Friday, 17 October 2014

025 The Keys of Marinus Episode 5: Sentence of Death

EPISODE: The Keys of Marinus Episode 5: Sentence of Death
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 09 May 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: John Gorrie
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 7.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: DVD: Doctor Who - The Keys Of Marinus

"My Lords, let me begin by saying that the murderer is without any doubt in this chamber. The trouble is, he's not under arrest, but my young friend here is!"

When I watched this episode for the first iteration of the blog it didn't go down well:

What a boring episode. Doctor Who does court room drama and not very well at that! Having seen the episode again maybe that explains why I thought the story so bad on previous viewings!
Any better this time?

Ian waked up to find himself a prisoner of the Guardian Tarron in the city of Millenius. Tarron does not believe his story and arrests Ian for the murder. Presumed guilty, Ian must prove his innocence or die. The other travellers see Ian - they are yet to find Altos' friend Eprin or the Doctor. Fortunately the Doctor turns up at that moment - Hartnell refreshed by a fortnight's fishing - and announces HE will defend Ian. In court the Doctor obtains two days to investigate. The murdered man was Eprin, Altos' friend who was working with the Doctor. The Doctor claims to know who stole the key and killed Eprin. He reconstructs the events with the companions. They conclude that Aydan, one of the guards first on the scene must have stolen the key. Susan & Barbara visit Kala, the wife of Aydan, who tells them how the key came to be here. Aydan arrives and threatens them, accidentally giving himself away. When they leave he hits his wife. A man named Eyesen is seen conferring with his associates over the phone. Returning to the court the Doctor claims the murderer is present. Under interrogation in court Sabetha produces the key and accuses Aydan of being the murderer but he is promptly shot by an unseen assailant. The Doctor reveals that Sabetha was holding is the fake she found earlier. The court still believes Ian is guilty and pronounces sentence. Barbara takes a phone call from Susan who is being held by parties unknown who are threatening to kill her.


Let's start with the good: Hartnell's on cracking form this episode, right from the moment he makes his loud off camera announcement marking the Doctor's return. The two weeks off has obviously done him some good as has being presented with material he can relate to. There's a theory that Hartnell performs better in historical stories, because he understands what's going on, as opposed to science fiction stories, where he doesn't, and finding himself in an episode which is essentially a court room and some Agatha Christie/Poirot style investigation suits our lead actor down to the ground.

Unfortunately the episode itself is so pedestrian, so similar to so many other things that it's just .... boring. the previous three scenarios all had some action/adventure/excitement element to them, something to make them different: The brains in jars altering perceptions, the living jungle, the ice caves and frozen warriors coming back to life. Most of this episode could happily sit in any police/court procedural series, there's nothing that makes it different, makes it Doctor Who. Even the alien Justice system isn't a world away from out own. It's almost like Terry Nation had the script sitting around in a drawer and adapted it for Doctor Who!


And speaking of Terry Nation one of his standard names wanders into view for the first time: Tarron. Nation will use several similar names in his stories in years to come: there's a Taron in Planet of the Daleks, Jill Tarrent in Death to the Daleks and Dev, Deeta and Del Tarrent in Blake's 7. And while we're on the subject Eyesen sounds very similar to Tyssan as used in Destiny of the Daleks.

A couple of faces here we'll see again: Donald Pickering, playing Eyesen, will be back in the Faceless Ones as Captain Blade and Time & The Rani as Beyus, while Fiona Walker, playing Kala in her first TV acting job, returns as Lady Peniforte in Silver Nemesis. Eprin, the dead body briefly seen at the end of the last episode, is played (uncredited) by Dougie Dean who returns, again uncredited, in the Time Meddler as a Saxon in episode 2 The Meddling Monk and a Saxon warrior in episode 4 Checkmate.

All four of this story's regular bit part players are in this episode: Martin Cort is Aydan, Alan James is the first judge while Peter Stenson is the second judge and Michael Allaby is Larn.

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