Today, down a member, the Daleks Aren’t Robots!? team looks at “The Keys of Marinus,” a much-maligned Doctor Who serial. Is it truly as bad as some say? What do all the weird references to fascism mean? And what’s with the brain slugs?
Daleks Aren’t Robots!? is a podcast in which two Whovian friends take two non-Whovians on a deep dive through the show from the very beginning.
Theme: Garage – Monplaisir
Podcast Contents Include
Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though. – Kari
The TARDIS and crew visit a planet with acid oceans, and they find a monk named Arbitan being attacked by a bunch of goons called Voords who are all wearing wetsuits with handles on the head. Arbitan tells the team he has a machine that can brainwash everyone on the planet into making moral decisions but he hid the keys so the Voords couldn’t use it for evil. He asks them to get the keys back, so they go get them: one from a location where brain slugs have taken over, one from a jungle, one from a frozen cave, one from a city where Ian is framed for murder. They get the keys back but Arbitan was killed by Voords while they were gone, so they blow it up and leave.
- The settings are really the stars in this one and there are MULTIPLE ones.
- I love how foreign the world is this time–the glass sand, the deadly acid sea. Never try to go swimming in unfamiliar water, folks!
- For a while people kept getting sucked into the building, and I started wondering if it was an oversized gazebo or some other carnivorous masonry monster.
- The TARDIS has an invisible force field barrier around it, which turns the cast into mimes and it’s hilarious.
- The team is fitted with teleportation watches to zip them around the planet to where each key is, and the plot utilizes them to pretty good effect I think. Although they split the party again.
- Each of the settings for the keys is nicely themed. The first is Morpit, which seems to be a luxurious Greco-Roman world but only because giant slugs make everyone think it’s that way by putting stickers on their foreheads. It’s actually a run-down, shabby, nasty place, but Barbara escapes, smashes up the evil brain slugs (which are ADORABLE) and rescues both Altos, Arbitan’s associate, and Sabeetha, Arbitan’s daughter, from the brain slugs. The group splits up because OF COURSE.
- The next key location is a jungle filled with human-strangling plants, and it’s through a hidden temple full of boobytraps. They get a fake key here, puzzle out the location of the real one, and escape.
- The third place is a snowfield, a scary trapper’s hut, and then an ice cave. They escape from the trapper, who tries to murder them by giving them raw meat so the wolves will attack them, and then tries again by pulling down a bridge across a cave chasm. The group solves the puzzle, retrieves the key and steals their stuff back from the murderous trapper.
- The last place is a city, and we see what looks like a jewelry store. Ian immediately gets hit on the head, yay, and framed for murder, boo, forcing the Doctor to defend him in court, and the group to find the key, which was stolen from the jewelry store by the real murderer.
ARBITAN, THE VOORDS & OTHER GUESTS
- We need to talk about Arbitan. He ran a machine that made moral decisions for everyone on Marinus and mind-controlled them. NO ONE IN THE GROUP POINTS OUT THAT THIS IS HORRIFYING until the very end, and then it’s still mostly an afterthought! The doctor tells Sabeetha, Arbitan’s daughter: “I don’t believe that man was made to be controlled by machines. Machines can make laws, but they cannot preserve justice. Only human beings can do that. Now I only hope that you’ll carry on his good work, please.”
- The Voords wear wetsuits with big rubber handles sticking out of the head, which was hilarious. But. One of the Voords’ wetsuits had a tear in it, and they were completely dissolved by acid, leaving only the wetsuit behind in his tiny coffin-submarine. That is kinda hardcore for a children’s show!
- There are several minor characters who get their own subplots. Arbitan’s daughter, Sabeetha, and Altos, Arbitan’s former associate, help find the keys and end up as a couple and it’s cute.
- There’s a violent, scary mountain man named Vasor who tries to sexually assault Barbara. He says a lot of scary, unsettling things.
- And there’s a whole courtroom of people in the trial episode–they don’t get much time but they all have at least a little personality. I thought they did a nice job considering the number of NPCs in this episode.
- I would say there’s not really a ton of character-building for the Doctor and his team in these episodes, because by this point we know who these people are.
- Susan freaks out about the homicidal vines, and Barbara doesn’t believe her, even though Susan is always right.
- The Doctor gets to play lawyer, which is fun. He’s surprisingly good at it.
- Ian stays cool under pressure, even as he’s about to be executed.
- The TARDIS miniature is freaking adorable! Did they save any of the miniatures from the early show, or are they all lost like the Marco Polo ep?
- This time the TARDIS is working but the color TV is broken.
- Costuming for the Voords was hilarious. A wetsuit with a big rubber handle coming straight off the head-cover? What prompted that?
- A lot of elements from this episode were reused from previous episodes, which you said was to save money. I recognized a hallway and some other stuff, but was there anything prominent I missed?
- There’s an attempted sexual assault in this, from Vasor, who is a bad guy, and also you hear another bad guy hit his wife, who later also turns out to be a bad guy. Did anyone complain?