Sunday, 30 September 2018

484 The Pirate Planet: Part One

EPISODE: The Pirate Planet: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 30 September 1978
WRITER: Douglas Adams
DIRECTOR: Pennant Roberts
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.1 million viewers
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)

"Citizens, prepare yourselves. Watch for the omens. I declare a new golden age of prosperity for all!"

On the Bridge of the planet Zanak, Mr Fibuli reports the success of their mining operations to the Captain. He has found a new source of minerals that they need and is ordered to make preparations. The Captain speaks to the citizens and declares the dawning of a new golden age. In a cavern a group of yellow robed people observe an individual in a crowd, Pralix, having found another for their number. In the Tardis Romana is familiarising herself with the Tardis manual. The Tracer has selected Calufrax as their next destination and the location of the second segment of the Key to Time. After an argument on how to operate the Tardis the Doctor tries to land, but the Tardis suffers disruption. At the same time problems are being encountered on the planet Zanak's bridge. The Doctor believes something has jammed their materialisation, but when Romana tries the Tardis materialises smoothly. However when they examine the scanner screen they see a planet very different from the dingy planet Calufrax the Doctor is expecting. The robed group in the caves chant "Life force dying" as Pralix writhes in agony to the distress of his family: Grandfather Balaton, sister Mula and her boyfriend Kimus. The Doctor tries to speak to the local populace, but they all ignore him. Romana has better fortune as one of the citizens describes the omens to her, gives her precious gems in return for Jelly babies, and warns them to watch out for Mentiads. K-9 confirms the gems are genuine and identifies the rare stone Oolian, only found on two places, one of which Bandragonus 5 the Doctor has heard of frequently. The youngsters complain about their lack of freedom but Balaton tells them it was worse under his predecessor Queen Xanxia. The Mentiads travel to harvest Pralix and swear vengeance for the crimes of Zanak. Hearing Pralix cries the Doctor investigates. Romana is captured by guards for being a stranger and using a telescope which is forbidden, but she sends K-9 to fetch the Doctor. The Doctor speaks to his parrot, longing his freedom when what his doing is finished. The Mentiads are detected and the guards sent to find & kill the new telepath. Guards attack the Mentiads but their weapons have no effect enraging the Captain's. Mula tells the Doctor Pralix goes into this sort of shock every time the Captain announces a new golden age. The Captain spots K-9 on a monitor and dispatches guards who K-9 stuns. The Mentiads arrive and, proving immune to K-9's blaster, telepathically strike the Doctor down.

Full disclosure of bias: Pirate Planet is the first Doctor Who story I saw right the way through and the first I saw repeated. We've got something odd happening when the Tardis materialises, the Captain yearning to complete something and the mysterious Mentiads.

MENTIAD: Brothers, are we agreed?
MENTIAD: We have found another. Brothers, the days grow dark. The time of evil is once more come. We must prepare.
BROTHERS: We must prepare.
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They're after a young man who seems to be experiencing a fever of some description.

BALATON: Calm yourself, Pralix. You must calm yourself.
MULA: He's much worse than last time, Grandfather. Pralix, can't you hear us? Tell us what's wrong.
However his family are keen to keep him from the Mentiads!
BALATON: Kimus, you are a dangerous fool. Don't listen to him, Mula. If you love your brother, you must shelter him, hide him, protect him from the Mentiads. Remember what happened to your father.
MULA: My father didn't fall into the hands of the Mentiads.
MULA: He was shot by the Captain's guards.
BALATON: To save him from the Mentiads. At least he died a clean death. It was an act of mercy by the Captain.
KIMUS: Oh well, thank you, O merciful Captain, for so kindly having Mula's father shot down in the street like a dog.
BALATON: Listen, Kimus, let me tell you this. I would cheerfully strangle Pralix with my own hands to save him from those, those ....
It's lucky for them that The Doctor decides to make a house call!

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And, after a brief mention at the start, the search for the second segment in the background.

