The crew land on an island, which they discover is surrounded by an acid sea and which has a citadel in the middle. Here they meet Arbitan, the keeper of the conscience of Marinus - a machine that controls the people of Marinus so that they live peacefully. The machine consists of five keys, but four of them have been sent to different parts of the planet. Arbitan needs they keys back to thwart Yartek and the evil Voords.
Cut off from the TARDIS by a force field, the time travellers are forced to search for the missing keys. They use a travel bracelet to move from place to place. They go to the city of Morphoton (ruled by brains in glass cases), a screaming jungle, an ice world and the city of Millenius. In the latter place, Ian is accused of murder and the Doctor must do his best to defend him from sentence of death and discover the real culprits. They find the keys (one is a fake) and return to the island, only to discover Yartek has killed Arbitan. They give him the keys, including the fake; the conscience machine explodes, killing the Voords.
I like this Terry Nation story, although there are plenty of fans who aren't that keen on it. I suppose the key quest storyline has been done to death by now, which might explain some of that.
Morphoton starts off as a paradise but the travellers have been conditioned to think everything looks splendid when it is really rubbish, dirty and nasty. They see beautiful silks when they are rags, and scientific equipment is simply mugs. It's a neat and scary idea, as Barbara is the only one to escape full control and see what things really look like, but her friends think she is ill as she tries to make them see what she sees. Then the friends are fully conditioned so they don't remember her. They get away when Barbara kills the brain creatures.
It's a great idea to have several settings for the story, although this is partly one of the failings of the story because with so many places only Millenius is properly developed.
Hartnell makes a couple of great fluffs, like this one: Barbara asks if the sea might be frozen - "Impossible in this temperature, besides its too warm."
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