Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus (Story 5)
by All 6 Episodes Written by Terry Nation
Review by Charles Mohapel
BBC Warner DVD ISBN/ITEM#: B002PHVHK8
Date: 20 June 2010 List Price $24.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Wikipedia - Doctor Who 'The Keys of Marinus' / Show Official Info /
Directed by: John Gorrie
Written by: Terry Nation
Cast (Episode Credited cast):
William Hartnell ... Dr. Who
William Russell ... Ian Chesterton
Jacqueline Hill ... Barbara Wright
Carole Ann Ford ... Susan Foreman
George Coulouris ... Arbitan
Robin Phillips ... Altos
Katherine Schofield ... Sabetha (as Katharine Scholfield)
My introduction to Doctor Who came courtesy of the local PBS station which carried the Tom Baker stories and I was thoroughly hooked. Thanks to friends, I was able to watch VHS tapes with his three predecessors - William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee.
Prior to receiving Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus, I had never watched it and for all its cosmetic flaws (courtesy of the BBC's penny pinching ways at the time), it was an entertaining story.
In "The Sets of Marinus" with Designer Raymond Cusick, he talks about how the show's theme was "Beg, Borrow, and Steal". He laments about time and money being in very short supply, and how each episode was shot in a single day. It was his first big job and due to circumstances beyond his control, he is not proud of his work on this story. The assistant head of the design had walked through the department and commented that the sets looked extravagant - this from someone with a background where all 'their' sets were amateurish. He talks of how Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus aired in 405-line black & white and of how it covered a multitude of sins. However when they upgraded the broadcast quality, the corners they cut became very apparent and they had to step up their game.
I found "The Sets of Marinus" to be a somewhat moving piece and I have nothing but respect and sympathy for Raymond Cusick and all his colleagues who worked so hard under such appalling conditions.
The "Photo Gallery" is filled with striking black & white photos, gorgeous colour photos, and black & white drawings of some of the props. When I look at the gorgeous colour photos of the sets and costumes, I can only imagine how frustrated the costume and set designers were at creating beautiful work in colour, yet having it aired in comparatively primitive 405-line black & white television.
I quite enjoyed "Audio Commentary" which was moderated by Clayton Hickman who has designer Raymond Cusick, actor Carole Ann Ford ("Susan"), actor William Russell ("Ian"), and director John Gorrie sitting around and discussing the scenes as each of the episodes play out on screen. Predating Beta and VHS videocassettes, Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus was shot on giant reels of audiotape, effectively making audio and video editing a nightmare. Back then, it was the sets which were lighted, not the actors. Given that this story originally aired in 1964, it's fascinating and entertaining hearing the thoughts of Raymond Cusick, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell, and John Gorrie 45 years later.
Looking over the PDF Materials on DVD-ROM for PC or Mac, it was interesting reading copies of the original Radio Times listings from April and May 1964. I quite like the "Cadet Sweets: Doctor Who and the Daleks" story since we get scans of the entire set of the Cadets Sweets cards featuring a short story where the Daleks and the Voords are fighting each other for the same prize. I can even remember eating the same kind of slim candy cigarettes shown in this featurette, though for the life of me I can't remember the brand name.
Even if you're not a Doctor Who compleatist, grab your opportunity to watch William Hartnell, the original Doctor. I did and enjoyed it.