Planet of Giants

We have been reduced roughly to the size of an inch!

The First Doctor


A fault with the TARDIS means that the doors open just before it materialises, and when the Doctor and his companions emerge, they find that they have been shrunk to about an inch tall. In this state, they stumble across the plot of a businessman, Forester, to launch a new pesticide, DN6 which would effectively wipe out all insect life.


I am intrigued as to why the production team were so preoccupied with the idea of shrinking the TARDIS and its crew during the early days of the programme, when they plainly did not have either the means or the plot to achieve it satisfactorily. I like stories that feature playing with scale, for instance, I really enjoy the Ant-Man films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this story didn’t really work for me.

There are two parts of the production that I would like to praise. The first is the set design, which, despite limitations, is broadly very good. I particularly like the dead insects and attention to detail with props like the matchbox and the sink helps the audience believe that the main cast have been reduced in size. There was obviously not enough budget to play with scale in the way that more recent movies are able to do, however, their efforts need to be commended. The other strong element is the main cast of Hartnell, Russell, Ford and Hill, who all put in good performances. Hartnell’s Doctor has come some way towards a softer and more sympathetic character, who is capable of apologising for his bad temper and shows some fondness for Barbara. Jacqueline Hill stands out as she does get poisoned by the DN6, and her concern for getting back to the ship whilst hiding her illness from the other three is particularly believable. These two elements help a rather lacklustre story from ranking even lower.

Ultimately, the story is not very engaging and I can see why there were doubts at the time it was made and why it was cut down from four parts to three. Ultimately, it feels that the production team had bitten off more than they could chew with this story and the technology simply did not exist to bring the story to the screen effectively. Whilst it is to be commended that they believed that they could do it all practically, it is particularly telling that most of the normal size things the shrunken TARDIS team interact with are all props rather than alive animals and people. The moment this is most obvious is when The Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan stand in front of Farrow’s dead body, where the body is clearly a static and blown up image of Frank Crawshaw. It also feels like the shrinking story line and the pesticide thread are equally underdeveloped, which might be down to the story being edited down in post-production, but even at three parts, there are moments that really drag, for instance, the sequences where the crew attempt to put corks under the receiver of the telephone in Crisis. The story also has a common problem of having a rushed climax

It doesn’t help that the small guest cast aren’t great. Farrow is hardly in the story, but Alan Tilvern and Reginald Barrett seem very ill suited to their roles in the story, not helped by a poor script and moments like Forester taking out a gun and then putting it away after the story has already shown the audience him murdering Farrow. Smithers seems to have varying knowledge of how the pesticide he has created affects wildlife other than pests at moments, but both he and Forester are quite two dimensional. Rosemary Johnson and Fred Ferris as Hilda and Bert seem to have wandered in from some other programme entirely as the operator and the policeman.

Verdict: A story with ideas beyond its means, Planet of Giants is largely let down by a lacklustre story and wooden performances from the guest cast. 3/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Alan Tilvern (Forester), Frank Crawshaw (Farrow), Reginald Barrett (Smithers), Rosemary Johnson (Hilda Rowse) & Fred Ferris (Bert Rowse).

Writer: Louis Marks

Directors: Mervyn Pinfield & Douglas Camfield

Parts: 3 (Planet of Giants, Dangerous Journey & Crisis)

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles for this story were Miniscule Story and The Miniscules.
  • The idea of the Doctor and his companions being shrunk had been around for some time and had been considered for the first episode of the show, although this concept was the only one that was carried over from C.E Webber’s original idea. The idea of a shrunken TARDIS crew was then passed on to writer Robert Gould, but he seems to have given up on the idea and script editor David Whitaker released Gould from the commission and passed the idea to Louis Marks.
  • Even when the story was produced, the Head of Serials at the BBC, Donald Wilson, was not keen and did not believe that the story was strong enough to open the second season. He would have preferred The Dalek Invasion of Earth to open the season instead, however, this was not feasible due to the departure of Carol Ann Ford at the end of that story. He insisted on the story being shortened to three parts, necessitating footage from Part 3 and Part 4 to be merged, with the cut footage not retained.
  • Mervyn Pinfield was unable to direct Episode 4, so Douglas Camfield directed Part 4. As the two episodes were merged, Camfield was credited as director of Part 3.
  • First credited contributions of Louis Marks, Dudley Simpson and Douglas Camfield.
  • First story to be set on contemporary Earth since An Unearthly Child.
  • The first story to feature a miniaturised TARDIS. The TARDIS would go on to be miniaturised in Logopolis and Flatline, whilst the Monk’s TARDIS would be in The Time Meddler.

