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4.6 out of 5 stars59
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 June 2013
It's a good idea - tie all the stories together with one linking theme - a quest, like Bilbo's journey to Mount Doom or Jason and the Argonauts; the Dr gets sent by the White Guardian (kinda like God) to find the ultimate McGuffin, before the Black Guardian (kinda like Satan, only played by Valentine Dyall) gets to it first. It's the kind of good idea that works best if not thought about too much, or better yet not at all, put it to the back of your mind and hang the sense of it; it's much better that way.

The six stories really have to be considered separately.

THE RIBOS OPERATION-
A very good-looking, well-acted, Robert Holmes sting story. Looks like Eisenstein's Russia, very well plotted, delightfully funny; a real star turn from Ian Cuthbertson as the master swindler, and a lovely cameo from Timothy Bateson as the heretic that realises he was right all along. Pity about the Shrivenzale - but spare a poor for poor Stuart Fell - it's got to be better seeing the thing from the *out*side! 4/5

THE PIRATE PLANET-
It's good - nearly as good as the previous one. Funnier - Douglas Adams, but never to the detriment of the story, which is a very good story - and Bruce Purchase and Andrew Robertson clearly having a whale of a time, and in the end the arch-villain is the nurse! And with a lovely model, and air cars, and caverns, and Liquorice Allsorts, and a linear induction corridor, and some nice location filming, it all looks great. And there's a robot parrot - it's very good. 4/5

THE STONES OF BLOOD-
First half's good - first half's spooky and menacing and mysterious - and then the second half explains it all, and I wish it had explained it all some other way. We've got these blood-drinking rocks smashing about the place, yet the *really* scary things are supposed to be a pair of disembodied voices with flashing lights. Beatrix Lehmann *is* a delight to watch, but this is a story that should have ended like The Devil Rides Out, not Crown Court. 2/5

THE ANDROIDS OF TARA-
Graham Williams did get into a strop about this; that horrid Phillip Hinchcliffe had done all sorts of naughty plagiarism like ripping off Frankenstein and Quatermass, and everyone said it was brilliant, but when Graham Williams rips off Prisoner of Zenda he gets all told off! The point was that it's not really a very creative pastiche of Zenda - it really is 'Look this is Prisoner of Zenda, but we've put Dr Who in it', like a not very good piece of homework (the Flashman version is much better btw). That said it's inoffensive and fun and pretty to look at (check out the hats at the coronation), and Peter Jefferey is very good - though my favourite in this has to be Cyril Shaps as the Archimandrite. 3/5

THE POWER OF KROLL-
Somebody had told them to stop making Dr Who funny, so they did. It wasn't a good idea. There is a scene introducing the guys at the refinery, and it's a Robert Holmes script, so it should scintillate a bit, but it's not allowed to - they talk about Harg's library books. Phillip Madoc is good, even though he was going to be playing the bad guy, and Neil McCarthy (who is playing the bad guy) is in good eye-rolling form, and it's nice to see John Leeson (contracted for the season, but there's not much K9 can do in a swamp), and John Abineri is always good, but if you're going to hang a story on a 'the biggest monster in Dr Who ever' you'd better make sure it looks fantastic, because if it looks c**p or funny, your story is going to fall apart. There's lots of location filming, but really when you've seen one reed bed... 2/5

THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR-
It tries bravely, but it's barely got the legs. The war, the time loop, the Shadow manipulating the whole thing, some great work from John Woodvine and William Squire, and a good story that almost fills all six episodes... But it looks cheap; there's nowhere you can look at and go 'Ooh, that's clever' because it's all been put together on what little money was going at the end of the season. A great pit that some sets from earlier stories in the season couldn't have been re-used because this is a climax that is seriously wanting in spectacle (and Davyd Harries comedy acting tends to undermine it). And that final scene in the TARDIS with the Black Guardian really doesn't achieve what it should. 3/5

It's hit and miss; a very large Curate's Egg - some parts bad, some parts excellent - I still have to wonder about the central premise - stop the universe and redress the balance? How much more deus ex machina can you get? All this is about a mission from God? Pull the other one.

