Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus by Philip Hinchcliffe

Published: August 1980

Edition read: Target first, 1980- probably my original copy.

Coolest Cover: OK, what does David McAllister’s cover tell us? The TARDIS (albeit a grey vibrating TARDIS with an orange light) is in it and it happens on a planet. Or to be more generous, there was next to no visual reference material so a generic picture was used.

Crimes Against Literature: "They were inside a large hexagonal control room with white hexagonal-patterned walls. A hexagonal console in the middle of the room supported a transparent cylindrical column..." (p.6). Thank goodness there was something that wasn’t hexagonal...

The TARDIS materialises with..."a violent juddering"

...and dematerialises with..."a mysterious groaning noise"

Childhood Recollections: None specifically, but I must have read the book at some point, having apparently had it for a good twenty years.

Ramblings: On the surface of it, the combination of Philip Hinchcliffe and ‘The Keys of Marinus’ at this stage is a distinctly odd one, Hinchcliffe’s last entry in the range being Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora in 1977 and this being the first return to the Hartnell era since Terrance Dicks’s rendition of ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ in the same year. The story may well have suggested itself from a cursory list of the stories available (handy copy of The Making of Doctor Who, anyone?) as a neat follow-on from the Key to Time series, although it does rather tell us something about the sixteenth season as a whole that Terry Nation was doing the same concept in 1964 and wrapping it up in six episodes flat. And while it may simply have been that Hinchcliffe was between series at the time, it’s difficult not to recognise in the description of the Morpho Brains twitching on the floor, or the rampant vegetation of the Screaming Jungle that the subject matter isn’t always a million miles away from Hinchcliffe’s own take on the series.

The book itself is a model of incident, pace and economy which brings out the best in Terry Nation’s (sorry, Lynsted Park Enterprises Ltd’s) original scripts. From the first page and its BXV sub-oceanic assault craft, there’s a definite sense of the creative freedom of the Hartnell era with comparatively few constraints on the writer’s imagination; given the focus of a short novel rather than six weeks’ worth of television, Hinchcliffe is also able to imply that in the various locations, things are out of their natural order because the Conscience of Marinus has failed, whether it’s the destructive accelerated growth of the Screaming Jungle, Vasor’s brutish depravity or the harsh laws of Millenium (for some reason Hinchcliffe initially refers to it as Millenius but changes the name once the story gets there), Sabetha makes the point that once the Conscience failed, the people of Marinus had to make their own rules again. It’s one point the televised scripts don’t make particularly well, but in print it does lend the story an extra layer of intelligence. Overall the adaptation is however very faithful- slightly surprising considering that few if any of the original readership would have had any acquaintance with the First Doctor at all- and as an interlude in the run of Fourth Doctor adventures it’s a very welcome change of approach.