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The Key to Time is a genuine rarity in DVD circles: a limited edition release that genuinely was limited and quickly sold out (although 2Entertain are apparently planning to release the six stories as separate DVDs some time in the future). The UK edition is certainly a huge improvement over the original US NTSC release that was available for several years before this edition made it's brief appearance. 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 only complete season of the classic show released to date (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 28 March 2017
very 1970's
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on 24 May 2016
Just the job.
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on 18 October 2007
This was a once off effort from Doctor Who, particularly in the classic era. A whole series dedicated to one overarching story arc.

The season is broken down into six stories - five with 4 episodes and the sixth and final with 6 episodes. The gift set is boosted as having seven disks, so the first panic was `Where's that seventh disk?' but fear not; the final case is a double disk set. This seventh disk contains much of the special features for the season.

This season had the misfortune to be the one that was broadcast at the same time that a seminal science fiction movie propelled science fiction out of movie obscurity and back into a foreground it's fought to retain ever since. Star Wars showed what could be achieved with movie-like budgets, which Doctor Who could never hope to match.

Each story has a particular style quite different from any of the others in the series.

The six stories are, in order:
The Ribos Operation. This story opens the season with a couple of rather unusual things it had to achieve; to introduce a new companion and set up the rest of the season. This had a great cast with Iain Cuthbertson as Garron, an interstellar con-artist who specialises in selling planets he doesn't have title to...
There are plenty of neat lines from the Guardian's `Nothing... ever.' to the Doctor's question about refusing to take on the mission to Unstoffe's discussion with Binro the Heretic where they talked about the stars as real objects particularly as this latter was only really done as a filling scene which turned into one of those scenes that really make a production. Unstoffe's OTT discussion of the properties of scringe stone was unfortunate, shall we say?
The new companion was a first as well; a Time Lady - Romanadvoratreludar, very quickly shortened to Romana.

The Pirate Planet. This story sees the Doctor and Romana chasing the second key. The two time travellers trace it to the planet Calufrax, which is supposed to be a bit of a miserable place so the Doctor deploys sarcasm when they land on a planet that isn't for Romana is updating her skills and programming the TARDIS's navigation systems. But as the story goes on, the truth comes out; the planet they're actually on has the largest set of hypergenerators ever seen by the time lords. Romana thinks they only move the Bridge but the Doctor realises that the whole planet moves...
Among the best things in this story is the gun fight between the Captain's mechanical parrot and K9. This story was written by Douglas Adams and there were plenty of Hitchhiker references to keep fans happy.

The Stones of Blood. The one story in this season that was set on earth, with a suitably scary horror story. The duo are brought to the location of an ancient stone circle where the detector is adamant the third segment could be found. Only it isn't there. A pair apparently normal women are surveying the stones and invite Romana and the Doctor back to their cottage but the Doctor reckons a visit to the local druids would be more productive but we've all seen the Hammer Horror films and true to form, he's soon wrapped up in the stone circle with the druids about to sacrifice him. Here we get one of the coolest enemies in the Ogri - three silicone based life forms who's favourite tipple is haemoglobin - we get to see the Ogri attack a couple of campers who are quickly reduced to ash and skeleton.

The Androids of Tara. This is the Doctor's visit to Zenda; except that the duplicate Prince is an android, this follows the story of `The Prisoner of Zenda' with incredible fidelity (we will so totally forget about the Taran bear creature thing). Mary Tamm gets to play three parts in this; Romana, of course, the Taran princess and a killer android commissioned by count Grendel, all of which she manages to give their own personalities (not too literally in the case of the android).
In this story it isn't actually locating the fourth element that causes problems but subsidiary elements and it must rate as one of the lowest body counts in the history of Who. Tom Baker really plays the Doctor at the top of his powers as he hides his abilities behind his affable fool face.

The Power of Kroll. Less said about this one the better - the search moves on to the swamps of the third moon of Delta Magna and we lose K9 as a character - far too muddy for him so John Leeson, who voices him gets some on screen time for a change. The fifth segment has mutated some of the local wildlife from a relatively normal sized squid, right up to a mega sized creature that is probably the most derided creature in the history of Who. Apart from the search for the segment, this is a fairly standard base under siege type story.

