Doctor Who #24: The Snows of Terror

"That door'll keep anything out. Or in."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of The Keys of Marinus. First aired May 2 1964.

IN THIS ONE... Another key is found in a block of ice guarded by knights and Barbara has a close encounter by a would-be rapist.

REVIEW: Marinus' fourth environment is an icy valley where Ian and Barbara are found frozen and unconscious by a fur trapper called Vasor. It must be a tiny valley because he's also helped but stolen from Susan and Sabetha, and sent Altos on a wild goose chase, apparently as much as a day before. Those travel dials are proving less reliable than the TARDIS! Ian trips on Altos when he's sent into the wild with a purse full of raw meat and stock footage wolves following his trail, while Barbara is left at the mercy of Vasor who locks her in and means to... what... tickle her to death? The implication for adults is that he's going to rape her, but that's too dark for the program, and the performance is one of jolly menace, vacillating between creepy stalker and what the Brits tend to call "panto". (It's very hard to review Doctor Who without using that word, so get used to it and its implications.) Ian and Altos return just in time to save her, then force Vasor to bring them all to the network of tunnels inside the ice mountain where he left the girls. Watch for this. It's only the first time Barbara becomes the object of a villain's sexual desire, but it's not the last. There won't be a companion with that effect on the bad guys until Peri once Barb leaves.

Picking up a thread from the previous episode, we're right back into D&D territory with frozen knights who guard a key in a block of ice. The puzzle to melt that ice is a simple, but clever idea, but the knights themselves, once animated, are rubbish. Like the knight trap in The Screaming Jungle, they are impossibly slow and clunky, but they do have priceless expressions when they find themselves on the wrong side of a crevasse. Who are these guys anyway? I thought they were artificial at first, but one of them screams, so I guess they were just volunteers in stasis. Arbitan could have saved a lot of grief if he'd set up some kind of password for his couriers. Not very long after the characters have to jump a crevasse inside a mountain in The Daleks, Terry Nation faces them with the same dilemma. This time, Susan crosses on a giant icicle and throws the untied rope bridge to Ian. The irony is that the crevasse is probably half the width of the one on Skaro and could easily have been jumped.

If The Screaming Jungle suffered from a lack of closure, The Snows of Terror goes out of its way to force a resolution. It seems our heroes didn't take their travel dials and key collection with them when they left for the caves, so they have to return to Vasor's cabin to collect them. The trapper's back there after betraying them inside the mountain. Could have been a lot simpler (and made more sense) if they'd taken those things in the first place. But then we wouldn't have seen Vasor get his comeuppance. He's stabbed in the back through his impenetrable door by the knights streaming down from the mountain. He deserved it, I guess. Our heroes all leave together this time, but Ian finds himself alone anyway, in a museum that has a key under glass. He's knocked from behind, posed, and framed before his unknown attacker takes the key and sets off the alarm. Finally some kind of cliffhanger that gives you more to think about than yet another battle with the elements.

THEORIES: So what's up with Marinus apparently having medieval knights and Greco-Roman art? The 6th Doctor comics story The World Shapers offers the explanation that Marinus is really Mondas - the parallel Earth on the opposite side of our orbit that gave birth to the Cybermen. It makes the point that the Voord are the Mondasian faction that eventually evolve into Cybermen, and uses the Conscience of Marinus, I suppose, as the basis for Cyber assimilation/conformity. The idea has potential, but there is no real onscreen evidence to support it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A harmless runaround, neither unpleasant nor particularly pleasant. If New Who naysayers think 45-minute episodes are slim and compressed, they must hate the various chapters of The Keys of Marinus, strings of incidents put together without room to breathe, explore or grow.

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