Best Moment

A difficult one to pick as I didn’t really enjoy this story. However, I did like the idea of the cat, even if it is obvious that the cat and the cast aren’t present at the same time.

Best Quote

Do you know why I’m a success, Mr Farrow? Because I’ve never allowed the word “can’t” to exist.


Previous First Doctor Review: The Reign of Terror

Other reviews mentioned:

An Unearthly Child

Other works mentioned


Ant-Man & The Wasp

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror

Death, always death!  Do you think I want this carnage?



In an attempt to get Ian and Barbara back to 1963, the TARDIS arrives in the outskirts of Paris in 1794, one of the bloodiest years of the French Revolution.  The TARDIS team rapidly get caught up in the actions of James Stirling, an English spy working within the Conciergie Prison.


As someone who spent every holiday in France until the age of 16, French history has always been of interest to me, to the point that when I went to University, I chose to study modules about the Hundred Year’s War and the French Revolution.  When I heard that the first-ever season of Doctor Who closed with a story set in the Reign of Terror, which is one of the bloodiest and grimmest times in French history, I was surprised and intrigued.  I am pleased to say that I did enjoy this story, albeit with some reservations, and think that it closes the first season off really nicely.

The Reign of Terror - house

Despite being broadly positive towards it, I do have some issues.  The majority of the guest performances are really good, however, James Cairncross as Lemaitre or the spy James Stirling seems really wooden and there doesn’t really seem to be much difference between Stirling and the Revolutionary he is supposed to be undercover as.  It’s probably for the best that he gets largely sidelined in the last part.  The story is also quite repetitive in places, with the companions seemingly walking in and out of the revolving door at the Conciergie Prison, with Susan spending most of the story here.  The story does try to explain this by saying that Stirling is in control of the movements of the companions but it isn’t really that convincing.  There are liberties taken with history which does not bother me too much but the meeting between Barras and Napoleon to discuss the removal of Robespierre seems like a conscious effort to crowbar him into the narrative in some way as a familiar figure for viewers to cling to.  This story also gets criticised for simplifying the period and making it almost black and white in its depiction of Royalists and Revolutionaries, which I understand to a certain extent.  In a show like Doctor Who, it is difficult to portray moral grey areas which existed on both sides, and whilst on the surface the Aristocrats are portrayed as being uniformly good and the Revolutionaries are evil, the story does go to measures to point out that Jules is not an Aristocrat.

Reign of Terror - Lemaitre, Barbara and Ian

As stated above, the majority of the performances are strong here, and this is a strong story for William Hartnell.  We see that he has softened since the beginning of the season, although he is still capable of moments of great anger, such as his heated discussion with Ian and Barbara at the beginning of the story.  He is also still prone to fits of violence, as he knocks out the supervisor of the road workers, which is something it is difficult to think of the Doctor doing today.  Of the guest cast, Keith Anderson as Robespierre and Tony Wall as Napoleon are probably the stand-outs, despite how unnecessary Bonaparte’s inclusion is for the story.  The companions are good here too, with Susan not too shrill this time and another strong outing for Barbara and Ian.

You can’t influence or change history.  I learnt that with the Aztecs.

The events will happen, just as they are written.  I’m afraid so, and we cannot stem the tide.  But at least we can stop being carried away with the flood!

