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Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus (1964) starring William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill,  William Russell,  Carole Ann Ford

Synopsis of Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

On a remote island of glass surrounded by a sea of acid, there is a machine that can remove evil from the minds of an entire population – the Conscience of Marinus. Fearful of its immense power falling into wrong hands, its sole guardian has scattered the machine’s operating keys across the planet. The TARDIS crew arrives to find the island under attack by the evil Voord. Marinus’ last line of defense – and its only hope – is the Conscience machine. The Doctor and his companions must undertake a deadly quest to recover the keys of Marinus.

Editorial review of Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus courtesy of Amazon.com

For all the Whos in Whoville (sorry, wrong Doctor), this vintage Doctor Who adventure from the venerable British series’ inaugural season is a must-own collectible. For the uninitiated, Doctor Who is television’s longest-running science fiction series and it has gained a cult following that rivals those of Star Trek and Star Wars. Dr. Who, portrayed here in his first incarnation by William Hartnell, is a Time Lord who travels the cosmos in a spacecraft called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), whose exterior looks like a police call box.

Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus (1964) starring William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill,  William Russell,  Carole Ann FordOriginally broadcast in 1964, The Keys of Marinus is a six-episode arc that features the doctor’s original traveling companions, science teacher Ian Chesterton, history teacher Barbara Wright, and the doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, who is given to screaming at the first sign of peril. Hartnell’s Doctor is a sprightly curmudgeon who relishes adventure and mystery, which he finds after the group lands on Marinus, an island of glass surrounded by a sea of acid. Doctor and company are compelled to retrieve four microcircuits that are the keys to the Conscience of Marinus, a computer that has eliminated evil from the minds of men (except apparently the evil Yartek and his web-suited Voords, who want to seize the machine).

Their quest takes them most memorably to “a planet of the most contented people” (beware the brainwashing powers of the “mesmerent”), another world overrun by plants, and finally a city where Chesterton, framed for murder, is considered guilty until proven innocent–by the doctor, of course. As is characteristic of this series, the special effects are a hokey hoot and the actors sometimes step on each others’ lines. Hartnell vacationed during production and is absent for two episodes. But this is a surprisingly prophetic cautionary tale: it may be good to heed the doctor’s prescient observation that “man was not made to be controlled by machines.” If you have yet to make an appointment with the doctor, perhaps the episodes featuring Tom Baker–the fourth and most popular of the doctors–are a more accessible introduction. –Donald Liebenson