TV Club: The Keys of Marinus

Terry Nation returns to the TV Club with his second offering, but this time the Daleks have been supplanted by the evil Voord as the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara head off on a quest around the planet Marinus.

All six episodes are available on BBC iplayer:

Or on DVD:

Feel free to join in with the discussion whether you’ve recently watched the story or it’s a distant memory.

Just for fun, add your rating below:

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2 Likes

I think this is the best story of season one. I like the different settings and it feels like the TARDIS crew is starting to find its way. Basically it is just fun!

7/10

5 Likes

Coming up on the end of 1’s era and this remains one of my favorite stories of his. The key hunt format allows for episodes to all tell their own smaller stories and really eliminates all the drag that most 6-parters have, and I really love seeing 1 in lawyer mode for the trial scenes.

7 Likes

I like this one a lot. Generally it keeps chugging along, with very little padding. Maybe you could cut the last 2 episodes down to 1, but other than that, it’s a good one. A nice variety of set pieces and mini stories keep it interesting, with my favourite being the hypnotic fantasy life. Jaqueline Hill kills it in this section.

I think this is where Doctor Who finds Its footing and overall formula for stories. It’s got less fluff than The Daleks, but still needs some refinement. It’ll refine more in season 2, and by season 3 it has it set.

Overall, this is a solid entry that, I think, is an overlooked gem of the First Doctor.

6 Likes

I wholeheartedly agree, it is just fun - that’s why I have it rated at the bottom of my season 1 ranking, I kind of feel like it lacks an overarching narrative structure. I will say that I love this story, but my love for all the other season 1 serials is greater.
It’s a bit like “side quest” episodes that doesn’t come together in a way that I find satisfying.

I keep hearing people saying the Voord should come back, but aren’t they just generic bad-guy species in a tight black bodysuit with bits on top? What makes them so interesting?

Barbara “smashing” up those glass jars is funny, she basically misses everything :wink:

Ah and a touch of domestic violence for the first time in Doctor Who, honestly she could be the one slapping him (not that likely) behind that door - it’s not that good of a look.

I say this is a 3/5 :star: story. Good but not one of the all-time greats.:slightly_smiling_face:

5 Likes

For all the criticism he gets, Terry Nation was really good at what I’d consider variety shows and that’s what The Keys of Marinus ultimately is. I’d say it peaks early with The Velvet Web but it remains enjoyable until the end.

It’s just a shame the Voord are hardly in it. I don’t think they’d be able to add much throughout even if they were there, but they’re still the iconography associated with the story. Could’ve made an interesting choice for a return later in the 60s or 70s but now you’d probably just think the moment has passed, why bother with them?

3 Likes

I agree with everything you say. I think the only difference is that I don’t love the other season 1 as much as you do (except for episode one of an earthly).

3 Likes

So this story has a bunch of things going for it: the structure of the story is different and keeps it fresh, as it flows better than most six-parters; it handles many interesting themes; the main cast is great; it has one of the more memorable early guest characters in the brilliantly creepy Vasor; it gives us our first of many trial sequences in Who; and it has one of the best Hartnell line fluffs (“If you would have had your shoes on boy, you could’ve lent her hers!”).

But it also has plenty of things going against it: it shows Terry Nation’s laziness as a writer as he is already repeating himself; the Voord look cool but are underused and aren’t very interesting villains; Yartek is a bad villain and that disguise in Part 6 is so bad that it’s strange how it fooled everyone; the individual episodes are wildly uneven in quality (the jungle episode is slow and boring, for instance); there’s a lack of a coherent narrative and proper stakes to keep you watching; Susan is annoying.

So this is a 6/10 for me.

4 Likes

I love The Keys of Marinus. My review is over here on the site:

What’s weird is that when I wrote that review I think I loved it less than I’ve now decided I love it.

I know it’s shoddy and has some terrible acting (Altos and Sabetha we’re looking at you) but it is packed with great concepts (The Velvet Web episode being the best) and has Hartnell having a whale of a time in the courtroom drama of the final two episodes.

The Voord are just generic bad guys but I 100% recommend listening to Domain of the Voord from Big Finish which does a superb job of extrapolating from the scant details we’re given to create a believable alien race.

Oh and I also still want people to properly debate whether or not the Voord are actually the bad guys…or is it the man with a machine which, when working, controls the minds of the planet’s entire population…

I’m pretty sure the Doctor doesn’t usually support that kind of thing…

4 Likes

Incredibly underrated I think, idk why Terry Nation had a thing for jumping between different locations, I imagine it was hell on the budget but its just quite fun to be going elsewhere on this planet each week on a little quest, probably the most we’ve seen of various parts of an alien planet

5 Likes

Here’s a deep dive into everything Marinus related:

This video from David Gillespie-Pratt is a nugget of interesting info:

More enjoyable than I remember, I think its the constant change in location & characters that kept me interested. A fun story but not one I’d think about watching again. I think the Voord should have been a more present threat, maybe one pursuing them through their adventure in all the different locations. I do think Barbara is given quite of lot of dramatic scenes which Jacqueline Hill is so good at. & the moment where we literally see things from her point of view is a nice touch, easily explaining things to the audience in a show don’t tell way.

Hartnell really made me laugh when he said “You’re all running around here like a lot of scared chickens…My dear Chesterton, sometimes you drive me round the bend!” I had to rewind to watch it again :joy:

6 Likes

The tight black bodysuit with bits on top :melting_face:

2 Likes

I honestly think Jaqueline Hill and William Harnell are the MVPs for that first series.

3 Likes

Ah, the fun variety show! While not as good as some tighter scripts, Keys of Marinus is a prime example of Terry Nation and his creativity at its best for me at least!

All the different worlds we visit are so much fun and while not every episode is a hitter, I appreciate the experiment quite a lot, definitely an underrated highlight of Season 1!

2 Likes

I think Terry Nation is great at writing ‘wide’ scripts. Giving us changing locations etc to keep everything moving along. It makes up for his lack of ability, for me, to write tight, minimal location scripts.

I think his scripts would be better with a higher budget to really give spectacle. The biggest flaw in his scripts is that they tend to feel thin in the middle sections. His beginnings and endings are great.

6 Likes

I wish the Voord were featured and developed throughout Keys of Marinus. If develop correctly, they could become interesting villains.

5 Likes

What a strange little story! To start with I wasn’t sure I was going to like it much, but as It went on I got more involved with it and ended up enjoying it. It was good to see the TARDIS crew all getting along well, and finally working as a team.

The pacing was a little strange - there were a number of sudden “time-jumps” that made me think it could have been extended for a few more episodes. And why was Altos so scantlly-clad from the waist down?

However the main downside to me was that we never really found out much about the Voord - what their motivations were or how the conflict with them would be resolved. There was no tidy ending - the TARDIS left Sabetha & Altos to get on with it by themselves.

4 Likes

Classic Terry Nation.

1 Like