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I've lost me keys...
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'.