The TARDIS lands on the planet Marinus, a world whose seas are filled with acid and whose beaches are sand fused into glass. They investigate a fantastic building, but at the same time something else is investigating the TARDIS – a tall creature in what appears to be a black skinsuit. Inside the building, more of these creatures are encountered, and Ian saves a man who’s being threatened by one of the beings. The man, Arbitan, tells the Doctor and his friends the story of the Conscience, a machine that was built to be the perfect impartial judge and evolved into a device that eliminated crime from Arbitan’s society by controlling the thoughts of the population. But when a rebel group aided by the Voords arrived, four of the Conscience’s five keys were hidden to prevent the Voord from ruling over Marinus with its mind control. Arbitan enlists the Doctor’s help to search for the missing keys, and to make sure he has the time travelers’ help, he prevents them from reaching the TARDIS. They undertake a lengthy quest across Marinus, through lawless frozen wastelands, enduring moving vegetation, and visiting a ruined city whose inhabitants use hypnotic means to trick visitors into seeing an opulent palace. They even find a counterfeit Conscience key. But when they return with the four keys, they find Arbitan dead and the Voords in control.
Guest Cast: George Couloris (Arbitan), Martin Cort, Peter Stenson, Gordon Wales (Voords), Robin Phillips (Altos), Katharine Schofield (Sabetha), Heron Carvic (voice of Morpho), Edmund Warwick (Darrius), Francis de Wolff (Vasor), Michael Allaby (Larn), Alan James, Anthony Verner, Peter Stenson, Michael Allaby (Ice Soldiers), Henley Thomas (Tarron), Raf de la Torre (Senior Judge), Alan James, Peter Stenson (Judges), Fiona Walker (Kala), Martin Cort (Aydan), Donald Pickering (Eyesen), Stephen Dartnell (Yartek), Dougie Dean (Eprin)
Notes: This episode marks the first time that the TARDIS is actually seen materializing on screen. William Hartnell was absent from episodes 3 and 4 to take a brief vacation, so those episodes focus instead on Ian and Barbara’s adventures.
Broadcast from April 11 through May 16, 1964
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: An early precursor to such “quest” stories as season 16’s Key to Time story arc, The Keys Of Marinus is one of the few times Dalek creator Terry Nation got a shot at creating other adversaries for the Doctor. The story is essentially a series of one-episode vignettes connected by an over-arching story. If anything works against Keys, it’s the ’60s pacing – if you’re not ready to let the story develop slowly, this will all seem to happen incredibly slowly.
With stabbings in the back, accusations of murder and a rogue who may have rapacious intentions toward Barbara, Keys is also a surprisingly dark installment of early Who, from a time when the show was unreservedly meant for a younger audience. Almost more disturbing is the backstory of Marinus itself, a world whose population apparently submitted to mind control as a means to controlling crime. Though the end of the story quietly assures us that this is no longer the case due to the destruction of the Conscience, until that is mentioned we’re seeing the Doctor and friends working toward restoring that state of affairs – something that one can scarcely imagine any of the Doctors doing. (The series’ slightly anti-authoritarian underpinnings were nowhere to be seen just yet.)
It’s left a little unclear if the Voords are aliens, mutated natives of Marinus, or men in rubber suits (which is certainly what they appear to be). There’s a hint that they’re just suited rebels, but there’s no explanation for the oddball costume if that’s the case. The Voords were briefly the stars of ancillary Doctor Who merchandising efforts, especially as they were the first alien race to feature on Doctor Who after the Daleks (and were created by the same writer), but they’ve faded into obscurity since then. Considering that their nature is left so nebulous, it’s perhaps understandable that Nation’s other alien creations haven’t been revisited.