The Armageddon Factor. This is the last story in the sequence and we are taken to the twin worlds of Atrios and Zeos which have been fighting an interstellar war for either a very long time or the last five years. Either way, things are desperate with Zeos totally depopulated though we are not given any particular reason why, and Atrios near to collapse (Zeos has a computer that is prosecuting the war with mechanical efficiency). There's quite a bit of good stuff in this as everyone is manipulated by the mysterious Shadow and its minions. The Doctor decides to create a false sixth segment as the real sixth segment is found to be the Princess Astra. It's also when we learn he has doubts as to which Guardian sent him on this mission...
John Woodvine has a great part as the Marshal of Atrios and plays a neat Churchillian role. Valantine Dyal is revealed as the Black Guardian, a role he was born to play. After refusing to hand over the `completed' key to Time, the Doctor and Romana use a randomiser circuit to escape the Black Guardian's wrath.

The individual episodes have some special features dealing specifically with things on those disks.
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on 29 July 2012
Following the untimely and very sad death of Mary Tamm, this boxset is well worth buying to rediscover one of the most underrated seasons of the classic series. I bought the Region 1 release a few years ago and was partly pleased to be able to enjoy this season again, but partly disappointed that it only contained commentaries and no other extras. This version excels with a variety of fascinating, informative and fun extras, ranging from featurettes about the Hammer Horror influence on the series, to the Nationwide interview with Tom and Mary (both in costume) and Carole Ann Ford, in which Tom excels in making interviewer Frank Bough look uncomfortable with his witty answers. There's also an interesting Merry Christmas Doctor Who sketch for the 1978 BBC Christmas Tape, in which Tom and Mary get very flirty and Tom reading five spine chilling stories from a 1978 series titled Late Night Story. The sadly missed Mary Tamm has some valuable and poignant contributions including a look at the history of the Rollright Stones on The Stones of Blood DVD and a featurette There's Something About Mary on The Power of Kroll disc, in which she makes an interesting observation about a missed opportunity for the series to show Romana's regeneration on screen. With such a wealth of extras, the actual stories themselves seem quite incidental, making this a boxset which stands on it's merits. The new series would do well to take notes on content of this release and adjust their content accordingly, instead of just relying on the recent TV screenings to sell it with a few commentaries and cut down editions of the BBC3 confidentials to justify the heavy price tag. The Key To Time boxset is a worthy tribute to the nobilist Romana of them all....RIP Mary Tamm
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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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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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Gorgeous limited edition set containing the famous 'Key to Time' season fom 1978 in its entirety.
Oft-maligned by 'fans', the season saw The Doctor and new companion, Timelady Romana, sent by the enigmatic White Guardian on a quest to collect the six segments of the Key to Time. It is never really explained why they need to do this, nor why the Guardian's polar opposite, The Black Guardian, also wants the segments. Nonetheless, this is an excuse for a set of great adventures, which although varying in quality, are all lighthearted and emminently watchable.

The Fourth Doctor is given a female Time Lady companion - Romana played by the gorgeous Mary Tamm - by The White Guardian, one of two opposing entities who seemingly control time and space, and the pair are sent to recover the six segments of the key that are scattered across the universe, and which when brought together form the most powerful single object in the universe.
The search for the first segment leads the time travellers to the planet Ribos, where a galactic despot and his army of mercenaries are being duped by the roguish Garron and his dippy sidekick Unstoffe. Mary Tamm and Tom Baker immediately make a great team, and along with robot dog K9 they recover the segment after several perilous experiences and plenty of fun.
Although I personally favour The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara, I love this too; the double-act of Garron and Unstoff plus memorable character Binro the Heretic, a persecuted believer who is memorably shown the light by The Doctor, are great creations from Robert Holmes, possibly the best Doctor Who writer ever. The dialogue is crisp, the characterisations full, and despite the season's flawed central conceit it is simply a cracking good adventure.

As one of the few Doctor Who stories never to be novelised by Target it took me a while before I knew 'The Pirate Planet', unlike the other stories that I'd read and re-read until I knew every facet of them. This is a Douglas Adams penned tour de force, and cracking adventure to boot.
The Doctor and Romana discover that someone has been stealing planets and encounter the insane Captain and his deadly robotic parrot - The Polyphase Avatron. They soon realise that the Captain, for all his bluff, is merely a puppet, and along with K9 they uncover the real threat.
Darkly funny with great performances (although Bruce Purchase's Captain is somewhat hammy) this is simply great fun.

