Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

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.

Doctor Who: Serial 5, Episode 6: The Keys of Marinus

Last week, the Doctor threw his hat into the legal arena, defending his friend Ian on a murder charge. Needless to say, he didn’t do a very good job as Ian landed himself a one way trip to death row. Then, to make things even more complicated, Susan went and got herself kidnapped.

We open with our recap shot from last week, Barbara rocking the mic phone while the party on the other end threatens to kill Susan if they don’t back off of Ian’s case.

Fortunately, she has Altos on her side, who immediately proves his value by pointing out, “Whoever is behind this kidnapping is either in league with the murderer or is the murderer.” Thanks Kojak, so glad we brought you along.

Meanwhile, Ian sweats out his last few hours in a cell. When he asks a guard how much longer he has, he is told, “execution is set to take place when the pointer reaches the star.”

BBC

BBC

Apparently, human resources decided the death row cell block was entirely too grim and decided to spruce things up with a special Hello Kitty wall clock, complete with fun star hand and adorable beeping sound.

As Ian counts down the moments of his life, Barbara goes to work behind the scenes, trying to find Susan before the doctor finds out.

She takes Sabetha and Altos back to the house of Ayden, the flaky guard who went got himself killed in the middle of Ian’s court hearing. They talk to his widow Kala for awhile, and by talk I mean stand around awkwardly watching her cry before finally making a hasty retreat.

The moment they’re out of earshot, Kala drops her hysterics, breaks into an enormous shit-eating grin and slides open a hidden panel revealing a gagged and bound Susan.

BBC

BBC

She engages in a bit of outstanding supervillain gloating, telling Susan that her friends will never find her because “They’re like all the rest of them, stupid. Stupid.” That’s two stupids for those keeping track at home.

Outside, Barbara thinks about the conversation they just shared and realizes Kala mentioned Susan’s kidnapping. Only problem is, no one said a word about Susan, so, it’s back to Kala’s house where they find her menacing their friend with what looks like a giant hair dryer.  They sneak up and manage to disable her, leaving Susan’s bangs mercifully unsinged.

Back at the jail, the officers are all set to begin Ian’s execution when a phone call comes through. Barbara reveals that Kala was the one who killed her husband in court.

Kala gets hauled in, but whoops, she claims her co-conspirator is Ian. Hm. That kind of backfired, didn’t it?

Susan reveals she overheard Kala speaking to the real accomplice over the phone and that he plans to retrieve the key.

That sends the Doctor into a fit of maniacal laughter. He puts together a plan that involves staking out the evidence locker, waiting for their man to show. Sure enough a masked man shows up and tries to break in. They capture him, yank off his mask and reveal…the Court Prosecutor.

BBC

BBC

You see, the Doctor realized that the missing key had been hidden inside the murder weapon itself, locked in a hidden compartment on the side of the mace.

Well, I guess that about wraps things up…what’s that? We’re only twelve minutes into this thing?

Okay, everybody take a deep breath. Ready for part two? Okay? Go!

Altos and Sabetha teleport back to the pyramid from the first episode where they’re immediately captured by the Voord. Remember them? Black suits, weirds masks. You know, the villains of this story that have been absent for four whole episodes!

Well, it seems they’ve dragged themselves away from whatever they’ve been doing this whole time long enough to capture Altos and Sabetha.

BBC

BBC

One of them is also sporting Arbitan’s funky white robe, which might not be the best way to get Sabetha’s help. You know wearing her dead father’s clothes and all (Altos got stabbed to death in the end of the first episode; I know I forgot about it too).

We get some drawn out scenes that establish Altos and Sabetha are in love and then they’re packed off to jail. Cue the rest of the TARDIS’ crew, who show up, get attacked by a Voord who appears to be drunk, and decide to split up.

Ian and Susan set off in search of Arbitan. They stumble on the lead Voord sitting there with Arbitan’s robe, yanked up over his head.

BBC

BBC

Somehow that’s enough to convince Ian, who straight up gives him the last key.

Meanwhile, the Doctor heads into the dungeon and rescues Sabetha and Altos. Ian rejoins them and reveals that the key he gave the Voord was a fake.

BBC

BBC

Sure enough the Voord sticks the keys into the computer, causing the whole thing to blow up, meaning this entire story has accomplished absolutely nothing. Arbitan is dead, the supercomputer is destroyed, and the Voord are still out there. So, the crew of the TARDIS fall back on what they do best in situations like this and decide to just leave.

They all pile into the TARDIS, leaving Sabetha and Altos to face what seems like certain death at the hands of the many Voord still prowling about, not to mention the half dozen other murderous creatures they’ve encountered so far.

Fortunately the two of them have true love on their side and as Isaac Newton proved, love makes you immune to all harm.

This story arc marks a bit of a departure from what we’ve seen so far. While not a wild success by any means, I must say that the done-in-one episodes were a welcome change over some of the more bloated serials that we’ve suffered through so far, some of them stretching to as many as seven episodes long.

Think about that for a minute, that’s one episode shy of the entire season of True Detective and all of it dedicated to the characters outwitting the Daleks or, trying to gain back control of the TARDIS.

Granted, we’re talking about an hour long HBO drama versus a twenty-two minute serial, but the fact remains that this show has a strong bent towards the long-winded. This was definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that it doesn’t really come together at the end, but it still feels like we’re making some small strides towards a tighter viewing experience. Hopefully they can graft this quicker pacing onto one of their longer story arcs.

 

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