A lovely throw away line from Balaton while talking with Mula will have significance later:

BALATON: I remember when I was a lad. Now things were very different then. You think you have no freedom now? You ought to have been here under old Queen Xanxia.
After four weeks & episodes studio bound during The Ribos Operation we're back On Location again this episode. The shots of the Mentiads walking through the landscape were filmed at Coity Mountain while their battle with the guards took place at Bwlych y Garn. More next episode!

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The thing that really caught my eye when I first saw this story was the Captain: a cyborg space pirate, machinery replacing one side of his body and overacting in a way that only the words "In the style of Brian Blessed" will quite cover!

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The Bridge, both interior set and exterior model, very much lodged in my memory too.

The first scene which introduces The Captain is great. He's kept partially hidden for most of it, only showing bits of him and hiding the full reveal of him as a cyborg till towards the end of that scene.

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Super work from director Pennant Roberts who is frequently maligned for his Doctor Who work but I think does a good job here.

Here's what I think is a first: None of the guest cast have been in any other episode of original Doctor Who (although one spoils it slightly by later appearing in the new series!) There is a lots of Blake's 7 on people's CVs.

Bruce Purchase who plays The Captain was in the Blake's 7 episode The Keeper as Gola. The earliest thingon his CV that I've seen is the Polanski film version of Macbeth where he plays Caithness closely followed by one of the few surviving third season episodes of Doomwatch, Waiting for a Knighthood, in which he appears as Norman Sylvester and you can see that on the The Doomwatch DVD. He's in I, Claudius as Sabinus in Hail Who? and later has another brush with BBC sci fi when playing Ali Pashar in the last two episodes of the second series of The Tripods.

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Andrew Robertson, here playing Mr Fibuli was in Blake's 7: Hostage as the Space Commander. I wasn't aware I'd seen him in anything else but IMDB tells me he was in the Mel Smith sitcom Colin's Sandwich as Travers which I have here on DVD and remember watching when it was first broadcast.

Primi Townsend, Mula, was in Blake's 7: Powerplay as Zee.

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Finally the actor playing Praxis, David Sibley, appears in Blake's 7:Death Watch as the Commentator. He's got an episode of Survivors to his name playing Kim in The Chosen,... Kim

Ralph Michael wasn't in Blake's 7, although his Wikipedia page did mistakenly claim he was at one point. You can see him in The Professionals as the Estate Car Driver in Heroes. He had a recurring role in Dempsey and Makepeace as Lord Winfield, Makepeace's Father. He's in First Born as the Old Priest. Later in his career he has an association with Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie appearing in a couple of episodes of A Bit of Fry & Laurie and then playing Tom Travers in three episodes of Jeeves and Wooster.

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David Warwick makes an appearance on my television screen every Christmas when I watch Yes Minister: Party Games where he plays one of the Policemen who tries to arrest Jim Hacker for drunk driving. Wikipedia believes he is the former partner of the previous Doctor Who companion Louise Jameson. He is our sole credited cast member with another Doctor Who appearance, turning up in Army of Ghosts where he's gone up in the world since Yes Minister as he's playing the Police Commissioner!

The speaking guard is played by Adam Kurakin who was a man in the Doomwatch episode Invasion. I can't find anything else that the actor playing the passer-by, Clive Bennett, has been in but look at his hand! For a change Doctor Who is actually using Jelly Babies as the sweets, every other time, and later this story, it's liquorice allsorts!

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But the writer.... Yes Douglas Adams wrote for Doctor Who. In fact he did slightly more than that as we'll discover in a few months time. Born 11 March 1952, and having studied English at St John's College, Cambridge. He'd spent some years trying to break into comedy, including a stint writing with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame (he appears in Monty Python episodes 42 & 44 and has a writing credit on episode 45, one of only two non Pythons to be credited on the series). After a number of odd jobs while selling a few radio sketches he was commissioned to write a pilot show for Radio 4. While waiting to see if it would be taken up as a serial he sent the script to the Doctor Who office who commissioned him for a serial..... at about the same time as his radio series was commissioned. The Doctor Who scripts, even when they were edited down, were considered to be unrecordable and would have been binned but for a spirited defence by director Pennant Roberts who believed they were possible to film. He was right and the result is superb.