Barbara Wright and the First Doctor

Dennis Spooner’s story is obviously well researched and he makes the wise decision to inject some humour with the character of the jailer and the team of workers on the road that the Doctor encounters on his way to Paris.  I also like the fact that we never seen the guillotine – the shots we do see are stock footage and we never actually see any executions or set ups for them.  Similarly to The Aztecs, the TARDIS team are not here to interfere with events and they must let history run its course, and the previous story is nicely alluded to in a conversation between the Doctor and Barbara late on.  Despite the repetitions of characters constantly getting captured and imprisoned, this story kept me engaged throughout its running time and this is impressive given its near three hour run time.  The story also benefits from high production values which help the story look good.  This is particularly evident in one of the earliest scenes in the story where the soldiers arrive at the house, where the costumes look perfect for the era and I love the fact that they aren’t gleaming – they are dirty which helps make this world feel lived in.  Additionally, this story did have a troubled production (for more information about this, it is detailed in my ‘Behind the Scenes section below) but it feels seamless – this really feels like a gleaming example of what the ‘pure’ historical Doctor Who story can be.

Verdict: A solid conclusion to the first season of Doctor Who and a good contribution to the ‘pure’ historical subgenre of the show.  Hartnell and the main cast do good work here and the whole production feels really smooth and professional. 8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Anne Ford (Susan Foreman), Peter Walker (Small Boy), Laidlaw Dalling (Rouvray), Neville Smith (D’Argenson), Robert Hunter (Sergeant), Ken Lawrence (Lieutenant), James Hall (Soldier), Howard Charlton (Judge), Jack Cunningham (Jailer), Jeffry Wickham (Webster), Dallas Cavell (Overseer), Dennis Cleary (Peasant), James Cairncross (Lemaitre), Roy Herrick (Jean), Donald Morley (Jules Renan), John Barrard (Shopkeeper), Caroline Hunt (Danielle), Edward Brayshaw (Léon Colbert), Keith Anderson (Robespierre), Ronald Pickup (Physician), Terry Bale (Soldier), John Law (Paul Barras), Tony Wall (Napoleon Bonaparte) & Patrick Marley (Soldier).

Writer: Dennis Spooner

Director: Henric Hirsch

Parts: 6 (A Land of Fear, Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity, Prisoners of Conciergie)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first serial to show the full-sized TARDIS prop materalising.
  • The only season finale to contain no science fiction elements than the Doctor, the companions and the TARDIS.
  • Episodes 4 and 5 remain missing from the BBC Archives, however, they have been recreated in animated form.
  • The first story to contain location filming for the scenes of the Doctor walking through the French countryside.  These scenes, however, do not feature William Hartnell but extra Brian Proudfoot.
  • The first contribution to the show by Dennis Spooner who would go on to be script editor.  This story replaced a story written by David Whittaker about the Spanish Armada, who in turn had been commissioned to write a story to replace.  William Russell suggested having a story set in the French Revolution.
  • Henric Hirsch struggled with the direction of this story.  He was an inexperienced television director combined with filming conditions at the cramped Lime Grove Studios and William Hartnell was difficult at responding to his direction.  This culminated in Hirsch collapsing during camera rehearsals for the third episode, necessitating a new short term director.  There is no documentation to indicate who this was, although it is thought to have been either John Gorrie or Mervyn Pinfield.  Hirsch would return for the fourth episode, which saw production move to Television Centre and Timothy Combe, the production assistant and future Doctor Who director, step up to share the role.

Best Moment

The scene in the first part where the Army find the Aristocrats in the house on the way out of Paris.

Best Quote

What are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?

Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it..

Ian Chesterton and the First Doctor

Previous First Doctor review: The Sensorites

The Sensorites

The Sensorites Barbara, Susan and John

Did you know, his hair was almost white?

Nothing wrong with that!

Maitland and the First Doctor


The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan arrive on a spaceship, finding a human crew who are suffering from telepathic interference from a race called the Sensorites.


The Sensorites deserves some plaudits for being the first episode explicitly set in the future and introducing a largely non-antagonistic titular alien race, however, it does seem to be a bit of a mess.  There’s just too much going on within the narrative, and none of the various plot elements really grabbed me resulting in me ultimately feeling bored well before the story’s conclusion.

