Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus  (Part 2 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

So, next up on our list is our next part of our quest. In case you missed last week’s here’s the rundown. The Doctor and his crew have been asked by Arbitan or rather, blackmailed, to track down the Keys of Marinus. These keys are scattered across the planet Marinus and they are using travel dials that have been set to plan their journey across the planet to find them. They found the first key of the four that they need to get to activate the super computer to prevent the invasion of the Voord, a creepy alien race, so now the team have gone on during their next adventure…The Screaming Jungle.

Susan’s disturbed by the screaming jungle…

Susan, Barbara and Ian have arrived at their second location with two friends they’ve picked up along the way, Sebetha, Arbitan’s daughter and his assistant Atlos, but Susan is already freaking out the moment they arrive. She can hear something that everyone else can’t in this jungle in it’s simply freaking her out. After some consoling, Barbara and Susan have a moment where she tries to learn what she heard but Susan can’t place it only that the noise was horrible and terrifying. We also learn that Susan rushed off ahead because she can’t bare goodbyes because the Doctor was going ahead on his own to get the last key, (It’s really no surprise as this seems to be a ongoing family trait as we learn in later years) and was concerned to know if the Doctor was alright when she disappeared, and Barbara assured her he seemed find.

What’s really interesting to me about this serial is this is also the first time that we’ve seen the companions act on their own for an entire episode without the Doctor, and actually, as Classic Who proves time and time again, they are more than capable on their own. This moment also shows these two lovely women conversing in a manner they couldn’t with the Doctor around where Barbara is wishing that Ian wasn’t so protective, but also understand it in a nice piece of dialogue and a smug smile from Susan at the end:

BARBARA: I do wish Ian wouldn’t treat us like Dresden china.
SUSAN: I think it’s nice the way he looks after us all the time.
BARBARA: Yes, I know, but just once in awhile…
SUSAN: You rebel.

Whilst in this horrific jungle, Barbara finds the micro key they’re looking for, but alas, it’s obviously a trap and she gets stolen behind a revolving wall. The best part about this action is that even in danger, screaming as the wall takes her away, Barbara still throws them back the micro key she found. Good ole’ Barbara Wright doesn’t miss a trick as usual and obviously Ian is so determined to get her, that Ian stays in this place to help rescue her whilst Susan, Altos and Sebetha go on to the third location. It’s not until after Altos and Susan have gone are the group aware that Barbara’s find is actually a fake…but Sebetha goes on ahead to help the others, which gives us fourteen minutes of material of just Ian and Barbara working things out for themselves in a land of booby traps, (queueing my thinking about The Goonies whenever that word is mentioned.)

After almost being murdered by one of these booby trap, whilst Ian is locked in a cell, Barbara is saved by the traps creator Darrius, who trying to find out why she wants the mirco key. Again, I’m thrown back to my childhood Sundays of watching The Last Crusade on repeat as the Knight asks Indy why he seeks the Holy Grail, except imagine Indy wrapped in a net trying to explain himself…

DARRIUS: Who are you? What interest have you in the keys?
BARBARA: Look, I can’t talk to you like this. Let me go.
DARRIUS: Are you a Voord? You do not resemble their race and yet
BARBARA: Arbitan sent us.
DARRIUS: That is a lie.

Whilst Barbara explains Arbitan sent them, the old man is strangled by one of the jungle’s creepers and he dies before he can truly explain himself or the whereabouts of the micro key, leaving just a few words about whispering and darkness and a strange set of letters. This leaves Ian and Barbara having to manage on their own, becoming a little detective team. The chemistry between the characters is wonderful to watch as always, Barbara chiding Ian about getting excited about the man’s scientific experiments, which Ian tends to shut down Barbara’s outside the box thinking because of his own scientific logic. Despite their differences in approach It’s really fun to watch how these two work out a problem, and finally they’re able to find the key under pressure as the jungle tries to kill them when they understand that the code was actually the name of a chemical and not a code at all. 

Though I might add on the rewatch, the whispering jungle, which then tries to kill them does sound like a terrifying version of the TARDIS take off.

So, micro key in hand they finally turn their travel dials to the next location, but they’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire…Well, when I say fire, I mean ice. Welcome to Episode four, The Snows of Terror.

