Part One

Sue: How many episodes is this one?
Me: Twenty-six.
Sue: Are you taking the piss? I haven’t got that kind of attention span. Do I really have to give a single mark to 26 episodes? How do you expect me to do that?
Me: Don’t worry, we’ll break it up into manageable chunks. You’ll be fine.

I press Play.

Sue: So, another season, then?
Me: Yes.
Sue: With the same producer?
Me: Yes.
Sue: Has he been told to pull his socks up? Have the BBC given him some more money? And did somebody tell Tom Baker to start taking his job a bit more seriously? If the answer to any of the above is no, I will have to resort to negative scores. I’m serious.

The Ribos OperationThe story begins in the TARDIS, and Sue is straight out of the traps with this little beauty:

Sue: Has Tom Baker got herpes?
Me: He was bitten by a dog.
Sue: Is that a yes, then?
Me: No, he was playing with an actor’s dog and it bit his lip off. They had to put the dog down.
Sue: WHAT?!

The Doctor and K9 are busy planning a holiday together.

Sue: K9 Mark II is a lot quieter than K9 Mark I. That’s a relief. Has he got the same personality as K9 Mark I? He wouldn’t remember anything that has happened to the other dog, would he? Do the two K9s ever meet? That would be good. Good but noisy.

The Doctor’s plans are interrupted when the TARDIS is mysteriously forced to land. When the doors swing open, the Doctor is blinded by the light.

Sue: Is it God? Please tell me it isn’t God.

The Ribos OperationThe Doctor steps out onto a barren landscape where a man in a Safari suit is sipping crème de menthe.

Sue: Is it God’s turn to read the book on Jackanory this week?

The White Guardian tells the Doctor all about the Key to Time.

Sue: Haven’t we seen this before? Didn’t William Hartnell have to sort this out?
Me: That was The Keys of Marinus. This is a bit more epic.
Sue: And a lot longer. Seriously, though, 26 parts? Really?

The White Guardian warns the Doctor to keep his wits about him – the Black Guardian wants to get his mitts on the Key to Time as well.

Sue: It sounds like something out of a fairy-tale. Why have we never heard of these Guardians before now?

The Guardian tells the Doctor he will be given a new assistant to aid him in his mission to recover the Key’s six segments, whether he likes it or not.

Sue: The Man from Del Monte, he say, “Do as you’re told!”

The Ribos OperationThe Doctor returns to the TARDIS to find Romanadvoratnelundar already waiting for him.

Sue: Put your tongue back in, love.

The Doctor wants to know if she can make tea.

Sue: The sexist bastard. That’s outrageous.

When the sparring is over, I ask Sue for her first impressions.

Sue: It’s nice to have somebody sensible for a change. But how did she get there? Was she hiding in the bathroom all this time?
Me: I’ve always assumed that the White Guardian transported her there somehow.
Sue: So this White Guardian can do anything, then?
Me: Pretty much.
Sue: Then why doesn’t he get off his backside and find the Key to Time himself? It’ll probably only take him a couple of minutes. It would save us a lot of trouble. This could be 26 minutes instead of 26 episodes.

On the planet Ribos, two con men, Garron and Unstoffe, are preparing to break into a castle.

The Ribos OperationSue: He’s definitely famous.

Blimey, I thought, she recognises Iain Cuthbertson, even though he’s wearing an enormous hat. I am seriously impressed.

Sue: He was in a television advert that ran for ages. He always had a cold.

I swear to God, I am not making this up.

Sue: Lockets. no, wait… Tunes! (and then in a voice that suggests serious brain damage) I’d like a return ticket to Dottingham, please.
Me: You are so close, it’s beginning to scare me. He played Malcolm –
Sue: Malcolm! That’s it! “Of course you can, Malcolm!”. It’s all coming back to me now.

Me: What about the guy on the left? Do you recognise him?
Sue: Not a clue.

Unstoffe is lowered into a room stuffed to the gills with important-looking relics. He proceeds to cut a hole in a glass cabinet which contains the crown jewels.

Sue: It’s Medieval Impossible.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana continue to bicker in the TARDIS.

Sue: This is very funny. I like Romana already. It looks like the Doctor has finally met his match.

The TARDIS arrives on Ribos.

Sue: The sets are excellent. They are doing a really good job given that this is filmed in a studio. I actually prefer it when they stick to one thing or the other. It’s much more consistent. The fake snow isn’t that bad, either.

