EPISODE: The Ribos Operation Part One
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 480
STORY NUMBER: 098
TRANSMITTED: 02 September 1978
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
SCRIPT EDITOR: Anthony Read
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)
The Doctor is planning a holiday for himself & K-9 when he is brought to the realm of the White Guardian who charges him with recovering the six segments of the all powerful Key to Time which are scattered & hidden throughout the cosmos. They are all disguised so the Doctor will be given a locator device and a new assistant, Romana. The Black Guardian will be seeking to stop the Doctor in his quest. He meets his new assistant, the Time Lady Romana, when he returns to the Tardis. The locator core guides the Tardis to the planet the first segment can be found on.
On the planet Ribos, Garron and Unstoffe break into the building holding the crown jewels with Unstoffe depositing a lump of valuable mineral Jethrik into as cabinet. Unstoffe meets the newly arrived visiting dignitary the Graff Vynda-K. Garron is attempting to sell Ribos to the Graff but the Graff is unwilling to pay the price Unstoffe is asking. The Graff discovers a reference the amount of Jethrik on the planet and becomes much more interested: The jethrik when mined would help pay for a campaign to regain his crown & homeworld. The Doctor & Romana break into the state strong room, locating the segment of the Key in the cabinet housing the crown jewels but as they try to open it Unstoffe sounds an alarm causing the Doctor & Romana to be trapped with the shrivenzale, the fierce local beast who guards the chamber.
It's a game of two halves today: the first part of the episode is 100% set up for the season giving the Doctor his quest & introducing his new companion, and the second is the start of the the first part of the quest where two sets of people in the space of an episode try to break into the strong room containing the crown jewels. Neither escape with the crown: Unstoffe leaves the Jethrik behind, immediately making you suspicious of everything involving the mineral afterwards, and the Doctor & Romana get trapped in there with the beast guarding the jewels.
After becoming producer Graham Williams had become concerned about the random nature of the Doctor's travels. He came up with the idea of The Key To Time as a quest to guide the Doctor's journey. There had been loose links between stories before, notably in the early days of the show, and more obviously in Tom Baker's first season where each story leads into the next. Here the structure is more deliberate.
In this episode Cyril Luckham plays the White Guardian, a powerful being previously unmentioned in the series. The Guardians' roles & positions in the scheme of things are never truly revealed. He'll be back in Enlightenment but before then we'll be meeting his opposite number.
With Louise Jameson's departure at the end of Invasion of Time a new companion was needed. Mary Tamm was cast as Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana as the Doctor eventually settles on calling her. You can make a decent argument that she is, at this early stage, a slightly better developed version of Rodan from the previous story..... We know Invasion of Time was something of a rush but I wonder if any thought was given to having that character run away with the Doctor at the end of it? Romana believes that she's been sent on her mission by the Time Lord president. Technically isn't that the Doctor? He wasn't shown to relinquish the role in Invasion of Time, though he had lost all memory of being president. The most obvious candidate for Time Lord presidency would be the chancellor, Borusa, who has risen up the ranks in the last two Time Lord stories. Sure enough when we next return to Gallifrey, he's assumed that role.