One of the story’s few positivesPossibly the story’s only positive is that this story continues a positive upturn in William Hartnell’s portrayal of the Doctor.  He is far and away more likable at times here than he is in his opening scenes in An Unearthly Child, especially when you consider scenes like the TARDIS team reminiscing about their adventures in the opening episode of this story.  To a fan of the modern show, Hartnell feels much more like a traditional Doctor, making sure that nobody is in doubt about his lines in the sand – he even mentions his attitude towards weapons at one point.  He has utterly changed, and there are still flashes of steel from this incarnation, especially when he is talking to the Sensorites about the lock on the TARDIS door. There are a few fluffs here from Hartnell, but this seems to be much more spread around the rest of the cast as well – I know that there were restrictions on the number of edits the production team could make in the 1960s, however, there do seem to be a lot in this story.  Hartnell’s personality drastically changes back to the more cantankerous old man in the final scene of the story, which does feel really jarring.

The Sensorites Doctor and Susan

I also quite like the Sensorites.  The fact that the actors cast as the Sensorites are all the same height and of similar builds really does help the idea that they would need the system of sashes to differentiate from each other, although it does massively stretch credibility that nobody ever thought of disguising themselves as another Sensorite.  I love how atmospheric the cliffhanger is at the end of the first part, with no sound until the reveal of the alien, which I find to be really effective, and they do genuinely feel terrifying, especially when we see the effects of the telepathic interference on characters like John and it is a good performance from Stephen Dartnell. The reveal of the Sensorites completely pays off on what we are told by Carol and Maitland in the opening parts and they are certainly suitably alien. It is interesting for the show in its early days to give us aliens who aren’t evil but instead good and possibly slightly childish, apart from the devious City Administrator.

The biggest problem with this story is that the plot feels extremely muddled.  There are several elements – the Sensorites being poisoned and Ian also succumbing to this and the political maneuvering of the City Administrator feel utterly superfluous and inconsequential.  There is a moment where the City Administrator frames the Doctor for the death of the Second Elder that feels so lacking in any impact that it is no real surprise that the Doctor suffers no repercussions for this allegation.  The multiple plots do ultimately cause the story to drag and feel much longer than it actually is, with elements like what lurks in the aqueduct being put on hold until the Doctor has cured Ian’s illness.  This leads to the ultimate finale of the story feeling utterly underwhelming, and I’m not sure whether the blame lies at the hands of the writer or the script editor – I don’t think much blame can be pinned on Mervyn Pinfield, as there’s not really very much when there is no intrigue.

Verdict:  A story that has an interesting premise, introducing a race of aliens who are not necessarily all evil, sadly The Sensorites is let down by a bit of a slow plot.  I do like the design and concept of the Sensorites though.  2/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan), Stephen Dartnell (John), Ilona Rodgers (Carol), Lorne Cossette (Maitland), Ken Tyllsen (First Sensorite and First Scientist), Joe Greig (Second Sensorite, Second Scientist and Warrior), Peter Glaze (Third Sensorite), Arthur Newall (Fourth Sensorite), Eric Francis (First Elder), Bartlett Mullins (Second Elder), Anthony Rogers & Gerry Martin (Sensorites), John Bailey (Commander), Martyn Huntley (First Human) & Giles Phibbs (Second Human).

Writer: Peter R Newman

Director: Mervyn Pinfield

Parts: 6 (Strangers in Space, The Unwilling Warriors, Hidden Danger, A Race Against Death, Kidnap & A Desperate Venture)

Behind the Scenes

  • The Sensorites is the first story to explicitly state that it is set in the future.
  • The third episode, Hidden Danger, had the dubious distinction of having been delayed due to Summer Grandstand being extended for special sports programming.
  • Susan’s description of Gallifrey is almost quoted verbatim in Gridlock and the Ood have some similarity to the Sensorites.
  • Stephen Dartnell had previously appeared in The Keys of Marinus.
  • Jacqueline Hill was on holiday during production of the fourth and fifth parts.
  • When the casting of Frank Skinner was announced for Mummy on the Orient Express, he stated that when he learnt of the news, he was watching episode 3 of this story.

Best Moment

Probably the cliffhanger at the end of part one – the lack of sound is utterly eerie.

Best Quote

It all started as a mild curiosity in the junkyard and now it’s turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure.

