The Keys of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus

The Velvet Web

This is actually the best episode of the story and a genuine pleasure to watch, even though it starts with the old-timey cliffhanger resolution of it being nothing. At the conclusion of yesterday’s episode, Barbara had used her teleporter first, and when the rest of the crew caught up they found the bracelet with blood on it and no Barbara. My god! She’s been abducted by rampaging, genocidal, mutant war– oh, nope, she freaked out during the teleportation and cut herself trying to rip it off. She also didn’t put it back on. Apparently, the teleporting isn’t exactly instant and there’s a terrifying plummeting through negative space as well as some kind of temporal effect. When they find Barbara, she’s wandered into a paradise where gaunt British theatre scarecrows give you everything you could ever want.

It’s a fairly cliche tale, a beautiful, perfect society whose citizens live in absolute luxury except it’s all an illusion presented by HYPNO BRAINS. Yes, HYPNO BRAINS. With eyes on stalks and everything. Ian and Barbara have a nice chat, Ian reveals his suspicions about the “everything is lovely always forever, stay here, we’ll prove it” culture, and The Doctor’s wishing for a fully stocked laboratory develops his early character nicely. But of course, it’s all HYPNO BRAINS fooling people into seeing their oppressive society as a paradise.


Everyone is susceptible to the hypnotic suggestion of the Brian Blessed relief except Barbara for absolutely no reason. There’s some solid direction here, with Barbara looking like a lunatic as she tries to convince everyone else that what they are seeing is a lie. The shots from her point of view are very effective in conveying a sense of isolation and paranoia, culminating in the sinister approach of the gaunt theatre scarecrow, which the BBC seems to always have a small collection of. I don’t know what is with these guys but they always look like they’re battling HIV even when they’re not. His name is Altos but I’ve been calling him Gaunto the Positive.

Let the accusatory gazes of your friends melt your anxiety away

Barbara can’t be hypnotised so they send her to be killed. She finds out that the girl they chuck out with her and the gaunt creature are actually people Arbitan had earlier sent on the Key quest. Fucking noobs fucked up at stage 1. Can’t even beat the HYPNO BRAINS, Christ, get good.

You woke daddy

The rest of the episode has that weird mindless flow to it that was prominent in Nation’s other episode and I’m guessing that’s going to be a feature of his writing. Basically, nothing anyone plans or tries to get to happen works, and everything just sorta works out in spite of this. Barbara tries to help the girl, Sabetha (who has this stage’s key as a necklace), break her conditioning and fails. The HYPNO BRAINS, called the Morpho in the script, send Arbitan’s other failure, Altos, to kill her. He fails when Barbara breaks a pot over his head. Barbara sneaks back into the city to try to free the others and is caught by Zombie-Ian, who takes her to the HYPNO BRAINS’ control room. The rest of this scene is magic.

The HYPNO BRAINS chant, “kill her” in an honestly unnerving monotone which causes Zombie-Ian to begin choking Barbara. Now, in any modern episode, what do you think would happen? Barbara would gaze into Ian’s eyes and Ian’s emotions would save the day. Then leftover good-guy radiation would kill the brains for zero fucking reason and something, something hope. Hooray!

EAT SHIT. This is your Grandaddy’s Doctor Who. Ian doesn’t realise a fucking thing, he just mindlessly chokes Barbara until his thumb digs into a nice patch of Hard Bitch that Barbara had been saving up. She breaks Ian’s zombie choke, in an actually feasible way, grabs a bit of nearby sci-fi set dressing, and then proceeds to smash the shit out of the HYPNO BRAINS while they scream in a really horrific manner. It’s fucking great. No Creative Writing Class bullshit about callbacks, character arcs, Chekhov’s gun or any crap, just a woman beating up brain monsters with a bit of metal. If you’ve ever watched a show and been annoyed when people don’t just squash the monster thing when they have a chance, Barbara is your girl.

I like lit school bullshit as much as the next Arts student, but hot-fuck it is a goddamn relief to see something end in a way you’d want it to. No magic button, no fixing anything with cuddles, just Barbara, some metal, and a fresh cup of sick of today’s bullshit. As the brains die screaming, which should be the name of a band, their society crumbles. The Doctor doesn’t give a speech about how the people are fine now their Matrix is switched off, he just lets a society who have just realized they live in a toilet tear itself apart because they have the key they came for. They decide to split up here, with The Doctor taking a holiday or something while the rest do the hard work because watching people rip themselves to shreds really takes it out of him.

This episode is fucking rad, here are some screaming brains. I hope the next episode is as good!

One Reply to “The Keys of Marinus”

  1. Y’know, I’m really craving some crappy old Doctor Who now. Maybe I’ll settle for some b-movies from the same time. Very well written as always, Gabe!

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