The Keys of Marinus from 1964 is a block of Doctor Who episodes produced by BBC that takes 2 hours and 25 minutes to watch in entirety. Originally the Doctor Who televised series ran about 30 minutes per episode. The Keys of Marinus episode block comprises of 6 episodes.
The Keys of Marinus is in black and white due to being a low budget BBC production. The Doctor Who series did not have today’s global following in the 1960’s. In 1963 when this TV series began, BBC was not broadcasting world-wide; solely in the United Kingdom. PBS did not pick up this series for airing until later, after it was well established on British television.
In the first episode of The Keys of Marinus the two adult companions from Earth mention the Doctor having a color television monitor for “the ship” that is in need of repair, has a black and white picture. They ask the Doctor when he will have it fixed, back in color. The Doctor responds, “Can’t really say when, but should have color soon.” They ingeniously allude that the viewer is at the Doctor’s mercy regarding the black and white picture for the audience is watching via the TARDIS’s monitor; a neat twist.
In this particular block of episodes, The Doctor and his three companions do not call the “police box” they travel in as the TARDIS like in the Second through Eleventh Doctor episodes I have seen. This unique difference to me was interesting. At first I thought, “What ship?” before realizing they meant the TARDIS.
There are many differences in comparison to the later Doctors. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) is an elderly gentleman who walks with a cane. He has three companions. One of the companions is his Galifreyan granddaughter Susan Foreman played by Carole Ann Ford (no long name like Romanadvoratrelundar). The other two companions from Earth are Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell). The Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian interact more as a family unit. The First Doctor takes a wise grandfatherly approach in dealing with his companions.
The Keys of Marinus is not action packed, no running. This episode block was like a scavenger hunt where everyone used their brains to solve the challenges while searching for five hidden keys to a mind-altering machine built by the people of the planet Marinus. The Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian walk slowly, methodically and check where they step, as if expecting booby-traps or something dangerous like an acid puddle. Susan is the least cautious and acts like teenager even though she looks twenty-one. The other two adults act more mature; like parent figures to Susan even though they are only friends of the Doctor’s and Susan’s.
The plot did not explain in detail why they were on Marinus. The explanation given indicated they were sightseeing planets like one would if traveling from country to country on Earth. Nothing was mentioned about the TARDIS choosing their location; came across as if the Doctor saw it on a map, decided to check Marinus out, and was able to set the TARDIS for Marinus.
Another noteworthy difference was the TARDIS only had its top light flashing with none of the familiar sound effects before it blinked in or out of the picture. A miniature plastic model was used for the TARDIS landing and leaving effect. It was weird watching Doctor Who without the TARDIS’s signature sound.
The Keys of Marinus episodes made me realize how much the character known as the Doctor has changed as well as the special effects and the TARDIS’s interior. A lot now taken for granted was not part of the beginning Doctor Who episodes. William Hartnell as the First Doctor was exceptional and in some ways better than those who played the later regenerated versions (younger per regeneration phase). William Hartnell played the First Doctor as one who treats his companions respectfully, a little better than the Second through Eleventh Doctors treated theirs.
I am looking forward to watching more First Doctor episodes. I liked the storyline format, sets and special effects; more than expected since these are from the 1960’s. The early Doctor Who creators left much to the imagination. The characters talk in an explanatory mode that today is a lost art.
I highly recommend The Keys of Marinus. Some of the First Doctor episodes are on DVD. Not all of them survived. The First Doctor episodes are wholesome family fun and good Science Fiction.
RELATED ARTICLES by Alicia Rose:
Alicia Rose, personal television viewing PBS and BBC America, Doctor Who 1978 – 2012
Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus -1964, DVD, The William Hartnell Years 1963-1966 DVD series, BBC Worldwide Ltd.
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