Cool Things About “The Keys of Marinus"
(And 16 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 484/5
1. The model Tardis at the start is insanely cute.
2. So are the model Voord submarines, which perhaps slightly undermines the intended sense of menace.
3. Later on, though, the building shots are really impressive.
4. “We don’t know what sort of creatures might be lurking beneath its surface.” Possibly a reference back to the Lake of Mutations in “The Daleks”?
5. You’d think that the Voord would take their flippers off when they’re on dry land, but no.
6. The storyline document implies that Arbitan himself made the sea of acid, somewhat borne out in the final version by the fact the stones are made of glass, providing a convenient barrier to it. Which is an idea that becomes more improbable the longer you think about it.
7. Then again, in episode five there’s a reference to “glass factories in the desert”, suggesting that glass manufacturing is a pretty big deal on Marinus, and, therefore, that the acid sea and glass barriers to it are a more general thing.
8. “The Voord were trying to penetrate the walls!” Don’t they have enough fetishes to be getting on with?
9. Although it’s an interesting detail that the Voord seem to be all identified as male.
10. “Your technology, you say, reached its peak over two thousand years ago?” “Yes, and all our knowledge culminated in the manufacture of this. At the time, it was called the Conscience of Marinus.… They no longer had to decide what was wrong or right. The machine decided for them”. “I see. And in that case it was possible to eliminate evil from the minds of men for all time.” Which implies, first, that the ability to do evil is essential to human creativity. More problematically, it also suggests that the Marinians were automatons; slaves to the Conscience machine without free will. The Voord are seeming better and better all the time.
11. Arbitan, the keeper of the machine, is the sort of bastard who would trap the Tardis crew on an island without food or water, which doesn’t really speak well of Marinian society in general.
12. Mind you, the Doctor seems rather keen on the Marinians and their fascism-by-computer, until Arbitan starts coercing him. Then suddenly it’s intolerable. The old hypocrite.
13. This sudden fondness for totalitarian societies might explain why the Doctor seems to have got along pretty happily in the, more than a little fascist, city of Millennius during the runup to episode five.
14. By episode six, however, he’s saying “I don't believe that man was made to be controlled by machines. Machines can make laws, but they cannot preserve justice.”
15. Despite the term “the alien Voord” often being used in fan circles, Yartek, their leader, is said to be “a man” who found a way to resist the machine, and Arbitan wants to “control the Voords again.” So they’re actually native to Marinus.
16. However, by episode six Yartek (along with the writing team) have forgotten this, and is referring to his henchpersons as “creatures”.
17. The original storyline document has the Voord as being aliens who were immune to the Conscience machine, and who invaded and conquered Marinus, but, after hundreds of years of living on the planet and interbreeding with the natives, were now becoming susceptible to the machine. The quest to find the five keys and restart the machine being a way to get the Voord under its control.
18. This story is the inverse of “The Daleks”: here, the natives are missing a key piece of technology thanks to the intervention of a rival group of natives, and strong-arm the Tardis crew into getting it for them.
19. The end of episode one is supposed to be the sinister twist that, Arbitan having been murdered, the Tardis crew are now, shock horror, working for the Voord. But considering what Arbitan represents, working for the Voord is probably not much different.
20. The Morphoton storyline is a mashup of two episodes in The Odyssey: the Lotus Eaters, where some of Odysseus’ crew consume the mind-altering lotus flower and want to sit about idle for the rest of their lives, and the Island of Circe, in which a sorceress tempts crewmembers with food before turning them into animals.
21. Morphoton is also based on the Greek words for light (photos) and form (morphe). So the lights the travellers see at the start of “The Velvet Web” change the form of what they see.
22. It’s inadvertently amusing that Hartnell pauses in shock at Barbara’s retort “it’s just a dirty old mug!”
23. The Morpho aren’t particularly different from the Conscience machine itself, if you think about it.
24. Actually, every single civilisation on Marinus is unpleasantly totalitarian.
25. “I do wish Ian wouldn’t treat us like Dresden china.” What, bombing you flat in a campaign still used as a byword for aircraft-related war crimes?