The Ribos OperationThe Doctor lays down some ground rules for Romana to follow:

Doctor: Rule one, do exactly as I say. Rule two, stick close to me, and rule three, let me do all the talking.
Sue: Rule four, shut the TARDIS door behind you! Argh, that makes me so angry!

Garron greets another set of new arrivals on Ribos, namely the Graff Vynda-K and his loyal aide, Sholakh. Garron explains to his guests that Ribos has an elliptic orbit which results in seasons that last for decades.

Sue: It’s Game of Thrones again.
Garron: If anyone asks you where we’re from, just say the North.
Sue: See! It can’t be just a coincidence, can it?

The Graff Vynda-K is a very angry man.

Sue: This guy thinks he’s in Hamlet. He needs to throttle it back a bit. Still, the cast are very good. I have a good feeling about this story.
Me: (Pointing at Prentis Hancock) Do you recognise him?
Sue: No, but I recognise his voice.
Me: He’s been in loads of Doctor Who. He’s my favourite bad actor, remember?
Sue: Oh yeah. Me and my big mouth.

The Ribos OperationThe episode concludes with the Doctor and Romana coming face-to-face with a Shrivenzale.

Sue: That ain’t too bad.

Did you hear that? The Shrivenzale ain’t too bad! Phew.

Sue: Yeah, that was a good start. The script is very good. Does Robert Holmes write all 26 episodes? That would be cool.


Part Two

Sue: Aside from the guards’ peripheral vision problems – as per bloody usual – I’m really enjoying this.

Huge swathes of this episode pass without comment, which is always a good sign. In fact, this episode and The Seeds of Doom Part Five are tied when it comes to Sue keeping her gob shut (except those times she fell asleep, of course). My untidy scrawl usually results in two or three pages of notes, but here I’m left with less than a page. And she definitely hasn’t fallen asleep, because every few minutes she’ll laugh her head off at a Holmesian quip.

Sue: So this is basically an intergalactic version of The Real Hustle? (She won’t watch the fake one). I like it. I like it a lot.

The Ribos OperationAnother long period of silence follows before Sue decides to drop this particular bombshell:

Sue: I used to have a hairy muff.
Me: I’m not saying anything.
Sue: You know, the furry thing he’s using to keep himself warm. I had one of those when I was a kid. What’s so funny about that?

The Doctor and Romana argue about the best to complete their mission.

Sue: I’ve just noticed that Romana is running around this planet in very kinky boots. Is that really practical, especially in this weather?
Me: I’m not complaining.
Sue: The Doctor and Romana have great chemistry. Hang on, didn’t Tom Baker marry Romana? I’m sure I remember you telling me that, once.
: That’s a different Romana.
Sue: There’s more than one Romana?
Me: Spoilers. I’ve said far too much already.
Sue: How can there be two companions with the same name? How does that work?
Me: How do you think it works?
Sue: I don’t know. Is she her daughter?

I face palm.

Sue: What?
Me: She’s a Time Lord! Time Lady. Whatever.
Sue: Oh, I thought she was an air traffic controller or something like that. So she can regenerate, then? That makes sense, I guess. So when does that happen?

I sigh.

The Ribos OperationAnd that’s about it for The Ribos Operation Part Three, and the episode concludes with the Graff Vynda-K threatening the Doctor, Romana and Garron with summary execution.

Sue: He’s breaking the fourth wall, now! Everybody is at it in this programme. I blame Tom Baker for not setting a good example.

As the credits roll, Sue makes a startling suggestion:

Sue: Let’s watch one more.
Me: What about our two episodes a night rule?
Sue: Does anybody really give a shit about that? Exactly. Stick it on.


Part Three

The Graff Vynda-K and the Doctor get into a slanging match. The Graff slaps the Doctor across the face with his glove, so the Doctor grabs the glove and slaps him right back.

Sue: This is the best panto I have ever seen. It’s very funny. You could imagine Matt Smith doing something like that.

The Ribos OperationThe Captain of the guards discovers that the Graff’s gold has been stolen.

Sue: This story is so good, even this guy hasn’t managed to ruin it yet.

She’s also noticed something very odd about the Graff’s soldiers:

Sue: Why are they walking around with wastepaper bins on their heads?

The Doctor decides to call in the big guns. He blows into a whistle and, back in the TARDIS, K9 can’t wait to be let off the leash.

Sue: Aw bless him, he’s stuck.

A Seeker is brought in to track down the Graff’s missing gold.

