The Keys of Marinus - DVD

'The Keys of Marinus' is Doctor Who's first 'quest' adventure, in which the TARDIS crew split up and travel to various zones of the planet Marinus to locate the four missing keys which control the Conscience of Marinus, a machine which prevents crime across an entire planet. Originally thought to be intact in the BBC archives, research for this DVD release brought some surprising news...

All six episodes of this serial from Doctor Who's first season have always been retained as 16mm film recording negatives and there was no reason to believe that they differed in any way from the version broadcast by the BBC in 1964. However, during his research for the production information subtitles feature, Richard Molesworth noted a point in episode two which differed from the script and was accompanied by uncomfortable on-screen cut. He raised this with Peter Crocker, who discovered a difference of a few seconds between the running time of the negative and the duration logged on the BBC's PasC transmission forms from 1964. Looking through the episodes in detail, he discovered signs of four physical splices in episode two and a further three in episode four. He compared these against a recording made from an ABC transmission in Australia and found splices at the same point... which might be expected if the ABC print had been made from the BBC negative, but it was immediately apparent that this was not the case. The ABC print was from a suppressed-field film recording (generally we find these were made close to the original transmissions), whilst the BBC negative was from a quick-pulldown recorder and was probably made when BBC Enterprises did a second film recording run to improve their product quality around 1967. However, the cuts were identical - to the frame - on both versions, suggesting that a list had been made during the first editing session and the same list had been applied to the second film recording run years later.

Mark Ayres pulled out copies of David Holman's off-air audio recordings and found missing material at all the points that Peter Crocker had noted, plus one other located in a fade to black in episode two, which Peter wouldn't have been able to see as it would have been crushed down to true black in the grade. The cuts in episode two were 70, 55, 24, 35 and 20 frames respectively and in episode four were 37, 79 and 133 frames respectively. This translates to seven seconds of cuts to episode two and ten seconds of cuts to episode four. The most likely reason for these cuts is either physical damage to the transmission videotape or physical splice edits in the tapes, both of which might be expected to produce disturbing picture off-locks in the film recording.

It was decided to reinstate all the audio material back into the episode, leaving Peter Crocker with the problem of how to fill seven black holes in the picture! Using various combinations of cutaways, composite images and retiming, he was able to cover all the holes. Although this will obviously differ from what what would have been seen originally, it does at least allow the story to be enjoyed uncut for the first time since its transmission in 1964.

Of course, we're used to seeing censor cuts made in prints returned by overseas broadcasters, but this is the first time we have come across cuts made in film recording master negatives that had previously gone completely unreported. Of course, this raises an interesting question... How many other 'complete' episodes of Doctor Who may not be quite as complete as we had thought?

Otherwise, picture and sound restoration was as usual for a story of this age and all episodes were VidFIRE processed to return the original studio video look.

DVD extras for this release include:

Commentary with actors William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, director John Gorrie and designer Raymond Cusick. Moderated by Clayton Hickman.

The Sets of Marinus (dur. 9' 25") - designer Raymond Cusick recalls his work on this story. 

Photo Gallery (dur. 7' 25") - production and publicity photos from the story.

PDF Material - Radio Times listings plus the entire set of Cadet Sweets 'Doctor Who and the Daleks' sweet cigarette cards in Adobe pdf format for viewing on PC or Mac.

Plus of course the usual  Subtitle Production Notes and Coming Soon trailer.


Copyright Steve Roberts,  10 July 2009. No reproduction allowed without written permission.