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"Why can't you see it? It's all changed!"
―Barbra Wright
The Keys of Marinus
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 1
Story Number: 5
Doctor: First Doctor
Companions: Susan Foreman
Barbara Wright
Ian Chesterton
Enemy: Voords
Setting: Marinus, year unknown
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: John Gorrie
Broadcast: 11th April -
16th May 1964
Format: 6 25-minute Episodes
Previous Story: Marco Polo
Following Story: The Aztecs

The Keys of Marinus was the fifth story of Season 1 of Doctor Who, and was the second story to be written by Terry Nation. A "questing" story, it introduced only the second alien menace to be faced by the Doctor and his companions, the Voords. It was the first story to endure the absence (due to vacation) of one of its leading actors.



The planet Marinus is under threat from the evil Voords. The only hope of stopping them is to recover the keys to a machine known as the Conscience of Marinus, which have been hidden around the planet.

The First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara are forced to search for the keys, transported round the planet by the elderly Arbitan, Keeper of the Conscience. On their travels they face numerous dangers, eventually recovering all the keys. However, Arbitan has been killed by the evil Yartek, leader of the Voords. Ian fools him by giving him a fake key, and the machine explodes, killing Yartek and putting an end to the Voord threat.



The Sea of Death (1)

On the glass beach
On a small island with a glass beach surrounded by an acid sea on the planet Marinus, stands a tower with many secret entrances. Within is Arbitan, Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, a vast computer developed two millennia earlier as a vast justice machine which kept law and order across the entire planet. For seven hundred years it was absolute, radiating its power across the planet and eliminating all thought of evil, but then a Voord named Yartek worked out how to resist its impulses. When the First Doctor and his companions Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton and Susan arrive of the island they are brought into the tower to an audience with Arbitan, who explains that the society of Marinus is in danger. Several submersibles have washed up on the beach outside containing Voord, humanoid creatures protected by black rubber wet suits, which seem amphibian. Inspired by Yartek, the Voord are seeking to enter the tower and take control of the Conscience. Arbitan explains that the Conscience has now been upgraded sufficiently to control the Voord again and needs to be activated, but years earlier he prevented it falling into Voord control by separating the five keys needed to regulate it. The five keys are in different locations - one is in his possession but the other four are scattered over Marinus – and can only be found by following directions pre-set into travel dials which he hands out. The dials have the power to transport the time travellers across the planet to the correct locations, and he asks that the Doctor and his friends help him by gathering the keys together. Others have tried to accomplish this, even Arbitan's own daughter, but none have returned. The Doctor refuses the request but is then denied access to the TARDIS and so forced to set off on the quest. As the four companions' teleport away using the dials, Arbitan is overcome and stabbed to death by a Voord that has gained access to the tower.

The Velvet Web (2)

Barbara confronts the rulers of Morphoton
The first location visited by the travellers is the city of Morphoton. Seemingly advanced and pacifist inhabitants impress the travellers with the luxuries, advances and aesthetics of the city, but all is not as it seems. Barbara is the first to see the truth when she resists a powerful hypnotic pulse and is able to see that the City is really a place of dirt and squalor. It is governed by four brain creatures in large bell jars, with hideous eyes on stalks, which communicate through their life-support machines. The Brains of Morphoton use hypnosis to control the entire city, having outgrown their bodies, and the entire human population of the city is now subjugated to their will. Barbara is imprisoned but there makes contact with a slave girl called Sabetha, whom she deduces is Arbitan’s missing daughter, and who wears one of the Keys about her neck. Barbara helps break her conditioning and together they escape and destroy the jars and equipment protecting the brains. With the life-support ruined, they die, and all the human subjects of the city are freed. Another slave called Altos remembers he too was sent to the city by Arbitan, and he and Sabetha decide to join the Doctor and his friends on their quest. The six now split up, with the Doctor going ahead to find the final key in the city of Millennius, while the others venture to find the second key in the next destination.

