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The Keys of Marinus – Hartnell and co uncover the keys to happiness...
on 7 August 2014
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.