And the Radio Show? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We shall hear much more of this shortly.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

483 The Ribos Operation: Part Four

EPISODE: The Ribos Operation: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 23 September 1978
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.2 million viewers
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)

"All but one of us is doomed to die! Thus has it been written!"

The Graff goes to fetch the Seeker to assist their search and demands the Shrieve captain bring her to him. Binro volunteers to go back to search for Garron taking Unstoffe's communicator. Garron steals the tracer from Romana and uses it to find Unstoffe. The Doctor sneaks away leaving Romana with K-9. The Seeker starts making predictions of death for the Graff's party. They find Binro in the tunnels and bring him with them. Enraged at their treatment the Shrieve captain sets a cannon up at the entrance of the catacombs. The Graff's party find Garron & Unstoffe and kill Binro. A shrivenzale attacks the party and the Shrieve captain seals the catacombs with his cannon, bringing the roof down on the chamber the Graff's party is in, killing the Graff's lieutenant Shellack. Garron & Unstoffe are trapped and the Jethrik seized by the Graff. K-9 digs Garron & Unstoffe out enabling Romana to retrieve the tracer. The Graff kills the Seeker and gives his final soldier an explosive before loosing his sanity & trying to escape. The Graff detonates the device, killing himself who is carrying the explosives that have been swapped for the Jethrik by the guard is revealed to be the Doctor. The Doctor, Romana & K-9 leave the planet with the Jethrik which the Tracer transforms into the first segment of the Key To Time.

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That episode is a bit Doctor-lite: he spends half the episode disguised as a guard with nobody else knowing what's happened to him while the Graff rants and rages! Romana and K-9 are pushed to one side too so essentially the final act in this little drama is played out amongst the characters that Robert Holmes has invented for the story until the Doctor performs two slights of hand, first substituting the explosives for the Jethrik and then beating conman Garron at his own game.

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One cast member to mention: IMDB has Barry Summerford down as a Shrieve for just this episode. We last saw him in The Sunmakers as a steaming audience member and he's back in The Armageddon Factor as a guard. If you want to know what he looks like then here he is in the final Blake's 7 episode where he plays a bounty hunter. He has a rare distinction of appearing in both the first and last episodes of that series!

The Ribos Operation has never really appealed to me before, beyond doing a story set in snow - I love snowy background. This with the costumes and sets invokes a Russian Winter feel to the story, indeed Ribos is an anagram of Boris, a popular Russian name and a reference to someone from that country. The new companion's name, Romana, feels like it has Russian derivation too from Romanov. The story almost feels more like a classic serial set in Russia than a Doctor Who story!

But the last couple of times I've seen it, Ribos Operation has worked for me, with the guest cast members' performances particularly catching my attention. While Paul Seed is a fairly typical over the top shouty villain as the Graff Vynda-K, he does get to go completely unhinged in this episode at the death of his long time friend Shoklah. The real star is Iain Cuthbertson as Garron, ably assisted by Nigel Plaskitt's Unstoffe and some florid dialogue from Robert Holmes who looks like he had a great time writing this.

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The Ribos Operation was novelised by former companion turned author Ian Marter in 1979. It was released on video in April 1995 on the same day as the Pirate Planet, with Stones of Blood & Androids of Tara following the next month and finally Power of Kroll & Armageddon Factor in June completing the Key To Time season, a set of releases which came with a specially designed spine picture that ran over all six title. While there has never been a video boxset release of the Key To Time, it's only ever been available as a boxset on DVD. In October 2002 all six Key To Time stories were released in Region 1 with minimal extras & restoration to help satisfy the American demand for Tom Baker stories. The Key to Time was then released as a special edition, numbered & limited to 15,000 with brand new extras in Region 2 on the 24th September 2007, which sold out very quickly with this set commanding a premium price on eBay for quite some time. The Key to Time Box Set was reissued in a non limited edition in November 2009 and can now be had for a very reasonable price.

It's Douglas Adams time next week and the first story I saw all the way through on original transmission!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

482 The Ribos Operation: Part Three

EPISODE: The Ribos Operation: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 16 September 1978
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 7.9 million viewers
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)

"I don't sell mines, Doctor, I sell planets!"