Out of the frying pan, into the freezer

Ian and Barbara enter a new sub zero freezing temperature, where it’s so cold they are basically freezing to death, laying together on the ground, Ian begging Barbara not to fall asleep, reaching out his hand. Alas, they both collapse to the ground, and would be dead if not for the stranger that arrives to save them.

Barbara wakes up to Vasor, their creepy savior, who rubs her hands to help make sure she recovers from her temporary frostbite, and he really is creepy, and even if Barbara isn’t frightened I certainly would be but when a jungle and radiative monsters have tried to kill you, you can either be afraid of everything or feel prepared to fight everyone, and I personally believe Barbara is the latter.

VASOR: Your friend is here. He still sleeps. Your hand is slightly frostbitten. Put it in mine. We must help your friend like this too. Rub the hand slowly, like this. Yes? Understand? Are you afraid of me?
BARBARA: No.
VASOR: Last year I broke the back of a wolf with my bare hands. I’m Vasar. Most men fear me, so I have few visitors. There, see? The blood is beginning to return.

Ian wakes, and they learn that Altos was looking for Susan and Sebetha and worried Ian decides he should go out and look for him and help find the girls, whilst Barbara stay with their creepy savior. Something I as an audience member is against from the get go. Sure enough, my instincts were right because Vasor has some of Sebetha’s micro key necklace and their time travel dials in his draw, whilst Ian finds Altos left for dead in the snow, and blames Vasor for it. The two men rush back to save Barbara just in the nick of time, outnumbering the trapper 3-1 and demand he help them find Susan and Sebetha, whom he reports are in a cave that he abandoned them in so he could steal their things. Vasor is made to lead them to the cave, but the tough hunter tells them all that he is afraid of the cave because of demons…and nevertheless, Ian wont let him get off the hook that easily.

Despite the fact they are on their own, Susan and Sebetha appear to be doing well for themselves, even though their fire has run out They decide to try and leave the cave but realise they’re lost and decide to just keep travelling deeper into the mountain. Sebetha is a good influence on Susan as they look around, and finally are reunited with the rest of their party as they all get across a rope bridge, which then Vasor breaks and runs away so they can’t leave.

Ian is annoyed with himself that he didn’t keep an eye on the trapper, but once again Barbara is level headed and suggests they’ll find a way out, even to Ian’s frustration knowing she’s right. There’s something about Barbara that makes her a good center for the group as even when confronted with possible danger, she questions everything and everyone with a good authoritative voice and she’s a wonderful sounding board for everyone, and still creating what I believe is the archetype companion we know to date.

Barbara, Susan and Sebetha meet the Ice Knights.

They meet the frozen knights, standing in the caves, the demons that Vasor probably heard of guarding the key they require which trapped in a block of ice, and so they must find a way to get it. Using the piping in the cave from a volcanic sprint (guess who found the piping, the wonderful Miss Wright, of course) they are able to melt the ice but in doing so defrost the ice knights too. Luckily, Ian and Altos have made a bridge of tree trunks to cross the chasm that Vasor had left from stranded across but it’s not that stable and there needs to be time for it to freeze so it’s easier for them all to cross…but time is now against them with enemies on their tail!

So now it’s Susan’s turn to shine now (all my children have done so well this serial!), bravely crossing the tree trunks on her own to attach the bridge, whilst Ian stops the de-iced knights by getting them stuck behind blocking the exit of ice bravely. It doesn’t stop the soldiers for long, but it’s long enough for Susan to repair the bridge and for everyone to get across safely.

They return to Vasor, to retrieve their things, and use the travel dial to escape, leaving the horrified Vasor to deal with the ice soldiers who he always saw as demons, which rightly so gets him killed.

They twist their travel dials, to move forward to their last location and retrieve their last key, and to finally meet up with the Doctor, but Ian’s travel dial lands him into a world of trouble, another frying pan moment, as he finds a dead body and knocked out next to it, with someone framing him for the crime in the process.

What will happen next week? Will the Doctor be of any help? How will Ian explain hismelf out of this one? Next week we’ll be looking at the final two episodes of this serial: The Sentence of Death and The Keys of Marinus.

But as I try to do every week, it’s not over yet. Here’s my doodle of Ian in his Marco Polo gear which he is also wearing throughout this serial too: 

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