The Ribos OperationSue: She is very familiar. Have you shown this to me before? This is ringing some very loud bells.
Me: You must be confusing this with the David Tennant story where the Time Lords came back and he has to regenerate at the end. Remember?
Sue: I cried.
Me: Yes, I know you did. Anyway, the Time Lords were hanging around with a woman who looked – and acted – a lot like her.
Sue: Yeah, that’s probably it. I knew I’d seen her somewhere before.
Me: (Pointing at Iain Cuthbertson) What about him?
Sue: No. Sorry.

Garron tells the Doctor that he sells planets to unwitting fools. The Doctor is almost impressed.

Sue: Tom always brings his A-game when the guest stars are this good. And you can always tell if Tom likes the script because he looks like he gives a shit. It’s when he gets a bad script that he can’t be bothered to try. He’s really enjoying himself this week, you can tell. I bet these two had a few drinks together after filming.

Unstoffe is pursued by some guards and he takes refuge with a man named Binro, who is living rough on the outskirts of the city.

Sue: It’s Brian’s mum from Life of Brian. “He’s a very naughty boy”.

When we reach the scene where Binro tells Unstoffe about his heretical theories, you can hear a pin drop.

The Ribos OperationUnstoffe: Binro, supposing I were to tell you that –
: Mum, did you put that washing in that I asked you to?
Me: Nicol! For ****’s sake!
Sue: Leave her alone. She just got back from her weekend away. Sit down, love, and tell us all about it.

I hit the pause button as Nicol and her mother engage in a very lengthy catch-up, and when she finally leaves us to it, I go back and play the whole scene again from the beginning.

It was worth it.

Sue: That was so sweet. I felt myself welling up a bit at the end. That was lovely.

After a while, Sue comes to this conclusion:

Sue: I’m not sure if the kids watching this would have enjoyed it as much as I am now. Did you enjoy it?
Me: The only memory I have of this story is that I missed the first fifteen minutes of Part One because my dad dragged me to a football match. It wasn’t even a good football match. Hell, it wasn’t even a mediocre one, like a trip to see Coventry City at Highfield Road. No, it was a weird conference league pub team in the middle of nowhere. I hated every minute of it. Anyway, the match finished at 4:45pm and the first episode started at 5:45pm, so we had plenty of time to get home. But my dad didn’t drive at the time and we had to wait for his mate to give us a lift back. And this so-called mate wanted to have a drink in the bar first (which I wasn’t even allowed into), and I had to wait outside in this draughty corridor in the freezing cold (it was definitely pissing it down outside) eating pork scratchings and hoping they’d get a bloody move on. I sulked all the way home, knowing we’d left far too late to make it. I didn’t have a clue who Romana was or what the Key to bloody Time was when I turned on the telly. I’ve never really forgiven my dad for that.

Sue: I’m sorry I asked.

The episode concludes with the Graff and his men closing in on Garron, the Doctor and Romana.

Sue: That wasn’t the best cliffhanger in the world. It’s almost exactly the same as the last one.
Me: That’s the trouble when you watch these episodes back-to-back like this.
Sue: Speaking of which, shall we knock them all out tonight?
Me: All 26 episodes?
Sue: Very funny, but I think I’ve worked out how this season works, thanks. I’m not stupid, you know.
Me: Okay, but only if you promise to cut back on your hairy muff references.
Sue: Shut up and put the next one on before I change my mind.


Part Four

The Ribos OperationIt’s the moment I’ve been dreading, as the Shrivenzale takes centre stage.

Sue: It’s not too bad. My only problem with this thing is that it doesn’t really need to be there. They could have removed it completely and you wouldn’t have missed it. The sound effects are doing a good job of selling it, though. It’s alright, I guess. I’ve seen worse.


We’re on safer ground with Binro, who Sue adores. At one point, Binro asks Unstoffe to explain the wonders of space travel to him.

Sue: They had better take him away on a spaceship at the end of this story.

Unstoffe tells Binro about his friend, Garron, who really hails from Hackney Wick.

The Ribos OperationSue: They should have been given their own spin-off series. It could have been Minder in Space. Or Only Fools and Horses in Space.
Me: What about Budgie in Space?
Sue: Budgie! That’s where I know him from! I knew I recognised him from somewhere. Great actor. I loved Budgie.
Me: Of course you did, Verity Lambert produced it.

Binro volunteers to search for Garron.

Sue: They had better not kill Binro. There will be hell on if they do.

Meanwhile, Romana and K9 are wandering through a maze of caves.

Sue: Romana is much nicer to K9 than Leela was. Even when she’s telling him off, she still gives him a little pat on the head.