They are taken to the Graff's quarters as the guards survey the strong room and notice the absence of the gold, but when the Graffe notices the Jethrik is gone the guard captain denies all knowledge of it. Unstoffe attempts to contact Garron. The Doctor summons K-9 using his silent dog whistle. The guards search for Unstoffe but he is sheltered by Binro the heretic. The guards summon the seeker, a local mystic, to find the missing gold and the Graff summons his own guards. Garron tells the Doctor & Romana about his past & his methods then the history of the Graff. One of the guards is left behind with orders to the kill the prisoners at dawn. Binro tells Unstoffe of his belief that the lights in the sky are not Ice Crystals, as the people of Ribos believe, but Stars and how he was persecuted for his beliefs. Unstoffe tells him that what he believes is true delighting the old man. The Doctor repairs Garron's damaged communicator using the listening device enabling them to warn Unstoffe that the guards are coming for him, just as K-9 arrives and frees them. Unstoffe goes to hide in the catacombs with Binro. The Doctor & Romana take a tracer reading and realise that the Jethrik is the first segment. The Shrieve guards refuse to go to the catacombs for the Graff's gold, believing the Ice Gods live there. Garron, The Doctor, Romana & K-9 pursue Unstoffe into the catacombs but are cornered by the Graff and his men.

There's some lovely stuff here:

SEEKER: Bones of our fathers, bones of our kings, seek and find. By the flesh that once clothed you, by the spirit that moved you, seek. Seek and find. Seek in the Icetime. Seek in the Suntime. Seek and find!
SHOLAKH: Primitive mumbo jumbo.
GRAFF: They believe in it. The Captain says it never fails.
SEEKER: Come to the circle, gods of the ice. Come to the circle, come to the bones. Show, show, show what I seek! Aiee! I see him. He is at the place of fires.
The Seeker, who is obviously bonkers, and the considered bonkers, but right, Binro The Heretic, are the two characters that stand out here.

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UNSTOFFE: Thank you. Thank you for helping me escape.
BINRO: Oh, it was nothing.
UNSTOFFE: Why'd you do it?
BINRO: Well, I know what it's like when every man's hand is against you.
UNSTOFFE: Binro the Heretic.
BINRO: Oh, you heard that. Well, it wasn't much of a heresy, my friend. Just a little thing.
BINRO: Oh, it was many years ago now. Have you ever looked up at the sky at night, and seen those little lights?
UNSTOFFE: Mmm hmm.
BINRO: They are not ice crystals.
BINRO: I believe they are suns, just like our own sun. And perhaps each sun has other worlds of its own, just as Ribos is a world. What do you say to that?
UNSTOFFE: It's an interesting theory.

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BINRO: What? Hey, a broad-minded man. Perhaps in the north, they are a different people after all. You see, my friend, I have taken measurements of those little lights and of our sun, and I can prove that Ribos moves. It circles our sun, travelling far away and then returning. That's the reason we have our two seasons, Suntime and Icetime.
UNSTOFFE: Nobody believed you.
BINRO: Nah, those blockheads. They prefer to believe that Ribos is some sort of battleground over which the Sun Gods and the Ice Gods fight for supremacy. They said that if I did not publicly recant my belief, the gods would destroy our world.
UNSTOFFE: And did you?
BINRO: In the end. See these hands? Useless for work now. That's why I live here.
UNSTOFFE: Binro, supposing I were to tell you that everything you've just said is absolutely true. There are other worlds, other suns.
BINRO: You believe it too?
UNSTOFFE: I know it for a fact. You see I come from one of those other worlds.
UNSTOFFE: I thought I should tell you, because one day, even here, in the future, men will turn to each other and say, Binro was right.

But I'm afraid one moment from this episode stands out for me beyond all others: The Doctor blows his silent dog whistle and out of the Tardis, into the snow, comes K-9. You see on the 16th September 1978 I was there watching and that scene is just etched into my mind. I'd got over my fear of the program, caused by the summer's repeat of the Dalek Invasion of Earth and had finally watched this program that friends and relatives were fans of. And something I saw hooked me and I kept coming back. Bar an odd gap in Power of Kroll I can remember the rest of this season really well.

