Doctor Who (1963)

Season 16 Episode 4

The Ribos Operation, Part Four

Aired Saturday 5:15 PM Sep 23, 1978 on BBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Trapped in the catacombs between a mad warlord and ravenous monsters, the Doctor and Romana work desperately to obtain the segment of the Key to Time - and escape alive.

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  • The Key to Time season kicks off to a good start

    This story gets praised alot and I tend to think of it as overrated. It's good but not a classic. Robert Holmes does a great job as always making a couple of sets feel like a whole, fully cultured planet. The supporting characters all are fleshed out. The introduction of the White Guardian is well done although I'm not so keen on the concept of God-like beings running things from behind the scenes. Holmes had brought the Time Lords down to Earth in The Deadly Assassin & now we have replaced them with the Guardians who also want to use the Doctor for their own ends. If they are so all powerful, who needs anyone else?

    Tom Baker is here starting to go for pure physical comedy with the role. He hasn't completely gone off the deep end, that would be in the next season, but he's getting there. I prefer the earlier Baker period more so than this. K9 isn't over used here but he does come in handy & the high pitched dog call is just too silly in keeping up the theme. Romana comes off very stiff & naive here but soon changes in the following stories to a much more likable companion. The Graff borders on overacting but i suppose it fits such a character. The sets are not bad but a bit shaby especially the Relic Room with the Doctor and Romana hiding 2 feet away from guards behind displays that they can't even fit behind!!! And the rubber monster thats half hanging out the door is not noticed by Romana as she crawls under until she is practically stepping on it!!! This takes away the suspension of disbelief, a sign of Graham Williams days as producer in which he seems to not care about trying his hardest to not make the sets look like a joke. The cliffhangers were very so-so. Binro was a nice addition, his story having nothing really to do with the main plot. Too bad agents of the Black Guardian were saved for the finale & didn't show up in the search for the other segments.moreless
Iain Cuthbertson

Iain Cuthbertson


Guest Star

Nigel Plaskitt

Nigel Plaskitt


Guest Star

Paul Seed

Paul Seed

Graff Vynda-K

Guest Star

John Leeson

John Leeson

Voice of K9

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Continuity: Tom Baker's facial wounds return in this episode.

    • Revealing Mistakes: A shot of rocks falling is used twice - once after Unstoffe is shot, once after the cannon goes off.

    • During the making of this story, Tom Baker got into a fight with actor Paul Seed's dog in a pub. His swollen lip (where the dog bit him) is clearly visible in the next story.

      Interestingly, near the beginning of the next episode, the Doctor bangs his mouth against the TARDIS console when a landing goes awry, causing the ship to shudder. For the rest of the episode he is seen with a mark on his upper lip. This was most likely written in as an explanation for the mark.

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Garron: There you are! I've been looking for you everywhere. [ holding up the tracer ] You, err, dropped this.
      Romana: Into your hand, yes!

    • Garron: Now we should be looking for my invaluable young friend Unstoffe.
      The Doctor: Who's carrying a valuable piece of jethrik.
      Garron: What is property at such a time?

    • Unstoffe: You'd risk your life for me. Why?
      Binro: You wouldn't understand. For years, I was jeered at and derided. I began to doubt even myself. The you came along and you told me I was right. Just to know that for certain, Unstoffe, is worth a life, eh?

    • Romana: Garron? Garron, where are you?
      K-9: He has departed, Mistress.
      Romana: Well, that's obvious, but to where.
      K-9: To see a man about a dog.
      Romana: What?
      K-9: That was the information he imparted.
      Romana: Well, why didn't you tell me earlier?
      K-9: You did not ask, Mistress.

    • Garron: Unstoffe, my son?
      Unstoffe: What?
      Garron: I was going to make a touching speech, but my throat is too dry.

    • Garron: How did you manage to switch the jethrik for the thermite pack without the Graff noticing?
      The Doctor: Garron, I would have thought you'd have known that. Sleight of hand. I was trained by Maskelyne.
      Romana: Quite clever, really.
      The Doctor: I do dislike faint praise. It was astoundingly clever!

    • Garron: I was afraid he'd notice.
      Unstoffe: Notice? What?
      Garron: We haven't lost the jethrik. I switched it for a piece of ordinary stone. I did, look. He switched it back again! Oh, Unstoffe, is there nobody you can trust these days?

    • Romana: You nearly got us killed.
      The Doctor: If you call that being nearly killed, you haven't lived yet. Just stay with me and you'll get a lot nearer. You're a lot nearer right now.
      Romana: You've got an unconscious death wish.
      Garron: Don't bicker!
      The Doctor: Not bickering.
      Romana: Never bicker.

    • Unstoffe: Money isn't everything, Garron.
      Garron: Well, who wants everything? I'll settle for ninety percent.

    • Graff Vynda-K [ to the disguised Doctor ]: So you're the last of my guards, eh? The last of my Levithian Invincibles! All the rest are dead now. Even Sholakh. Were you with me on Skarne, soldier?
      The Doctor: No, sir.
      Graff Vynda-K So many battles. Skarne, Freitas Labyrinth. Crestus Minor. There was a fight! I remember Sholakh planting my standard in the very heart of the Krestan general! So many battles. So many years. But over now. All but one of us doomed to die, soldier. Thus has it been written."
      (Graff Vynda-K activates a bomb and hands it to Doctor, who clasps it to his chest.) There is no greater honour, soldier, than to surrender your life in the service of the Graff Vynda-K! All but one of us! Sholakh? Sholakh? Sholakh! To me! To me! Charge! Onwards! Onwards!

    • Garron: Well, I admit I had a great struggle with me conscience. Fortunately, I won.

  • NOTES (0)


    • The Doctor: I was trained by Maskelyne.

      Referencing John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917), a stage magician, inventor, and spiritual debunker. He crafted many famous stage illusions and invented the pay toilet.