C005 The Keys of Marinus

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The Doctor & Co arrive on Marinus and are blackmailed by Arbitan to go on a suicide mission to retrieve the five titular micro-circuit keys.

Here’s all the backstory you need to know:

Arbitan built a device called The Conscience of Marinus, that got into everybody’s mind, spreading a message of peace and essentially removing all evil thoughts and intentions from the populace. However, one dude, Yartek, somehow developed an immunity to the Conscience of Marinus and began actively resisting the machine, in which instance Arbitan hid the five keys that power his invention on five different locations on Marinus. Fast-forward to the relative present, Yartek is now leading his rebel force of S&M scuba divers (The Voord) to the island in an attempt to take over the contraption and use it to seize control of Marinus, and Arbitan wants to get the keys back to power up the machine again. Yeah, it doesn’t make perfect sense, but there you have it.

Anyway, The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara head off on what is going to be one of the most epic journeys ever, battling brains in jars (The Morpho), heartless murderers, super-juiced plants, sexual predators, arctic temperatures, stock-footage wolves, sneaky boobytraps, medieval knights, evil Voord… and the law.

We loved this Doctor Who story. William Hartnell may be absent for a large portion of it – as per usual – but the travellers’ group dynamic is strengthened in a credible and fantastically entertaining way. We had a lot to say about this one, so here is another super lengthy episode review, but it’s well worth a listen.

And if that’s not incentive enough, we might add that in reviewing these Doctor Who episodes, we somehow managed to make connections between them and Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Matrix, Dune, They Live, Harry Potter, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Triffids, The Stepford Wives, The Great Escape, South Park, James Bond and Flash Gordon.

Furthermore, here’s a Who Back When first! We’ve also included a fan mini-review of The Keys of Marinus! Big thanks to Will for sharing his thoughts on the show.

(The Ratings and Reviews of this Doctor Who story kick in at the 1h36m50s mark.)

3 Responses to “C005 The Keys of Marinus”

  1. John Smith

    William Hartnell had been working without stop from October to April on “Doctor Who”. He took a holiday during the filming on “The Screaming Jungle” and “The Snows of Terror”. You can see that when he returns in “Sentence of Death” he is energetic and refreshed. This was the first time the lead actor had been absent in this way; nonetheless, Hartnell receives an on-screen credit for these episodes. His co-stars will also take time off for holiday during production of upcoming stories.

    In episode 5, when the Doctor “stumbles” over the “I can’t [im]prove at this very moment…” it was a scripted stumble.

  2. Will Wakefield


    I loved this story. Every episode was very different which made it constantly feel fresh and not repetitive which is a problem that I think Doctor Who had in these early days.

    Something great about this story was that the opening and closing shot were the exact same but in reverse. I thought that was very clever.

    The most disappointing thing about this episode was the trial of Ian. It was a great idea but the execution (no pun intended) was only okay. Also, the ending felt a bit rushed.

    My rating for this story is 4.3/5 which is my best rated story so far.

  3. Peter Zunitch

    One of my absolute all time favorite Dr who series ever. This could have easily been a new who story. The world building is what makes it here. There are lands, people, plants, cultural references that parallel us, and yet are wholly unique. The characters and acting here are, with few exceptions amazing. Those that fail to reach that level are still more than good.

    The trial is fine, but the investigation scenes are just a little bit trite. The characters are sometimes investigators, and sometimes led inevitably by the nose.

    Other minor bothers of mine involve the endless hallways which I think even in those days could have been done slightly better, and the whole premise of the machine not fully adding up. The machine is turned off and the keys hidden because they don’t want the voord to get the machine. However now that the voord are coming Arbitan needs the keys to once again turn on the machine and stop them. Then its okay again when the machine ia destroyed. I still can’t find a back story to justify that logic.

    This is precisely the goal of btr productions fan audio drama “Marinus Alone”, a prequel story well worth listening to. It does a great job at exploring the established culture and almost succeeds in solving this episode’s one minor plot point.

    I wish big finish would come back to this world (perhaps they have?…anybody?). I’d love to visit this setting just as much as any returning villan.

    Oh and Marco Polo not withstanding, this would get my vote for ” I wish it were in color”.



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