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Doctor Who: The Journey #4: The Keys of Marinus

Doctor Who: William Hartnell in court from Keys of Marinus
Weirdest. Inherit the Wind. Production. Ever.

The Story So Far: Intrepid pop culture adventurers PhantomV48 and Fleshvine have decided to make the long trek through the history of Doctor Who, starting all the way back at jump. They take up their adventure and continue with the madness…

Our Gang lands in a miniature TARDI…what? Oh, it’s been almost a year since we’ve put out one of these? Yes, well, time is funny that way. Especially when you’re writing about a time travel show! Anywho…

Our Gang lands in a miniature TARDIS at a beach that’s full of chunks of glass with a sea made of acid. After wandering aimlessly around this environment, they happen upon a group of one-man submarines. Meanwhile they’re being stalked by a guy in a scuba suit…no, seriously, flippers and all. Susan gets scared, runs off, and falls through a rotating door in a building, because that’s what she’s good at. The group heads up to the building to find her, and soon ends up going through the same rotating door.

[ad#longpost]We learn that the building is inhabited by a monk that guards a mind-control machine, and the scuba men (Voords) are trying to infiltrate the monastery. The machine, if turned on, would essentially end all violent crime and make the planet (Marinus) a utopia. You know, the kind of thing Captain Kirk loves to break in episodes of The Original Series. The Voords are trying to take over the machine and use it for some sort of presumably evil purpose. But–the machine doesn’t work because the monks don’t have the keys, and The Monk recruits (through holding the TARDIS ransom) our crew to look for them. The Monk slaps some wrist transporters on our friends, gives them a map, and sends them on their way, just before being killed by a Voord.

Doctor Who: Keys of Marinus: brains in jars
Playskool presents 'My First Mi-Go'!

When they arrive, they find that Barbara (who transported all of about twenty seconds ahead of the others) has already met the people on the other side, has gotten changed, and is being fed grapes and fanned with palm leaves. A representative named Altos (who is fabulously… how should we say… a “friend of ScottC”) quickly explains that they are in Morphoton, one of those advanced pacifist civilizations that realistically would have been eradicated centuries ago. Ian, suddenly the most useful one of the bunch, remains skeptical. In the night we see a girl stick some quarters to everyone’s heads. Come morning, Barbara is talking crazy-talk, saying that everything is filthy, icky, and of generally poor quality. Altos consults some brains-with-eye-stalks in bell jars on why the “Mesmeron” isn’t working on her. These brains in jars run apparently run the joint. Meanwhile, Barbara found the girl that stuck the Mesmeron quarters to their heads, and on her, a key to the Marinus machine. Mesmeron-ized Ian then captures Barbara and brings her to the Brains in Jars, where she proceeds to wreck everything in the room, killing the Brains of Morphoton and their Mesmeron machine. Sabetha the Quarters Girl remembers that she is the Head Monk’s long lost daughter, and Altos remembers that he was sent to find her. They consult The Crew on where to go next, and join up with them. The Doctor heads off alone to find one key, while the rest of the group heads to The Screaming Jungle.

Once they arrive at The Screaming Jungle, Susan proceeds to start screaming, the other thing she’s good at. When she calms down, the group splits up; Ian and the newbies head around the outside of the building they’ve just materialized in front of. That means Barbara and Susan have been left by themselves. Through some miracle, Barbara manages to wait until the others get back before getting trapped inside the building. This time Ian sends the others on ahead to the next stage, and goes off to find Barbara and the key. Once inside, Ian quickly finds Barbara, and they both find some crazy old wizard-scientist. The wizard-scientist gives them a code to find the key just before dying himself. Ian and Barbara search around the old wizard-scientist’s lab and discover that the jungle’s natural speed of growth has been sped up by a bajillion percent. Somehow this seems to give the jungle intelligence and ill intentions, as they and the building are now being attacked by the jungle plants. Fighting off vines and branches, Barbara finds a jar with the code on it. They grab the key inside and head off to the next location just in time.