Often derided by fans and critics alike, The Power of Kroll is a thinly-disguised allegory for corporate greed. The reason it is not a fan favourite is mainly I suspect due to the poor effects: The titular creature is poorly realised through dodgy blue-screen and the Swampies - abused natives of the planet - are clearly wearing woolen wigs and have green powder paint on their bodies. Of course, we all know that classic Doctor Who is often great despite its weaknesses; however despite an intriguing sub-plot involving gun-runners and enthusiastic performances from the leads, this remains a poorly produced and mediocre serial. One bonus is John 'voice of K9' Leeson in his only front of camera role, but even he can't compensate for a shoddy ending and 'that' rubber tentacle.

Far from being 'rubbish', the infamous 'Key to Time' series was a mixed bag and threw up several memorable (in a good way!) stories. I love 'The Stones of Blood' because it's so moody and atmospheric; Baker and Tamm play their roles splendidly whilst the sequence where the campers have their life forces sucked from their bodies is one of the nastiest and most effective (despite obvious budgetary deficiencies) in Doctor Who history. K9 also gets a bit more to do in this one and the location work makes a refreshing change from some of the story's studio-bound contemporaries. The mix of Gothic elements, paganism, and sci-fi works really well, and the icing on the cake is Beatrix Lehmann's turn as the ditzy professor Rumford; there is added pathos because the actress died before the story was even transmitted.

'The Androids of Tara' is a Prisoner of Zenda-esque story of an isolated kingdom (Tara) where the ruthlessly ambitious Count Grendel plots to overthrow the nice but dim Prince Reynart by replacing him with an android version. A twist on the old doppelganger theme this is a hugely enjoyable period romp with Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor and his companion Romana doing their utmost to thwart the Count's Machiavellian schemes and having great fun in the process. Baker is at his buoyant and madly staring best while Mary Tamm never played the part of aloof Time-lady as well as she does here. With horseback chases, doppelgangers, kidnappings, swordfights aplenty and K9 on top form, this is an absolute treat. Never mind the naysayers who point to the risible 'Taran Wood Beast' and the somewhat dodgy special effects; this is classic 70s Who and damned fine to boot.

'The Armageddon Factor' is still a great story and the climax to a wonderfully eclectic season. Tom Baker and Mary Tamm (Romana) have really started to gel as a team, and there are wonderful turns from John Woodvine as the meglomaniacal Marshall and Davyd Harries as his unintentionally comedic adjutant, Shapp. Some fans have criticised this story for being overlong and it is one of the last of the six-part stories made for TV. However, I thought there was plenty going on and the presence of a lively K9 in one of his better performances was a definite bonus.
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on 2 October 2009
The Doctor is recruited by The White Guardian played charmingly in a sombre opening scene by an elegant Cyril Luckham, to locate 6 segments of the Key to Time. interestingly the WG suggests an altenative name for them should they be brought back in a more PC era (the Guardians of Light & Time, and darkness). Aside from the scenes dealing with the segment location all stories are pretty self-contained.
The Ribos operation is good solid Bob Holmes stuff, even if not his best script. There's a crooked double act, a military buffoon, great dialogue and a poignant heretic thrown in.
Douglas Adams' The Pirate Planet is a bit of a triumph of ideas over story. Clever fun even if it doesn't hang together brilliantly in places.
The Stones of Blood is easily the best story, a good traditional Who mix of SF and the occult. A great story, good characters-especially the wonderful Vivian Fay, and unusual monster and even a Hitchcock from an Ark in Space Wirrn!
The same writer David Fisher offers a Prisoner of Zenda pastiche in The Androids of Tara. A slightly pantomime feel especaiily with Peter Jeffrey's OTT Count Grendel but silly fun-a romp!
It's downhill for The Power of Kroll which is a dull King Kong pastiche by Robert Holmes. It relies too mcuh on a CSO'd rubber octopus and has too little of Holmes' usual flair for dialogue and characters. sadly Sir Robert bowed out of writing Who for many years after this 1. Watch for K9/John Leeson in the flesh for once.
It's back up to quality with The Armageddon factor marking the end of the season and the end of Bob Baker and Dave Martin's writing partnership. A dark tale largely sustaining it's 6 part length it has 2 planets in an interminable war and introduces Romana to be Lalla Ward as Princess Astra and also features a Del Boy timelord Drax and a dark agent of the Black Guardian, The Shadow. The Black Guardian finally appears and is played as irredeemably bad by the wonderful Valentine Dyall.
Uncle Tom and Mary Tamm make a good double act and it's just a shame they only did 1 year. Romana starts off as The Doctor's intellectual equal but by Kroll is getting a bit diluted.
Mary herself shares her thoughts in an interview among the extras in particular regretting the lack of regeneration scene. She also visist Stones of Blood's Rollright stones.
There's a making of documentary for every story except Kroll (reperesnted instead with a feature from a contemporary magazine show). They're all good taking in topics like wanting a birthday cake scene to mark the 15th Who anniversary, who controls the jelly babies? how to embarrass a noted director who was in Ribos and much more while recalling the making of the shows.
"A Matter of Time" covers the whole Graham Williams (producer) era and it's excellent. Many interviewees are used including archive footage of the late man himself.
There's "Weird Science" an unfunny comedy sketch plus a vintage pice on the making of Stones of Blood's spaceship. There's also what I call "The Talons of Bough" where grannies' favourite Frank invites Who guests onto Nationwide and unwisely bates Uncle Tom. Terrific fun as Tom claims Bough's TV image is fictional-you might almost think he'd travelled to the future to see the tabloid expose's that would later blight him!

