Following on from historical (and sadly
supposedly missing) epic Marco Polo, this six part adventure was a firm indication that Sydney Newman’s “No bug-eyed monsters” policy had been torn up. From here on, the Doctor and his companions would alternate (approximately) between a historical adventure and a sci-fi adventure, until finally deciding to scrap historicals in Season 4. At this stage however, the producers seemed to have revelled in the prospect of creating as many outlandish scenarios as they could reasonably get away with.
In theory there is one overarching story for The Keys of Marinus – landing on the eponymous planet Marinus, the First Doctor and his companions are coerced into helping retrive five ‘keys’ that will prevent an uprising by the Voord – a rogue and hostile species on the planet. Five keys for five episodes, neatly resolving itself (supposedly) in the sixth – simple concept!
The slight problem is that the producers then attempt to do too much, in too little time, with not enough budget. I will confess that I found the DVD oddly entertaining viewing provided you didn’t take it seriously – not least of which that you have to appreciate the special effects for the level of 1960s quality (or I should say, lack thereof). But the tricky thing is, that while a bold and interesting experiment, The Keys of Marinus suffers from the famous Top Gear malaise of being “ambitious but rubbish.”
I honestly couldn’t tell you what happens for each of the mini adventures, except that one of them is on a mountain, and that at some point a heroic chap in a loincloth insists on rescuing a princess. And I strongly suspect that wouldn’t change with several viewings. It is quite simply, a serial that tries to do too much. Yet for all that, I suspect you will enjoy watching it!