Binro is killed by the Graff’s men because he is caught carrying a communicator that was given to him by Unstoffe. It’s very tragic.

Sue: ***** **** **** ***** ****** ********!!! *****?!

The Ribos OperationThe Captain of the guards blows the catacombs up and Sholakh is killed by falling rocks. The Graff Vynda-K is devastated. Almost as devastated as Sue was when Binro was killed.

Sue: I almost feel sorry for the bad guy, now. He really loved his best mate, didn’t he?

The Graff is so upset, actor Paul Seed has no option left but to turn his performance up to twelve (he’s been hovering around eleven since Part Two).

Sue: He thinks he’s on a stage at Stratford. He just about gets away with it because this looks like a Shakespeare play on a stage at Stratford. It sorta fits.

After killing the Seeker, the Graff gives a guard (who is actually the Doctor in disguise) a bomb to hold.

Sue: Why don’t they just walk out of there together? Why blow anything up at all? What is the point?
Me: He believes the seeker’s prophesy that only one person will survive.
: Then he’s madder than he looks.

The Graff is consumed by rage and nostalgia as he imagines himself in the midst of some terrible battle.

Sue: It’s very deep, this. I bet the kids didn’t get a lot out of this one.

The Graff Vynda-K rounds a corner and explodes.

The Ribos OperationSue: So the Doctor switched the bomb for the jethrik? I’m not sure how I feel about that. Actually, **** him, he killed Binro.

Garron and Unstoffe come to wave the Doctor and Romana off.

Sue: I’m really happy that the con men didn’t die. I would never have forgiven Robert Holmes if he’d killed everyone. I’m still struggling to forgive him for what happened to Binro.

Back on the TARDIS, Romana transforms a lump of jethrik into the first segment of the Key to Time.

Sue: They should have waited until they had all the pieces together in one place. It must be dangerous leaving that thing lying around, especially when you never remember to shut the TARDIS doors behind you.


The Score

Sue: Great script – probably one of the best scripts we’ve ever had – great actors, great sets and carpentry, a quieter K9 and a good start for the new companion. Even Tom Baker was back on form. There was something missing, though. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s not perfect. But it’s pretty close.


Me: I’ll settle for ninety percent.




  1. Simon Harries  July 9, 2012

    There’s lovely! 🙂

  2. matt bartley  July 9, 2012

    “Actually, **** him, he killed Binro”

    There’s your t-shirt.

  3. Steven  July 9, 2012

    The only thing more joyous and heartwarming than watching “The Ribos Operation” is to read about how joyous and heartwarming someone else finds it.

  4. Carey  July 9, 2012

    Brilliant, 9 out of 10. For the review, I mean: there’s a point deducted because there was no complimenting the carpentry.

    Speaking of which, it’s taken me this long to realise I’ve never been once tempted to look to the end of the page to see what Sue’s mark out of ten is: reading how she gets to whatever she thinks of the story is what’s important.

    I love the Key To Time series, it’s probably my favourite Tom series– even Kroll isn’t that bad (but I’m getting ahead of of the series here). That said, I don’t know how Sue will mark the next story: it’ll either be close to Ribos Operation or close to the Invasion of Time. Can’t see there being a middle ground.

    • Neil Perryman  July 9, 2012

      “great sets and carpentry” – quote. 😉

      • Carey  July 9, 2012

        Curses! I meant to say not enough complimenting the carpentry! Really. Oh, okay then, I missed that bit. Sorry!-(

  5. Matthew Kilburn  July 9, 2012

    Don’t forget Nigel Plaskitt’s immortal portrayal of Hartley Hare in Pipkins – a prime candidate to be sold skrynge stone by Garron, if there ever was.

    • Neil Perryman  July 9, 2012

      Yep, sadly Sue has no memory or Pipkins. Maybe I’ll show her a DVD later…

  6. Lewis Christian  July 9, 2012

    Great write-up. I find this season pretty average so it’s nice to be able to relive it and maybe re-evaluate it. No comment on the “Fred” joke? You could’ve told Sue that was actually her real Time Lady name!

    • Neil Perryman  July 9, 2012

      She basically just laughed her head off every time the Doctor and Romana said anything to each other.

      • Lewis Christian  July 9, 2012

        Good to hear! Tamm is often underrated, I think, due to the other one spanning more time.

        • Richard Parker  July 9, 2012

          She always looks bored to me…I can never decide if that’s the character or Tamm herself. She’s good in this, though. I suspect her decision to leave was made the moment she picked up the script for…well, any of the other stories in this season.

