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on 23 September 2009
Back in its very first year, DOCTOR WHO was billed as "an adventure in time and space" and alongside the principal characters the audience really didn't know what to expect next whenever the TARDIS landed and this was part of its early charm. In these early days, the narrative used to pretty much alternate between "historical" and "futuristic" tales and for a brief time scriptwriter Terry Nation, whose second DOCTOR WHO this is, had cornered the market in the "futuristic" ones having changed forever the public profile of the show with his creation of the Daleks a mere three stories previously.

By this time, William Hartnell is mellowing beautifully into the role of the Doctor and is rather loveable despite what you might have heard, but he is noticeably absent for two whole episodes of this story (parts three and four), but luckily the supporting companion roles are strong enough to carry the story for a while without his presence. Ian Chesterton (William Russell) has always been to my eyes an all-out hero. Plucked out of his relatively dull life as a schoolteacher in 1960s London he throws himself into his adventures with a gusto and brio. Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) is equally impressive and the quiet dignity, strength and bravery her character shows over the course of her adventures is something to be admired, and as a role model Barbara would hold up today as someone to look up to and emulate. The Doctor's Grand-daughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) has a tougher time of it generally as her character was rather inconsistently written and she seems younger and rather more "wet" in these episodes than in some of her other stories.

THE KEYS OF MARINUS is the fifth ever broadcast story of DOCTOR WHO and the series seldom played around more with the expectations of its audience than in this six part tale, which has a different setting nearly every week. In episode one, the TARDIS arrives on the strange world of Marinus, a fairly effectively realized world of glass sand and acid seas where they are coerced into a quest to find the eponymous keys by the mysterious Arbitan played by the very same George Coulouris who was once in "Citizen Kane" and introduces the rather sinister rubber-suited Voord.

Subsequent episodes transport us to other parts of Marinus and these various visits give an overview of a complete world seldom shown in the series. They are all created to variable effect, but all-in-all a real "Saturday morning adventure serial" air is created. Mind games are played in the city of Morphotron (where all is not quite what it seems) and are quite cerebral for teatime telly, and the Jungle sequence proves suitably menacing in a slightly wobbly pre-Indiana Jones kind of a way. A visit to some Ice Caves is slightly less effective, but does give Barbara a very disturbing confrontation. Then the city of Millennius, with its rather brutal legal system, provides a chance for a returning William Hartnell to shine before we are returned to the island first seen in the opening episode for the slightly bonkers climax when the evil Voord plan is finally revealed.

Yes, it's now well over forty years old and can seem a little slow or cheap or mistake-riddled to an audience used to more modern sophisticated fare, but there is a magic and charm to these old stories that is hard to quantify, and if you settle down to enjoy what is obviously an experience that is very different, you will find a great deal to like. The sets range from the almost brilliant to the most basic as do some of the props. Some of the effects are pretty simplistic but they do manage to help to tell the story. The image quality is pretty good too, considering, as there's been a pretty impressive restoration job done on these episodes.

This story follows on directly from MARCO POLO, a serial seemingly now sadly lost forever as it was one that was misguidedly wiped back in the day. You can listen to MARCO POLO as a rather fine Audio CD version however. THE KEYS OF MARINUS then leads directly on into THE AZTECS which was the first William Hartnell DVD release and if you also take into account DOCTOR WHO - THE BEGINNING DVD box set, a fairly hefty chunk of that amazing first year of the Doctor's adventures is now available to you, and given the tape wiping policy of the past, to we fans of archive television, that's something of a small miracle in itself.

Given the age of the material, there isn't much left in terms of available extras, but a fairly significant set have still been assembled for this release. A ten minute interview with designer Raymond Cusick gives a frank insight into the difficulties of early television production and stretching a wafer thin budget to create a mind-boggling number of locales in a tiny studio. The commentary bounces along and is quite fun with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford representing the actors and Director John Gorrie alongside Raymond Cusick from the Production side in a fairly upbeat vein all held in check by Clayton Hickman to keep them "on-topic". The text commentary is up to the usual standard and there are also the usual photo gallery and Radio Times billings.
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This is the fifth adventure of Dr Who, first aired in the first season way back in 1964. It features William Hartnell as the 1st Doctor, Carol Ann Ford as Susan, William Russell as Ian and last, but not least, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara. This is the second script for the show from Terry Nation, who had a lot to live up to after his creation of the Daleks a few months earlier.

This is a quest story, the crew land on an alien planet and are soon drawn into a quest to locate the four keys of Marinus, which will allow the possessor to do something or other. The whys and wherefores don’t seem to matter so much. The format allows the crew to be split up and go off on different adventures independently of each other. It also allowed William Hartnell to go off on holiday for a couple of weeks, so the Doctor doesn’t actually appear in episodes 3 and 4. This episodic nature gives each of the main characters a bit of limelight, which in the case of Ian and Barbara is very welcome, though unfortunately Susan is written as just screaming a lot. It also allows a wide variety of locations and situations, and the constant change helps keep the story feeling fresh and not becoming too boring.

