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The Doctor and Romana (I) are tasked by Colonel Sanders to find six horcruxes in this opener to the season-long ‘Key To Time’ arc

The Doctor is looking forward to some companion-less quality time with new pooch K-9 Mark II, when the whitest of galactic guardians puts the kibosh on their holiday plans and summons the Doctor for a secret, season-long mission to collect the Key To Time.Every now and then the universe must be put to rights and The Guardian is wanting to do just that. Enter the legendary Mcguffin, capable of controlling all of time itself.

For safety, it was divided into six different pieces, and so The Doctor, K-9 and brand new companion, Romana, are off to gather them one by one. The first part is to be found on Ribos, a planet still in a medieval-like era, so Doc and co will need to tread lightly as not to cause any major problems. Alas, two hoodwinking cajolers are plotting to sell the whole planet to their unsuspecting ex-emperor mark, turning a simple search-and-retrieve mission into a poor man’s Catch Me If You Can.

Here's what we think of C098 The Ribos Operation

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what we think of C098 The Ribos Operation

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what you think 9 Responses to “C098 The Ribos Operation”
  1. Kristaps Paddock

    I’m not going to go overboard with this mini, but God do I love this serial. Every character is interesting and well written, and would have been a standout in an average story. Additionally they all have something to do, with three or four storylines throughout the script. The White Guardian and his colonial/surreal desert chill zone are fantastic – eat it up, guys, you’ll never see this again. Romana as the Studio 54 Time Lord is fantastic and gets a great introduction. The double acts here are also excellent – Unstoffe and Garron, Graff Vynda-K and Sholakh – and the dual forces of Garron v Graff, Binro v Seeker, fire v ice all point to an outstanding script.

    This is one of Who’s coziest stories, and is best enjoyed with a cup of hot cocoa on a cold (ideally snowy) afternoon. Even the rubber lizard body puppet can’t sink this. Four point five.

  2. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club


    • Boooring. A mostly dull tale with limited stage-play like sets. Whilst not as cheap as Underworld or as naff as the abomination that followed, why oh why would you launch a new series with a bargain-basement adventure?


    • That said, the grand quest scene-setter and mysterious White Guardian is fabulous.
    • We have rubbery (gory) monsters galore.
    • Nice chemistry between the Doctor and Romana (even if Romana is Philomena Cunk at times).
    • Best moment: the Doctor returning the Graff’s slap with his own gloves.
    • Tragic Binro (sniff).
    • Ah, the old switch-the-Jethrik-with-an-explosive trick. Touché Doctor! The Seventh Doctor nods in approval.

    Summary: a largely forgettable yarn (yawn) but with a few golden nuggets, and hints of better, more bonkers, adventures to come.

    Rating: 1.5/5 peasants being chomped on by rubbery mutant alligators. Munch munch munch.

  3. Nick aka The Doctor

    There’s not an awful lot to say about this one. Just rewatched it to do this review and still felt underwhelmed after not seeing it for a long while. I think it normally gets rated highly by fans. The main thing that is important about this story is the fact it opens up a season long arch (yes they had those in Classic Who!) on the Key to Time, a legendary season in the annals of Who. Having given us all the Time Lord mythology, the writers have to find people who are even higher / god-like and introduce the guardians, shadowy entities who rule the entire cosmos. The Doctor even calls the White Guardian Sir at one point. A couple of giveaways occur straight off the bat: you have to get the 6 pieces and beware the black guardian. You just know these matters are not going to be as straightforward as they sound and may well get turned on their head later on.

    We also get a new companion, another time lord, and a very different doctor-companion relationship to what we have had up until now. Also…..New K9!….who is pretty much the old K9. And we find out that the doctor is 756. Either his regenerations were very short after this (Doc ten says he is 903) or the whole age thing is a load of bs.

    The story itself is limited to a bunch of characters I’m not too bothered about, conning each other, and a fairly neatly devised plot which gets resolved relatively easily and then Doc and Romana have their first key segment. We also have a dinosaur thing reminiscent of Pertwee monsters, some dramatic music during the rituals and a nicely designed bunch of sets and costumes. That’s about it. 2.7.

  4. Phil Salter

    What the hell is this?! A bloody amazing story that’s what. I’m sure kids would find this one boring, but lets face facts, it’s amazing. The White Guardian is great with his cocktail and holiday suit, gently threatening the Doctor and throwing him into the first ever (and slightly disappointing in ending) season arc! Several unrelated points follow:

    • Romana is brilliant, just amazing. She goes around the universe with sardonic comments in hand, and the comment about being called Fred was very funny
    • Tom has upped his game in response to Mary Tamm
    • The Graff Vynda-K!!!!! Lets face facts, the most important question here is: Does anyone make a fool of the Graff Vynda-K and live? He seems to go round threatening everyone to very little effect
    • Binro was right! I love Binro and his justification of his beliefs, a really nice moments
    • A great, if very talk-y story, so I’ll give it a: 4.7

    Twitter: “No one tweets the Graff Vynda-K and lives!”