          • Thomas  July 10, 2012

            She’s great in the later stories, though, Armageddon especially. That more than anything else makes me sad she didn’t stay on any longer (though of course, then we might not have had Lalla Ward, which would be a tragedy in itself).

  7. John Callaghan  July 9, 2012

    I’d like to get in first of the multitude suggesting “I used to have a hairy muff” as a T-shirt quote.

  8. Lewis Christian  July 9, 2012

    Adventures with the Wife with the Muff in Space.

    Oh dear. What have you started, Sue?

    • Frankymole  July 11, 2012

      Garron’s muff looks more furry than hairy to me. Still, as long as it keeps his hands warm then its appearance is immaterial…

  9. Matthew Kilburn  July 9, 2012

    I agree with Sue’s summation entirely here – the something missing is nagging, and it lacks an obvious hook to start the season on. A great Holmesian script, though.

  10. John S. Hall  July 9, 2012

    I thought that Paul Seed’s dog almost immediately died of acute alcohol poisoning after the bite incident…?

  11. Richard Parker  July 9, 2012

    One of my all-time favourite stories – and one of the few Williams-era tales which I ever have a desire to re-watch…so glad that a ‘not we’ likes it. The only flaw is the studio-bound ‘outside’ scenes; oh, if only those lovely sets could have been filmed…..

    But otherwise, pretty much perfection.

    Sadly, the rest of this season lies somewhere south of mediocre; mostly hovering around ‘unwatchable’; especially after such a great start.

    I fear Sue is in for great disappointment over the coming 22 episodes……… even season 17 is more palatable (just!).

  12. Richard Parker  July 9, 2012

    Oh, yeah, one more thing….Paul Seed’s performance……exactly the kind of stage acting I hate on TV; many a good story ruined because of it (witness Bruce Purchase in The Pirate Planet). But Sue’s right…somehow, here, it just……works.

    • Thomas  July 10, 2012

      See, I’ve never minded it, I think because Doctor Who (the first 20 years especially) hails from a form of television that’s derived from live theatre- television that was filmed live was the norm when the show first premiered, and you can really see how it affects the show even well into the Tom Baker years (there’s an excellent video blog from TARDIS Eruditorum that highlights how it makes the shift from theatrical to cinematic filming in The Leisure Hive).

      So a performance that’s just a little big for the screen always felt natural to Who for me.

  13. Phillip Serna  July 9, 2012

    …and no mention of Dudley’s sublime score to this one? My gosh!

  14. Daru  July 9, 2012

    Love this tale – nice one Sue!

  15. Jazza1971  July 9, 2012

    I didn’t realise that Paul Seed’s dog got put down for the bity dog thing.

    • Richard Parker  July 9, 2012

      I’m not sure that’s true! 🙂

      • Jazza1971  July 9, 2012

        Ah, a joke! Damn it, these holidays are dulling my mind… 😀

  16. Harry  July 9, 2012

    I always remember Iain Cuthbertson more as the Scunner Campbell in “Supergran”, but he is very good here in this story too.

  17. Simon Harries  July 9, 2012

    “They are naked and they move…”

    • PolarityReversed  July 9, 2012

      Oh yes – when it comes to the stars, a tableau it ain’t!
      A neat little poke at the Whitehouse brigade perhaps?

    • Frankymole  July 11, 2012

      Ah, Budgie! Great series; also Cuthbertson is brilliantly sinister in “Children of the Stones”. Is he still around, I heard he was very poorly?

  18. Ryan Hall  July 9, 2012

    The cliffhanger to the 1st episode is the 1st time (as a 4 year old i will add ) i actully felt terrified of Doctor who, Romana screaming and the door lowering stuck with me for a long time.

    • Jamie  July 10, 2012

      I always remember The Doctor’s upside-down wide eyes accompanied by the ‘sting’.
      Stayed with me forever.
      I delightedly thought, ‘It’s back!’

  19. Marty  July 9, 2012

    I usually find this story a bit slow when it hits half way through Part 3. It’s all the catacombs stuff.

    Now Sue’s got me thinking, maybe Ribos could be somewhere in the Game of Thrones universe. There’s nothing in this story, or Game of Thrones to suggest there isn’t a spaceship landed somewhere. It wouldn’t take much for them to say instead “Icetime is coming…”

    Nothing to be said on Romana’s big coat? At least she’s got a more interesting wardrobe than Leela.

