Up until now, Sue has been oblivious to some of the show’s more, shall we say, regrettable shortcomings. But that’s all about to change.
The Sea of Death
Sue: Press pause! Stop it! Rewind!
She’s good. Even I didn’t notice the production team pushing the revolving door when I saw this for the first time. And it happens at least twice (three times, says Sue). She spends the rest of the episode scanning the frame for the merest hint of an AFM. She’s gonna love Earthshock and Snakedance if we ever get that far. And on the strength of this episode alone, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Her reaction to the Voord is interesting, though.
Sue: Pah! They are obviously men in rubber suits.
And then, a little later…
Sue: They are men in rubber suits! That’s actually very clever. Fair play. I’m impressed.
She is horrified when our heroes discover that one of the poor buggers has been liquefied in his suit (“That’s a bit sick!”), but she perks up again when Ian and Barbara lecture the audience about temples and counterweights.
Sue: That’s a nice scene. They’re educating the audience but it feels completely natural because the real heroes of this show are a couple of schoolteachers.
When we finally reach Arbitan and the nub of the matter, Sue isn’t convinced by his story.
Sue: OK, let me get this straight. This monk wants to use this machine to rule the minds of men – especially men in wetsuits – but doesn’t that make him a dictator? I’m not convinced that this bloke is the good guy. I don’t trust him one little bit.
Our heroes agree with Sue and they decide to piss off back to the TARDIS (as is their habit). But disaster strikes and they are forced to help out after all.
Sue: Ian is acting as if this is just an inconvenience to him. He actually suggests they just get on with it and find the bloody keys. The Doctor is rightly appalled that they are being blackmailed into helping, but no one seems bothered about what this machine actually does.
And then Arbitan is stabbed in the back by a Voord.
Sue: I didn’t see that coming. I can’t get a handle on this at all.top
The Velvet Web
The first thing that annoys Sue about this episode is the suggestion that Barbara had enough time to get settled into a hotel (a hotel that looks suspiciously like the Grace Brothers department store) even though she only turned up a few seconds before her companions.
Sue: They don’t seem to be in much of hurry to find these keys. They look like they’re happy enough just sitting around and stuffing their faces with pomegranates. If they can’t be bothered, why should I?
It takes Ian to figure out the obvious – things are far too good to be true – as the Doctor is simply happy to go along with it all as well. He remains a bitter disappointment to Sue.
Sue: All these beds make it look like they’re all taking part in Big Brother. They even have flashing eyes in the walls. It must mean the diary room is free.
And then, in a very poor Geordie accent, which is amazing when you consider that Sue is from the North East, she drawls:
Sue: Day 42 in the Big Brother house. Ian has been given a secret task to find the Keys of Marinus and Susan is called to the diary room for counselling because she can’t stop crying.
When the plot kicks finally into gear, Sue is impressed by the POV shots and pre-filmed cutaways. She’s catching on to how they used to make the show back then, probably because I keep banging on and on about it, but she still she can’t accept a “laboratory” set that consists of nothing more than a table and a dirty mug. I try to defend the scene’s internal logic, but it’s hopeless.
But one thing we can both agree on is Barbara Wright. She’s brilliant, especially when she smashes the Morphoton Brains to smithereens.
Sue: I love Barbara. Even if she does remind me of Cherie Blair in a polo neck.
As our heroes decide to split up (so Hartnell can go on holiday for a couple of weeks), Sue is suddenly struck by a revelation.
Sue: I’ve just realised what this story reminds me of.
Me: What? Flash Gordon? Waiting for Godot? Ibsen?
Sue: No. Todd Rundgren.
Sue then goes on to tell me something that I’ve never read in any magazine, fanzine or Andrew Pixely archive - The Keys of Marinus inspired Rundgren’s 1970s prog rock band, Utopia, to write their 1977 album, Ra. She fires up the iPad and recites the lyrics to the song ‘Singring and the Glass Guitar’.
Sue: Listen – “Jealous forces have conspired to capture the spirit, imprisoning it in a chest with four keys, and casting the four keys to the four corners of the earth”. See!
Even Tat Wood didn’t pick up on that!
As the episode concludes, Sue sums up.
Sue: I liked that. It didn’t piss about. I wouldn’t want to spend six episodes fighting stupid brains-in-a-jar, but this one flew by. Next!top
The Screaming Jungle
Sue: I don’t think I can take 25 minutes of Susan screaming. She’s really is starting to annoy me now. Don’t you want to give her a slap?
Me: Don’t feel bad about it. Carole Anne Ford felt pretty much the same way.
Sue: I wish Altos was still wearing the costume that was created by your imagination, because what he’s wearing now leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination! If he bends down, I may faint.
Things get even saucier when we reach the incredibly suggestive security device that consists of an idol with “realistic hand action”.
Sue: If Barbara was just a few inches shorter, she could sue that statue for sexual harassment.
Inside the temple, the security measures are even more over-the-top (“it’s Mousetrap!”) and then the plants come to life and kill the dotty guardian of the key. He dies before he can tell Ian and Barbara where the key is, but he does have enough time to leave them a cryptic clue. They hunt desperately for the solution as someone waves a bush in the corner of the room.
Sue: There’s a lot of tension in this scene.
Me: Yes, sentient plants can be very scary. But you ain’t seen anything yet – just wait until 1976!
