Friday, 17 October 2014

024 The Keys of Marinus Episode 4: The Snows of Terror

EPISODE: The Keys of Marinus Episode 4: The Snows of Terror
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 02 May 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: John Gorrie
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 10.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: DVD: Doctor Who - The Keys Of Marinus

"You're safe here. That door'll keep anything out. Or in"

Our "does what it says on the tin" measure finds Ian & Barbara freezing to death in the snow. They're rescued by a man and taken to a cottage. A man in the cottage, the trapper Vasor, says they were rescued from wolves by a stranger who was looking for two girls. Ian thinks it sounds like Altos. He bargains away his travel bracelet for some firs to go out in the snow looking for the other three. He finds Altos and rescues him. Barbara finds Sabitha's chain with the keys: the Vasor found them with the girls. Barbara thinks he stole the keys and the travel dials. He's put raw meat into Ian's bag to attract the wolves. Back at the cottage Vasor is attempting to assault Barbara. She defends herself long enough for Ian & Altos to arrive. He has Susan & Sabitha captive in a cave on the mountain. Vasor leads Ian's party up the mountain to the cave where the girls are but they have ventured further into the caves inside the mountain. Crossing a rope bridge over a chasm Susan and Sabitha find four knights guarding something. Ian's party cross the bridge and are reunited with the girls but Vasor cuts the ropes trapping them. They take shelter in the chamber with Knights - in the middle of them is the key. Ian believes the knights are four frozen warriors. Turning a valve on a pipe, linked to a hot underground spring, starts to melt the ice containing the key. Ian & Altos build a temporary bridge to escape. With the ice melted they retrieve the key, but the Knights come to life and attack them. Susan crosses the temporary bridge enabling the rope bridge to be retired long enough for them to escape over it. Ian cuts the bridge again as one knight falls to his doom and the others are trapped. Ian's party return to Vasor's cottage, seize their travel dials and escape as Vasor is slain by one of the Knights who has escaped.

Ian materialises in a museum with a body on the floor. He is clubbed unconscious from behind with his hand placed on the handle of a mace. His unseen assailant breaks into a cabinet and steals the last key.

I find the first half of this episode quite disturbing. Vasor's assault on Barbara is a little bit of an adult theme for a teatime show, it's quite obvious what they're implying his intention is here. In later years they'll be lots of villains lusting after companions but this is the closest we ever get to a sexual assault and I don't like it. Vasor's line "I'll go and get us some food. We must fatten you up, eh?" adds another dimension to it too vaguely implying that he's thinking of eating her later!


The Ice & Snow setting is good, especially when we get into the caves, but Doctor Who will make much better use of such a setting in later stories. As soon as you see the Knights you know they're going to start moving and in many ways this is similar to the moving statue from the last episode, while the mucking about with the rope bridge reminded me of the chasm in The Daleks episode 6. Never one to waste an idea was Terry Nation:-) Part of the problem with the knights is that it's obvious there's someone inside the costumes, which also affects the arms of the statue in the previous episode. Again, Doctor Who will do the monsters waking from sleep much better in later years: Various Cybermen stories (Tomb, Wheel in Space, Invasion & Earthshock) plus the Ice Warriors spring to mind.


Another problem with the moving knights, and the scenes with our heroes escaping them is the music - it's not really dramatic enough for what's being shown onscreen.

These two episodes have been quite action filled ones. Terry Nations has taken advantage of William Hartnell's absence to write material suited to the younger more active cast members.

The lead guest star in this episode is Francis De Wolf who plays Vasor. He'll be back as the Greek hero Agamemnon in 1965 in the first three episodes of the Myth Makers: "Temple of Secrets", "Small Prophet, Quick Return" and "Death of a Spy". In a long career De Wolf featured in many films including a Bond, From Russia with Love, and a Carry On, Cleo, as well as playing the Tomorrow People's recurring villain Jedekiah.

The four Ice Soldiers should have been made up of recurring actors for the rest of this serial but Martin Cort, a Vrood in episode 1, had to be released for another job (see Toby Hadoke's Who's Round episode 11 for more details). He's replaced by Anthony Verner on his only Doctor Who appearance. Returning from episode 1 is Peter Stenson who, like Cort, played a Vrood in that episode. The third Ice Soldier is Alan James, who joins the cast in this episode before returning as the First Judge in the next episode, episode 5: Sentence of Death and as a Guard in episode 6 The Keys of Marinus.

The final Ice Soldier has a reasonable claim to be the most important person to ever appear in Doctor Who. Michael Allaby returns as Larn in the final two episodes of this series but would later abandon an acting career and start writing & editing. From 1970 he wrote for The Ecologist where he is was one of the writers on the ground breaking Blueprint for Survival issue, later republished as a book. In it's day it was the first major publication to draw attention to environmental issues. Future Doctor Who producer Barry Letts acknowledges it as a major influence as did Cyberman creator Kit Pedler: indeed Allaby is quoted in Pedler's biography The Quest for Peddler and talks about Pedler's later life and environmental concerns. Michael Allaby is another cast member interviewed in Toby Hadoke's Who's Round episode 11.

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