  20. Roger Byrne  July 9, 2012

    Delighted that Sue liked this one. Put ” Is it God’s turn to read the book on Jackanory this week?” on a t-shirt and I’d definitely buy it!

  21. PolarityReversed  July 9, 2012

    Glad this one got the wifely thumbs up. The Sting in Space – one of my all-time favourites. Easily one of the best scripts. The structure is so elegant that you experience its effect, rather than being bludgeoned by the concepts.

    So much about it reminds me of the brilliant Shakespeare cycle the BBC were running at the time – sets, design, direction, performances, score.

    Tom was always at his best when faced with really classy supporting casting. I honestly don’t think there’s a single weak link in the talent. Even Paul Seed’s OTT bombast works – it can’t be easy to keep up that level of preposterous psychotic fanaticism. He’s sort of a dalek in a furry hat. Can’t really have a Dr Who story without at least one good nutter.

    Great setup for an ambitious season where the star characters are really superstition and science. Such promise…

  22. Charles Daniels  July 9, 2012

    Brilliant to see this story so loved! Always one of my favourites!
    Binro was right!

  23. Marcus Scarman  July 9, 2012

    My favourite season, it was this one that turned me into a proper rabid ” never ever miss an episode” fan that wished I had enough pocket money to buy C90’s to tape the soundtrack. Although my sister would never have stayed quiet throughout. No matter, it’s always been held in great regard by myself even though generally speaking fandom has fallen out of love with it, but what do they know. “Ribos” has always impressed me across the years, the script has always held up well, the performances are perfect across the board with the over the top moments of Mr Seed being quickly balanced by the sinister soothsayer or beautiful moments from Binro. The only nagging issue I have with it is the slash editing at the start of the first episode although I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have noticed that at the time, probably too busy hunting for the Target novel of the story as back in those days I assumed they were available after the story finished airing. Fingers crossed Sue enjoys the rest of the season, the only one I never really took to was “Pirate Planet” for some reason,

    • PolarityReversed  July 10, 2012

      Harhar! I used to prop my little tape recorder up against the TV too. C60s were best.

      Agree with you about Pirate Planet, and I can give a clear reason. But that’s for later.

  24. Al  July 9, 2012

    “Is it God’s turn to read the book on Jackanory this week?” gave me a stitch. Superb.

  25. Ian Marchant  July 9, 2012

    As a kid on it’s original broadcast I hated this show, it was dull and talky and we wanted monsters. I also didn’t understand any of it. I much preferred the exciting and scary ‘Power of Kroll’ which if nothing else proves one thing…

    Kids are twats and know nothing.

    Now I adore the story, the dialog sparkles and the face slapping scene is genius. This and ‘Androids of Tara’ are the cream of this season, I shudder to think what Sue will make of Kroll with it’s obviously bored cast or the dreary ‘Amargeddon’ with it’s obviously bored audience but I can’t wait.

  26. encyclops  July 9, 2012

    Damn it! I watched half of this at the gym this morning and thought I had a prayer of catching up to you! Still, I’m not complaining.

    I bet the kids didn’t get a lot out of this one.

    This kid definitely didn’t. At the time the marvelous script, sparkling relationships, hilarious plot and premise, terrific performances, etc. went right over my head. I thought it was OK, but at the time I was fooled by the tasteful but subdued costuming, the talkiness, and the rubbery Shrievenzale into thinking this was an average story, a light jog around the park. It wasn’t until many years, several viewings, and to be honest, a few in-depth reviews (notably the treatment of it in About Time) had sunk in before I picked up on all the nuances and subtleties, and was mature enough to appreciate them. At the time I had a sense that Doctor Who was always more or less like this, when in point of fact it was all too rarely up to this standard.

    This morning I really got what everyone sees in this story, and what Sue clearly picked up on from jump street. To the many reasons I appreciate and love this blog, add “getting me to watch this story again.”

    Now I really have to scramble to get to the next story, which is another one I didn’t appreciate as a kid. Let’s see if it’s grown on me too.

    • encyclops  July 9, 2012

      One thing about this story I loved then and now, of course: Romana. Favorite companion, hands down. Both of her.

  27. John G  July 9, 2012

    I’m impressed that Sue spotted Tom’s lip wound so quickly, and that she remembered The Keys of Marinus, given how long ago it is now since you watched it. I wonder if memories of The Romans were also being stirred when she thought the Seeker looked familiar (OK, probably not). Definitely agree that the Jackanory quote should be on the t-shirts this time!

