The Ribos Operation, Earthshock

Just short notes on these; I re-watched them after having read the Ian Marter novelisations, so not a lot new to say about either.

The Ribos Operation (, .com): Re-watching it confirmed my view that Ian Marter left out two of the best bits in his version, the banter introducing Romana to the story, and the deep sense of cold pervading the entire production – yes, we know it is only polystyrene snow, but it really sets the scene. Here we have, for the first time since Zoe was taken from the Doctor by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games in 1969, a companion who matches him intellectually; indeed he is actually hiding from her behind K-9 at first. Lots of other little typically Robert Holmes touches in it, but it’s the beginning of the story that sticks in your mind. Nothing about The Ribos Operation is outstanding, but taken together it is done well.

Earthshock (, .com): As it happens I’ve just been reading Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles on the first two Cyberman stories, The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, and it’s interesting that Cyberman stories seem particularly lacking on plot plausibility or scientific credibility (particularly as the scientific credentials of their co-creator Kit Pedler were widely touted by the BBC). I think the Cybermen are particularly naff here (but I haven’t seen Silver Nemesis, so there may be worse in store for me). Their plan makes no sense at all, they are less strong than their android slaves, and their failure to shoot all their enemies when they have the chance is totally illogical. In addition the Cyber-controller comes very close to displaying emotions (“Excellent!”).

Another annoying thing about the story is the way in which the troopers and scientists all merrily crowd into the TARDIS, which has normally been the private space of the Doctor and companions (indeed, we see Adric’s own teenage private space in the first episode – he likes decorating it a lot more than Susan did). Once Cybermen start wandering all round the TARDIS shooting people (like the unfortunate Professor Kyle, played by Clare Clifford who was later to try and seduce Anna/Daniela Nardini in “This Life” – and wouldn’t you?) it almost feels like just deserts for being over-hospitable to armed earthlings. Earlier Doctors would never have allowed it. (When Salamander violates TARDIS sanctity in The Enemy of the World, he gets sucked into the vortex.)

One good thing about the story, and a striking contrast with The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, is the number of women in leadership roles – Professor Kyle, Beryl Reid as starship captain, plus numerous others. And unlike some commentators I thought both Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton turned in good performances in their roles.

I remember at the time, when the first episode was broadcast, being slightly startled by Adric suddenly developing a personality after a year and a half of appearing without one. Of course this was build-up to him being killed off in the last episode, and that sequence, the credits being rolled in silence over a picture of his gold star for mathematical excellence, is still effective now; shame they didn’t spend more time on building up the character over the previous months.

I was going to review these two together with The Mutants from the Pertwee era, but that has got six tedious episodes, and also raises real world issues that I will want to write about at length, so requires a separate entry once I have finished with it.

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