Oh. Mary Tamm's good throughout.
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VINE VOICEon 8 January 2010
it's well past time that this boxset was given a proper release. first released in america but without all the extras, then finally released in this country as a very expensive limited edition only, and now it's out properly, and at this price, it's a bargain! 6 stories all from the 1978/79 key to time season starring tom baker as the doctor, the best and definitive doctor, and mary tamm as the original version of his assistant romana with k9 as well, this is a first for doctor who. an entire season covering one story, something that would only happen once more with 1986's trial of a time lord. all 6 stories here are great fun, showing tom baker at his best. the stories are the ribos operation, the pirate planet, the stones of blood, the androids of tara, the power of kroll and the armageddon factor. the pirate planet and the stones of blood are the best of the bunch, power of kroll the weakest, but even that is good fun to watch, not a bad story here! this is a must buy for any serious doctor who fan. casual fans might be put off, but it's worth it for them too. absolutely brilliant!
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on 17 October 2014
For the 16th season of Doctor Who, a unique concept was created involving a story arc which would run across the entire season. This particular story arc involved The Doctor instructed with a quest to find the six pieces of the Key to Time and prevent it from falling into the hands of the evil Black Guardian. On his quest, he is helped by new companion Romana, who happens to be one of his own people and the ever trusting dog robot K-9.

While none of the serials can be considered as classics, the concept still works very well, with Tom Baker and Mary Tamm working very well together and meeting many great characters on their way. The Robos Operation is a good start to the season as The Doctor struggles to come to terms with hs new companion and the quest he has been assigned. While The Pirate Planet is slightly a step down, it is still a very entertaining story featuring entertaining and over the top performances. The Stones of Blood is probably the best serial of the season with a very interesting concept. Androids of Tara is another strong serial in the series and while Power of the Kroll maybe the weakest of the season the cast is still on top form. The final serial to the season, The Armageddon Factor tends to devide fans mainly due to its length and the ending, but I find it to still be a strong ending to a very entertaining season.

The Robos Operation- 4/5
The Pirate Planet- 4/5
The Stones of Blood- 4.5/5
Androids of Tara-4/5
The Power of Kroll-3.5/5
The Armageddon Factor-4/5
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The Key to Time was a genuine rarity in DVD circles: a limited edition release that genuinely was limited and quickly sold out, fetching increasingly absurd prices on ebay - though enough people made enough noise about missing out for 2Entertain to rerelease it in simpler packaging but the same extra features. The UK editions are certainly a huge improvement over the original US NTSC release that was available for several years before this edition made it's brief appearance and reappearance. Where that only boasted commentaries (with Tom Baker tactfully skipping the story with his ex-wife in it), stills and trivia tracks, the UK set adds additional commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, studio recording footage and anything else they could find in the archives or collectors' attics to produce a pleasingly comprehensive set.

The first complete season of the classic show released in one set (the show's 16th, dating from 1978), it's not one of the best despite having a unifying theme for the first time - the Doctor has to find and reunite six parts of the Key to Time of the title that have been scattered across the universe. Unfortunately it's very much a mixed bag - the stories are often stagebound and the ideas better than the execution, with the feeling that we've been here before (one story, Androids of Tara, is another variation on The Prisoner of Zenda, while another, The Stones of Blood, owes more than a little to Nigel Kneale). The tone tends to veer a bit too, with The Pirate Planet veering off into broad comedy at times - perhaps not so surprising when it was pseudonymously written by Douglas Adams. Only the six-part finale, The Armageddon Factor, has some unexpected plot twists, including the oft-overlooked revelation of the Doctor's real name - Theeta Sigma (no wonder he prefers being called The Doctor) - when he meets a TARDIS repairman. Throughout the season's run there's too much reliance on K9 to get him out of trouble - like James Bond's gadgets, it just takes away from the hero's self-reliance and covers for lazy writing - though it is interesting to see Mary Tamm's acting improve over the course of the season.
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on 18 November 2009
The box set is different to the Limited Edition one in that it has the individual cases facing outwards (like Trial of a Timelord). The box is sturdy and good quality compared to some other 2entertain Who sets. The DVDs themselves are exactly the same as the previous ones released two years ago, containing all special features.

For the price, its worth it for 26 episodes!

Very pleased with it.
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I have always been a fan of the 4th Doctor, as I felt that Tom Baker brought real character to the part, his assistant Mary Tamm comes over more as his equal rather than his assistant. The story arc is very good over the first two episodes, but then begins wain in the last two. That said I really enjoyed the ideas and concepts that were presented in the season and thus this particular offering is in my top twenty Tom Baker, as the Doctor, episodes list.
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on 30 December 2009
Doctor Who's first season-long story arc starts off well but ends up tired and out of steam. It is almost painful to watch the ideas (and money) running out in the final two stories of this season. That said, the first four stories are either good or very good, with the odd moment of greatness popping up here and there. Tom Baker is slightly past his best here, but Mary Tamm's Romana is excellent, matching the doctor in intelligence and arrogance, and generally adding a touch of class to the proceedings. As usual with classic Doctor Who DVDs, there is a wealth of extra documentary material that puts other lines to shame - why can't all DVDs have this much extra stuff?