The First Doctor

The Aztecs

Aztecs - Doctor and Cameca.jpg
(c) BBC

You’re monsters! All of you, monsters!

Susan Foreman


The TARDIS arrives in 15th Century Mexico and the crew encounter the doomed Aztecs, who are a mixture of high culture and savagery.  Barbara is mistaken for one of the Aztecs’ Gods, complicating matters considerably.


The Aztecs is the first time the show really addressed the issues regarding interference in historic events, and it does it really well, with Barbara being mistaken for the Aztec God Yetexa, along with her pre-existing interest in the Aztec people giving this story genuine stakes.  Unlike some 60s Who, these stakes, along with the fact that each member of the TARDIS team has a decent subplot for a change, makes this one of the more memorable entries in Hartnell’s era.

The story feels quite epic in some regards and all the more impressive that it manages to deal with each of them so effectively compared to other stories in this era of Doctor Who with longer runtimes.  The story uses the plot device of the two sacrifices to establish and tie-up the various subplots involved, with the main plot revolving around the consequences of Barbara having picked up the bracelet in the tomb and being mistaken for the God, Yetexa.  The subplots revolve around the Doctor trying to find a way of regaining access to the TARDIS, which materialised in the tomb, Ian being roped in to fight Ixta to become the leader of the Aztec army and Susan being taken away to be taught Aztec values.  With the exception of Susan’s subplot, these all interact loosely with each other through the various parts, for instance, when the Doctor gives Ixta advice on how to win his fight, not knowing that this will be against Ian, in return for supposed information on the design of the tomb.  Due to Carol Ann Ford’s holiday, her subplot does feel more detached from the main narrative, although there are some other characters other than the other members of the TARDIS team who appear at times and her subplot does get worked back in nicely towards the end of the story.

The Aztecs
(c) BBC

The story focuses on the idea of non-interference and it is really strange coming to this story as someone whose introduction to Doctor Who was the modern series, in which the Doctor, whilst not advocating interference in historical events, isn’t so rigid as the First Doctor is here.  The script gives Barbara a good enough reason to be so concerned about the plight of the Aztec people – it is one of her interests – to want to interfere, putting her at odds not only with the Doctor, but with Tlotoxl as well.  Ultimately, the story does feel quite Shakespearean, especially when viewed in the light of the performance of John Ringham as Tlotoxl, one of the Aztec High Priests, whose deformities are a homage to Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III.  The character is also quite similar to the play’s hatchet job it does on the controversial monarch, quietly scheming and spitting poison into the ears of the other characters.  His opposite number, Autloc, represents civilisation and order, whilst Tlotoxl represents the more savage aspects of Aztec society, such as human sacrifice.

The performances are also really good here.  I’m not sure if it’s because she has less to do and is probably in the story the least, but Susan did not irritate me as much as usual in Hartnell stories, which is a distinct positive, however, the real revelation was the performance of William Hartnell.  This story allows us to see a softer side of this incarnation of the Doctor which up till now has been rarely seen in the scenes with Cameca.  The performances of Hartnell and Margo Van der Burgh are really lovely, and the Doctor genuinely looks smitten by Cameca and there does seem to be genuine sadness that he has to leave her behind, evidenced by the fact that he picks up her broach before leaving in the TARDIS.  Hartnell seems much more genial and pleasant that the version of the Doctor we have seen before, and watching this story has really made me warm to First Doctor.  He is also shown to be fallible, like when he is giving Ixta information on how to defeat Ian, not knowing the identity of the former’s opponent.  Again, William Russell gives a great performance as Ian, and I particularly enjoy his reaction when he learns that the Doctor is engaged to Cameca!  The main plaudits do really have to go to Jacqueline Hill who provides a majestic performance as Barbara here, as she really is the focus of the entire story and she carries it so well.

Where did you get hold of this?

My fiancé.

I see…your what?