    While negative comments are fun, it’s always nice to see them balanced by an appreciative view of a story, and like Sue I think Ribos has an excellent script, almost the last great one that Holmes contributed to Who (I think we all know what the last one was). You get the sense watching this that producer and script editor have finally got a handle on the show, as there is a creative vision here that was missing during the previous season, as well as some decent production values and a strong cast. It’s interesting that Sue mentions fairy tales, because there is a strong feel of that here, and I always think the wintry look makes this an excellent story to watch at Christmas. It’s definitely one of the top three stories of the Williams era, alongside City of Death and Fang Rock (which is admittedly a Hinchcliffe leftover).

    I’m very pleased to see Romana meet so rapidly with Sue’s approval, as she is great in this – just a shame Sue already knows what is going to happen to her further down the line. Still, it will be interesting to see how she compares the two of them – no disrespect to Tom’s taste in women (or Richard Dawkins’) but Mary is the Time Lady for me, especially in that white dress!

    • encyclops  July 9, 2012

      Why choose? Just get yourself cast in “The Two Romanas” and Bob’s your uncle.

      • John G  July 9, 2012

        Well, it would certainly be a tempting prospect…

        • Dave Sanders  July 9, 2012

          “What have the Romanas ever done for us?”

          • encyclops  July 9, 2012

            The more I think about that idea (not that way, honestly) the more it seems like gold to me. The only drawback is that their personalities weren’t quite as distinct as those of adjacent Doctors tended to be. But otherwise this seems tailor-made for Big Finish or one of the novels. Are you telling me none of them ever did that?

  28. Dave Sanders  July 9, 2012

    It’s very telling that the two people who redeemed the previous season were Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes, mostly strongly associated with previous eras of the show.

    I’ve got to admit, I certainly didn’t get this story first time around, back when I was nine. It made no impression on me at all, the politics and skullduggery went completely over my head and like Sue says, as a monster the Shrivenzale is unmemorable from not needing to be there. You get that a lot with Robert Holmes – ‘monsters’ that don’t double up as characters or ideas simply aren’t his thing, and half the time are only included as a contractual obligation. We’ll see the ultimate expression of that later on in the season too.

    Of course, looking back on it with an adult mind, The Ribos Operation is as wonderful as everyone says it is, for the same reasons as Carnival Of Monsters.

  29. JEDI Enigma  July 9, 2012

    The one point was taken off for the breaking of the fourth wall. It should be obvious from the review of The Invasions of Time that breaking the fourth wall will get serious point deductions. The starting score for any remaining episodes is 10 – # times the foruth wall is broken.

  30. DPC  July 10, 2012


    The bad news is, Tom eventually gets uber-silly…

    The good news is, Tom’s silliness is reined in after that… not all of those stories might appeal, and maybe they all might because there are some goodies coming (both silly and non-silly), but those surprises are all worth waiting for. There are still plenty of good ratings to be had. 🙂

    • Lewis Christian  July 10, 2012

      We’re now just getting into Stage 2 of Tom – there are 3 distinct Toms, really. I don’t mind the silliness. Mid-life crisis for the Fourth Doctor where he loses his marbles.

      • John G  July 10, 2012

        I think the Tomfoolery does get overstated a bit – I can think of only a handful of stories in this period when he really does go OTT.

  31. BWT  July 10, 2012

    “Is it God? Please tell me it isn’t God.”

    I can just imagine such a thing happening when Douglas Adams arrived – just for shits and giggles before something rather unpleasant happened to Him, like a puff of logic…

    • BWT  July 10, 2012

      “Is it God’s turn to read the book on Jackanory this week?”

      Even better…

      • BWT  July 10, 2012

        And then there was this: “I used to have a hairy muff.” OMFG!!! I was not expecting that…

        Best. Quote. Ever.

        Put it on a t-shirt. Now.

        • Jazza1971  July 10, 2012

          Do you really want a hairy muff on a t-shirt???

  32. Ritch Ludlow  July 10, 2012

    Lovely jubbly! I adore this blog.

  33. chris-too-old-to-watch  July 10, 2012

    Ribos just goes to show what could happen in the original series when a bit of care was taken. Seems that people really invested in this story, both their talents, and some money.
    Unfortunately Armageddon’s coming……….