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So knowing this episode was coming up I rang my Mum and asked her when we got a television. She's not sure. I can remember not having one, but she can remember us having one in the run up to my second brother being born in October 1977 so I guess we'd have had it for a year and a bit by this point. The television I watched was mainly BBC: Play School, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and You & Me stand out. I know I would have watched Scooby Doo and other Hanna Barbera cartoons. I can remember Peter Purves presenting Blue Peter which suggests I was watching that by then. On ITV the only things I can remember watching Pipkins, featuring Hartley Hare and this story's Nigel Plaskitt, and Rainbow, featuring K-9's John Leeson as Bungle and Dalek voice Roy Skelton as the voices of Zippy & George. So it was really just Children's programs - I was after all 5 at the time. But from these I can remember very little particular incident. However the sequence from this episode, described above, is clear as day to me. And some things from Pirate Planet, thanks to a repeat, are even clearer.

So from this point on my view of everything - nearly everything - will be shaped by having seen it as I was growing up. In a couple of stories this will shape my thinking somewhat and may lead to opinions that aren't what you might expect approaching something from new now or as an adult.

Binro the heretic is played by Timothy Bateson, another well known actor making his only Doctor Who appearance with a CV as long as his arm. On it I can see the Out of the Unknown episode Tunnel Under the World where he plays Swanson. This episode was long thought lost but recovered in 2005 and is available on the Out of the Unknown DVD Set. He was also in the sci fi disaster movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire as the Printer in Printroom and appears in The Italian Job as Mr Bridger's Dentist.

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The Seeker is played by Anne Tirard who was Locusta, the palace poisoner, in The Romans. She'd been in the predecessor to Out of the Unknown, Out of This World where she played Mrs. Kane in Target Generation. In amongst the extras this episode we have our two of our old friends: Pat Gorman is Kro, the guard stunned by K-9!

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And somewhere amongst the Levithian Guard is Harry 'Aitch Fielder!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

481 The Ribos Operation: Part Two

EPISODE: The Ribos Operation: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 09 September 1978
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.1 million viewers
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)

"No one makes a fool of the Graff Vynda-K and lives!"

The Guards accidentally save the Doctor & Romana. Garron presents himself as a merchant to the guard captain and arranges for the Graff's money to be kept in the strong room with the jewels. The Doctor is intrigued by Garron and wonders if he's a crook or an agent of the Black Guardian. Garron shows the Graff the Crown Jewels, but his interest is taken by the Jethrik. Unstoffe, posing as a guard, spins the Graff a tale concerning a lost Jethrik mine and shows him a map. The Doctor & Romana overhear the conversation and conclude that Garron & Unstoffe are conducting a con. Garron tries to get a sizeable deposit from the Graff. The Doctor finds the entrance Garron & Unstoffe used to plant the gemstone and decide to lie in wait for Garron & Unstoffe. The Graff finds a bug in his room and becomes suspicious, but still gives Garron a deposit of 1 million Opecs which all concerned see safely deposited in the strong room. Come night time Unstoffe breaks back into the strong room to retrieve the money & the Jethrik. The Doctor disturbs him and is locked in the strong room, but escapes using the shaft Garron & Unstoffe used. He finds Garron, and Romana watching the conman, but all three are caught by the Graff Vynda K and ordered too be executed.