Yes, I made some cocoa and I got engaged…

Ian Chesterton and First Doctor

Verdict: I really enjoyed The Aztecs as it is really rather different to anything I remember the show doing before.  A strong script really does help here as well.  8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Keith Pyott (Autloc), John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta), Margot Van der Burgh (Cameca), Tom Booth (First Victim), David Anderson (Aztec Captain), Walter Randall (Tonila), Andre Boulay (Perfect Victim)

Writer: John Lucarotti

Director: John Crockett

Parts: 4 (The Temple of Evil, The Warriors of Death, The Bride of Sacrifice & The Day of Darkness)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to address altering the course of history and the first to have a romantic subplot involving the Doctor.
  • ‘The Warriors of Death’ was the first episode filmed at BBC Television Centre following persistent requests from Verity Lambert and her allies.  Ultimately, this would only be temporary, as by the end of production on the serial, they were back filming at Lime Grove.
  • The only story written by Lucarotti that exists in the BBC Archives in its entirety.
  • Jacqueline Hill named this as her favourite story.
  • Carol Ann Ford was on holiday for two weeks and only appears in pre-filmed inserts in episodes 2 and 3.

Best Moment

In the story’s final scene, the TARDIS crew hear Tloxtol and the rest of the Aztecs carry out their planned sacrifice, and Barbara and the Doctor’s conversation discusses how they actually didn’t really achieve anything and the emotional impact this has on Barbara.

Best Quote

Oh, don’t you see?  If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here, then everything that’s good will survive when Cortes lands.

But you can’t rewrite history! Not one line! Barbara, one last appeal: what you are trying to do is utterly impossible.  I know! Believe me, I know!

Barbara Wright and First Doctor

Aztecs - Autloc
(c) BBC

The Keys of Marinus

kom court


The TARDIS crew are forced to fulfil a quest for the people of the planet of Marinus to retrieve four of the five keys of the Conscience of Marinus, which are scattered around the planet, to ensure that the Voord do not get control of the planet.


The Keys of Marinus is a really ambitious story which is potentially constrained by trying to do too much with little material and let down by repetition of plot points in each of the locations.  Due to the limitations of telling stories set in different locations on the same planet, a lot of time has to be spent establishing the threat in each different area before the story can get moving again, and I don’t feel there’s really enough story to justify the six parts.  The Key to Time arc would do it better, telling six four-part stories as part of a larger arc.  Despite this, there are some parts that work really well.  The last two parts of the serial work really well, with a murder mystery story dominating the final one and a half parts of the story, but the additional time spent in this final location really helps this to be one of the more memorable parts of the episode.

keys of marinus dress

I will start with the elements that I did not like.  The direction from John Gorrie is largely flat and lifeless, with the exception of one scene in The Velvet Web, where Barbara sees through the illusion that the others are convinced with, and there are some lovely POV shots which demonstrate this beautifully.  Otherwise, the direction is distinctly functional, with very little other directorial flairs to report.  The biggest impact this has on the story as a whole is that it makes the establishing scenes in each of the different locations feel very repetitive and really frustrated me.  The blame cannot solely be laid at Gorrie’s door, however, as Terry Nation’s writing is pretty atrocious too, although, admittedly, this story was written in a hurry.  Sadly, despite the narrative’s ambitions to tell a story set in five different locations, it does really suffer from the feeling of repetition which gets extremely tedious, however, the production team deserve a large amount of credit for making the story look as good as it does on an already stretched budget.  Additionally, the story has some really troubling moments for a family drama, including the attempted seduction of Barbara by the trapper in The Snows of Terror, which really just made me cringe, and the guard seemingly beating his wife after she has been questioned by Barbara and Susan.  I know this story was made at a different time, but it really feels out of place.

The Voord are also largely disappointing.  I quite like the design of the Voord as it leans into the limited budget of the show by using modified wetsuits for the design of the aliens.  I also am really fond of the simple and effective way it is used to convey the horrific nature of the death of one of the Voord in the first part – it is quite an effective and creepy image to show that the acid has completely destroyed the body of the alien.  As they only feature in the first and final part of the story, they are ultimately quite forgettable and I would have liked to have seen them crop up in attempts to stop the Doctor and his friends gathering the microkeys or providing some kind of competition to get them first.  As the story stands, they feel rather like a last minute addition and I had almost forgotten about this central part of the plot by the end of the story.