There was a US region 1 set released earlier and the commentaries from that are included here with a Tommentary added if there wasn't 1 before-giving 2 commentaries on some stories. The Tommentaries are the best as usual, especially where he's paird with Mary Tamm who in 1 recorded before the return of Who suggests if the show was done now there'd be no problem having the Dr romantically involved with assistants. Tom reveals he saw 7 keys to Doomsday before becoming the Dr and asks after Lalla Ward.

A few great Tomisms;

"never put a coffin onstage in Tunbridge Wells, the audience start to shift nervously"
"then 3 workmen came out of the Tardis doing up their trousers and not 1 said come along Romana"

A great package for a good set of stories but more for particular fans of Uncle Tom and be sure you can get a good price. 2entertain said they would releas a non-limited edition at some point in the future.
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on 23 July 2009
Season 16, aka The Key To Time season, is one of the most enjoyable, wacky, imaginative and ambitious seasons in Dr Who's history. The overall linking theme of the Doctor searching for the 6 segments of the key doesn't really hinder the stories, and actually often feels rather incidental to the proceedings (especially in the fourth story, The Androids of Tara). Tom Baker dominates this season like none previously, given free reign to improvise, act totally bonkers and, yes, sometimes go way over the top, but he's so magnificent in the role that this is a blessing rather than a hindrance. There's nothing worse than a restrained Tom Baker (see season 18), and his enthusiastic, child-like performance is a joy to watch. New companion Romana is also a big asset, played by the gorgeous Mary Tamm. She has a great chemistry with Baker and the witty interplay between the two is a major attraction of this season. The production values of this season are pretty shaky, but considering what some of the scripts required (flying parrots, giant squids, blood-drinking megaliths, space-hopping planets, not to mention the realisation of some strange alien worlds) that it's actually quite remarkable what they production team managed to create.
As for the stories themselves, "The Ribos Operation" is wonderful, with some excellent performances, great characterisation, an entertaining story and convincing set-design. "The Pirate Planet" by Douglas Adams is, as you might expect, a pretty wacky story with a very complex plot, unpronouncable scientific gobbledygook (magnifactoid eccentricolometer, indeed!)larger than life performances and humorous dialogue. It's hugely entertaining, totally mad and my favourite story of the season. "The Stones of Blood" goes for a touch of the hammer horrors with blood-drinking stones, celtic druids and sacrifices until it switches half way through to a court-room drama in hyperspace! The first half is intriguing and atmospheric, the second rather camp and funny, but it's a great story all round. "The Androids of Tara" is a sort of homage to The Prisoner of Zenda, and feels a bit inconsequential but is a stylish production with excellent location filming, a wonderfully witty villain and contains a great sword fight at the end. Tom Baker looks like he's really enjoying himself in this one! "The Power of Kroll" is probably the weakest story, with a less than engaging storyline and some iffy performances, but there's something undeniably appealing about a story that features actors painted green jumping up and down in a marsh and chanting to a 50 foot squid! Finally, "The Armageddon Factor" ties up the Key to Time theme with the first appearance of the evil Black Guardian and also features a great villain called The Shadow who looks and acts lilke the epitome of evil, even down to his evil laughing, black cloak and skull-like mask. You don't get more evil looking than this guy! The story meanders a little bit, and the budget appears to have run out as the sets are mostly grey walls but there are some appealing performances in it, and an unusual (if not terribly satisfying) climax.
Overall, Season 16 of Dr Who is a brilliantly entertaining piece of television and a definate must buy for any Dr Who fan, or even casual viewer. It's a shame this box set is now so ridiculously expensive and idiotic that it was only released as a limited edition. Please, let's have a re-release that people can actually afford!
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