I'm rather enjoying this, despite it being a very VERY wordy episode. We've got two sets of Holmes double acts, Garron & Unstoffe and the Graff & Shoklah, effectively three if you also include The Doctor and his new companion Romana. This episode makes it obvious that Garron & Unstoffe are con men, attempting to pull off something with the lump of Jethrik they've secreted with the jewels though Unstoffe does rather over egg the pudding:

GARRON: I think that I could strangle you, Unstoffe!
UNSTOFFE: You are doing, you old fool! Get your hands off!
GARRON: Scringe stones, lost mines. I was sweating blood listening to that junk.
UNSTOFFE: Well, I thought it was original.
GARRON: You thought what?
UNSTOFFE: Well, they loved that bit about my poor old dad finding the mine.
GARRON: And that's another thing, you greedy little creep. If you're thinking of selling them that map, just forget it.
UNSTOFFE: A little extra never hurt.
GARRON: Listen, this is a hit-and-run business. One bite and away. If you stick around and give the mark time to think, you're kaput. All you'll collect is a big ball and chain around the ankle.
UNSTOFFE: All right, Garron. I was just trying to display initiative. Hey, what did you think of the accent?
GARRON: My past life flashed before my eyes, that's what I thought of it. This Graff's no softie. He's a big bad soldier, and if he rumbles that he's being conned, then you and I are going to wind up very very
GARRON: That's the word I was searching for, so remember it, my boy.
UNSTOFFE: In this matter, I'm in complete agreement with you, Garron. How's it going?
GARRON: Sholakh's fetching the money. One million.
UNSTOFFE: Great. Hey, look, he's got to come back this way. Why don't we wait here and mug him?
GARRON: Stick to the plan. Stick to what's decided.
UNSTOFFE: Doping that beast again? Going down that shaft again?
GARRON: Yes. Now, it's time you got back to the city. We'll meet at the shaft again as arranged.
UNSTOFFE: Right. Hey, er, have you noticed that big fellow, the one with the girl?
GARRON: I've been noticing him quite a lot lately.
Incredibly it's not Unstoffe's performance that leads to them being rumbled, it's the discovery of a bug in the Graff's quarters! And unfortunately that's put the Doctor & Romana in danger.

Playing conman Garron is famous actor Iain Cuthbertson. He's had a long acting career on which I can spot Survivors: Power where he plays McAlister and the TV adaptation of Super GranGraham Williams production, where he plays The Scunner Campbell. He makes an appearance as former DCI Desmond McNutt in the Inspector Morse story Masonic Mysteries.

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His stooge Unstoffe is Nigel Plaskitt. Primary known for his work as a puppeteer on shows such as Pipkins and Spitting Image. He was known for a role in a series of adverts for Vicks in the 1970s. Recently he's provided the voices of Captain Black & Doctor Gold in Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet

Returning as the Shrieve guard Captain is Prentis Hancock who'd previously been in Spearhead from Space as a reporter , Planet of the Daleks as Vaber and Planet of Evil as Salamar but was best known for playing Paul Morrow in Space 1999. He was also in Survivors as McIntosh in A Little Learning and plays Arnold Meyer in Chocky's Children & Chocky's Challenge, both written by this story's script editor Anthony Read He achieves a rare double by appearing in The Professionals as the Army Major in Lawson's Last Stand in 1982 and then 17 years later in CI5: The New Professionals a Carl Dietrich in Souvenir. You can hear him interviewed in Toby Hadoke's Who's Round #129.

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Paul Seed plays the Graff Vynda-K. He'd been in the now missing Doomwatch episode Say Knife, Fat Man as Michael Pratt, which also features former Doctor Who companion Elisabeth Sladen. He's got a Survivors on his CV too playing Grant in The Peacemaker. He's now known as a director having helmed many productions including House of Cards. At the time Seed owned a dog which would perform a trick with a sausage, which Seed demonstrated to Tom Baker. Baker attempted to replicate the trick resulting in him getting bitten on the lip creating the wound which can be seen in this series and the location filming for the next.

The Graff's friend Sholakh is played by Robert Keegan who I don't think I've seen in anything else on his CV.

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The Shrieve who Unstoffe confronted in the last episode, supposedly in this one too, is former body builder John Hamill. He was in Space: 1999 as Dominix in Force of Life and The Professionals as a Security Guard in Long Shot. The other credited Shrive is Oliver Maguire who played a Thargon General in The Tomorrow People episode War of the Empires: All in the Mind. He's in The Empire Strikes Back as an Imperial Officer. Wookiepedia names his character as Lieutenant Cabbel and has him on board the Star Destroyer damaged by the Hoth Ion Cannon.