  34. Thomas  July 10, 2012

    Glad to see she enjoyed it. Ribos has a special place in my heart because it was the very first classic series episode of Doctor Who I ever watched (Up to that I had seen I think the first season and a half of the new series). I remember picking it from the Netflix Streaming options- it was either going to be Ribos or “Pyramids of Mars”, the former because of K-9, and the latter because of Sarah Jane (both of whom were I think the only things I ever knew about Doctor Who before seeing any of the show). I ended up going with this one because it started off a story arc, figured it’d be a good place to jump in. I immediately gravitated to Baker and Tamm, and while the story initially wasn’t quite my cup of tea, it kept me interested enough to check out some of the first episodes of the show, which really got me hooked.

    Having rewatched it recently (along with the rest of the Key to Time arc), it really holds up well. One of the best Robert Holmes stories by far (though “Deadly Assassin” and “Sun Makers” are I think my personal favorites). Matter of fact, I enjoy the whole season a ton, “Power of Kroll” excepted (it’s merely okay, though the acting is great).

    Heck, I even like “Armageddon Factor”. And not ironically, either, I think it’s one of the most criminally underrated Who stories of the whole run- I’ll be interested to see how it comes off here.

  35. Wholahoop  July 10, 2012

    I loved the speech by Unstoffe to Binro and Binro’s reaction. Robert Holmes at his vintage best.

    An excellent start to the season. I am looking forward to Wis’ views on the various stories coming up

  36. DamonD  July 10, 2012

    “It’s Medieval Impossible.” Fantastic!

  37. Paul Greaves  July 10, 2012

    Paul Seed is a much better director than he was an actor…

  38. Bryan Simcott  July 10, 2012

    Sue asked if this was really for kids or if they got it. War stories were big when i was a kid , and we used to play soldiers and Graff`s and To me Sholack to me. Shouting like we were playing to the back row of the theatre ,even if we didnt know what a theatre was.

    Loved this to bits, and my poor dog had to (yes by law had to) the plastic crocodile maks we got at the sea side. it fit on his head and he became the shivenzale ….bloody hell being akid was so much fun and you dont even know it at the time.

    Now i`m 50 and my it hurts when i try to put costumes on my cat as she has very sharp claws

  39. Neowhovian  July 10, 2012

    Key to Time didn’t really grab me the first couple of times, but reading this review and thinking back on it, I can say that I did quite enjoy Ribos. I may have to put this in the queue to show the Ladies of WhoFest at some point…

    • Wholahoop  July 11, 2012

      But will it be all 6 stories in succession or at random times depending on what facet you feel each story addressed?

  40. P.Sanders  July 10, 2012

    There’s been some Kroll backchat so I am nailing my flag to the mast right here and saying that I love Kroll! (The Power of, not actual Kroll, though I think it is a pretty nifty monster only let down by the odd bit of poor split-screen). Yes there’s some low-budget on show in places but nothing as bad as a monster wearing Clarks shoes (see the following story). Plus it’s a cracking adventure, great location and Holmes creates another world with a little depth (eg Sons of Earth). Yes shame the swampies are in green paint but…

    I admit it was probably the thrilling cover to my older brother’s copy of the novelisation that made me fall for TPoK before I even read it or saw the video, but I do so adore it non-ironically. Go on Sue, you were good to The Mutants and The Time Monster – fingers crossed the Kroll revival starts here..?

    In the meantime, Yay for Ribos!

    • John Callaghan  July 11, 2012

      Hear, hear!

    • Dave Sanders  July 11, 2012

      I think it’ll be too slow for her tastes – and as much as some people dislike Armageddon, there’s a lot of plot at the start and it only drags towards the end.

  41. Christopher Pittard  July 10, 2012

    So Sue hasn’t seen Iain Cuthbertson in *Children of the Stones*? I watched that as a student and then, for weeks afterwards, my housemates would periodically bellow “IT IS TIME!” Time for tea, time for going to the shops, any excuse really.

  42. Nev Fountain  July 11, 2012

    How uncanny. I missed the first episode too, as we were stuck in a traffic jam coming back from the holidays. Watches 25 episodes and didn’t know what the hell was going on. Oh well. It prepared me for watching ‘Lost’.

  43. Jon Clarke  July 11, 2012

    Glad it ranked so well – I reall liked thw whole Key series, probably the apogee of the original series, IMHO.
    Even more glad Romana is approved!

  44. Kennovision  July 12, 2012

    If nothing else, the Malcolm memories helped me recall this.

  45. Gareth Lee-Thomas  July 12, 2012

    I really liked this story. So much so that when people say, “Ok we get it, you like it,” I say ,” No but I REALLY like it!!”

    Always feel good for watching it.

    Mary Tamm should be available on prescription too.