Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.
Warning: the following contains spoilers
Been awhile hasn’t it? Sorry, I’ve been out of commission for so long, but I’m back with another dose of old school Who.
But before all that. I think a brief recap is in order. Last time, our heroes found themselves on the planet Marinus. There was a sea of acid, killer aliens in black body suits, and a pyramid with a wacky secret door.
Inside, we were introduced to a robed weirdo named Arbitan and his all-powerful computer, a device with the charming ability to override free will. It had been split up into five separate keys that…you know what, I’m boring myself here. If you really want a refresher, go back and read my last post. Me, I’m going to drive right into episode 2, since it’s much more interesting by far.
The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 5 The Keys of Marinus, Episode 2: The Velvet Web
After twisting the dials on their teleportation watches, Ian, Susan, and the Doctor rematerialize before a large door. Barbara is nowhere to be seen and to make matters worse, her travel dial is lying on the ground covered in blood.
The Doctor urges them to proceed with caution, but Ian is having none of that and pushes right through the mysterious door where they stumble into an epileptic nightmare.
As the flashing lights die down, they find themselves in a well-decorated room filled with furniture, statues, and potted plants, or as I like to call it, paradise on an extremely tight budget.
Much to their surprise, Barbara is also there, lounging on a bed in an elegant gown. Turns out the blood on her travel dial was no cause for alarm, she simply got freaked out teleporting through space and scratched herself removing it. Hm, that’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it?
She’s also surrounded by a number of women who proceed to set out a feast for their new guests.
A man named Altos joins them and tells them they are in the city of Morphoton, a place where, “Our one wish is to fulfill your every need,” which I think was a Carnival cruise slogan for a few years.
Susan asks for a dress made of silk, while Altos promises the Doctor a well-stocked laboratory.
True to form, Ian is the only one who finds this suspicious, but Barbara tells him he’s overreacting and they all go to bed.
And that is precisely where things start to get awesome.
There’s this creepy ass painting on the wall and just as our heroes slip off into la la land, the eyes light up and a secret door pops open. Seriously, what is it about this writer and secret doors?
A woman steps out and makes a circuit of the room, placing something on each of their foreheads.
After she leaves, Barbara rolls over and manages to dislodge it just in time for another assault of light and noise, after which she promptly passes out from pain.
The next day, Ian, the Doctor, and Susan are sitting around drinking juice, because that’s what you do with yourself in paradise, while Barbara remains unconscious.
Susan finally just gets tired off waiting and goes over to wake her up.
Barbara wakes up and proceeds to lose her shit. Where everyone else sees decadence, she suddenly sees squalor. She insists that everything from the room to their clothes has changed.
The scene is actually really well directed. Most of the sequence is shot from Barbara’s perspective, with the actors staring directly at the camera. It’s a simple trick, but really unnerving.
Shortly after, Altos appears and drags Barbara off to see their “physician.”
She manages to get away, but blows it when she accidentally stumbles into their dungeon, locking the door behind her. Seriously, where did she think she was going? Hm, this cold, dark room looks like a viable escape option. Think I’ll just storm right in, no need to hold the door, I’m sure this leads someplace perfectly normal.
The best part is that since Altos doesn’t know that she’s already trapped in the dungeon he has to go back and get reamed out by his superiors for letting her go. And by superiors, of course, I mean a pair of brains in bell jars. I’m not even kidding.
The jarred brains want Barbara found and also insist on punishing the girl who placed the discs on their forehead the night before.
Altos grabs the girl and drags her off to the same dungeon where Barbara is (secretly) hiding. Following the dictates of cellblock etiquette, Barbara strikes up a conversation with her new friend, but the woman just keeps repeating, “I am to be punished.”
Meanwhile outside, Altos takes the Doctor on a tour of his new lab, which is nothing more than an empty room. We get another great bit of direction with Ian and the Doctor reacting to things that don’t exist.
Back in the dungeon, Barbara finally manages to break the woman out of her spell, learning that her name is Sabetha, the daughter of everyone’s favorite robed weirdo Arbitan.
Altos enters the cell, FINALLY realizes that Barbara is in there and proceeds to manhandle her until Sabetha brains him with a pot, knocking him out cold.
Barbara stumbles out into the hallway where she runs smack dab into Ian, who is now fully brainwashed. He takes her into the command center where we get our first full frontal shot of the brains.
They command Ian to “Kill her. Kill her. Kill her,” and he makes with the chokey-choke, but Barbara fights him off, then smashes the brains’ glass cases, killing them in the process.
Everybody reunites, while in the distance the denizens of Morphoton begin burning down the city. Everyone splits up, because again, that’s worked out so well in the past. The Doctor plans to search for the fourth key, while the rest of the group sticks together.
Susan zaps off to infinity and beyond, only to land in a barren space filled with strange voices. She clamps her hands over her ears, then sinks to the ground in despair.
A decent premise and solid direction make this a pretty solid episode. The show is finally starting to come together and has definitely been on the upswing since the crew started getting along.
Big shout-out this episode to Ian’s fantastic robe, which I’m assuming he got during their trip to China (otherwise the Doctor’s got a really weird wardrobe).
I especially like the weird lattice work on the buttocks. What a great ambassador for the human race. Imagine never having seen a human being before, only to have one emerge from a British police box, rocking that look.
Well, that’s it for now. Tune in next time as we travel to The Screaming Jungle.