Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation (Story #98)

6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Liked the Key to Time seasonal theme idea

Don't like the story



I could have just met you somewhere normal…but I like to make an entrance even more than you!

The Doctor (Tom Baker) is summoned by the White Guardian (Cyril Luckham) and learns that he’s been selected to locate the six segments of the Key to Time. Assigned to travel with him is a young Time Lord named Romanadvoratrelundar aka Romana aka Fred (Mary Tamm), and together they travel to Ribos for the first piece of the Key to Time. On Ribos, they learn that the people are unaware of space travelers but up for sale by a con artist named Garron (Iain Cuthbertson) to Graff Vynda-K (Paul Seed). When Graff Vynda-K learns of the deception, and the Doctor and Romana learn that the piece of the Key to Time is disguised as a rare mineral named jethrik. Romana and the Doctor must get the jethrik and stop Graff Vynda-K.


The Key to Time!

Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation was the first series in the sixteenth season of Doctor Who. Following Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time, the serial was aired in four parts from September 2, 1978 to September 23, 1978. Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation was collected as part of The Tom Baker Years as Story #98.  The serial is part of the larger sixteenth season long serial called The Key to Time and usually packaged with stories #99-104.


The Doctor meets Romana

Following Doctor Who:  The Invasion of Time, the Doctor is without a companion again due to Leela (Louise Jameson) leaving the series. This serial had plans to return Sarah Jane Smith as the Doctor’s companion, but Elisabeth Sladen declined to come back. With the big serial, the writers decided to change it up and have the Doctor travel with an “equal”.

Romana is in this season played by Mary Tamm but later serials has her played by Lalla Ward (usually referred to as Romana I and Romana II). She’s a different companion since she is a Time Lord and much like the Doctor. I think it would have been interesting to see the Doctor travel with an older Time Lord or a Time Lord of equal terms…Romana is supposed to be years younger though she considers herself smarter. I like the idea of a Time Lord companion and wouldn’t mind them revisiting this idea in the new series (which would be a problem since he’s supposed to be the last true Time Lord…River Song is as close as we’ll get).


Oh no…a dog lizard thing…

I don’t care too much for the story in this serial, but I do like the whole Key of Time set-up. It feels like a true serial and a series with a plot. The season almost works like the current series in that the episodes are individual but with a common goal. I’m very surprised that after this season, that they didn’t return to it sooner (The Trial of the Time Lord attempted a similar story during Colin Baker’s run did a similar story).

Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation is the first step in a different Doctor Who adventure. The concept is fun and Romana is different, but the story isn’t the greatest start. It does leave you looking forward future installments to see where the story goes. Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation was followed by Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet.

Preceded By:

Doctor Who:  The Invasion in Time (Story #97)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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