doctor. I love the scene where he and Ian almost bump into each other and both get scared, Ian's amused, the Doctor irritated. And everyone's happy to see the Doctor again TWICE.

The Kala thing was unexpected and the actress does a good job of making her sympathetic and then evil minded. The trial thing ends well and the entire adventure ends well. If you examine it too much though, there are many logic flaws. You read a LENGTHY  review/ things that don't make sense in ABOUT TIME 1. Still, for some reason, I just like this story despite its many faults and lapses of logic. 

Unusual for this time in the show there is no cliffhanger into the next story...oh AND the TARDIS makes NO sound on appearing in ep1 or on leaving in ep6. It just vanishes and appears...with no sound effect. It is most unusual. The effects there are also quite nice. I like the sets and the model work.         

This one and The Time Meddler are among my favorite (still existing) stories from the Hartnell Years

Really. I don't know if they're my favorite but I like them a lot, esp TIME MEDDLER

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