The Ribos Operation was the first story in the Key to Time arc which aired on tv in the classic series in Season 16, from September 1978. In the previous story, Leela had stayed on Gallifrey, and at the beginning of this story the Fourth Doctor is alone in the Tardis; with his faithful companion K9, of course. But they are not alone for long, as the Doctor is called upon to fulfil a dangerous and vital mission for the safety of the universe; he is tasked with collecting the elements of the Key to Time, scattered throughout the universe as disparate items, and bringing them to the White Guardian. Not only must he brave the dangers of finding and retrieving the individual elements of the Key to Time, but he must watch out for the agents of the Black Guardian as well, who seeks the Key to Time for his own nefarious purposes. Willing to accept his duty in this task, the Doctor is nevertheless somewhat put out to find he’s been given an ‘assistant’ a Time Lady from Gallifrey, Romanadvoratrelundar. The search for the first segment of the Key to Time is under way.
The story (written for tv by Robert Holmes) was novelised in 1979 by Ian Marter (who incidentally played the Fourth Doctor companion Harry Sullivan in several stories from 1974 to 1975), who novelised several of the stories for Target. This novelisation is here read and performed by John Leeson, who voiced the part of K9 on the tv series between 1977 and 1981.
This is a great story, written by the great Robert Holmes, and Ian Marter’s novelisation really brings the story to life, both on the written page and in this audio reading. The novelisation takes all the elements of the original televised story, and adds elements that make it a complete experience for the reader (or listener, in this case); descriptive elements, backgrounds and motivations are all made clear to the audience, whether or not they have seen the original tv story.
Leeson performs the story wonderfully. He performs and differentiates well between all the various characters, from the Doctor and Romana, to Garron and his accomplice Unstoffe, to the rather mad Graff Vynda-K and his guard commander Sholakh. The Shrieves, and the Seeker, and poor Binro are all given their own voices and Leeson keeps them all perfectly pitched throughout. The reading is on 5 cds, and runs for 5 hours 20 minutes, and is great fun from beginning to end. A great story, a wonderful Doctor Who adventure, and a great audio experience.
Ian Marter wrote some of the best novelisations in the Target range such as The Ark In Space and The Sontaran Experiment. The Ribos Operation is not quite in this league although it is still entertaining enough.
The Doctor, and his new assistant, Romana, find themselves on a mission on vital importance. The White Guardian has ordered the Doctor to find the six segments of The Key To Time. Once they are assembled it will allow the White Guardian to stop all of time and restore the universal balance.
The problem is each segment is disguised, and could be anything, anywhere. Luckily the Doctor has a tracer which will locate the segment and transmute it. The first segment is located somewhere on the planet Ribos. But can the Doctor escape the homicidal plans of the Graff-Vynda-Ka? And is the con-man Garron just a common criminal, or an agent of the Black Guardian?
As was usual, Marter adds atmosphere and detail to the novelisation. This has the downside of slowing the pace down, particularly at the start. Not a problem when reading the book, but it does mean that the audiobook takes a while to get going.
Once the TARDIS lands on Ribos things chug along quite nicely though. Based on a script by Robert Holmes, easily the best writer the series ever had, The Ribos Operation is an entertaining listen as Holmes could always be relied on to produce good characters. The charming con-man Garron, with his side-kick Unstoffe are an appealing double act. And Binro the Heretic, although he adds little to the plot has a few touching moments.
John Leeson, the definitive voice of K9, is the reader and does an excellent job. Sound design and music are good as well, and this means that The Ribos Operation is well up to the usual high standard.
on 9 March 2012
Ian Marter's finest Doctor Who novelisation gives us a great double-act in the garrulous Garron and urbane Undtoffe, meaty roles for Romana and K9, monsters that work far better on audio, a psychotic alien prince, intrigue, subterfuge , and last but not least, the legendary Binro the heretic. The story is as good as you'll remember, whilst John Leeson turns out to be a top-notch narrator, capturing Tom Baker's fruity tones and the nuances of the many other characters brilliantly. The first 'segment' of the Key to Time season from 1978, on top of everything else, The Ribos Operation adds to the mythos of the Timelords, and also introduces the White Guardian, supreme power in the cosmos. Great stuff from start to finish.
on 8 January 2014
The White Guardian gives the Doctor mission to locate the pieces of the Key to Time before the agents of the Black Guardian can. To assist him in this quest he is assigned the recently graduated Romana by the Timelords. With his new assistant and a newly built version of K-9, the Doctor sets course for the planet of Ribos and the first fragment of the Key to Time.
`The Ribos Operation' is quite a slow beginning to the quest for the Key. The first segment is identified fairly quickly. It is difficult to obtain, however, as it is mixed up in a con job where a confidence trickster and his younger apprentice are attempting to swindle a deposed warlord into buying a virtually worthless planet. It is a plot, although taken quite seriously, does lend itself to a fair amount of fun wit the various tricks, deceits and acts of sleight of hand from several characters.
One of the highlights of this story is the early days of the Doctor and Romana coming to terms with each other. The author successfully captures the Doctor's awkward attitude at having an assistant not of his choosing thrust upon him and Romana's irritation at the Doctor's eccentric and unconventional behaviour. This makes for a lot of wit and sarcasm. There is also a nice comparison between the Doctor coming to terms with a new assistant and the relationship between Garron and his apprentice Unstoffe.
Although the storyline is not the most eventful and gripping there is some great dialogue. This ranges from the verbal sparring of the Doctor, Romana and Garron to some fairly touching scenes between Binro and Unstoffe and even with the Graff Vynda Ka and his dead general Sholakh. As such this script lends itself quite well to a novelisation and Ian Marter makes the best of this.