Doctor Who (Tom Baker) – The Ribos Operation

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Welcome to Season 16!

The first story of the season was written by Robert Holmes, consisted of four parts, and ran from 2 September to 23 September, 1978.

This is the first season that introduced the idea of a season long arc, as the Doctor (Baker) is recruited by the White Guardian (Cyril Luckham) to hunt down the 6 pieces to the Key to Time. It seems, occasionally, they need to be reassembled to maintain some form of cosmic balance. The Doctor is to hunt them down, and save the universe by doing so.

He’s warned it will be difficult, and we hear the first mention of a Black Guardian. He insists on doing this on his own, but a new Companion is foisted upon him, as well as K9 Mark II, as he returns to the TARDIS. Within he finds fellow Gallifreyan, Romanadvoratrelundar (Mary Tamm), fresh from the academy, and just over 100 years old. She’s as clever as the Doctor (whom we learn is somewhere between 756 and 759 in this story), and it’s easy to see that they are going to be butting heads fairly quickly.

Calling her Romana, they set off to locate the first piece of the Key, and end up on the planet Ribos, where there Tracer (a device given them by the Guardian) will lead them to the hidden Key, as it can be in any shape or form.

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On arriving on Ribos, a fairly cold, and primitive world, they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue when they encounter Graff Vynda-K (Paul Seed), an exiled tyrant, with a decidedly evil streak, who is being conned into buying into the planet by a pair of con artists, Garron (Iain Cuthbertson) and Unstoffe (Nigel Plaskitt) who have him convinced that the planet has wealthy deposits of a mineral called jethrik.

The Doctor quickly rumbles what is going on with the trio, and of course, finds himself meddling, while also generating a fairly healthy banter with Romana.

The story moves pretty quickly, and honestly, I was more interested in watching the development of the relationship between Romana and the Doctor, it’s nice to see someone who is actually an equal to the Time Lord, and can hold her own against him.

It’s nice to see the two of them, and Mary Tamm’s character makes a fairly strong impression from the off. I do believe the Doctor will have his hands full with this version of Romana, but I also know there will be a regeneration for her into the version everyone associates with Tom Baker’s Doctor.

Overall, it’s a fun story, entertains, the bickering is great, K9 is already playing a larger part in the stories, one can’t deny his appeal, and by the tale’s end, our heroes walk away with the first segment.

But next time, they’ll have to take on The Pirate Planet!

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