Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 4.8
Continuing the longest running era of The Doctor, including the beginning of the Key to TIme saga.
The Invasion of Time
After The Doctor meets with a group of aliens in the middle of space, the details of the meeting being unknown to Leela and K9, he directs the TARDIS to his home world of Gallifrey. Once there Leela notes that the Doctor is acting quite strangely. He demands to be taken to the Chancellor claims the role of Chancellor for himself, effectively putting himself in control of the Time Lord race.
It is later revealed that The Doctor is, for reasons that are not entirely clear, assisting an invasion of Gallifrey. He banishes Leela from the capital and permits shimmering manifestations called the Vardans access to the planet where they soon take command. The Doctor explains that this ‘invasion’ was part of plan to lure the Vardans’ onto Gallifrey to defeat them. The Doctor’s plan works, but in order to keep the trust of the Vardan’s he opens the planet-wide force-field, giving the Sontarian’s the opportunity to invade as well. It’s only with Leela leading a force of outsiders that they can turn this new enemy away.
Plenty happening in this story, so it’s a good thing that it’s stretched out for six episodes. Any story that focuses on Gallifrey and the Time Lord society is going to be interesting and this one does not disappoint. Tom Baker is on good form swanning around and giving orders, and there’s a good bit of mystery and humour to be had with his odd behaviour. The action does wind up being a tad repetitive with only a few sets in use during two different invasions.
The episode ends with Leela electing to stay behind with Commander Andred, leader of the guards, as the two had fallen in love. Given her inability to fit in with such advanced societies it would be interesting to see how this relationship plays out, but it’s not to be. K9 also stays but this has little impact on the show as The Doctor promptly receives K9 MKII, who is identical in every way.
The Ribos Operation
This episode kicks off the sixteenth season of Doctor Who, a season that saw the Doctor tasked with collecting the six pieces of the Key to Time, with each serial focusing on the retrieval of a piece.
To begin with The Doctor finds himself alone in the TARDIS once again. He is summoned by a White Guardian, the personification of order in the galaxy, to find the six broken pieces of the Key to Time, which have taken different forms throughout time and space. To aid him in this mission is a young Time Lord named Romanadvoratrelundar (referred to as Romana by The Doctor). The pair head to the ice planet Ribos.
There the local population seem to be of a Medieval bent, unaware of the larger universe. Ribos has large quantities of jethrik, the most valuable mineral in the galaxy and is currently being targeted by a con-man from Earth named Garron. Garron’s plan is to sell Ribos to Graff Vynda-K, an exiled tyrant who plans on using the resource to power his fleet and taking back his home planet again.
The Doctor and Romana have conflicting personalities right off the bat, with Romana’s young ambition contrasting with the The Doctor’s dismissive attitude (he begins their relationship by sulking in the corner under his scarf). The dynamic between them is instantly fun to watch as they bigger and try to out-do one another. The Ribos Operation gets the ambitious 16th Season of to a flying start with clever writing and a quick paced story. The new edition of K9 seems to have come with a more sardonic sense of humour, and this is very welcome indeed. All up a very fun episode kicking off a great concept and introducing an interesting new character.
The Pirate Planet
One thing that stood out immediately with this episode is the writing. The dialogue was as sharp as a knife with some brilliantly funny moments, and the overall concept of the story was intriguingly original. Skipping through the credits to find out the person who was responsible for this gem revealed none other than legendary sci-fi author Douglas Adams was at the helm. When Adams on the script we get great moments like K9 explaining to The Doctor why Romana was having more success in talking to the native population.
Trying to track down the second piece of the Key to Time lands the TARDIS floating through empty space. Landing instead on the nearest planet. This turns out to be a ‘pirate planet’ that materialises itself around other planets in order to plunder their resources, leaving their target a burned up chunk. Although the insane Captain of the ‘ship’ appears to be in charge the ancient tyrant Queen Xanxia, who was posing as the Captain’s nurse, is pulling the strings and using the resources to attain immortality. The Captain has only been playing along to get his chance to strike against her, and the Doctor and Romana set things in motion.
As said before the writing is exceptional, and the whole plot is immensely imaginative. It’s a relief when the Captain is revealed to be a con man because he’s quite a ridiculous sight even under the steampunk design. The twist that emerges part way through the episode elevates it above a clever gimmick to a classic episode. Gold.