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems. The plot is nonsensical for a start. And as usual the resources are not always up to the production team’s imaginations, so there are a few dodgy looking sets and effects. Also this has a disturbing theme of violence towards women running through it which I have always felt ill at ease with, and feels at odds with the liberal progressive vision that the producers often seemed to be trying to put over. The Doctor’s absence for two episodes is a particular problem, the script covers reasonably OK, but he leaves far too big a hole to fill easily.

As usual 2¦Entertain have done a great job with this release. The picture has been cleaned up and is in the best possible condition. There is a plethora of extras, including the production subtitles (I never watch old Who without them now) audio commentaries, a documentary on the sets, radio times listings, 8 mm footage from on set and a photo gallery. As good as it gets really. 4 stars in total – it’s a 3 star story but a 5 star DVD production, so on average 4.
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on 26 September 2009
As someone who has watched the series since the very beginning I am happy to say that this is my favourite story of them all. I like the idea that it is set in different locations and instead of one long story it is composed of a number of smaller ones. I remember when I first saw it that I found the Voord an interesting adversary for the Doctor and I was surprised that they only featured in the first and last episodes. Sadly William Hartnell is absent for two episodes but as usual he makes his presence felt whenever he appears. William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford are as excellent as ever and all appear throughout the episodes. I missed episodes 2 and 3 when they were first transmitted and I was delighted when years later I got to see the complete story. Back in the 1960s it wasn't always possible to be at a TV set when you got your one and only chance to see the episodes. While I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a full documentay on this DVD what extras there are, are very good. The commentary is interesting and I like the complete set of sweet cigarette cards. I only managed to get a few of these when they were originally released. The text commentary is good too and of course the episodes look better than they have ever looked. It was great to see this story again and I can watch it again and again being fully involved in what is going on ever time. I find it difficult to understand Doctor Who fans who don't enjoy this story or The Web Planet - another of my all time favourites. Perhaps it makes a difference if you were there when it was originally transmitted. Doctor Who for me in its first three seasons was at its most magical and wonderful. I am fortunate in that I can watch these stories today and still enjoy them - just as much as I did back in the 1960s.
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on 4 November 2011
Writer Terry Nation had become a household name by the mid 1960's through the creation of the Daleks, however, his two non-Dalek tales are less known. The Keys of Marinus is a 6-part serial from Who's first season, a mixed bag of episodes that constantly change setting every episode. The idea behind this tale is fascinating, a great quest for one goal against a variety of foes. The overall storyline holds the serial in check as at 6 episodes in B&W some people can switch off.

Originally, I had low expectations for this story, it did not jump out at me when reading up on the plot on Wiki, however, the first time I viewed the VHS copy back in 09 I was impressed to say the least. My real apprieciation of this classic serial came when I bought the DVD off Amazon, the visual quality was fantastic and I can honestly say that it kept my attention constant throughout the 150 minute viewing. The Restoration Team has yet again done a fantastic job in releasing this tale, the bonus features are a little light and brief, I would have liked a documentary on the production and a couple of words from the lovely William Russell but I'm grateful anyway.

The Voord would never be seen again on television, they would return in comic form only. The character of Yartek, leader of the Voord is played very well and is a shame he never made a return. Terry Nation would write only one more Dalek-less serial for Doctor Who, The Android Invasion for Tom Bakers 4th Doctor in 1975.

Overall then, The Keys of Marinus is a great Billy Hartnell serial from Doctor Who's first year on television, some people will not like the format of the story, but I think it works well and is a shame it has not been implemented since. This is a worthly purchase and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Story 10/10
DVD 7/10 - Needs more bonus content.

Many thanks for your time,

M.B.
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Back in 1963 nobody expected Doctor Who to be a major hit, or last very long. But then along came the daleks, and the show really took off. With it being on screen for over forty weeks of the year the pace of the production meant that it was sometimes hard for the production team to keep up.

So for the fifth story of the first season they turned to terry nation, who'd just created the daleks. One of a group of tv writers who were responsible for the vast majority of episodic drama of the time, he could turn out a script quickly and whenever required.

This story finds the tardis crew landing on the world of marinus. A machine there has the ability to remove evil from people's mind. But the keys that control it have been hidden all over the planet, lest they fall into the wrong hands. With the nasty creatures called the voord trying to seize the machine for themselves, the only hope the planet has is for the tardis crew to find the keys.

An episodic story ensues, with each key being in a very different location allowing for a different kind of adventure each week. and the inveitable confrontation with the voord in part six.

The limitations of this are manifold. William Hartnell was entitled to two weeks off so the doctor has to be written out in the middle of the story. the small budget and the technical limitations of the time and the need for new sets every week result in the whole thing being very stagy. And the voord, tipped to be the next big thing after the daleks, never really amount to much. in their first appearance they're men in wetsuits but in their next appearance in the story they're humanoid creatures who look like men in wetsuits.

