Doctor Who – The Ribos Operation

The Key to Time – Story 1

This story was first shown in September 1978, and starts with the Doctor (Tom Baker, remember?) travelling alone, having left Leela behind on Gallifrey at the end of The Invasion of Time. Well, alone apart from K9, or rather K9 Mk II, the original having chosen to stay with Leela. Before he can get round to actually going anywhere interesting, the Tardis is stopped, and the doors open into a bright white environment, where the Doctor meets the White Guardian. There are two Guardians, entities of enormous power to whom even the powerful and generally arrogant Time Lords defer. And the Guardian has a mission for the Doctor. Scattered through time and space are the six segments of the Key to Time, a device that is used to periodically restore the balance of the universe. And it seems that it’s one of those times. The Doctor has to find the pieces and hand them over to the White Guardian, so he can stop the universe falling to bits, or some such. Oh, and he has to be careful. The White Guardian is opposed by the Black Guardian, who’s more inclined to chaos, death, destruction and disorder. If he gets hold of the Key, Bad Things will happen. To assist him in his quest, the Guardian has arranged for someone to assist him, whether he likes it or not.

When he returns to the Tardis, he meets his new companion. Romanadvoratrelundar is a recent graduate from the academy on Gallifrey. The Doctor declares that her name is far too long and that he’ll call her Romana. Romana believes she has been sent on the mission by the President of the Council of Time Lords, but it was really the Guardian who sent her.

Using a device provided by the Guardian, the two Time Lords arrive at a delighful little planet called Ribos, where a couple of conmen are trying to persuade a deposed and moderately unstable warlord to buy the place. Not that it’s theirs to sell, of course. There’s lots of the usual running around, more than a little deception, and lots of fun.

Once everything is sorted out, the disguised segment of the Key to Time is converted into its normal form and the Doctor and Romana head off to find the next segment.

Extra features on this DVD include a rather nice retrospective documentary on the making of the story with contributions from many of the cast, and the usual informative production subtitles. A fine start to the series.

Read my comments on the rest of the Key to Time season