Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

The Sea of Death

"And if you'd had your shoes on, my boy, you could have lent her hers."

The island in the sea looks simultaneously cheap and fantastic, as is possible only in black and white. Silent TARDIS landing, I notice. Good to see the good-natured banter between the crew- their relationships now seem settled for good. Ian's still wearing his clothes from Cathay, although there was no cliffhanger. Hang on... the TARDIS scanner is in black and white?

This is possibly the biggest episode for Billy-fluffs ever; "Yes, I don't think... I don't see why not. There's nothing no danger about". The submersible models look cool, although also giving away the true nature of the model island. Very Gerry Anderson. Oh, and another one: "No, impossible in this temperature. Besides, it's too warm".

I like the glass sand and acid sea. A truly weird environment. The Voord look cool too. I love these Terry Nation exploration first episodes! We get some real horror with the implied terrible death of the Voord in the submersible- once again rather eyebrow-raising for a family show.

The pyramid looks good, with the corridors looking almost but not quite like an expressionist set from a German silent film. The environment is once again cool; a Mexican style pyramid littered with traps.

The Conscience of Marinus... hmm. Civil liberties not big on Marinus then? Arbitan is quite excellently played by George Coulouris, who manages to make something of a character whose sole purpose is exposition and starting up the plot.

Good Lord! Our heroes are separated from the TARDIS. In a Terry Nation script. Who'd have thunk it. I'm most amused by this invisible force field acting. And also the proto-Blake's 7 transportation bracelets! Once the quest is established the whole thing suddenly feels very Irwin Allen.

Arbitan's death scene... oh dear! This is all good fun though.

The Velvet Web

"I believe you're under some deep form of deep hypnosis."

Suddenly, everything changes from Doctor Who to Abigail's Party. Barbara's managed to get changed, meet her host and everything in about thirty seconds- is there anything the woman can't do? I notice Ian leching at the young ladies...

Is it me, or do I get the impression from the dialogue there's bound to be a "bill" of some kind, wrapped around some kind of moral? This is rather well done, all the same- very sinister. The paranoia of Barbara being the only one who can see things as they are is brilliantly played by Jacqueline Hill.

Cool! Brains in jars! This is great. For a moment I thought there might be some kind of subtext about all materialism being, like, illusory, man, but then I remembered this was scripted by Terry Nation.

So what would have happened if that disc hadn't fallen off Barbara? She saves everyone, of course, being great, but aren't the baddies ("Our brains outgrew our bodies". Er, okay...) leaving themselves rather vulnerable though? They can't be very bright.

Interesting how the Doctor takes charge at the end. There's been a definite change at some point in his character. Dodgy plan though. You're in "a very dangerous situation" so you split up. Yeeeesss.

This is one I'd been dreading, but I'm actually quite enjoying it so far. it's all very silly, of course, but fun.

The Screaming Jungle

"Nature has a fixed tempo of destruction".

Susan's getting hysterical again. It must be a Terry Nation script. Fortunately we get Ian, Barbara and the two Planks arriving to calm her down.

Oh, look at that statue with the key in it. Do you think it might be, I don't know, a trap at all? A very naughty trap, too, sexually harassing first Barbara and then Ian.

Oh, look at that knight with the massive halberd, Ian. Do you think it might be, you know, a trap? Yes, that's right, you just turn your back on it, nothing bad will happen...

These traps are fun, if very silly. Those spikes falling in to Barbara don't look all that deadly, mind...

That bloke played by Edmund Warwick gets the coolest exit possible. That's how I want to depart this mortal coil; with some gratuitously cryptic last words.

The Snows of Terror

"I'm afraid you'll have to entertain them alone, Vasor. We have to leave."

Vasor is an extremely unpleasant character, especially after he's left alone with Barbara. There's clearly an implied threat of rape which doesn't feel at all tonally right for what is basically an old 1930s movie serial.

Oh, look- crossing chasms in a Terry Nation story again! Although it's still managing to entertain, the story's beginning to drag.

Why doesn't Vasor lock the door at the end as he did earlier?

Oh dear, I'm no fan of that old cliché of the hero being falsely accused of murder- I don't like the implications of this cliffhanger at all...

Overall, after an entertaining first two parts the story's beginning to pall. Each episode seems slightly less good than the one before, and I miss William Hartnell.

Sentence of Death

"Yes, I do know somebody, if I can find him."

"Who is he?"


Blimey, this is the longest reprise so far.

If Ian's suspected of murder, why does no one suspect the other TARDISeers (for I too shall nick this splendid phrase)? There should at least be questions about who they are and where they came from.

Oh, it's Fiona Walker, in Doctor Who! All will be hers...

Suddenly things get nasty (and tonally jarring) as Anonymous Bloke is heard hitting his wife. We know at this point that he's not going to be allowed to survive. One problem with this story is it's hard to tell apart the different men in uniforms.

The Keys of Marinus

"I am suffering from a deadly disease!"

Good grief! Kala, one of only two suspects, has kidnapped Susan! Still, the only other suspect, the prosecutor (whose name I never catch, but I spent half of last episode thinking all the men in uniform were Tarron) seems a nice bloke, commiserating with the Doctor in a scene in no way meant to deflect suspicion.

William Russell's not having an overly taxing week, is he?

Another namedrop by the Doctor- Pyrrho.

Back to the island, where we meet Yartek, Leader of the Alien Voord. Interesting how Ian takes charge, directing the TARDISeers to split up.

I'm utterly dumbstruck by the scene in which Barbara suggests to the Doctor that he carry a knife, and he casually agrees.

Yartek, Leader of the Alien Voord's disguise had me in stitches. Who exactly is this bloke, incidentally? He's just a generic baddie who turns up with no build-up and no real motivation.

Overall, not very good for me, I'm afraid. I feel guilty about awarding a 1/5 but that's what I felt. The first couple of episodes were at least entertaining but everything since has felt tired, disjointed, and perhaps worst of all the regulars didn't feel quite in character. Barbara was far too passive- Terry Nation doesn't seem able to write strong women so far. And again Nation gives us "action hero" Ian rather than the wryly humorous character I'd come to like. Worst of all, Susan was as annoying as ever in this story.

On a positive note, though, I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, although not necessarily for the reasons which were intended!

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