And yet the whole thing proceeds very nicely. Like many old doctor whos you can watch this and admire how they made a purse [not quite a silk one] from a sow's ear. and the production does it's best. It doesn't have the problems of so many 1980's stories of poor production values down to bbc apathy of the time. It fights against those limitations.

This is not fast paced spectacular television, it's a nice little relic of days gone by and an entertaining little story with it.

the age of the whole thing means there's not much they could provide by way of extras.

there's a commentary from william russell [companion Ian] Carole Ann Ford [Companion Susan] the director John Gorrie and the Designer Raymond Cusick.

The one feature, the sets of marinus, is a nine minute long interview with raymond cusick about his work on the story. a fascinating look at the things designers had to contend with at the time he's a very good talker and an interesting listen. And very forthright with it. Don't switch off the extra till you've seen what's after the end credits.

In addition to the usual radio times listings of the story as a pdf file there's also one showing some sweet cards of the time which tell a short story involving the doctor and friends and the daleks and the voord.

there's also the usual items for this range: production information subtitles, coming soon trailer for a forthcoming doctor who dvd, a photo gallery of stills from the story and the production, english language subtitles and language track and audio captioning.

This is a single disc release, and I couldnt find any easter eggs. The dvd starts with a general trailer for the range but you can skip that by pressing the next button.

So whilst this may not be for every doctor who fan, it's not a bad record of an integral part of the show's very early days
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on 7 February 2014
In a way this story can be seen as a fore-runner to Tom Baker's Key to Time, but here it is done as a six-parter self-contained story. Each episode has its own drama and mystery, and the sets are excellent. The supporting cast is top form, and the monster whilst on the one hand a man in a rubber suit is sufficiently unexplained to leave his exact nature uncertain. The court trial at the end would grace Perry Mason!
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on 9 May 2014
Another one I really enjoyed. Subtitles very helpful. One of Hartnell's best performances. I am trying to build up my Doctor Who collection from 1963 to 1989, and am getting Hartnell's in order. As I was born in September 1961, I was too young to understand the performance, so this is an opportunity to watch it again!
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on 29 November 2000
I must confess buying this I was very dubious.. I had only seen the War Machines and the tenth planet before this and hadn't liked either of them but I thought I should see at least one with the original team(Dr 1, Susan, Barbara and Ian) The acting is very funny and many sets wobble but that only makes the story better!! The story is excellent and the music is first class. I have now seen most of the Dr 1 stories which wern't junked and must admit that this is one(If not the)best of the early Dr Who era!! Recommended!
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on 14 October 2014
When I looked at the recent dr who poll of best stories of all time "The Keys of Marinus" was number 192 out of 241, which was very near the bottom and before watching this story I thought I wasn't going to like it. But I was proven wrong and I enjoyed every minute of this 6 parter and Hartnell and his companions were great to watch as always. Also William Hartnell doesn't appear in episodes 3 and 4, which in the story he and his companions go their separate ways to find the keys. What I really like about this story is that it' s set in different locations and every episode is different, which I really like the plot in episode 5 when Ian is accused of being a murderer. The only negative thing I thought were the voord, which we luckilly don't see much of them and they do look pretty daft which they never appeared in the series again. Overall this is without doubt a classic dr who story and I can't believe it was 192 in the list and if I had my own list this would definitely be in the top 50.
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on 13 April 2010
The Keys of Marinus isn't exactly regarded as one of Doctor Who's finest serials. In fact, some would say it's a load of rubbish. But I can honestly say that it's my favourite story of the show's first season.

It's a story so filled with imagination that one can look past the bare-bones production values and cellophane that's supposed to look like ice. And hey, most of the sets aren't really that bad; I'd even say they're some of the most imaginative of 1960s Who.

The premise is simple: the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan land on Marinus, an acid-filled world, and are sent on a quest to find the five keys of - wouldn't you know it - Marinus. Each episode is set on a different part of the planet, ranging from a city of supposed tranquillity to a screaming jungle. This concept would be revisited somewhat during Tom Baker's tenure with the Key to Time season in 1978.

It also gives the companions a chance to shine, with William Hartnell being entirely absent from two episodes, and William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are truly excellent in this story. As for Carole Anne Ford... not so much. The guest cast are also great, the highlight being the ambiguous Vasor played by Francis de Wolff.

The characters encountered are varied and interesting, the locations endlessly inventive and dripping with creativity, and it truly keeps you hooked for its duration, unlike some of the other more leisurely-paced Hartnell adventures. Go on, give it a watch.

The extras are, sadly, not up to the usual standards for the Classic Who range, with the only extra of note besides the usual info text, photo gallery and commentary (by Russell, Ford, director John Gorie and designer Raymond Cusick) is a nine-minute interview with Cusick, and he is very frank about his opinion on the design work in the story. And by that I mean he didn't like it. There are also a couple of nifty DVD-ROM features such as Radio Times listings and scans of the Cadet Sweet cards featuring the Daleks and the Voord. There's also a coming soon trailer for the excellent Dalek War box set.
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