It was David Whitaker’s idea that the locations of the story should be quite varied – one week a jungle, the next desolate snowy wastes. This is something that doesn’t occur very often in Doctor Who – normally when the TARDIS lands we’re never expected to wonder what the rest of the planet might be like. Often (picking a few random examples – say, The Daleks and The Krotons) it’s strongly implied that everywhere else is of little interest and where the Doctor is now is all that matters. But The Keys of Marinus, which shows us several cities ruled by different people as well as more barren locales, is quite different and should be applauded for that.
Last time, we left Ian and Barbara freezing to death in the fake snow. Luckily(?) they’ve been rescued by Vasor (Francis de Wolff) a man who lives in a hut all by himself in the middle of the snowy wastes. He shows Barbara how to restore life to her frost-bitten hands (doing so in a way that carries a certain overtone – it’s clear that he enjoys holding her hands in his). Indeed, there’s no two ways about it – Vasor is clearly keen for Barbara to spend some quality time with him (just as soon as he’s got Ian out of the way) and it’s equally clear what he wants to spend this time doing. It’s not spelt out, but then it doesn’t really need to be.
Ian sets out to find the others and hands over his travel dial in exchange for some of Vasor’s furs. Although Vasor, as scripted, tells Ian to pick up a coat and gloves, he only puts on a ratty piece of fur – which can hardly be expected to offer a great deal of protection (a poor bargain for his travel dial). Once Vasor and Barabara are alone he insists on feeding her some more food. “We must fatten you up, eh?” Brrrrr, I don’t fancy Barbara’s chances ….
Ian discovers Altos unconscious in the snow, but once Ian’s rubbed some life into his legs he seems able to carry on (yes, you can read something homoerotic into this if you wish). Luckily for Barbara, the two of them get back to the hut before Vasor’s been able to have his wicked way and the four of them then go back out to look for Susan and Sabetha.
They’re taking shelter in the ice caves, which is a decent-looking set. The Ice Soldiers, frozen warriors who are guarding the micro-key, aren’t quite so impressive though. This is another of those inexplicable Arbitan moments. The micro-key is contained within a solid block of ice, but if they melt the ice then the homicidal Ice Soldiers will wake up. Arbitan certainly didn’t like to make things easy, did he?
The excitement level as our heroes are pursued is fairly low – although Vasor gets his long overdue comeuppance from the Ice Soldiers (a sword in the back). Not the best episode of the story then, but Francis de Wolff (at times overacting like a good-un) is entertaining enough.
Next time, Ian faces a sentence of death.