Retro-View #10: The Lure of an Arc

The Ribos Operation (Story #98, 1978)
Viewed 12 Mar 2013

Doctor/Companion: Four, Romana I
Stars: Tom Baker, Mary Tamm
Preceding Story: The Invasion of Time (Four, Romana I)
Succeeding Story: The Pirate Planet (Four, Romana I)

    Now I've done it. I should've known better than to start G on a story arc. She has a hard enough time with episodic cliffhangers that I suppose I should've expected her to tell me to pop in the next story of The Key to Time once we'd finished the first, but somehow I didn't.

    In the opening moments, I realize G hasn't met K-9 yet. We pause while I explain the general concept. Then the White Guardian (who G understandably thinks looks like Colonel Sanders; "he's even drinking a mint julep!") begins his little chat with the Doctor. No sooner has this dialog begun, though, when I have to pause again to explain about the dog bite (see the Story Notes). It's so much better than the herpes G had been assuming was the issue...

    Once we get to Ribos, G thinks Garron and Unstoffe look like Tibetans or Mongolians (and that Romana looks like the Good Witch of the North). We get tied up enough in the story that there are barely any more comments until Romana blindly walks into the shrivenzale's chamber. "Well look down, sweetie. Good god." Sometimes even the most willingly suspended disbelief gets stretched too far.

    But all is well when the story gets into full swing. I'm loving Dudley Simpson's score and June Hudson's costumes. G is loving Unstoffe's tall tale. She's in fits of giggles when the Graffe Vynda-K and the Doctor face off and trade slaps of the glove. And then Romana tells Garron that she and the Doctor are "searching for the first segment to the Key to Time." "Oh, god!" G spouts in surprise. "She just blabs that out! ... To the opposition, no less." Much as I love Romana I (aka "Fred"), she really does show how utterly green she is in this adventure.

    G also loves to hate the Graff. When he notes, "I flatter myself I know how to get the best out of natives," she huffs, "You DO flatter yourself, because you're mean and awful!" And she's not too sure about the physics of the Graff's plan, either. "Now, if you shoot a cannon down the halls of a catacomb, how's that work?"

    For my part, I'm loving Holmes's clever writing, Simpson's organ-heavy score, and the whole cast's performance. Most of all, I love Binro. The story of Binro the Heretic is something that really struck me from the first time I saw it, and I'm not ashamed to admit that it still makes me cry every time I watch. I think G liked him, too, but I don't think it got to her in quite the same way. Maybe it's just me...


    As the Doctor and Romana take their leave of Garron and Unstoffe, G is taken in my Garron's sleight-of-hand. She thinks the Doctor's lost the piece of the Key to Time. Lucky for the universe, he's even sneakier than Garron, and we can all breathe a bit easier. Except G - I've told her we have to wait for the rest of the Key to Time until we circle back around at a later date.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: The Keeper of Traken



    Darn it, I have the whole "Key to Time" story some where in my garage. I moved last year and found all my Doctor Who DVDs but the "Key to Time" bunch. Will have to come back to this! Sorry!

    By Tree (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    I hope you come across them eventually. It'll be worth the wait, at least for this one, and for one or two of the others, depending on your tastes. ;)

    By mrfranklin

    A solid start to the arc but I have to join you in going all lachrymose at the Binro was right scene. To me it is an indicator of Robert Holmes' skill that two guest characters can provoke such a reaction

    By Wholahoop (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    YES! I love Binro so much I made a T-shirt out of it. Forever one of my favorite moments from pre-Hiatus Who.

    By mrfranklin
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