Sue: No, I’m talking about the sexual tension between Ian and Barbara. If they aren’t shagging yet (and if you ask me, they’ve been at it for years), then it won’t be long now.
Then, as if to prove her point, the episode ends with the pair cuddling each other. They are about to freeze to death, but even so.
Me: So, did you miss the Doctor?
The Snows of Terror
Doctor Who has its fair share of iconic monsters – Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Fifi the Stigorax – but nothing could prepare Sue for The Keys of Marinus‘ contribution to this roll call of evil – a big, fat, hairy rapist.
Sue: This is unbelievable. It’s not even subtle. He is going to take Barbara by force! This is far more upsetting than any Dalek. What the **** is this?
Me: It reminds me of The Year of the Sex Olympics.
Sue: I don’t want to know about your weird porn collection, thank you very much.
Sue takes her mind off the oppressive threat of imminent sexual violence by concentrating on how unbelievably fake the snow looks (“Polystyrene – never good”). Once again, I tell her to wait for 1976 as she ain’t seen nothing yet. She also finds it hard to believe that Altos could survive Skegness, let alone sub-zero temperatures on Marinus in that skimpy dress of his. Not that Ian is doing better in his silk kimono and furry tank-top.
Sue: Haven’t we been here before? Weren’t they flinging themselves across painfully narrow chasms just a few weeks ago? This feels very familiar.
Me: Terry Nation suffered from short-term memory loss.
Speaking of memories, I tell Sue that the Ice Knights are almost certainly Peter Davison’s first memory of the show, and when he needed to act scared when he was playing the Doctor, he would try to recall this sequence because it made an indelible impression on him as a child.
Sue: Really? Does he look like he’s falling about laughing when he’s supposed to be scared, then? They look like The Knights Who Say Ni!
The resulting fight and escape brings both the ice cave and the house down.
Sue: This is like a pantomime. How can you go from the threat of rape and murder to this?
The episode concludes with Ian being bludgeoned over the head by an unseen assailant and Sue is convinced that the Doctor must be responsible. She still can’t get it into her head that he’s the nice guy now.top
Sentence of Death
William Hartnell is back and, to my surprise, Sue is happy to see him, especially now that he has reinvented himself as a geriatric Sherlock Holmes.
Sue: He’s really good in this scene. He’s not quite Benedict Cumberbatch, but he’s close. I think he went on holiday and he had a bloody good think about how he should play the part. This is the best I’ve seen him so far.
Of course, this being 1960s Doctor Who, the threat of sexual violence isn’t very far away, and this time it’s the sound of a copper slapping his wife about behind closed doors that provokes some sustained head-shaking from Sue.
Sue: What’s with all the violence against women in this show? What’s that all about?
Her observation is given more weight during the episode’s conclusion, when Barbara takes a call from a kidnapper who has taken Susan hostage. As the poor girl calmly proclaims that she is about to be killed, we could be watching a gritty crime thriller about a paedophile ring.
Sue: That’s the best episode so far. I could actually believe in most of it. The sets looked real and the society felt vaguely realistic, for a change. But I think the problem lies with the direction. It’s just so flat. There’s some nice depth of field in the courtroom scenes but it feels very slow.top
The Keys of Marinus
As the plot on Millennius meanders towards its inevitable conclusion (Sue guessed whodunnit as soon as the guy offered his hand for the Doctor to shake), Sue’s thoughts turn to what our heroes will do with the keys.
Sue: If they just hand them over to the dictator, I’ll be very disappointed.
Me: He’s already dead! He was stabbed back at the end of episode one!
Sue: Was he? I can’t remember that.
Me: We only saw it five days ago! If this had been the 1960s, it would have been over a month!
Sue: They should do a re-cap at the beginning of every episode.
Me: They already do!
By the time we argue this point into the ground, the action has moved back to where it all began, the Temple in the Sea of Death.
Sue: Who are this lot again?
Me: That’s Yartek, former leader of the glorious Alien Voord.
Sue: Oh yes, the blokes in the wetsuits. Hang on, if they were wearing wetsuits, why haven’t they taken them off?
Me: Maybe they have and that’s what they look like underneath? I don’t know!
Yartek attempts to extract the last key from Ian with a cunning disguise – he puts a cloak over his head and doesn’t look at anyone.
Sue: That isn’t even remotely suspicious. If Ian falls for that, I’ll be extremely angry.
Bizarrely, he does and he doesn’t. Out in the corridor, Ian claims that something was a bit fishy about “Arbitan” (like him possessing the wrong shaped head and a completely different voice, perhaps?) but he still hasn’t completely caught on. And then, two minutes later, just when everything looks like it’s going pear-shaped, he tells everyone how he gave Yartek the wrong key anyway. Sue isn’t buying it for a second.
Sue: What a load of old bollocks.top
The Final Score
Sue: The only really positive thing I can say about this story is that at least it kept things interesting with a different location each week. But the acting was pretty dreadful; Altos was a wimp and Sabetha the Teenage Wench was painfully wooden. In fact, I’m pretty sure that she’s still possessed by the brains-in-the-jar.
And with that, Sue gives The Keys of Marinus a respectable
I’m really worried about the next story. I love The Aztecs to bits – it’s my favourite Hartnell by a mile – and if Sue doesn’t enjoy it, I’ll be crushed.
The experiment continues…top
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