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The Ribos Operation

Rating Votes
10
12%
11
9
13%
12
8
35%
32
7
25%
23
6
11%
10
5
1%
1
4
2%
2
3
1%
1
2
0%
0
1
0%
0
Average Rating
7.7
Votes
92

Latest Community Reviews

From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
3
Plot Rating:
3
Acting Rating:
6
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: XxDachshundxX Review Date: 10/12/18 9:21 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

I’m really not keen on The Ribos Operation, which really surprised me. On the surface, it looks amazing, with a Dicken-sy atmosphere and amazing set design. But when you actually watch it, it’s not really that good.
Tom Baker and Mary Tamm are good as the Doctor and Romana, but they don’t get to do much in this story. What really lets it down is that on occasions, Tom doesn’t really seem to be invested, with the Part Two cliffhanger and resolution as an example.
The plot is extremely bland and shallow. About 90% of it is info-dumps though, and the whole spiel with the jethrik is boring as hell. Instead of telling us about your journeys around Ribos, why not actually show us? It would make more sense and be a lot more interesting! Most of this story is just talking and arguing, and “let’s go over here” “why not?” kind of a action. What doesn’t help is that there are so many characters who all look the same, sound the same, do the same things, have the same effect on the plot and all have strange names. It’s rather confusing to follow them all. Graff Vynda K is quite bland as a villain, and fits into the category of most antagonists, military lords who like executions.
The plot goes all haywire in Part Four, when the action begins (finally!) but even then, it’s confusing as to what’s going on. The catacombs are atmospheric and ghost-like, but it doesn’t really work considering the main part of the story doesn’t take the same approach. Unlike most literary works, there is no beginning, middle and end that is discernible by plot, which really detracts from the overall narrative.
I feel like as an opener for the Key to Time season, it works, as most of the narrative focuses on that, but as a story, it’s pretty poor. A better season opener might have been The Stones of Blood.
I’m a massive fan of Bob Holmes’ work, but for me, this has to be one of his weakest scripts (besides The Space Pirates). If you want a good Bob Holmes story, watch something like Spearhead from Space or The Talons of Weng Chiang, but don’t waste your time with this.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
5
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
5
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/8/17 5:30 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

From now until next Wednesday, I'm going to do something very different. Usually I review a Doctor Who serial/episode one day and a film the next but due to the nature of The Ribos Operation being the start of a quest arc instead I will be reviewing a serial from Doctor Who's Key To Time season each day.

Nowadays it seems standard for Doctor Who to tackle a series arc but during the classic series it was very uncommon. Sure, there was 1964's The Keys to Marinus but that was more of a single serial arc - it didn't take up the entire season. The only true examples in the Doctor Who's classic series of a season-long arc are The Trial of a Time Lord...and the Key to Time. And so it was the job of The Ribos Operation to introduce what the arc was about.

The idea behind the Key to Time was that in each story the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Mary Tamm) would arrive somewhere where one of the pieces to the Key to Time is detected to be by Romana's locater. The Doctor and Romana are recruited by the White Guardian (Cyril Luckham ) to find all six segments of the Key to Time. With all six segments together, the White Guardian can restore the balance of order and chaos to the universe. They arrive on the planet Ribos, where Garron (Iain Cuthbertson) and Unstoffe (Nigel Plaskitt) are trying to sell Ribos to the ruler of planet Levithia the Graff Vynda-K (Paul Seed) by convincing him it is full of a rare and powerful mineral known as 'Jethrik'. They place a lump of the rare mineral in the glass case housing the planet's crown jewels and show the Graff, who becomes convinced the planet is a rich source for it. When the Graff realises he has been conned, the Doctor and Romana are forced to work with Garron and Unstoffe to claim the Jethrik back.