STORIES:
The Ribos Operation (****) kicks things off with a pair of con-men trying to sell a slightly-used planet to a warlord. it's all about the writing here: almost every character feels like a real person, the conversations is delightful and a scene in which the outcast Binro's belief that those lights in the night sky are other worlds is vindicated is one of the best scenes in the whole series, yet it has absolutely no relevance to the plot. great, great stuff. The only fly in this story's ointment is the Shrivenzale, a truly awful rubber monster even by Doctor Who's standards.

The Pirate Planet (***), written by one Douglas Adams, is great-but-lightweight fun, with a scenery-chewing villain and a deadly robotic parrot to give K9 a run for his money. Adams was a man of ideas rather than storytelling, though, and this tale doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts.

The Stones of Blood (***) is excellent in its first, Earth-based, half, but once the story shifts to Hyperspace it falls down into pedestrian courtroom drama. However the creepy stone monsters and the wonderful Beatrix Lehmann bring this to life whenever they're on.

The Androids of Tara (****) Doctor Who is never better than when it steals, and here it's classic film The Prisoner of Zenda that gets the treatment. There's a rubbish monster of course, but mercifuly it's over and done with in 30 seconds and we can sit back and enjoy this delicious fantasy of robots, doubles and, um, robot doubles.

The Power of Kroll (*) is one of the worst DW stories ever made, with its hackneyed savages-vs-developers script and badly-realised giant squid. Can the Robert Holmes who wrote this [word I can't say on Amazon] be the same man who wrote The Ribos Operation? Or did a stray robot double from the previous story wander into the producer's office during a tea break and thrash out a script when no-one was looking?

The Armageddon Factor (*) starts off intriguingly, but runs out of ideas pretty fast. At one point the Doctor sets up a time loop, in which events repeat themselves over and over again, and by the end of this you'll know exactly how that feels. The scene that wraps up the story arc end is rather too short to feel satisfying.

Extras (7 1/2 hours): there are so many extras here (16 documentaries, 9 commentaries, 25 archive pieces and a whole load of other stuff including the 1979 Dr Who annual) that I'm not going to list and rate them all. Suffice it to say that A Matter of Time (on disc 1), which discusses producer Graham Williams's time on the show (and this season in particular) is the most essential watch, Stones Free (disc 3) is an interesting look at the Rollright Stones (used for location filming), and on disc 7 Tom Baker reads us some wonderful fireside ghost stories. The commentaries range from the sparklingly witty to the tired and dreary, while the production subtitles are, as ever, informative and helpful.

Now that the price has come down, this box set is worth a punt. There is a lot to enjoy among the dross and baubles.
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on 22 March 2014
I was too young to have seen this on its original run but had heard a lot about it.

Really enjoyed the different stories and great to see the lovely Romana I (Mary Tamm).

The Doctor is asked by The White Guardian to find the Key to Time to prevent this falling into the hands of the evil Black Guardian. He is given help by a new companion, a fellow Time Lord, Romana. She's a bit snobby and just out of the Academy. But she and The Doctor seem to get on well... eventually!

The only one which I really found a bit boring was the final story The Armageddon Factor.

Some highlights are The Androids of Tara (a Ruritanian-like adventure), Douglas Adams' The Pirate Planet, and the very first of the set, The Ribos Operation, which is like a caper.

I even liked The Power of Kroll - which is often slagged off, but I found rather fun.
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on 1 February 2011
This is a brilliant box set and worth the money. The Key to Time is the 16th Season of Doctor Who and stars Tom Baker as The Doctor and Mary Tamm as Romana I. It consists of 6 Storys and they are: The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara, The Power of Kroll and the Armageddon Factor. It is a 7 disc set as the Armageddon Factor is 2 discs. My favorite in the seasonn is the Stones of Blood.
Rate:
The Ribos Operation (**)
The Pirate Planet (****)
The Stones of Blood (*****)
The Androids of Tara (****)
The Power of Kroll (***)
The Armageddon Factor (**)

The Season is 26 Parts all Together. The Ribos Operation through to the Power of Kroll are 4 Parts, and the Armageddon Factor is six Parts.
Again the box set is well worth the money and enjoyable to watch. I give the box set an overall score of 5 stars.
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on 8 December 2010
I've always been more of a McCoy fan myself, but this Boxset and Baker's performance in this series-long journey is fantastic and given my favourite Doc competition. The Stones of Blood being a personal favourite out of the whole boxset, mixing sci fi with pagan-like rituals and traditions. Mary Tamm as Romana is quite like a modern companion, not forever seeking the Doctor's opinion and sometimes surpassing it.

Another note would be the fantastic speical features, You need a whole day aside just to watch them properly. An impressive effort all round. Bravo.
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