The story’s saving grace is indisputably three of the four leads – I’m sure that Carol Ann Ford would agree that her characterisation is pretty awful and infantilises her character even further, despite her best efforts, and the two members of the guest cast who stick around for the majority of the story are pretty wooden.   However, Jacqueline Hill and William Russell are superb throughout, and William Hartnell seems extremely reinvigorated following his absence in the middle of the story.  Hartnell does by and large improve in each performance as this incarnation of the Doctor seems to soften story by story and it is nice that his relationship with Ian and Barbara has drastically improved from the rocky foundations their relationship started on.  His enthusiasm on his reintroduction at being Ian’s defence counsel is great and he seems to be giving as close an impression as possible to Sherlock Holmes here.  It is to Hill and Russell’s enormous credit that the middle parts of the story do not suffer through Hartnell’s absence.  Both are particularly great throughout, but credit must especially go to Hill for her performance in the second part.

kom ian barbara brains

When we get to Sentence of Death and The Keys of Marinus, the story manages to pique my waning interest again.  The story switches to a murder mystery for the majority of the remainder of the story, with Ian framed for murdering a guard and the tone ultimately shifts.  Welcoming the chance to do something a bit different seems to invigorate Hartnell, as mentioned above, and he gives possibly one of his best performances to date.  The mystery tone seems to return from the first part when the TARDIS team are investigating the temple, and Hartnell’s courtroom performances are fantastic.  The resolution of this subplot almost came too soon, and I would rather have had more of this type of story than the rest.

Verdict: The Keys of Marinus cannot be faulted for its ambition, however, in the execution it seems to fail in a number of ways and feels particularly repetitive.  Hill and Russell are superb, and the final two parts are buoyed by a returning and reinvigorated William Hartnell.  5/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), George Coulouris (Arbitan), Martin Cort, Peter Stenson & Gordon Wales (Voord), Robin Phillips (Altos), Katharine Schofield (Sabetha), Heron Carvic (Voice of Morpho), Martin Cort (Warrior), Edmund Warrick (Darrius), Francis De Wolff (Vasor), Michael Allaby, Alan James, Peter Stenson & Anthony Verner (Ice Soldiers), Henley Thomas (Tarron), Michael Allaby (Larn), Raf De La Torre (Senior Judge), Alan James (First Judge), Peter Stenson (Second Judge), Fiona Walker (Kala), Martin Cort (Aydan), Donald Pickering (Eyesen), Alan James (Guard) and Stephen Dartnell (Yartek).

Writer: Terry Nation

Director: John Gorrie

Part: 6 (The Sea of Death, The Velvet Web, The Screaming Jungle, The Snows of Terror, Sentence of Death and The Keys of Marinus)

Behind the Scenes

  • William Hartnell does not appear in The Screaming Jungle or The Snows of Terror as he was on holiday.  Hartnell had been working solidly from October 1963 through to April 1964.
  • John Gorrie was reluctant to work on Doctor Who due to apathy towards science fiction but was persuaded to by Verity Lambert.  Gorrie was a member of the BBC Plays Department, and was particularly dismissive of the scripts, but signed up to further his career.
  • Only one of two stories written by Terry Nation not to feature the Daleks.
  • Between The Velvet Web and The Screaming Jungle being broadcast, BBC Two was launched, meaning that The Screaming Jungle was the first episode to be branded as being on BBC One.
  • This is the first of 34 six part stories and the first of several “travelling” stories where the main cast move location multiple times within the same story.
  • The Voord were an unsuccessful attempt to rival the popularity of the Daleks.
  • The Screaming Jungle saw the show’s first plagiarism controversy as Robert Gould complained that he had outlined a story with plants as the final point of evolution to David Whitaker.  Whitaker argued that Nation had arrived at the similar idea independently and that the idea was derivative of The Day of the Triffids anyway.
  • This was a late replacement for a problematic story written by Malcolm Hulke, called Dr. Who and the Hidden Planet.

Best Moment

Possibly the scene where the Doctor, Susan and Ian are all possessed and only Barbara can see things as they truly are.

Best Quote

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.

The First Doctor