Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus is another Doctor Who classic series release that was recently put out by BBC Video. Aside from the missing “Marco Polo,” it was the oldest Doctor Who story not yet released on DVD. Starring in it are William Hartnell (as the original, first Doctor), Carole Ann Ford, William Russell, and Jacqueline Hill.
It’s a six-parter, but somewhat unique in that the setting seems to change from week to week. It’s also unique in that it is written by Dalek creator Terry Nation yet the pepperpot-shaped villains are nowhere to be seen. Also to look out for – because there were so many episodes done per year, especially in the beginning, William Hartnell had vacation time right in the middle of this serial. As such, two chapters focus on the companions with the Doctor off on his own adventure!
The Keys of Marinus is pretty dated. Some of the costumes are kind of silly, and the “forced perspective” of certain sets – attempting to make them look better – probably were more convincing on smaller TV sets that were a little blurry without high definition. As per usual for a Hartnell-era Doctor Who, it’s all an acquired taste, but there is a certain charm to it and a feeling to it where you can accept technical faults. As dated as some of it looks, it still has aged better than, say, the Sylvester McCoy era.
BBC Video is doing their best to release as much of the Doctor Who range as possible, so it’s inevitable that some “merely okay” serials make their way through. This is one of them. Other still-unreleased Hartnell-era stories like The Chase and Gunfighters were a lot more interesting to me, though these are certainly not bad and definitely not on the level of boring.
Unlike most other DVD releases for Doctor Who, this one also skimped on the extras a little bit. There’s a fantastic commentary track with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford though. The other feature – an interview with production designer Raymond Cusick – may be appealing to some, but to be honest, seemed a bit boring to me.
If you’re a Who completist, then by all means, check this out. My recommendation if you are going with this era, though, would be to check out the serial that followed it – The Aztecs – instead. But your mileage may vary.
Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus was released on January 5, 2010 in the United States. Order a copy from Amazon.com and support this site!