26. Susan seems a nervous wreck in this story, collapsing into shrieks at the slightest provocation and having elaborate fantasies about snakes twining all over her.
27. Susan’s fear of jungles might, of course, be a reference to the unseen adventure on the jungle planet Quinnis alluded to in “The Edge of Destruction”.
28. The people of Marinus do seem rather keen on hidden doors and revolving walls.
29. Also knights in armour, people dressed in black uniforms, and creepy controlling old men in robes with a fondness for setting traps.
30. The jungle is actually somewhat less proactive than advertised; rather than vegetation which ferociously attacks our protagonists, we get a vine which makes a feeble attempt at tying up Susan (greatly exaggerated by Susan’s hysterical fit afterwards), another which fails to strangle Darrius despite him not putting up much of a fight, a third which gently feels up Barbara’s ankle, and a couple of rather tentative branches.
31. “When the false key was taken I put my traps in motion. Only those warned by Arbitan could avoid them.” Since Arbitan didn’t warn Ian and Barbara, but they were still able to overcome the traps with little effort, this suggests Darrius is just a crazy old fool.
32. Why does the jungle only attack at night? Does it sleep during the day?
33. And what is it with postwar British writers and sentient plants out for revenge on the humans?
34. This serial seems to be doing a Thirties movie-serial-style tour of geographical environments: Desert, jungle, arctic, and megacity.
35. Ian is rather poorly kitted-out for an arctic environment, and is likely to catch frostbite within minutes of going outside.
36. Wolves are intelligent animals, and, like most predators, generally don’t attack healthy adult prey with the obvious means to defend themselves. Regardless of whether or not they’re carrying a sack full of bacon.
37. “Well, maybe we could find some planks or logs and lay them across.” Because such things are so common inside icebound caves.
38. Who, exactly, would set up a trap involving the key frozen in a block of ice, the pipeline of hot water from the thermal spring, and the four frozen knights? Did Arbitan have a lot of time on his hands then, or is it that bloody Darrius again?
39. Where did the knights come from? How were they able to be frozen and revived? Why the medieval battle gear? Oh, never mind.
40. We’re not bothering with a Terry Nation Recyclingwatch this story, but we would suggest that those interested in one compare “The Snows of Terror” with the Blake’s 7 episode “Time Squad”.
41. The script states of Tarron that “He wears a close-fitting, one-piece black uniform.” This would go on to be something of a trope for Nation stories.
42. The symbol seen in the courtroom is also basically a swastika.
43. The judges’ hats look distinctly like the little paper covers that one puts on the ends of joints of meat, and the judges walk around with great care as if they’re afraid they are going to fall off.
44. The Doctor’s “I can’t improve at this very moment… I can’t prove at this very moment…” “fluff” is in fact scripted.
47. The room Ian’s being held in during the trial has the most annoying clock in the universe, letting out an electronic ping every two seconds.
46. Protip for Doctor Who villains: If you’re going to kill someone, it’s a good idea to do it straight away, not spend five minutes picking up the gun, walking slowly across the room, and pausing to make a dramatic final statement.
47. The Doctor suggests that Tarron should read the writings of Pyrrho, founder of Scepticism. Which is great advice, until you consider that Pyrrho is unlikely to be widely read outside of the third planet from our own Sun (unless, of course, we are supposed to infer from this that Marinus is an Earth colony).
48. Why are the Voord still wearing their rubber suits in episode six, which takes place several days after their arrival in episode one?
49. In episode six, Yartek does the best impression of George Coulouris ever. We were totally convinced. Or Ian and Susan were, at any rate.
50. Violencewatch: dissolution (offscreen) in acid; dissolution (onscreen) in acid; stabbing (three counts); beating a man, or Voord, into unconsciousness (three counts); dropping a Voord down a chasm, battering the Morpho brains to death; strangulation by vine; attempted rape; another deathfall into a chasm, this time by a defrosted knight, (though that winds up being accident rather than, as originally scripted, a deliberate act by Ian); offscreen murder; domestic violence; slapping a woman and a teenage girl; threatened murder; threatened execution. It was a simpler time.