  5. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    The Key to Time season feels like a departure for Classic Who, as for once we have a strong arc where every story is connected to, and dependent on, the others. I’m not sure why this wasn’t tried before or since, because I think it works well – although it requires a careful script editor to make sure that the stories are consistent.

    The new companion Romana is excellent – it’s good to have a character who is on (or above) the Doctor’s level intellectually. I really like how she is portrayed as more academic than the Doctor, with her comment about him barely scraping through his degree, but this is balanced against the Doctor’s greater experience. Mary Tamm gets the role just right, portraying a sense of superiority and gravitas which contrasts with the Doctor’s somewhat eccentric and chaotic approach.

    I love the interplay between Garron and the Doctor, especially at the end where they are trying to deprive each other of the jethrik. The Graff Vynda-K is a complete psychopath, but he meets a fitting end. In terms of monsters, the Shrivenzale is perhaps best forgotten – it might have worked better if we could just hear the monster but not see it. But hey, this is Classic Who – rubbery monsters are part of the fun.

    Overall, this is an entertaining story with some hilarious over the top acting and some great dialogue. No surprise that it’s written by Robert Holmes. 4/5

  6. Paul Fauber | @wordsmithpaul

    DOCTOR WHO’s sixteenth season was a quest for disguised segments of the Key to Time. The Doctor volunteered to assemble it at the White Guardian’s invitation. ‘The Ribos Operation’ introduced Mary Tamm as Time Lord academy graduate, Romana, a book smart, gorgeous Gallifreyan who phychoanalyzed everyone.

    On Ribos, con men Garron and Unstoffe, added jethrik, the disguised key segment, to the heavenly body’s crown jewels. This valuable mineral enticed banished Graff Vynda-K’ to consider hiring a mercenary army to conquer his home world after buying the backwater planet.

    Unstoffe fled with the jethrik and Graff Vynda-K’s money and encountered Binro, who believed Ribos orbited a star and lights in the sky were stars. The con man didn’t have time for philosophy because the chase was on. The Doctor needed the jethrik and Graff Vynda-K wanted his money.

    Producer Graham Williams’ season-long quest contrasted with previous Producer Philip Hincliffe’s focus on gothic horror. Stories incorporated more humor, particularly between the Doctor and Romana while violence involved shooting at something off screen and a thump before the camera retreated and revealed a body.

    ‘The Ribos Operation’ portrayed the Doctor as a scoundrel, using his sonic screwdriver to break into the Crown Jewel case and slight of hand both to get the jethrik from Garron and plant a deadly bomb on Graff Vynda-K.

    Writer Robert Holmes’ straightforward story pitted the Doctor and Romana’s heist against Garron’s con until these opponents teamed up to survive the Graff Vynda-K’s murderous rage.

    • Hey Paul! Apologies — we had already finished our recording when we received your mini, so I’m afraid we didn’t read it out loud on the show. Thanks for sending it in, though! Still curious about what you thought of this one… hint, hint ;-)

  7. Peter Zunitch

    Aye, that thar be the first segment of what my gran call the Key to Time. I be a pirate and a guard and a northerner. Here be double crosses, jolly con men, angry displaced monarchs and floppy-footed monsters that arrrr oh so scary even though thay nar move a muscle.

    This ere be a wondurful story, with such amazin characters as the sophisticated white guardian, the Graff Vinda Kay and two sidekicks that me wish oh so hard we could meet again. We meet the seeker, who love tha ham an me new bestest mate, Binro the Heretic. How awesome be they fer sure?

    There weren’t no moment, no set, no character what were lacking in this here little tale, and let’s not forget Romana the pretty, who be very smart, but not none the wiser fer the world outside.

    It were the world building and the characters that set this story high in the list of me treasures, but all them stories for the run of Douglas Adams and the key to time be wonderful. Fur many generations to come, when one tells the tale of the Baker, these ere be the stories they talk.

    It be as comfy a tale as a nice hot cup of sacrifice to ones cause in the catacombs to a crazy man. We rekon it be worth a 4.5 overall, but in production quality and sentimentality, it be near 11.

    (P.S. while you were reading this, someone swiped your wallet.)

    • Ahoy there, Zunemeister!
      Sorry, your mini came in as I was editing this episode and mere hours away from dropping it, so I’m afraid we didn’t have a chance to read it ‘on the air’ either. Thanks very much, though! Love it! Awesome stuff as always, and a brilliant rating, though I say so myself, hehe.
      Rock on!

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