005 – The Keys of Marinus
Doctor Who serial
Keys of Marinus.jpg
The Doctor (William Hartnell) speaks to the judge in the serial's penultimate episode. While Hartnell's performance received praise, critics noted that the introduction of the trial represented a rushed script.
Directed byJohn Gorrie
Written byTerry Nation
Script editorDavid Whitaker
Produced by
Incidental music composerNorman Kay
Production codeE
SeriesSeason 1
Running time6 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast11 April 1964 (1964-04-11)
Last broadcast16 May 1964 (1964-05-16)
← Preceded by
Marco Polo
Followed by →
The Aztecs
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The Keys of Marinus is the fifth serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC TV/BBC1 in six weekly parts from 11 April to 16 May 1964. Written by Terry Nation and directed by John Gorrie, the serial takes on a "mini-adventures" format, in which the First Doctor (William Hartnell), his granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), and her teachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) search for four keys to restore the Conscience of Marinus, a computer which maintains law and order. The group travel to two cities, a jungle, and an icy wasteland in search of the keys.

The Keys of Marinus was written to replace a different script which was deemed problematic. When commissioned to write the script, Nation was intrigued by the idea of the TARDIS crew searching for pieces of a puzzle; he and script editor David Whitaker decided to construct the serial around a series of "mini-adventures", each with a different setting and cast. Incidental music was composed by Norman Kay, while Raymond Cusick, Daphne Dare, and Jill Summers worked as designers. The serial premiered with nine million viewers, maintaining audience figures for several weeks before seeing a significant drop from the fifth episode. Response for the serial was mixed, and it received several print adaptations and home media releases.


The First Doctor (William Hartnell), his granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), and her teachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) arrive on a small island on the planet Marinus where they meet Arbitan (George Coulouris), Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus—a vast computer developed as a justice machine which kept law and order across the entire planet. Arbitan explains that the society of Marinus is in danger, as the Voord, humanoid creatures protected by amphibian-like black rubber wet suits, are seeking to enter the tower to take control of the Conscience. To prevent this, the Conscience requires five keys, and Arbitan coerces the Doctor and his friends to gather them by placing a force field around the TARDIS. As they teleport to the City of Morphoton, Arbitan is stabbed to death by a Voord that has gained access to the tower.

In Morphoton, the crew are impressed by the luxuries of the city; however, Barbara soon realises that they have been hypnotised, and that Morphoton is actually a place of dirt and squalor. The creatures who govern Morphoton order Barbara's death, but Barbara escapes and hides in the city, where she makes contact with the slave girl Sabetha (Katharine Schofield), who has been blamed for Barbara's awakening and sentenced to death. Barbara notices one of the keys around her neck. They escape and destroy the creatures, freeing the subjects of the city. Another slave, Altos (Robin Phillips), remembers that he was also sent by Arbitan, and he and Sabetha join the Doctor and his crew on their quest. While the Doctor continues to the City of Mellennius, the others search in a dangerous screaming jungle. After triggering a trap, Barbara is lost in an ancient temple in the jungle; while Ian remains at the temple to search for the key, Sabetha and Susan continue to the next location.

Ian finds Barbara in the temple, where they discover an aged scientist, Darrius (Edmund Warwick), who reveals the location of the next key before dying; Ian and Barbara retrieve the key and teleport to an icy wasteland. They meet the duplicitous trapper Vasor (Francis de Wolff), who steals their keys. Ian and Altos confront Vasor and force him to take them to the ice caves, where they find Sabetha and Susan with mechanised Ice Soldiers, and discover the next key frozen in a block of ice. As they flee, Vasor takes Susan hostage, but an Ice Soldier kills him and the group escapes. At the next location, Ian is accused of the murder of Eprin (Dougie Dean), a friend of Altos. At Ian's trial, the Doctor returns and postpones the trial while he gathers evidence. Susan is kidnapped as a hostage to persuade the Doctor to stop investigating. The kidnapper has persuaded the judges to find Ian guilty; however, Susan is found bound and gagged, and the plot is uncovered. The Doctor finds the final key, hidden in the murder weapon, and Ian is freed.

The travellers return to Arbitan's island, where Altos and Sabetha have been held prisoner by Yartek (Stephen Dartnell)—Arbitan's killer—and the four keys have been seized. The Doctor frees Altos and Sabetha and unmasks the Voord. Ian gives Yartek a false key found in the screaming jungle; when Yartek places the key in the Conscience, the machine explodes and he is killed along with the occupying Voord. The Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara flee the tower with Altos and Sabetha before the growing blaze overtakes the ancient structure.