Now we’re in the snow level. Barbara and Ian pass out from the intense cold. They wake up inside Hagrid’s creepy cousin’s house. Hagrid’s creepy cousin is a fur trader. He’s stroking Barbara’s hand (you know, to “reverse the frostbite”), when Ian wakes up. After some further creepiness, Ian goes off into the blizzard to find his friends, leaving Barbara and the fur trader alone. Ian discovers Altos passed out in the snow. After some quick cuddling, Altos is all better, and explains to Ian that the creepy fur trader is indeed not just creepy, but not really a nice guy at all. Just before returning to the cabin, Ian finds that the pack the trader gave him is full of raw meat, which is why he has been stalked by stock footage of wolves this whole time. By the time they get back to the cabin, Barbara has already discovered all the keys and wrist transporters the fur trader took off the others, and is currently being chased around a table. Ian and Altos burst in and ruin the trader’s sexy party, forcing him to lead them to the cave where the Sabetha and Susan are.

Doctor Who: Keys of Marinus
It's not The Stig. But it is The Stig's creepy sci-fi cousin!

There they find a cave made entirely out of ice, the key hidden inside a block of ice, and bunch of “dead warriors” in suits of armor that couldn’t possibly come to life when they melt the ice, because that’s just silly. When they melt the ice and grab the key, the dead warriors come back to life and chase them out of the cave. The group loses the LARPers at a rope bridge before zipping off to the next level.

The next thing we see is Ian is trying to get the key out of a vault jewelry case when he’s clubbed over the head by some thief, who steals the key himself. When he wakes up, he’s immediately interrogated by distinctly fascist looking policemen. Once Ian explains the circumstances, he’s immediately arrested and charged for murder. Like all good fascist nations, he’s guilty until proven innocent. Thankfully The Doctor walks in and agrees to be Ian’s lawyer, and they are given two days to put together a defense. It turns out the murdered person was a friend of Altos…and also after the key. After questioning the chief investigator, The Doctor puts it together (with a spectacularly flubbed line) that the first officer on the scene was the one who stole the key. After a little courtroom drama pressure from The Doctor, the first officer cracks hard and is immediately killed. Unfortunately a little too immediately for Ian, who is still implicated in the murder, and is being dragged off to the execution room. Fortunately he’s not due to actually be executed until the little hand reaches the top of the clock.

Outside the courtroom, Barbara gets a call from Susan, who is being held hostage, presumably by the real murderer, and is warned not to pursue the case further. After a bit of detective work, Susan is rescued from the kidnapper, the first officer’s wife, who is still only an accomplice to the murderer. Fortunately, the murderer himself is dumb enough to try and take the key from the safe, and the court prosecutor (dun dun DUN!) is quickly arrested and put in Ian’s place.

With all the keys, Our Gang heads back to the monastery, where the Voords have completely taken over. It turns out no one learned from the last three times someone went ahead of the group, and The Doctor sent Altos and Sabetha ahead with all but one of the keys. They’re now being tortured and interrogated by the Voords. The Voords try to trick Ian and Susan into giving them the key, but Ian gives them a fake key instead. After a lovely Evil Villain Speech, the Head Voord tries to start the machine, and it explodes. With the machine gone, and the TARDIS no longer held in a force field, Our Gang piles into it, and heads off to…

The Temple of Evil!

Importance to the Overall Who Experience: 1. The Voords mark the first instance of the BBC trying to recreate the magic of The Daleks. That’s about it. Nothing that happens in this arc really comes up again, save some noisy plants.

Watchability: 7. Maybe it’s the stark contrast from Edge of Destruction and Marco Polo in terms of actual entertainment, but we dug this a lot. This one has everything you want from classic Doctor Who. An actually watchable story (which, granted, is about six storylines stapled together); combined with spectacularly cheap effects, absurd monster design, and an overabundance of flubbed lines.

Next Episode: What, wasn’t it blatant enough? The Temple of Evil!

Previous episode here.