‘The Keys of Marinus’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Quest for Marinus

Are the Voord a good monster compared to the Daleks?

‘The Keys of Marinus’ is another exciting adventure with the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan in ‘Doctor Who’. Still in its first season, the ‘Doctor Who’ production team went for bolder stories and exciting new concepts in order to make this relatively new sci-fi series work for kids and adults alike.

This is a six-part adventure by Terry Nation. Beforehand, Terry Nation made his first contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ by creating the ever-popular Daleks in the series. ‘The Keys of Marinus’ is his second contribution to the show following ‘The Daleks’ and he goes for action-adventure in all six episodes.

I like ‘The Keys of Marinus’ very much as a set of six episodes. What Terry Nation does with this six-parter is have each of the six episodes stand on its own and become individual mini-adventures to form this heroic quest for the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan as they search for the Keys of Marinus.

This form of storytelling in ‘The Keys of Marinus’ predates future quest romps in ‘Doctor Who’. These include ‘The Key to Time’ series with Tom Baker’s Doctor and ‘The Infinite Quest’ with David Tennant’s Doctor. I’ve done my own quest romp anthology too in my ‘Fifth Doctor’ fan-fiction series.

In this story, the TARDIS lands on an island on Marinus that is surrounded by a sea of acid and is dominated by a huge pyramid. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan explore the island and soon encounter the deadly Voord. These Voord have come to take control of the Conscience of Marinus.

The TARDIS team meet Arbitan, an elderly robed man who tells the Doctor and his friends about the Conscience of Marinus machine and that four of the five missing keys need to be found in order to defeat the Voord. Arbitan chooses the TARDIS team to find the keys for him. They reluctantly agree.

As I said before, I like how Terry Nation devises mini-adventures in each of the six episodes of ‘The Keys of Marinus’ to make this a proper quest romp in ‘Doctor Who’. It starts on the island with Arbitan giving the quest to the Doctor and his friends and also wrist-bands to travel all over Marinus.

In the story, we get to see various places of Marinus for the Doctor and his companions to visit when going on this quest. First they go to an idyllic paradise that’s fake, then they go to a screaming jungle; then they go to a snowy wilderness until they end up in a city where a trial for murder occurs.

There’s a lot of excitement going on in each of the six episodes with the different mini-adventures that occur. This gives the story more variety and doesn’t bore as each of the episodes sees the Doctor and his friends in different perils and overcoming dangerous obstacles when searching for the keys.

William Hartnell is superb as the Doctor in this adventure. He’s absent for the third and fourth episodes sadly, as William Hartnell took a two-week holiday during the making of this story. But he returns triumphantly as the Doctor and defends Ian in a court case when he goes on trial for murder.

William Russell is equally good as Ian in this adventure. I like how Ian gets to be the action hero and takes the main lead whilst William Hartnell’s away on holiday during the story. I enjoyed Ian’s sense of determination when he and his friends are on the quest whilst searching for the Keys of Marinus.

Jacqueline Hill is great as Barbara in this adventure. I enjoyed the scenes that Barbara shares with Ian as the two are very fond of each other, especially when facing danger in the screaming jungle and in a snowy blizzard. It was so frightening when Barbara was being attacked by Vasor the tramp.

Carole Ann Ford is pretty good as Susan in this story. She tends to be rather squeamish and girly during this adventure, which doesn’t help develop her character. But I liked certain moments when she gets to be clever, especially when she helps her grandfather in solving the murder mystery case.

The story’s guest cast is pretty vast spreading out through all the six episodes. There’s George Coulouris as Arbitan. Arbitan is the one who chooses the Doctor and his friends to go and find the Keys of Marinus for him. He only appears in the first episode as he gets killed off quickly by a Voord.

There’s Katharine Schofield as Sabetha, Arbitan’s daughter who makes her first appearance in the second episode. Sabetha is initially a mind-less slave to the brain-like masters of Morphoton. But once she’s free, Sabetha and Altos help the Doctor and friends in their quest for the Keys of Marinus.

Robin Phillips guest stars as Altos, who seems at first to be a willing servant to the masters of Morphoton in the second episode. But once he’s free, Altos turns out to be really friendly and loyal. I enjoyed the romantic subplot that was occurring between Altos and Sabetha during this adventure.

The rest of the guest cast are as follows. There’s Francis de Wolff as Vasor the tramp who Ian, Barbara, Susan, Altos and Sabetha meet in the snowy landscapes in the fourth episode. There’s also Donald Pickering as Eyesen, the prosecutor for Ian’s murder trial during the fifth and sixth episodes.

There’s also Henley Thomas as Tarron, the murder investigator of Ian’s trail in the fifth and sixth episodes. There’s Martin Cort as Aydan and there’s Fiona Walker as Kala, Aydan’s wife who appear in the fifth and sixth episodes. There is also Edmund Warwick as Darrius who is in the third episode.

The story’s monsters are the Voord. They’re like masked men/aliens in rubber suits. I found the Voord interesting as a new alien race for ‘Doctor Who’, but I’m afraid they didn’t work out in becoming popular like the Daleks were. For one thing, the Voord didn’t appear in all of the episodes.

The Voord are led by Stephen Dartnell as Yartek. The Voord want to have the Conscience of Marinus and take control of it, using the keys to insert them into the machine. I like the look of the Voord, as they seem mysterious and scary. But they should have been a lot more prominent during the story.

I found the brains of Morpho quite creepy, especially with their eyestalks on the brains and when Barbara smashed their jars, killing them instantly. The Ice Soldiers in the fourth episode of the story were also quite scary-looking, since they came to life in the ice and they even gave Susan the scares.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘The Sets of Marinus’ interview with designer Raymond Cusick; a photo gallery of the story and a commentary with William Russell; Carole Ann Ford; director John Gorrie and designer Raymond Cusick, moderated by Clayton Hickman.

There’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story; Cadet Sweets “Doctor Who and the Daleks” and Sweet Cigarette Cards. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Dalek War’ DVD box set including ‘Frontier In Space’ and ‘Planet of the Daleks’ with Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning.

‘The Keys of Marinus’ has been a thoroughly enjoyable quest romp adventure from the William Hartnell era of ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed Terry Nation’s approach to this six-parter and I thoroughly enjoyed each of the mini-adventures featuring our TARDIS heroes searching for the Keys of Marinus.

‘The Keys of Marinus’ rating – 9/10

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2 thoughts on “‘The Keys of Marinus’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Brilliant review Tim, i enjoyed this story as it’s a very unique adventure, i especially enjoyed when the Doctor becomes a lawyer in defence of Ian.

    It’s amazing to think of the limitations available at the time how they were able to produce interesting storys, just proves what a genius Terry Nation was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    Hi Simon.

    Yes ‘The Keys of Marinus’ is unique and I like this action-adventure styled approach by Terry Nation in delivering this quest romp. I enjoyed the Doctor defending Ian in court too and found it very tense when Ian and Barbara tried to find the key in a house when the screaming jungle came for them.

    Of course without Terry Nation, we wouldn’t have ‘Doctor Who’ being the success it is with the Daleks and everything. Terry clearly knows how to write a good action-packed adventure and I like how ‘The Keys of Marinus’ predates future quest romps like ‘The Key to Time’ series.

    Thanks Simon. Glad you enjoyed my review on this adventure.

    Tim. 🙂



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