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on 13 October 2009
This William Hartnell six-parter was banged out by Terry Nation in a hurry, and it shows. It begins on a spectacularly alien note, in a pyramid on an island of glass in a sea of acid. Rubbery and vicious alien Voords, keen to break into the pyramid and take control of the mind control machine that its sole resident, the aging scientist Arbitan, has invented, arrive on the beach in acid-proof glass cylinders and soon menace the Doctor and his companions.

To prevent the Voords from getting control of the mind control machine (a benignly-intended piece of technology which has, paradoxically, 'stopped working' - one of many errors of sense in this story) Arbitan has hidden its control keys in various different parts of the planet. He gives the Doctor and co teleportation bracelets to reach the various locations, and off we go - pretty much straight downhill, as the rest of the planet of Marinus is bog-standard Earth, and its inhabitants mundanely human, except some quite entertaining stalk-eyed and quivering brains in bottles that pop up in episode 2 (about which we discover next to nothing). On the commentary track, and in an entertaining ancillary interview, designer Raymond Cusick is pained by the budgetary constraints that made this 'epic' look so claustrophobic and tatty. The studio it was filmed in was so small that the height of the cyclorama precluded any long shots at all, and having to have completely new sets for four of the six episodes meant that some 'sets' were just black back-cloths ('because these were free') with props (such as the mind-control machine) in the foreground, propped up on scaffolding painted silver.

The best visuals are the Voords' head-gear, and the opening model-work of the island. Later on we get stock footage of wolves and sound-effects of a howling gale with not a hair on Ian or Barbara's heads being ruffled and other such tat efforts. In another episode, in a cheapo jungle, another scientist has, in some of the worst science ever, discovered a formula that will 'increase nature's tempo of destruction'. This makes plant-life go (sort of) on the rampage and prod at Barbara and Susan. But really the biggest story-telling gaffe is to equip your characters with teleportation bracelets they seem to be able to direct and use to move back and forth at will - yet when they are in danger they never think to simply teleport away from it. It's utterly unsophisticated, even by the standards of the time.

The tale ends with a creaky courtroom two-parter, (this despite Marinus supposedly being a planet mind-controlled for millennia by a 'justice machine' that makes people act morally: by this point its function is totally forgotten), and then the finale is wrapped up with clunky abruptness, with the Doctor making a sage if extremely belated remark about machines not being able to administer justice.

It's all kind of entertaining, and of course was acceptable at a time when a programme would be shown once and then disappear forever, but is all rather sub-par, and disappointingly bereft of what it seems to promise at the start: alienness. One would discover more cultural difference from Britain in visiting Spain than Marinus.

The sole interview - with Cusick - is entertaining - as is the commentary track, with Cusick, John Gorrie (the director) and William Russell and Carol Anne Forde coming across well.
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on 30 November 2015
Xmas presi for our grandaughter
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on 11 May 2015
Excellent Thanks
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on 31 October 2015
very good dvd
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on 5 October 2015
lovely thanks
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on 8 November 2013
The BBC made quite a fanfare for their new monsters, apparently and after this the rubber-suited Voord sank without trace. Still, I can only see their appealing to quite a narrow band in the fetish spectrum, if I'm honest.

The script - apparently written in a hurry - really does fall into the 'Terry, fill six weeks up for us' category, and Mr Nation is hardly at his most scintillating; a quest story, to collect the keys to the Conscience of Marinus, which administrates justice across the entire planet, just so long as it fills six weeks of telly, and doesn't cost too much.

Taking it key by key as it were, the set up, with George Colouris, is actually rather good (though, since they got Mr Colouris to come all this way, you'd hope so). The Voord are suitably menacing, the secret panel sequence works better than secret panel sequences usually do, and the glass beach and acid sea make sense too and, with the McGuffin set up and Arbitan dead (so we don't need to pay Mr Colouris any more money) we go off after the first one.

Morphoton - cleverer than might be expected and the brains in the tank look good. The illusion is well-thought through, and takes some real courage and ingenuity to break.

Then we're in the Screaming Jungle, and Mr Hartnell is taking a fortnight off, and this is good scary stuff, even if the arms on the statue are quite clearly flesh and blood, the scared survivor, Darrius, is well played (by Hartnell double, Edmund Warwick), and the encroaching jungle is highly effective, and the clue to the jar with the key in is cleverly framed.

Then it's the one - and I don't suppose it can be described in any other way - the one with the sexual predator. Francis de Wolff does a very sinister job of Vasor, but it is here that the budget runs out - of which more later.

And then the episode and half finale - the whodunit in the city where the accused is assumed guilty until proved innocent, and there's lots of sexy black uniforms, just so we know what fascists they must be. None of these on women I might add; Puritanism gone mad in my own humble opinion.

The Dr gets to do all the Petrocelli stuff, and the key is discovered inside the murder weapon. It's competently done and Fiona Walker is an excellent villain, with Donald Pickering providing sterling support, and then we're back to Arbitan - or rather Yartek in Arbitan's clothing, because Arbitan (as I mentioned) is dead.

Yartek is actually a rather good villain, and it does look like he's going to win when he slots the keys in, and it's very neat that a fake key did appear in the jungle, because it's that which finishes him, destroying the Conscience in the process. Now everyone will just have to do their best without it, same as normal people.

The Making Of tells an interesting story in that the design budget for this was parsimonious, and some BBC lick-penny complained that the Morphoton set was too luxurious. The ice cave set was cobbled together, and the rope bridge just wasn't big enough for the purpose. With the stock footage and those stock costume ice soldiers, episode four really does look cheap.

I think the greater failing here is a certain tonal inconsistency in the scripts; the stories seem to be not just from different places, but different genres, and the mix doesn't work particularly well. It's a rough equivalent of a penny dreadful writer making a tale around a set of unconnected printer's blocks he'd been given as illustrations. A work of necessity, rather than of any desire to tell a particular story.

And as an experiment, it's interesting, but someone really should have said 'Don't do it again, Terry, and definitely not with the Daleks'.
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on 23 August 2015
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on 30 October 2009
For a show produced in 1964, The Keys of Marinus holds up remarkably well. A good old fashioned quest storyline, it sees the good Doctor and his companions trapped on a world of endless hidden dangers; acid seas, killer vines, long dormant guardians in ancient tombs, and the only way out is to locate the missing keys which will reactivate the Conscience of Marinus, an ancient defence system. OK, a few of the special effects are a bit ropey (though the Morpho, living brain creatures, are surprisingly effective) and Yartek, leader of the alien Voord is no Master or Davros, but it's all played with such conviction that it doesn't matter, and at times ventures into surprisingly adult territory. Throw in a host of great extras and you have one of the best additions to the Doctor Who DVD range so far-and William Hartnell is still a great Doctor!
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on 26 September 2014
Packed with Billyfluffs, creative set dressing and wobbly sets, this is everything a slice of 60s Who should resemble.
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on 5 March 2016
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