The Screaming Jungle (3)

Barbara is captured by Darrius
The next location for the five searchers is a dangerous screaming jungle, which has a particularly debilitating effect on the telepathic Susan. In the jungle is an ancient temple overgrown with plants. Much of the flora is hostile and the travellers are relieved to find the next Key so easily, propped on the top of a statue in the temple. However, this is a fake and, when touched, activates ancient machinery that causes the statues to move. Indeed, the whole temple is a place of danger and traps. When Barbara is caught in the mechanism and disappears, Ian decides she may have gone on to the next location and so sends Altos, Sabetha and Susan after her while he remains to search for the Key. No sooner are they gone than Ian finds Barbara again. Hidden in the temple is an aged and dying scientist, Darrius, whom Ian saves from an attack by a creeper. Very weak, the old man explains the traps of the temple are to fool the Voord, and that he too is a friend of Arbitan. Before dying he tells Ian and Barbara the Key is hidden in "D-E-3-O-2". With the plants becoming more aggressive as the moments pass, mutated by a growth accelerator built by Darrius, the two friends only just manage to retrieve the Key from an experiment jar before the vegetation over-runs the room.

The Snows of Terror (4)

Barbara is left alone with the dangerous Vasor
Ian and Barbara now teleport to an icy wasteland where they meet the duplicitous trapper Vasor, who steals their Keys and sends Ian back into the wastelands where he hopes he will be eaten by packs of wolves. In the wastes Ian finds Altos, bound and abandoned, and works out Vasor is to blame. Ian and Altos return to the trapper’s hut and confront him, forcing the wicked man to reveal the stolen Keys in his possession and to take them to the ice caves where he had earlier abandoned Sabetha and Susan. The two girls have meanwhile searched the icy caves themselves and uncovered mechanised Ice Soldiers. The travellers are soon reunited and find the next Key frozen in a block of ice. Their removal of the Key revives the Ice Soldiers, who begin a vicious rampage. They flee back to the trappers' cottage and retrieve their stolen dials, using them to escape. Vasor is left alone to face the Ice Soldiers.

Sentence of Death (5)

The Doctor defends Ian
When the travellers reach the next location Ian finds himself accused of the murder of Eprin, a friend of Altos, who had discovered the key shortly before his death. The Key has now disappeared and Ian is accused of theft and Eprin’s murder. The punishment will be death if he found guilty before the court of Millennius. By the laws of Millennius, it is up to the defence to prove Ian's innocence beyond reasonable doubt. The other travellers are reunited in advance of Ian’s trial, at which the Doctor takes on the role of defence counsel. He succeeds in postponing the trial for two days while he gathers evidence and uses this time to work out what really happened to Eprin. He works out that the relief guard, Aydan, is implicated in the murder, but Aydan too is murdered during the course of the trial before he can reveal the truth of the plot. Things take a turn for the worse when Susan is kidnapped and used as a hostage to try and persuade the Doctor not to investigate the crimes any further.

The Keys of Marinus (6)

The kidnapper is Kala, Aydan’s widow, who is in league with Eyesen, the Court Prosecutor, who has succeeded in persuading the Three Judges of Millennium to find Ian guilty of Eprin’s murder. Luckily, the others find Susan before Kala can kill her, like she did to her own husband, and the plot is uncovered. Tarron, the Chief Investigator of the City, is now also persuaded of Kala’s guilt but they must still uncover her accomplice to prove Ian did not kill Eprin. The Doctor helps unmask Eyesen and uncover the last Key, which had been hidden in the murder weapon, and Ian is freed.

Yartek obtains the final key
The travellers now return to Arbitan’s island using their travel dials. Altos and Sabetha have travelled ahead with all but the last Key in their possession. They do not know the old Keeper is dead and that Yartek is now in charge, clothed in Arbitan’s robes to maintain the ruse. Yartek has seized the first four Keys and holds Altos and Sabetha prisoner while he awaits the fifth and final one. When the Doctor and his three friends arrive they soon realize that the Voord has taken over control of the tower and the Conscience. The false Arbitan seems to be in control, but the Doctor is cleverer. He frees Sabetha and Altos and then unmasks the Voord. Ian too has played his part, and given Yartek the false key from the Screaming Jungle. When Yartek places the false Key in the Conscience, the machine explodes and he is killed along with the occupying Voord. The Doctor and his friends flee the tower with Altos and Sabetha before the growing blaze overtakes the ancient structure.




