Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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The Ribos Operation: Part One 

The Doctor is chosen for a quest by The White Guardian to go in search for the six segments to the Key to Time, that have been scattered and sent throughout the time/space continuum. With ... See full summary »


Robert Holmes (by)

On Disc

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Episode complete credited cast:
Tom Baker ... Doctor Who
Mary Tamm ... Romana
Cyril Luckham ... The Guardian
Iain Cuthbertson ... Garron
Nigel Plaskitt Nigel Plaskitt ... Unstoffe
Paul Seed Paul Seed ... Graff Vynda-K
Robert Keegan Robert Keegan ... Sholakh
Prentis Hancock ... Captain
Oliver Maguire Oliver Maguire ... Shrieve
John Hamill ... Shrieve
John Leeson ... K9 (voice)


The Doctor is chosen for a quest by The White Guardian to go in search for the six segments to the Key to Time, that have been scattered and sent throughout the time/space continuum. With the Key to Time, The White Guardian will restore balance to the universe. Joined by a young time lady named Romana, The Doctor, Romana and K-9 Mark 2 begin their quest and arrive at their first destination, The medieval Russian like world Ribos, where a conman named Garron bids to sell Ribos to a exiled tyrant known as Graff Vynda K, where Unstoffe, Garron's assistant uncovers Garron's scheme and is unaware he is in possession of the first segment of the Key to Time. Written by Daniel Williamson

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Release Date:

2 September 1978 (UK) See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This story was the last season opener to introduce a new companion until Doctor Who: Rose (2005). Although Lalla Ward takes over as Romana in the following series-opener, she is still the same character. All of the following companions would be introduced mid-way through, or at the end, of a series. See more »


The Doctor: You want me to volunteer, is that it? And if I don't?
White Guardian: Nothing.
The Doctor: You mean nothing'll happen to me?
White Guardian: Nothing. Ever.
See more »


Referenced in Doctor Who: Full Circle: Part One (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

Part 1 is interesting but a wee bit doddery
15 August 2015 | by Sleepin_DragonSee all my reviews

So for the first time we get an entire series in classic who with an arc, 6 serials all part of 1 big story (Mr Moffatt eat your heart out)

The Doctor is hijacked in time by Cyril Luckham, the White Guardian, sat in a wicker chair, drinking mouthwash, he is ordered to search out the 6 segments of the key to time, in order for the Universe to be re-set, as a disaster is looming. The Doctor is given a locater and a new assistant. The Doctor is warned against the Black Guardian.

Step in Mary Tamm, for her first outing as Romana (1) and what a breathtaking beauty she was, even K-9 was impressed, she starts of super smart, cocky and witty, a good match for the Doctor.

Part 1 is a little bit slow, we are shown Ribos, an icy planet, and introduced to Garron and Unstoffe who are planning some kind of swindle with the richly dressed and wonderfully named Graff Vynda-K. 20 minutes in and new companion Romana is already in trouble (how 70's) but will she survive?

Graham Williams's influence is instantly apparent, Philip Hinchcliffe's gigantic influence on the show had all but faded and the glorious run of dark Gothic horror was gone, and so too was the show's purple patch.

Already there is a little too much out of place humour, we've not had a great deal over the last few years, but under Graham's watch more was to come, in some instances it worked well, there was just too much of it.

Part 1 overall is good, a little slow, but lots of high points, Romana is great, Iain Cuthbertson is fantastic, the production values are high (not the shrivenzale, a bit rubbery.) It feels different somehow.

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