The Keys of Marinus
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus

Author Philip Hinchcliffe Cover image
Published 1980
ISBN 0 426 20125 6
First Edition Cover David McAllister

Back cover blurb: MARINUS a remote force-shielded island set in a sea of acid, governed by THE CONSCIENCE, the ultimate computer which rules and balances the gentle life of Marinus, guarded by ARBITAN THE KEEPER, ruthless protector of a peace-loving race threatened by YARTEK, Warlord of the brutal sub-human Voords, sworn enemy of Arbitan and of Marinus, who has within his grasp THE KEYS OF MARINUS, the Conscience's vital micro-circuits, the doors of good and evil. Can the Doctor find the hidden circuits in time? Arbitan's command was 'Find them, OR DIE!'


The Missing excitement by Tim Roll-Pickering 4/9/06

I'm tempted to nominate the cover of this book as the least relevant one ever put on a Doctor Who novelisation. The TARDIS in space above a planet is hardly an image that could ever be associated with the story. I've read that the cover was prepared for a novelisation of Inside the Spaceship/Beyond the Sun or whatever it would have been called back then, though it's not exactly conjuring up that story either.

Back in 1980 novelisations of Hartnell stories were few and far between - the three 1960s novelisations, a Cybermen story and another Dalek story and that was it. Why this story was picked for novelising is unclear (unless perhaps it was part of negotiations over rights with Terry Nation) and it's strange to see Philip Hinchcliffe novelising a story from a decade before he became the series producer. However reading this book makes it clear that he was just given this as a standard assignment and he produces a book not that different from Terrance Dicks in this period by merely adapting the camera script to prose. As with the television story once again a key conversation between the Doctor and Altos takes place out of sight, whilst the Voords (that form of pluralisation is used here) change from being men in rubber suits to actual creatures across the book.

I suspect that this was written with at least some reference to the televised story as one omission early on is the discussion about the TARDIS monitors. The camera script notably includes some lines about the Doctor having tried to develop colour television when he was living in 1963 but this is perhaps wisely omitted. Unfortunately other obvious points to omit such as the murder of Arbitan early on are left in, with the result that the whole story feels as clunky in written form as it does on screen.

Also completely absent is any moral framework. In most other stories there would be some exploration of the ethics of a machine that controls people's minds and whether it is right or not to help get it operational again. Here the characters quickly succumb to easy blackmail and set off without even once discussing whether they are doing the right thing or if they should bluff their way out. It's quite clear that the only character Hinchcliffe has much affection for is the Doctor, so a story where he's absent for about forty percent of the total time is perhaps not the best one to handle. The rest of the characters are thin and the story just meanders along. There is a slight effort made at the start to introduce the characters, with the fact that Ian and Barbara don't actually know where the Doctor comes from emphasised, along with a location for Coal Hill - in North London. By my reckoning this is the first time that the novelisations ever alluded to the events of 100,000 BC, so I wonder how the readers in 1980 understood the contradicting of events in Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks.

If Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus proves one thing it is that the problems the Target novels had in this period were not simply one writer but the general approach of merely translating scripts into prose. The book almost makes one wish for an author with some experience of the relevant story to come along... 2/10