  • The Doctor claims to have met Pyrrho, the founder of scepticism.

Story Notes

  • All episodes exist as 16mm telerecordings.
  • Negative film prints of all episodes were recovered from BBC Enterprises in 1978.
  • An Arabic print of "The Sea of Death" is held by the BBC.
  • Terry Nation wrote this story as a replacement to The Red Fort, a story that was to be set during the Indian Mutiny.
  • William Hartnell does not appear in The Screaming Jungle or The Snows of Terror as the actor was on holiday during the filming of these episodes. This was the first time the lead actor had been allowed to be absent in this way; nonetheless, Hartnell receives screen credit for these episodes. His co-stars will also take time off for holiday during production of upcoming stories.
  • This story contains a controversial scene in which it appears that Vasor attempts to rape Barbara.
  • Darrius is never referred to by name but his name appears in the show's credits.
  • Stephen Dartnell was cast as Yartek, the Voord leader. A few weeks later, he appeared in The Sensorites as the troubled astronaut John.
  • Initially it was hoped that the Voords would catch on with young viewers in the same way the Daleks had inspired Dalekmania, with toys, books, and other merchandise. This, however, did not come to pass.
  • This is the first story to feature a model TARDIS materialisation.
  • In episode two, Altos and Sabetha join the Doctor and his companions in their quest. Although they are generally not recognized as such, this technically makes them the earliest examples of "one-off companions" along the lines of Adelaide Brooke and Christina de Souza and even, depending on one's view, Sara Kingdom.
  • Smalls parts of the original film negative for this story were damaged. For the 2009 DVD release, computer imagery was used to restore these small scenes. An example of this is in episode two when Barbara sees Altos in the "real world" for the first time; according to the DVD information text commentary, the first few seconds of the scene had to be recreated via computers to bypass the damaged part of the negative. Episode 4 used an off-air soundtrack recording and a short piece of recycled footage to recreate a short piece of dialogue lost from the master negative.
  • Between episodes 2 and 3, the BBC launched BBC Two, a second network. Episode 3, therefore, was the first episode to be aired under the branding BBC One.
  • The basic format of the story - six separate storylines connected by a quest to retrieve a series of items, was later reused for the season-long Key to Time story arc of Season 16.
  • In episode 5, the Doctor is heard to stumble over the phrase "I can't prove at this very moment", saying initially "I can't improve at this very moment." Although William Hartnell was notorious for stumbling over dialogue (which, due to time and budget restrictions preventing retakes was often left in the broadcasts), this isn't one of those occasions. According to the DVD trivia track, for some reason Terry Nation wrote this stumble into the script, which Hartnell delivered accurately.
  • This story could be considered Doctor Who's first-ever flop. While the first four episodes averaged between 9.4 and 10.4 million viewers, viewership collapsed for the last two episodes, dropping from 10.4 million to a mere 6.9 million viewers for the finale. The following story, The Aztecs, remained in the 7-8 million range.


  • The Sea of Death - 9.9 million viewers
  • The Velvet Web - 9.4 million viewers
  • The Screaming Jungle - 9.9 million viewers
  • The Snows of Terror - 10.4 million viewers
  • Sentence of Death - 7.9 million viewers
  • The Keys of Marinus - 6.9 million viewers


  • Yartek's race is known as the Voord. (Although they are referred to as the Voord in some of the dialogue, the term most often used is Voords and this is the name that appears in the closing credits).

