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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Keys of Marinus


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £19.56
Certificate: PG
Available 21 September 2009

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara materialise on an island located on the planet of Marinus, a strange world with seas of acid and beaches of glass. On meeting Arbitan, the keeper of the Consciousness of Marinus, the travellers discover that the planet is heading towards civil war. The only thing which could avert this disaster is the four keys which controls the machine. Arbitan tricks the party into retrieving the keys before the Voords, led by the evil Yartek, can seize the machine and gain mastery of Marinus...

The Keys of Marinus is a story from the first season of Doctor Who. The show was written by Terry Nation and directed by John Gorrie. The show's six episodes originally ran between 11 April and 16 May 1964.

Unlike many of the other stories in season one, which generally happen in a single environment, Marinus appears to have a very diverse biosphere and it is a testament to designer Raymond P Cusick that to a great degree the show was able to portray them all with some conviction. Oddly enough Keys is about the first story that I actually remember seeing and one of the most powerful images which I retain was of the Voord. Although In my own mind these guys were really scary, in fact they wear a wet suit with a rubber headpiece. Not so scary now but just as effective as a piece of design and certainly, as villains, are as good as anything the show was putting out in the seventies and eighties.

The first world that they are sent to appears to be a paradise. Morphoton appear to offer the answer to everyone’s dreams. Barbara (Jacqueline Smith) and Susan (Carole Ann Ford) are offered sumptuous clothing and the Doctor (William Hartnell) is offered his very own cutting edge laboratory, which duly impresses both the Doctor and Ian (William Russell). But, of course, there’s no such thing as a free meal and certainly not in a city built on illusion and controlled by disembodied brains.

The travellers escape having been joined by Arbitan’s (George Colouris) daughter Sabetha (Katherine Schofield) and her male companion Altos (Robin Phillips) and travel to the jungle region to meet Darrius (Edmund Warwick). From the lush jungle the story moves through an ice wasteland and the technologically superior city of Millennius, before the group is reunited for the final showdown.

The show looks remarkable good for its age and the fast pace of the narrative keeps the story fresh. The restoration team have replaced a few missing cuts, mostly without the viewer being aware of the extra material, except for a rather odd single shot of Ian, which doesn’t work too well, but at least with the extra material the show is as close to its original transmitted form as is physically possible.

The extras on the disc are a little less than we have come to expect, but given the age of the show this is to be expected. We kick off with a full length commentary with Clayton Hickman moderating over the collective memories of William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, director John Gorrie and designer Raymond Cusick, which is informative if a little dry, but gives some good historical gems about the how the show was created. The disc also contains the usual Production Notes in the form of subtitles.

Next up is The Sets of Marinus (9 min, 26 sec) with designer Raymond Cusick talking about the design of the show. A good piece with some production art, behind the scenes shots and even some colour stills from the show. Cusick explains the problems of designing on a small budget. It’s worth watching for Cusick’s final comment.

The disc is wrapped up with a Photo Gallery (7 min, 26 sec) which is a self running slideshow of production and publicity photos from the story and some PDF material which contains the usual Radio Times listing and the entire set of Cadet Sweets Doctor Who and the Daleks sweet cigarette cards.

So, a pretty good story, which is not without its faults, but it remains surprising just how well the older stories stand up to scrutiny after all these years.


Charles Packer

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