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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.