Conception and writing

The Keys of Marinus was written to replace a different script, Dr Who and the Hidden Planet by Malcolm Hulke, which was deemed problematic and required rewrites. The production team approached Terry Nation, writer of the second serial The Daleks, to write the serial. Nation had been due to write Doctor Who's eighth serial, The Red Fort, but had focused on other projects in the interim.[2] Due to the quick turnaround required for the script, Nation and script editor David Whitaker decided to base the serial around a series of "mini-adventures", each with a different setting and cast; Nation was intrigued by the idea of the TARDIS crew searching for parts of a puzzle.[3] As the first two episodes were written with mostly interior sets, Nation wanted to tell a story more "out in the open", setting the third episode in a jungle to allow the designer an opportunity for different settings. Whitaker suggested a cold snow-scape setting for the fourth episode to contrast with the hot jungle.[4] Nation used many existing words for location and character names in the story: Marinus originated from the Latin word marinus, meaning "of the sea"; Morphoton is based on Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams; Millennius came from the term millennium, for a thousand years; and Arbitan is based on the Latin word Arbiter, meaning a judge.[5] Producer Verity Lambert selected John Gorrie as the serial's director; even though Gorrie was unhappy with the quality of the scripts, he agreed to direct the serial to advance his career.[6]

Characters and casting

Carole Ann Ford was displeased with the portrayal of Susan in the serial, as she felt that she was written like a child,[7] describing her character as "pathetic".[8] By mid-March 1964, the serial's guest cast had been finalised. Veteran actor George Coulouris was cast in the role of Arbitan; Gorrie immediately thought of Coulouris for the role while reading the script, and was delighted when he accepted the part, describing Coulouris as his "hero".[9] Francis de Wolff was selected to play Vasor, while Donald Pickering played Eyesen. Gorrie cast Henley Thomas as Tarron; the two were old friends who had previously worked together. Robin Phillips, who was also friends with Gorrie, was cast as Altos; Gorrie felt that Phillips' handsome looks fit the role of Altos accurately. Similarly, he wanted the character of Sabetha to resemble a princess, and selected former drama student Katharine Schofield. Gorrie was impressed by the sinister voice of Heron Carvic, casting him as the Voice of Morpho, and the role of Kala was given to Fiona Walker, who had written to Gorrie for a role. For the role of the Voord, among other villains, three young actors, who were friends of Gorrie, were cast: Martin Cort, Peter Stenson, and Gordon Webster.[10]

Music and design

Norman Kay, who had scored the show's first serial, composed the incidental music for The Keys of Marinus. The score, performed by seven musicians, was recorded in Maida Vale Studio on 7 March 1964; several standard instruments were used, including a clarinet, bass clarinet, double bass, guitar, flute, harp, piccolo, trumpet and percussion.[11] Nineteen new sound effects were recorded for the serial by Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, including the sounds of the Conscience of Marinus and the clocks in Millennius.[10] Raymond Cusick, Daphne Dare and Jill Summers were commissioned as the designers for the serial.[11] Dare based the design of the Voord on a rubber wetsuit, while the heads were created using vulcanised rubber by prop builders Jack and John Lovell.[12] The submersible props and the Conscience machine were designed by Shawcraft Models.[13] Cusick used leftover fibreglass to complete the design of the Conscience machine, as the budget was running low.[14] The moving vegetation in the third episode was constructed by Design and Display Ltd. Jablite polystyrene was used to stimulate snow in the third and fourth episodes.[15] The tank-top worn by Susan in the serial was knitted by Ford's mother.[8]


Model filming for The Keys of Marinus commenced in March 1964 at Ealing Studios. For the shots of the wolves in the fourth episode, the BBC purchased 14 feet of film from the 1957 Russian thriller Seryy razboynik (The Grey Robber) from distributor Sovexport. Rehearsals for the first episode took place from 16–19 March,[16] and weekly recording for the serial began on 20 March in Lime Grove Studios.[17] Gorrie found the recording days difficult, due to the complexity of the show and the small size of the studio. William Hartnell was absent from the recording of the third and fourth episodes, as he was on holiday.[7] Ford recalled that the cast could "have a few more giggles" during rehearsals, as Hartnell's tendency to forget lines was time-consuming.[18] The final episode was recorded on 24 April 1964.[16] The first episode was edited on 23 March. While most episodes were edited within three hours in an evening, the second serial required two evenings, on 31 March and 2 April 1964.[19]


Broadcast and ratings

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
Appreciation Index
1"The Sea of Death"23:2011 April 1964 (1964-04-11)9.962
2"The Velvet Web"25:3718 April 1964 (1964-04-18)9.460
3"The Screaming Jungle"23:4525 April 1964 (1964-04-25)9.961
4"The Snows of Terror"24:542 May 1964 (1964-05-02)10.460
5"Sentence of Death"25:039 May 1964 (1964-05-09)7.961
6"The Keys of Marinus"25:1116 May 1964 (1964-05-16)6.963

