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Wonderful precursor to future Who stories
on January 17, 2003
Landing on the planet Marinus, with acid seas, and a glassy beach, the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan, are forced by Arbitan, the sole inhabitant nearby, to go on a mission to hunt down four keys that will help him redress the power of good on the planet. The Conscience of Marinus was a machine built to "eliminate evil from all men. Robbery, fear, hate, violence was unknown." Then came Yartek and his Voords, who overcame conditioning and are out to take over the Conscience.
Using travel dials, wrist teleporters, they go to where the four microcircuit keys are, first to the luxurious city of Morphoton, "sensuous, decadent, but pleasant" with kind hospitable people. Yet is all this luxury real?
Accompanied by Sabetha, Arbitan's daughter, and Altos, her love interest, the Doctor has the brilliant idea of splitting up. He goes to the civilized city of Millennius, while Ian and Barbara search a place where the vegetation is very dense and "when the whispering stars, it's death." Altos and Sabetha land on an icy area where they encounter a trapper Vasor, who isn't all he seems. On Millennius, Ian is falsely accused of murder and the Doctor becomes Sherlock Holmes in order to save Ian. A city where one is guilty before proven innocent cannot be all that civilized.
Ian shines the best in this story, as he comes out as reliable, trustworthy, and brave. One of his best hours. The interplay between Barbara and Susan remains. Susan trusts Barbara to tell her what she heard in the forest in the same way she tells her of the hand that touched on in the petrified forest in The Daleks. Barbara's her usual reassuring self here.
George Coulouris (Arbitan) is best known as the man who takes Kane from his parents in Citizen Kane and as the doctor in Murder On The Orient Express. Fiona Walker (Kala) would reappear in Who's 25th anniversary story, Silver Nemesis as Lady Peinforte.
The ultimate theme of this story is given in Doctor's final piece of advice to Sabetha: "I don't believe that man was meant to be controlled by machines. Machines can make laws, but they cannot be made to preserve justice. Only human beings can do that."
William Hartnell did not appear in Episodes 3 and 4 so he could take his holiday, yet he was credited for both episodes per his contract. A similar thing would also happen to Jacqueline Wright in The Web Planet a season later.
The Keys Of Marinus is interesting in that many concepts of the show later found its way to future Who stories. For example, the search for the four keys was expanded in the six Key To Time stories of 1978-79. The concept of the Conscience as a machine that bars evil, plus the five microkeys with a permutations of numbers and symbols was revisited in The Keeper Of Traken. An acid pool is also encountered in The Web Planet. Vegetation tha attacks appeared in The Seeds Of Doom. And it was written by the Chief Dalek himself, Terry Nation. Thank goodness this Hartnell story survived the BBC purge, because it's well worth it.