William Hartnellâ€™s monochromatic Doctor Who era continues on DVD with the release of his fifth adventure, The Keys Of Marinus. A six-parter written by Daleks creator Terry Nation, the story promises much but as its spread scross six episodes will it be able to sustain the promised tension?
Materialising on an island of glass in a sea of acid, the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara find themselves chosen to embark on a perilous quest set by Arbitan, Keeper of the Conscience of the planet Marinus. The Conscience machine has the power to control minds of everyone on Marinus and it is in danger of falling into the hands of the sinister Yartek, leader of the alien Voord. To prevent disaster the TARDIS crew must recover the machineâ€™s operating keys, hidden in various locations around the planet. Others have attempted this task before â€“ but none have returned.
The Keys Of Marinus looks pretty amazing on DVD considering its age. I assume the Restoration Team have had a hard time mastering this but they have done a superb job. It is probably in better shape now than when first broadcast. Anyway, the story itself is classic Doctor Who; he lands on a planet, senses an oppressive danger and solves the situation. Hartnell is at the height of his Doctor Who powers here; his on screen presence is quite something and your eyes are drawn to him. Youâ€™ll find yourself forgiving the old fella for making the odd fluff or two.
We also see a more human side of the Doctor, such as when he warns Ian to make sure he takes care of Susan as they prepare to split up to search for clues. You can also forgive Nation for sneaking in little pieces of schooling. See if you can spot them, vestiges of the shows â€œeducationalâ€ remit which was still in place when The Keys Of Marinus aired. The serial is also pretty violent with people getting stabbed left right and centre and others getting strangled. Also the â€œbrains with eyesâ€ scene at the end of episode 2 is pretty unsettling no matter how poor the effects are. Talking of poor effects the creeping vines will raise sniggering titters rather than gasps of terror. Chestertonâ€™s paranoia is also on full alert, â€œDid you see his eyes?â€ he asks Barbara, â€œHe didnâ€™t blink onceâ€, classic stuff.
The supporting cast throw themselves into the quite bizarre plot which to be honest does become slightly tiresome when we enter episode 4 but picks itself back up for the last couple of entries.
Commentary: Moderated by Clayton Hickman actors William Russell and Carol Ann Ford, director John Gorrie and designer Raymond Cusick. Mild but informative Hickman does his best to pull nuggets of information from the old gang who are all in fine form.
The Sets Of Marinus: Raymond Cusick recalls his time on this serial and how he designed the impressive sets with the smallest of budgets. A great extra where the legendary man gets to honestly chat about his creations.
Photo Gallery: Another fine collection of snaps and shots from the production of this story. Thereâ€™s loads here that Iâ€™m sure are exclusive to this release and displays just how hectic it mustâ€™ve gotten during the production of the early Doctor Who stories.
PDF Materials: A very different selection to what weâ€™re used to here. You can scan the usual Radio Times listings but also look at Cadet Sweets â€œDoctor Who and the Daleksâ€ Sweet Cigarette Cards. A wonderful and nostalgic look at some forgotten memorabilia.
Production Subtitles: Always a favourite with me this huge compendium of trivia is as good here as it is on all the Doctor Who DVD releases.
Coming Soon: A rather exciting promo for The Dalek War set which is due in a few weeks.
DVD Promo: Once more the dance version of the Doctor Who theme is here all set against a colourful compilation of the most exciting moments from the Doctorâ€™s greatest adventures.
The Keys Of Marinus is one of the golden moments of the first Doctorâ€™s era. It contains everything we love about the show such as surreal danger and eccentric speeches whilst also being a solid example of TV drama from the time.
Released on September 21st 2009, The Keys of Marinus has an RRP of Â£19.99, but can be bought online from Amazon for just Â£12.98 – a 35% saving!