I'll admit, I was rather disappointed with this story as I expected more from the opener of a quest storyline. It is a fun tale though and typical of writer Robert Holmes' style. It is great fun the way the narrative subverts the heist genre; instead of trying to steal something FROM an unsuspecting owner, it becomes about trying to steal something BACK. This prevents the heist genre from becoming predictable, offering a fresh take that sometimes the genre could need.

The problem is that it doesn't offer any memorable conflict. The Graff is a bit of a generic threat; all he really does is order executions and understandably become extremely angry at being conned. He's certainly no threat compared to Daleks or even the Cavemen from An Unearthly Child, where you feel like the TARDIS crew are in danger. The Ribos guards seem a bit useless too. You've got to wonder who hired them considering one of them lets a complete stranger (IE the Doctor) pull their whistle away without any forcible protest. Surely a proper guard would be a bit more forceful: pull the Doctor's hand away and blow the whistle to call for the guards? The Graff's guards aren't much better either but at least they seem a bit more threatening and imposing than the guards on Ribos.

If anything makes this a Doctor Who story you have to see, it's the comical relationship between Unstoffe and Garron. Unstoffe and Garron make a brilliant double act and one that no doubt reminds some Whovians of Jago & Litefoot. They are hugely entertaining and definitely the best part of this rather average serial. Ian Cuthbertson and Nigel Plaskitt play to Robert Holmes' writing well and it's a crime that they never got the chance to record Big Finish audios. Ian Cuthbertson sadly passed away in 2009 and Nigel Plaskitt is still alive but Undtoffe without Garron like all great double acts really wouldn't work.

Also: James Purdie's lighting for this serial is very impressive, especially for the White Guardian scene. The scene with the White Guardian looks suitably dream-like and a nice almost Hawaiin-like quality that plays nicely with the ethereal quality of his being. I'd say it's definitely the best classic series serial for lighting - it prevents the show from feeling cheap even though it was made on a shoestring budget, meaning it can compete better with the blockbuster films of the time.


Overall, The Ribos Operation is a disappointingly average opener for a season-long story arc. There's nothing too special to be found here, however it can be applauded for its inventiveness with the lighting and subversion of the heist genre. The double act between the characters of Unstoffe and Garron is brilliant too, it's just a pity that the story offers little in the way of conflict for the Doctor, Romana, Unstoffe and Garron. The Gaff is certainly not going to be considered one of Doctor Who's greatest villains anytime soon.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
4
Replay Rating:
6
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: AlfredReview Date: 10/4/15 6:30 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

This should have been a very good episode but it is dragged down severely by one main factor: Tom Baker's acting. The resolution of the episode 2 cliff hanger, e.g., is destroyed by Baker not taking the scene or his lines seriously.

The rest of the cast do a sterling job, Paul Seed, Iain Cuthbertson and Nigel Plaskitt in particular are outstanding. But when you have the eponymous hero clowning around as if he doesn't care about the show, everyone else's good work is somewhat undone.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
6
Acting Rating:
6
Replay Rating:
6
Effects Rating:
6
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: adamelijahReview Date: 4/7/15 9:39 am
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.

The Ribos Operation is the beginning of the Key Time story. It seems the introduction of Time Lady Romana as the Doctor's new companion.The hunt begins on Ribos, a medieval backwater where a con man is trying to sell the planet to a fallen space prince trying to reclaim his former glory.

The second half of Episode 1, as well as Episodes 2 and 3 were pretty fun. Episode 1 took a while get started in introducing us to the key and Episode 4 was an odd wrap up. We get a sketchy intro to Romana, who is clever and also likes to psychoanalyze the Doctor. The show stealing performance of the program goes to Iain Cuthbertson playing the conman Garron. The interactions between him and the Doctor are priceless.

The serial suffers from someone embarrassingly hammy acting, dodgy special effects, and a somewhat unfocused story. The introduction of Binro had some touching moments but was really quite irrelevant to the plot. The end also seemed a little too dark for the comic tone set in the prior parts. Overall, this isn't bad, and has some good moments, but it's not among the show's best.