January 13: "Sentence of Death" / "The Keys of Marinus"

(The Keys of Marinus episodes 5 & 6)

Well, this is more like it!  Maybe I'm just a sucker for mysteries, but the parts of this story that take place in Millennius are far more engaging than in the last three locations.  There's a sense of drive through "Sentence of Death", as the Doctor must prove Ian's innocence, lest Ian be executed for murder.  The fact that we go out and explore a bit as the Doctor and his team search for exonerating evidence and such means that Millennius feels more fleshed out than, say, Morphoton from "The Velvet Web".  We start to get a sense of how these people actually live, with hints dropped casually in dialogue and sets showing us apartments and such.

Of course, it's still a mystery that they have to get through in an episode and a half, which means that villains repeatedly start to utter self-incriminating statements before they stop themselves just to move things along.  Although I do enjoy Aidan's death as he starts to reveal his co-conspirators -- it feels an awful lot like Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald.  I'm not sure if it's an intentional reference or not, but either way it does add to the air of mystery.

Yartek, leader of the alien Voord. ("The Keys of
Marinus") ©BBC
Sadly, it does start to sag a bit in the second half of "The Keys of Marinus", once the real killer has been caught and they return to the island with the Conscience of Marinus.  Yartek, the leader of the Voord (remember them from "The Sea of Death"?) has taken over and is trying to disguise himself as Arbitan.  It's been noted before how Ian and Susan seem suspicious of him because of what he said, not because his head appears to have grown several inches under his hood, but to be fair it's not like Terry Nation knew what those headpieces were going to be like.  But even so, Ian tricks not-Arbitan by giving him the fake key from "The Screaming Jungle" -- except Ian wasn't convinced not-Arbitan was an imposter, so he potentially gave the real Arbitan the fake key.  Of course, he didn't know it would blow up the whole building when inserted, so we can probably excuse him.

The main problem with The Keys of Marinus as a whole is that it's too ambitious; it wants to be a globe-trotting epic, but there's not enough time or money to fully flesh out all the locations, so the production team has to spend a lot of time hinting at things.  To their credit, they do really quite an excellent job with what they've got, but that can't hide the fact that Terry Nation has to spend time establishing each new exotic location and not developing the ones we've already gotten.  It's not terrible by any means, but given what we've gotten from Doctor Who so far, its flaws become rather more apparent.