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Given that the keys were deliberately hidden, how can it be that Arbitan doesn't know where they are? He probably ordered them hidden, their location kept a secret from him, so he couldn't be interrogated about them.
  • The radiation counter is on the opposite side of the console to its location in The Daleks (However the TARDIS does seem to move controls around, adding new ones and taking others away).
  • A studio technicians foot can be seen as the Doctor enters the pyramid.
  • It is clear that the Voord falling to his death is a cardboard cut-out.
  • In episode 1, who stabs the Voord who is lying in wait for Susan in the pyramid?
  • Wasn't it rather callous of Arbitan to arrange for the soldiers to give up their lives and be frozen solid in the ice, just in case someone came to steal the key?
  • In episode 5, why does Ian arrive in a different place to the others (i.e, the room with the final key in its display case), given that they were standing together when they left their last location?
  • While walking around the TARDIS force field, Susan can be seen walking in front of Ian and into the barrier with no ill effects.
  • In Episode 6, does Ian not notice that "Arbitan"'s head is about twice as big as last time they met?
  • Despite arriving in Morphoton only seconds before the others Barbara is able to change clothes, meet the city leader, learn the cities history and be generally treated as an honoured guest. Given that the Morpho Brains have telepathic powers, it is entirely possible that information has been "planted" in Barbara's mind about the city and its leader. And it doesn't take that long to change clothes...
  • In episode 2 while Susan is sleeping a camera can be seen casting a shadow on her.
  • How did Arbitan get a force field round the TARDIS? The force field is only in the time travelers' heads. Using the power of the Conscience and his one remaining key, over a short distance, Arbitan is capable of creating the crude illusion of a force field within their minds. This explains the otherwise puzzling fact of how we, the audience, are able to observe Susan walking in front of where Ian clearly believes the boundary of the barrier to be - i.e. they are both hallucinating it to be in different positions and are oblivious to the inconsistency they generate between them.
  • In episode 6 the Voord escorting Sabetha trips over his own feet and nearly pulls a sliding door off its track.
  • In episode 4, when Ian goes to cross the rope bridge, his weight causes the cardboard wall the bridge is attached to to noticeably pull away from the side of the set and nearly fall down.


  • While in the screaming jungle Susan comments that she has heard the noise before. This was most likely during her visit to the planet Esto which is inhabited by telepathic plants that screech when anyone stands between them and disrupts their communication. (DW: The Sensorites)
  • Ian wears the costume he wore in DW: Marco Polo throughout this story.
  • It is revealed in NA: No Future that the Monk was once an advisor to the Voords.
  • A future for the Voord is explored in DWM: The World Shapers.
  • The planet Marinus, and specifically the Voord, are mentioned EDA: Interference - Book Two


DVD, Video and Other Releases

  • DVD Release - The DVD was released on 21st September 2009 in the UK, with North American release occurring in January 2010. As the first three stories are only available at present in the The Beginning box set, and Marco Polo remains a lost story, The Keys of Marinus stands as the earliest Doctor Who story currently available on its own.
    • Bonus features: The Sets of Marinus featurette, audio commentary, PDF content including Radio Times listings and an archive of a series of sweet cigarette cards depicting another Doctor Who adventure involving the Voord.
  • Video Release - Released as Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus
UK Release: March 1999 / US Release: July 1999
PAL - BBC Video BBCV6671 (2 tapes)
NTSC - CBS/FOX Video 14263 (2 tapes)
NTSC - Warner Video E1383 (2 tapes)


Main article: Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus

This story was published as Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus in August 1980, ISBN 0-426-20125-6 . Philip Hinchcliffe wrote the novelisation based on Terry Nation's script. The cover art was by David McAllister. The novel was number 38 in the total series of 156 Doctor Who novels published by Target Books.

See also

to be added

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide for The Keys of Marinus with video clips
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Keys of Marinus
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) entry for The Keys of Marinus
  • Encyclopaedia of Fantastic Film and Television
Season 1
An Unearthly Child  • The Daleks  • The Edge of Destruction  • Marco Polo  • The Keys of Marinus  • The Aztecs  • The Sensorites  • The Reign of Terror
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The_Keys_of_Marinus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the TARDIS Index File, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).

This article uses material from the "The Keys of Marinus" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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