Sunday, 30 January 2011

5: The Keys of Marinus - An Adventure Serial For Children.

The VHS release I enjoyed aged 13.
Written by: Terry Nation.
Companions: The Doctor, Susan, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright.
Monsters/Villains: The Voords.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on the planet Marinus and the crew search for 4 keys to a machine which controls the minds of the people of Marinus, in an attempt to stop the evil Voord.
Rating: 5/10

Hello blog-o-sphere. I hope you're all well. Sorry I haven't blogged in a while, I started a new job last week, which took over my life. I decided to quit so now I'm free to blog a way. I had an awesome chance run-in the other day with none other than Doctor Who's ex-show runner Russel T Davis. He was just browsing in the Sci-Fi specialist shop Forbidden Planet. He was behind me in the queue. He was buying a Sci-Fi magazine, and a Tardis Mug. I was overwhelmed at how tall he was. I really just wanted to say ' Thank you for bringing it back.' But I couldn't pluck up the courage.

Anyways The Keys of Marinus. I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't hugely enjoy this one this time around. However, I first watched this story when it was released on VHS in 1999. I was 13. And I loved it. Lots of different locations, adventure serial style. Cool aliens in the Voord and The Morphos. Screaming Jungles that grow at an advanced rate. Snowy Warriors. A trial mystery to solve. This was great 'for a black and white episode.' I was never as interested in those when I was 13. How things have changed.

Now as I watch this story I see all the holes. The Voord aren't actually cool looking aliens with their odd shaped heads and Teletubby ariels. They are in fact (although we never actually see them) humanoids, wearing acid-proof wet-suits. Which begs the question, why the odd head pieces?

The Voord.
The story starts when the TARDIS crew enter the tower and meet Arbitan, who asks them to go in search of 4 of 5 keys to activate The Conscience, a machine that can decide what is right or wrong for all people on Marinus or he won't release the TARDIS from a force field. Arbitan says the Machine will assist in ridding evil from the planet, by controlling the Voord. Sunds like brain-washing to me. Arbitan uses the term Materialize in reference to the TARDIS for the first time.

William Hartnell and George Coulouris as Arbitan.
Arbitan says the acid sea around the Island harbouring the Conscience is a defence. He also says that the Voord keep trying to penetrate the walls. Okay sure give the island an ocean of acid as a defence, but the bloody walls rotate, no wonder you keep getting unwelcome Voord. Rotating walls, here just act as another adventure serial staple. Along with a rather hilarious trap door, where we clearly see a bad model shot of a 'Voord' falling to his death.

Awful trap door model shot.
The story then takes a very stand alone episodical style. The alien brains in jars aren't great, but I still like them anyway. So, everyone in The City of Morphoton is meant to want for nothing, and have their every desire. Does that mean that the Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian think these women tending to them desire nothing more and actually want to be servants!? Obviously it turns out that this is a trick by the Morphos. They use hypnosis to subjugate and control their population. The Morphos claim that "the human body is the most flexible instrument in the world. No single mechanical devise could reproduce it's mobility and dexterity." Really? I'd like to use the Morphos' Hypnosis machine on myself so I could see all the missing episodes of Doctor Who! I know it would be an hallucination, but I'd still get to see them.

The Morphos.
Then we're onto the Screaming Jungle, where we're faked out by a fake key. Ian and Barbara find Darius, an ageing scientist who knows where the key is. He gets taken out by the agressive jungle, leaving the two only one clue as to the keys location: "D-E-3-O-2." This turns out to be a chemical formula written on a jar containing the key. Why dosen't he just say 'it's in a jar! Look in all the jars!'

Then there's an icy wasteland where we meet a creepy, pervy Trapper and some frozen warriors. The Doctor has been absent from the last two episodes, but I haven't really missed him.

Hartnell is great after his two week absence.
Then on to The City of Millennius and the trial. When I watched this at 13, I tried desperately to look for clues to solve the mystery. As I watch it now aged 24, there are no clues, everything is solved through people admitting things they couldn't know unless they we're involved/guilty. Hartnell is great in this episode acting as Ian's defendant lawyer.

Finally we return to the Tower. Arbitan has been killed and replaced by Yartek, the Voord leader. It almost seems as if Terry Nation has forgotten that The Voord aren't really monsters when Yartek refers to his people as creatures. Surely Ian and Susan could see that isn't Arbitan. His head under the cloak is exactly the same shape as the Voord's head pieces. 

This obviously isn't Arbitan!
In the end, the TARDIS Crew succeed when Ian gives the disguised Yartek the fake key they found in the Screaming Jungle. As Yartek uses the final key, the Conscience machine explodes destroying the Voord.

The problem with this story much like it's counterpart, the Tom Baker Key To Time series, is that after six episodes of collecting keys, they're destroyed before they can be used. At the end of the story the Doctor says "man wasn't made to be controlled." Then why oh why have you just spent all of this time trying to fix a machine that controls people?! And now some silly musings:

Silly Musings

1) Susan asks the Doctor if the sea is frozen and he actually says:
"Not in this temperature, besides it's too warm"

2) There is obviously a member of tech crew behind this revolving wall!

The Voord is disappearing to the right, and we can spy a
member of the BBC technical crew to the left. 
3) You'll need to watch the episode Sentence of Death to see this one. The people of The City of Millennius do some weird nodding and head shaking. The judges nodding for just a little too long. And a guard shaking his head equally too long.

The Keys of Marinus is an adventure serial for children. Doctor Who has always been a family show, largely aimed at children. As an adult viewer I can see the holes in this story but as a child I throughly enjoyed it, even though it was in "boring old black and white."

See you next time for the wonderful adventure The Aztecs.

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