This week's episode is Tom Baker's 100th playing the Fourth Doctor!

HUGE episode for me next week!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

480 The Ribos Operation: Part One

EPISODE: The Ribos Operation: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 02 September 1978
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.3 million viewers
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 Key to Time is a perfect cube, which maintains the equilibrium of time itself!"

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.

GUARDIAN: Doctor, you have been chosen for a vitally important task.
DOCTOR: That's very flattering, sir.
GUARDIAN: It concerns the Key to Time. You know of the Key to Time?
DOCTOR: Well, I've heard a few stories. Old legends, myths, that sort of thing.
GUARDIAN: It is no myth.
DOCTOR: Sorry, sir.

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GUARDIAN: The Key to Time is a perfect cube, which maintains the equilibrium of time itself. It consists of six segments, and these segments are scattered and hidden throughout the cosmos. When they are assembled into the cube, they create a power which is too dangerous for any being to possess.

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DOCTOR: Well hidden then, I hope, sir.
GUARDIAN: There are times, Doctor, when the forces within the universe upset the balance to such an extent that it becomes necessary to stop everything.
DOCTOR: Stop everything?
GUARDIAN: For a brief moment only.
GUARDIAN: Until the balance is restored. Such a moment is rapidly approaching. These segments must be traced and returned to me before it is too late, before the Universe is plunged into eternal chaos.
DOCTOR: Eternal chaos?
GUARDIAN: Eternal as you understand the term.
DOCTOR: Look, I'm sure there must be plenty of other Time Lords who'd be delighted to
GUARDIAN: I have chosen you.
DOCTOR: Yes, I was afraid you'd say something like that. Ah! You want me to volunteer, isn't that it?
GUARDIAN: Precisely.
DOCTOR: And if I don't?
GUARDIAN: Nothing.
DOCTOR: Nothing? You mean nothing will happen to me?
GUARDIAN: Nothing at all. Ever.
DOCTOR: Ah. What do they look like, these segments? How will I know them?
GUARDIAN: They're all disguised.
DOCTOR: Yes, I thought they might be.
GUARDIAN: They contain the elemental force of the universe. They can be in any shape, form or size.
DOCTOR: Then how will I recognise them?
GUARDIAN: You will be given a locator.
DOCTOR: Thank you.
GUARDIAN: And an assistant.
DOCTOR: An assistant? Please, sir, on an assignment like this, I'd much rather work alone. In my experience, assistants mean trouble. I have to protect them and show them and teach them and couldn't I just, couldn't I just manage with K9?
GUARDIAN: K9 is a mere machine.
DOCTOR: He is a very sensitive machine! Sorry, sir.
GUARDIAN: You will find your assistant waiting for you in the Tardis.
DOCTOR: Very well, sir. If you insist.
GUARDIAN: One final thing, Doctor.
GUARDIAN: I am the White Guardian. In order to maintain the universal balance, there is also a Black Guardian, and he also requires the Key to Time, but for a different purpose. An evil purpose. He must not get it. Doctor, at all costs, you must prevent that.
DOCTOR: How am I to prevent that?
GUARDIAN: Beware the Black Guardian.
DOCTOR: Beware the Black Guardian.
GUARDIAN: Beware. Beware.

The Guardians might have worked better as powerful beings if they'd have been unmentioned previously in the series. The Guardians' roles & positions in the scheme of things are never truly revealed!

Playing the White Guardian in this episode Cyril Luckham, He'll be back in Enlightenment but before then we'll be meeting his opposite number.

Earlier in his career he appeared in the acclaimed An Age of Kings BBC production of William Shakespeare plays where he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V Part 1: Signs of War. He has a recurring role in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em as Father O'Hara, the priest who appears in The Baby Arrives & Jessica's First Christmas. I've seen him in The Professionals as Judge Hall in The Rack.

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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. 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: Doctor?
DOCTOR: That's the new assistant.
ROMANA: My name is Romanadvoratrelundar.
DOCTOR: I'm so sorry about that. Is there anything we can do?
ROMANA: The President of the Supreme Council sent me.
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.

