Friday, 17 October 2014

026 The Keys of Marinus Episode 6: The Keys of Marinus

EPISODE: The Keys of Marinus Episode 6: The Keys of Marinus
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 16 May 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: John Gorrie
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 6.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: DVD: Doctor Who - The Keys Of Marinus

"Arbitan is dead. Do you hear me? I, Yartek, am in control now!"

Part Six!

Susan is being threatened by unseen assailants while talking to Barbara. They go to see Kala, Aydan's widow for information, but she says she knows nothing. She's crying as they leave but soon perks up and opens a door to reveal the kidnapped Susan. Kala takes a phone call from an unseen co-conspirator who tells her to call Susan. Barbara realises that Kala was lying to them and they return to her rooms in time to save Susan. Barbara calls the Guardians and tells them that Kala killed Aydan. Kala lies and says Ian Chesterton as her accomplice. The Doctor decides to set a trap for the ringleader who now plans to collect the key. He lies in wait with Tarron and other Guardians and capture him: it's the senior Guardian Eyesen. The key is found hidden in the mace that killed Eprin. The travellers transport on to Arbitan's citadel.

Sabitha & Altos have travelled ahead: they are prisoners of Yartek, leader of the Vrood. Yartek disguises himself as Arbitan and takes the key from Ian, but gives himself away by not knowing Altos. Ian reveals he has given Yartek the fake key: They leave the building just before the fake key activates the machine's destruct mechanism, killing the Vrood. The travellers leave in the Tardis leaving Sabitha & Altos together who intend to travel to Millenius.

OK episode. The wrap up to the murder is better than the court room stuff in the previous episode that preceded it but I'd rather lost interest in it last episode and it does take a while to resolve eating up 13:20 out of the 25:11 length of this episode. The return to Arbitan's citadel is only half the episode then, so we get to see less than 12 minutes of the Vrood after their brief appearances in the first episode. I think having a Vrood presence in the other episodes would have enhanced the story as the Vrood themselves, or their agents, seek to find the keys elsewhere on the planet. They're meant to be the main threat in the story and yet we hardly see them.

I think we have the Doctor's very first name dropping this episode: He mentions having met Pyrrho, founder of scepticism, while he's at Millenius.

Is the disguise used by Yartek, the Vrood leader, one of the worst in Doctor Who?


Quite possibly. It's certainly up there with the Parka wearing Cybermen from the Tenth Planet! Why is it that they design the monsters who need to be disguised with odd shaped headgear that won't fit under a hood?

There's three Vrood in this episode: Their leader Yartek is played by Stephen Dartnell who returns to Doctor Who in the next but one story playing John in the Sensorites. The other two are played by our old friends Martin Cort and Peter Stenson. Now during their interview in Toby Hadoke's Who's Round episode 11 Peter Stenson lets slip that he's the Vrood who trips up entering a scene:


He's the one standing next to Sabetha. Now we've just seen that Vrood standing with Yartek:

And he's the one with the circle on his head. So that must be Martin Cort and thus the one with the triangle on his head is Peter Stenson. There you go you can tell which Vrood actor is which!

Speaking of Messers Stenson & Cort: as we've seen they are in most of the episodes of this story along with Michael Allaby and Alan James but keep playing different roles. Here's a table showing all the roles that they've played:

  Martin Cort Peter Stenson Michael Allaby Alan James
1 The Sea of Death Voord Voord    
2 The Velvet Web        
3 The Screaming Jungle Warrior      
4 The Snows of Terror   Ice Soldier Ice Soldier Ice Soldier
5 The Sentence of Death Aydan Second Judge Larn First Judge
6 The Keys of Marinus Voord Voord Larn Guard

At the time the Vrood were popular, appearing in the first Doctor Who annual alongside the Sensorites, the Zarbi and the Menoptera. Years later a young Grant Morrison would use them in a Doctor Who Monthly comic strip, the World Shapers, where it's revealed that they become the Cybermen. This story has recently been collected in Panini's Doctor Who: The World Shapers Trade Paperback. Despite being continuity heavy fan**** of the highest order it's actually rather good!

Over the 6 episodes I found this *MUCH* better than I remember it being. The whole story is helped by the changing the location every episode, which gives it a very episodic feel reminiscent of 40s sci fi shows. This device neatly papers over some of the cracks and Nation will return to it again in The Chase & The Dalek Masterplan. Episode 5 was the only real let down this time. As I said earlier I think this story improved for me watching one episode at a time !

The Keys of Marinus was novelised by (then) former Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe in 1980 and was the first Hartnell book in three years, since Dalek Invasion of Earth was published in 1977 and only the third Hartnell book commissioned by arget following their reuse of three sixties novelizations to launch the range (the first was The Tenth Planet in 1976). It's Hinchcliffe's third and final Doctor Who novel and the only story he adapted that was made outside his tenure as producer. The cover is a very generic shot of the Tardis in space: some have speculated it may have been originally intended for an abandoned novelization of Edge of Destruction. I acquired my copy from a second hand book shop on a holiday to the Isle of Wight in 1986!

Keys of Marinus was released on video in July 1999 and on DVD on 21st September 2009.

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