Wednesday, March 20, 2013

After Every High, a Low?

The Keys of Marinus

First Doctor - Fifth Serial

6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Susan, as before.

Summary: The TARDIS materializes on a world of glass beaches and acid seas, only to become prisoners of a strange white monk and a tribe of black alien attackers known as the Voord.  They learn from the monk, Arbitan, that this world was once ruled by a machine that thought for them.  The Voord sought only to take the machine for themselves.  They turned off the machine and split up the micorocircuits that controlled it - known know as the Keys of Marinus.  The Voord could only be stopped with the five keys - complex microcircuits, actually - and the device could be powered on again, this time to control the Voord themselves. Arbitan throws up a force barrier around the TARDIS, and thus the long journey to recover the Keys of Marinus begins.  Along the way, they visit a planet where everything is an illusion, a planet where a crazed biologist monk has made the plants homicidal, a frozen wasteland guarded by an insane trapper, a museum holding the key (with an interesting mystery story there).

The Doctor: At the opening, the Doctor shows a remarkable scientific curiosity and companionship with Ian, both recent developments, personality-wise.  He shows some unusual prescience and understanding.  Of course, he's gone for half this serial, so who can judge?  His role in defense of Ian in Sentence of Death was commendable, and he gained some likability by being clever there.  Considering that I'm only just warming to him, this is a good thing at this point.

Companions: Again, Barbara is the first one to come up with reasonable solutions.  She continues to be the sensible voice behind Ian (who is still kind of the lead actor, here).  I really like her character, and wish she'd gotten some better writers, although she does come up the hero of the Serial in the end, saving Ian and Susan.  At no point here did Susan's involvement bring anything to the serial at all.  She could have not been present and it would have worked fine without her - just have Barbara rebuild the rope bridge, and have Arbitan's daughter play the victim.  Susan, although present, was about as influential on the story as the Doctor was.  I really hope to see a good Susan bit soon, I want to like Susan, she started out really neat, but just hasn't been written well yet.

Continuity: Arbitan has machines that travel in space the way a TARDIS travels, by materializing and de-materializing.  Nice to see other races getting advanced tech.  Fantastic continuity and editing work switching from illusion to reality in Velvet Web (Episode 2).  But as for advancing the overall Whoniverse, there's not much here.  That's not a crime, but it is if the Serial just doesn't live up to the standards of the show, there needs to be something else to latch on to, and this doesn't do it.

There's nothing suspicious here at all!
Rating: Skip it.  Velvet Web was fun but I think it was the best episode of 6. Watch that one if you want and don't worry about the plot holes caused by not seeing the other 5.  Screaming Jungle was pretty much just Screaming Companions.  Barbara is trying to be strong in Snows of Terror, but just continues to be a victim.  I blame Terry Nation.  Sentence of Death is a decent change of pace, as the whole story is an Ian "locked room murder" mystery.  You could do worse than to go ahead and watch that one, too.

I also wondered why the original people of Marinus turned off the machine to keep the Voord from getting it, but the answer to keeping the Voord from getting the machine is to turn it back on.  I don't want to be the guy who spends all day ranting about gaping plot holes, but this one is a huge problem for this entire serial.  This so far is the weak point of the season, and it's a damn shame that all of Marco Polo is lost and none of this one was...