Saturday, 1 January 2011

Narrative and The Keys of Marinus

Happy New Year! I thought I’d kick off the blog in 2011 with a few thoughts on narrative inspired by watching a DVD which was a very welcome Christmas present....

The DVD is a very early Doctor Who serial, The Keys of Marinus, which I remember watching when it was first on, and I was eight years old. It stayed in my mind because of the Voord, the strange amphibious creatures who menaced the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions. But on watching the show again, it was interesting to see how Terry Nation, the writer who invented the Daleks, tackled narrative.

Each of the 30 minute episodes took the form of an individual quest as the time travellers try to find the fabled Keys of Marinus. The titles of the episodes – The Velvet Web, The Screaming Jungle and so on – were pretty atmospheric in a John Dickson Carr sort of way.

I was impressed by the pace of the episodes, and was kept gripped despite the ricketiness of the sets. Usually, when you watch a TV show from the 60s, it moves much more slowly than modern shows. But here Nation packed his narratives with plot twists, and this helped him to get over the countless improbabilities in his story-line. The verve with which he tells the story illustrates how popular fiction that has pace and imagination can work very well, even if the story and characters have built-in limitations. It was an object lesson in how to tell an exciting tale well.

Finally, my current plan for 2011 is to post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week and also add in some extra posts when time permits. Occasionally, over the past few months, work commitments have led to my changing the schedule a bit, and they have also reduced the time I have to look at other blogs. But I hope to get a bit more time in the not too distant future - we'll see!


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for the important reminder of the value of good narrative. It profoundly affects the pacing, timing and overall "feel" of a story. Looking forward to your 2011 posts.

K said...

As you have said, I also love the way in which the writers put the Dr into a seemingly impossible situation, then managed to get him out again, without compromising on plot or credibility. I've only ever seen the newer series of 'Dr Who', but its narrative and storylines, continuously impress me.
Great Post.

Mason Canyon said...

Good reminder. Wishing you a wonderful and Happy New Year. Looking forward to your posts in 2011.

Thoughts in Progress

Martin Edwards said...

Margot and Mason, many thanks.
Spangle, I can recommend some of the early series - some of those with Hartnell, Troughton, Baker and Pertwee were very good.