Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Twenty-Six: The Keys of Marinus (The Keys of Marinus, Episode Six)
Ah, I've gone back to being a bit bored during this one, I'm afraid.
It's tricky, when I've not enjoyed an episode, to find a great deal to say about it here. When I've really liked one, then it's great - I can praise the performance, or the sets or the script. There's plenty to say when it comes to liking a story. In this case, though…
It feels like this episode only existed because things needed to be wrapped up before we can move onto the next story. We're given a little bit of time to finish up the events of yesterday's trial sequences, with the Doctor finally revealing who the culprit is (and, to be fair, hiding the key in the weapon was a great idea!), and then it's back off to the tower to return the keys and get the TARDIS back.
The problem is, much as I've liked that we have a new setting every day, it's been too long since we were last at the tower. It was a little while before I remembered that Arbitan had been killed right back in Episode One - and I only watched it a week ago! Imagine watching this spread out over a six-week period!
The final confrontation with the Voord fell a bit flat, too. They were supposed to be the next Daleks (after all, they are only the second evil alien race we've had in the series, and created by the same writer), but they don't actually get a lot to do. Here they mostly skulk around corridors with knives out, or badly hide under a hood pretending to be an elderly monk. Hm. Can't say I'm all that surprised they didn't catch on in the end…
On the whole, The Keys of Marinus is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there's plenty to enjoy about the story, but on the other, it's crushingly dull in places.
Let's start with the good, yeah? The idea of the quest is a great one; it gives the story plenty of variety, and it means that when I have been caught in an episode I've not enjoyed, it's only lasted for a little while before I'm off to a new location. It also means that we're able to lose the Doctor for a couple of days and it's not even noticed.
Much as I like the idea, it all seems a bit too simple, really. These keys are supposed to be hidden right across Marinus, but our heroes never really have much trouble getting hold of them. The hardest one to come by is probably the one hidden in the jungle. The rest they stumble upon with relative ease.
Still, can't complain much, as it gave a nice backdrop to get them moving around. I'm also fond of our two 'guest companions' for the story. They've been good fun to have around, though I'm not sure I'm actually going to miss them as we move to the next adventure…
Something I am going to miss is the well-drawn world of Marinus. I praised it yesterday, but it's worth repeating here, too. It's not often that we get a world so rich in the series, so it's great to have one here. In an extra on the DVD, Raymond Cusick complains that Terry Nation wrote his scripts without thinking about how achievable they were to film. It's a credit, therefore, that the design team do so well, here.
Now the bad. I've said it a few times today, even, but there's bits of the story that I just couldn't connect with. Once an episode had lost my attention, it seemed like it took a great effort of Will to get it back, or even to make it to the end. It's a shame, because we've not really had a situation like this in the series so far.
There was a point in An Unearthly Child which came close to me picking up my phone, but this story has had a couple of occasions where I've actively had to set my phone the other side of the room, just so I can attempt to concentrate.