It's unclear how much time has passed since Invasion of Time but since the Doctor has been travelling by himself while assembling the new K-9 you can, like the gap between Deadly Assassin and Face of Evil, insert any number of stories in between Invasion of Time and here. There's no better place for all the Fourth Doctor's comic stories to occur!

ROMANA: I was told to give you this.
DOCTOR: What's this?
ROMANA: According to my instructions, it's the core to the Key of Time.
ROMANA: Very exciting, isn't it?
DOCTOR: Yes, I suppose it must be for someone as young and inexperienced as you are.
ROMANA: I may be inexperienced, but I did graduate from the Academy with a triple first.
DOCTOR: I suppose you think we should be impressed by that, too?
ROMANA: Well, it's better than scraping through with fifty one percent at the second attempt.
DOCTOR: That information is confidential! That President. I should have thrown him to the Sontarans when I had the chance.
ROMANA: Oh, do you want to know how that works?
DOCTOR: I know how it works.
ROMANA: You have to plug it into your Tardis controls, just there.
DOCTOR: A hole. What's a hole doing in my Tardis?
ROMANA: I put it there.
DOCTOR: You? You put a hole in my Tardis? Never mind, old girl. Never mind. I'll soon have it fixed.
ROMANA: When plugged into the control console, the core indicates the space-time coordinates of each segment of the Key.

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DOCTOR: Oh, that's clever. That's very clever. Ah! Four one eight zero.
ROMANA: I'll look up those coordinates, shall I.
DOCTOR: No, there's no need.
ROMANA: Well, don't you want to know what planet it is?
DOCTOR: I know. Cyrrhenis Minima.
DOCTOR: Just a matter of experience, you see.
ROMANA: Yes, of course.
DOCTOR: What else does it do?
ROMANA: Well, it locates the segment at close range once we've landed on the appropriate planet.
DOCTOR: Ah ha. Well, that could be very useful.
ROMANA: And then, when it's brought into contact with a disguised segment, it converts it back into its proper form. What would you like me to do?
DOCTOR: Well. I'd like you to stay out of my way as much as possible and try and keep out of trouble. I don't suppose you can make tea?
DOCTOR: No, no, I don't suppose you can. They don't teach you anything useful at the Academy, do they. Gadgets and gimmickry. Never touch, never trust gimmicky gadgets.

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There's quite a bit of early bickering with the Doctor arguing about age vs youth and education over experience.

ROMANA: You're sulking.
DOCTOR: I'm not sulking.
ROMANA: That's ridiculous for somebody as old as you are.
DOCTOR: I'm not old. What?
ROMANA: Seven hundred and fifty nine?
DOCTOR: Seven hundred and fifty six. That's not old, that's just mature.
ROMANA: You've lost count somewhere.
DOCTOR: Well, I ought to know my own age.
ROMANA: Yes, but after the first few centuries, I expect things get a little bit foggy, don't they?
But the thing the Doctor has a real problem with is her name:
DOCTOR: Good. Now, pay attention. I'm not anticipating any trouble, but it's as well to be prepared for these things. Ground rules. Rule one, do exactly as I say. Rule two, stick close to me, and Rule three, let me do all the talking. Is that perfectly clear?
ROMANA: You couldn't make it clearer.
DOCTOR: Good. One more thing. Your name.
ROMANA: What about my name?
DOCTOR: It's too long. By the time I've called look out, what's your name?
ROMANA: Romanadvoratnelundar.
DOCTOR: By the time I've called that out, you could be dead. I'll call you Romana.
ROMANA: I don't like Romana.
DOCTOR: It's either Romana or Fred.
ROMANA: All right, call me Fred.
DOCTOR: Good. Come on, Romana.
So Romana it is from hereon. The name bares some similarity to the surname Romanov, used by the Russian royal family and there's a distinct Russian influence over Ribos including the climate, costumes and architecture.

The second half of the episode 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. To start the season off Robert Holmes' safe pair of hands write the opening tale. His last story for the program had been The Sunmakers, the previous year. The story before that, Image of the Fendahl, was George Spenton-Foster's first Doctor Who directing job and he returns to direct this tale.