Episode 5: The Keys of Marinus
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by John Gorrie
The Sea of Death
The Velvet Web
The Screaming Jungle
The Snows of Terror
Sentence of Death
The Keys of Marinus
The Doctor and his companions are forced by Arbitan, Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, to find the five Keys that will restart the Conscience once more. If the time travelers fail in their quest, the evil Voord will take control and life on Marinus will never be the same.
The episode starts out strong with the forced adventure of finding the Keys. There’s some great tension between Arbitan and the Doctor which I couldn’t help but be amused by as it was only a few adventures ago that the Doctor forced Barbara and Ian to travel amongst the stars. Here now was someone forcing the Doctor to do the same.
The different parts of the adventures range from fun to uncomfortable. At times it feels like the writers began to throw whatever they could to create tension and drama without considering the repercussions of their actions. Some of the adventures were too long (the courtroom drama) or the adventures were uncomfortable (the potential rape of Barbara in the icy wasteland). There was never a clear balance of adventure and exposition between the different adventures and I found my attention drifting at parts.
Yet, the parts that were the strongest were those that focused on the character development instead of just the adventure storyline. An example of this would be when the Doctor and his companions travel to the City of Morphoton. Barbara becomes the lead of the story. There’s even a shift in the camera work in that we see the story unfold through her perspective instead of observing the story in the their person. It’s a great element to the storytelling and it highlights the skill of Jacqueline Hill’s talents as an actress.
The tension of this first adventure storyline is built well and provides a fine resolution in its action. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, not all of the mini-adventures share this quality. The strength of Barbara’s character diminishes in a different adventure, and is later pushed aside to include a weak woman storyline. There are later hints of the original adventure’s theme in different scenes but it is as if the story peaked with the first adventure and then coasted through until the end. I do want to emphasis that I still enjoyed this episode. The parts that were entertaining were more in number than those that were boring. It was frustrating in that those less than stellar segments weighed the story down.