Romana and the Doctor.
The Ribos Operation is the first story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by Robert Holmes and is the first story in the season long Key to Time arc. This story is also where we are introduced to Mary Tamm as Romana for the first time.
I love Romana’s sass, intellect, and tendency to challenge the Doctor on all fronts. She is quite capable of questioning the Doctor and putting him in his place when his actions don’t make sense. I also love that she keeps quoting the Tardis manual at the Doctor and telling him how he is flying it wrong – for new Who fans, this bickering reminded me a lot of when River Song flies the Tardis. As a bonus Romana’s fashion sense is so on point – see “The Stones of Blood” story is you need additionally examples of Romana’s fantastic wardrobe choices.
The plot of this story revolves around a scam gone wrong, with the Tardis crew getting caught in the middle of the scam in their attempts to locate the key to time segment. The plot itself is almost secondary to the setup of the Key to Time mission itself, we are introduced to the Guardian and given a vague reason as to why it is imperative that the Doctor locate all the segments of the key, else the universe implode. The setup isn’t fantastic, but it does a well enough job in providing a framework for all of the stories within season sixteen.
Overall, this was a middle of the road story for me. I liked bits of it but I wasn’t enthralled by the plot.
The Pirate Planet
The Pirate Planet is the second story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9(!). It was written by Douglas Adams and is the second story in the Key to Time arc.
This was the last serial of the classic Doctor Who era to be novelized, but I actually read the novelization prior to watching the story. This is partially because I’ve been trying to read all the novelizations which are based on Douglas Adam’s scripts, mainly because I simply love his writing and love trying to pick out bits that are purely Adams in the novelizations. The Pirate Planet was Adam’s first contribution to Doctor Who and the novelization contains an interesting discussion of the early draft versions of this story and dives into the archives which hold Adam’s work.
For the Adam’s fans watching this story, at one point the Doctor says “Don’t Panic” which made the Hitckkicker’s Guide fan in me squee. Additionally, the Doctor’s line “Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves” — was later used in a The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio serial, by For Perfect toward a Vogon.
Personally, I’m glad I read the novelization of this story first. The half-robot pirate captain and his killer robot parrot looked way cooler in my head then they did in the 1978s costuming. The portrayal of the captain was one of my least favourite parts of the televised story. The novelization contained much more nuance and presented the captain as more than just a bumbling/raging lunatic.
Overall, the story has a great mix of comedy with a sci-fi story line. It is overflowing with ideas and at times seems like there are too many ideas to be contained within a four episode story arc. However, I loved seeing Romana and K9 in action during this story, they are both some of my favourite classic Who companions. Plus K9 gets an amazing fight scene with the robot parrot, which is simply awesome in my books.
Given that this was the second story in the Key to Time arch, my plan is to go back and watch The Ribos Operation next.