The first episode was broadcast on BBC TV on 11 April 1964, and was watched by 9.9 million viewers, maintaining the audience from previous weeks. The following episode dropped to 9.4 million viewers, while the third returned to 9.9 million.[20] The third episode became the first Doctor Who episode to be transmitted on BBC1, following its renaming from BBC TV due to the launch of BBC2.[21] The fourth episode was the serial's most watched, with 10.4 million viewers, followed by a significant drop for the fifth and sixth episodes, with 7.9 million and 6.9 million viewers, respectively;[20] from the fifth episode, the show's broadcast time returned to its original slot of 5:15pm. The drop in viewers for the sixth episode was attributed to the absence of Juke Box Jury—the programme that followed Doctor Who—which was replaced by the film Where Coco Lives.[21] The Appreciation Index was an average of 61 for the six episodes, ranging from 60 to 63.[20]

Critical response

The serial received mixed reviews. Bob Leeson of the Daily Worker felt that the fifth episode of the serial was the show's low point, noting that the introduction of a trial scene represented a rushed script.[21] In The Discontinuity Guide (1995), Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping felt that the episodic narrative left little room for each story to develop, and that the show's limited budget was evident.[22] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised Cusick's work with a limited budget, and enjoyed the serial's conclusion.[23] In A Critical History of Doctor Who (1999), John Kenneth Muir lauded the serial's depiction of co-existing—but not strictly interconnected—cultures and the development of their world.[24] In a 2008 review, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times wrote that "standards slip appreciably" after the four preceding serials in terms of "ambitious but slapdash" script quality, as well as the below-par sets and supporting characters.[25]

In 2009, Graham Kibble-White in Doctor Who Magazine derided Susan's character for "devolving into a bit of a shrill", but was generally positive towards the episodic story structure and the timing of Hartnell's holiday. Despite this, he wrote that the final two episodes "never truly engages with the tenets of courtroom drama".[26] Elliot Thorpe of Den of Geek felt that the episodic story structure "works incredibly well" by keeping the momentum and making each episode "fresh".[27] In 2010, DVD Talk's J. Doyle Wallis attributed the serial's weakness to the Doctor's absence, the lack of a main antagonist that would thread the episodes together, the "lacking and disparate" world of Marinus, and the "ramshackle" execution of the concept.[28] Arnold T. Blumberg of IGN described the serial as "a clichéd premise ... handled poorly and with no spark at all apart from Hartnell's late-hour rally". He cited the poor production quality and the "hodge-podge" leaps to various locations on Marinus which were "boring if not inept".[29]

Commercial releases

Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus
Book cover, featuring the TARDIS flying above the planet of Marinus.
AuthorPhilip Hinchcliffe
Cover artistDavid McAllister
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
21 August 1980

A novelisation of this serial, written by Philip Hinchcliffe, was published by Target Books in August 1980, with artwork by David McAllister. The paperback version of the book was also included in The Doctor Who Gift Set in 1986.[30] The serial was released on VHS in March 1999, and on DVD in September 2009; the latter included several special features, including audio commentary and a documentary on the sets featured in the serial.[31] While remastering the serial for the DVD release, it was discovered that the second and fourth episodes had been slightly edited; off-air soundtracks recorded by David Holman were used to restore the cuts.[20] Sound effects from the serial, under the title "Sleeping Machine", were included on Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Collection, originally released on CD in December 2013.[31]


  1. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 123.
  2. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 94.
  3. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 96.
  4. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 97.
  5. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 99.
  6. ^ Ainsworth 2016, pp. 97–98.
  7. ^ a b Ainsworth 2016, p. 108.
  8. ^ a b Cusick, Raymond; Ford, Carole Ann; Gorrie, John; Russell, William (21 September 2009). Audio Commentary for The Keys of Marinus (DVD). The Keys of Marinus DVD: BBC Worldwide.
  9. ^ Ainsworth 2016, pp. 104–105.
  10. ^ a b Ainsworth 2016, p. 105.
  11. ^ a b Ainsworth 2016, p. 98.
  12. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 109.
  13. ^ Ainsworth 2016, pp. 109–110.
  14. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 110.
  15. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 113.
  16. ^ a b Ainsworth 2016, p. 107.
  17. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 115.
  18. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 112.
  19. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 116.
  20. ^ a b c d Ainsworth 2016, p. 120.
  21. ^ a b c Ainsworth 2016, p. 119.
  22. ^ Cornell, Day & Topping 1995, pp. 6–26.
  23. ^ Howe & Walker 1998, pp. 43–44.
  24. ^ Muir 1999, p. 87.
  25. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (4 October 2008). "The Keys of Marinus". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  26. ^ Kibble-White 2009.
  27. ^ Thorpe, Elliot (31 August 2009). "Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus DVD Review". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  28. ^ Wallis, J. Doyle (25 February 2010). "Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus". DVD Talk. Internet Brands. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  29. ^ Blumberg, Arnold T. (19 January 2010). "Doctor Who - The Keys of Marinus DVD Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  30. ^ Ainsworth 2016, p. 121.
  31. ^ a b Ainsworth 2016, p. 122.