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17 May 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 502: The Ribos Operation, Episode Two

Dear diary,

During The Sun Makers, I pointed out that - with very few modifications - it could almost be a historical story, set at any time in Earth’s past. The Ribos Operation is, if anything, even more like a story from history. Obviously, the setting takes cues from Russian design, particularly in the costumes, and the entire serial can only really be described as ‘lavish’. Looking back, only Peladon has really had the same ‘historic’ vibe in a ‘space’ story, and even that is somewhat stepped on by the presence of the Federation and all their various aliens. This is the first time that we’ve ever really been given a world that’s set out among the stars, a setting that would usually be all shiny and high-tech, or at least futuristic, and presented it to us as going through its own middle ages period of history. It’s really quite fun to watch.

I love a good castle set, and the BBC always do them so well. Here, we’re being treated to a miriad of different rooms that all really do feel like they’re part of the same architectural style. It’s always easier, I find, to connect with the Doctor’s adventures when they’re set in a location thats identifiably ‘real’, and this is one of them. For all the talk of ‘Jethrik’, and cosmic alliances, this is a story set on a developing world, into which these space-age characters have simply been dropped.

I think ‘dropped’ is certainly the right word to use describing the Doctor and Romana’s presence in this story. They’ve not really found an awful lot to do yet - struggling to get their hands on the segment they need by conventional means, and planning to swipe it from someone they think might well be their rival in proceedings. Indeed, I think it’s almost a shame that we know the Doctor is wrong about that - because it might actually add some much-needed tension to the story. So far, even during the cliffhanger to the first episode, in which Dr Who’s assistant is menaced by the traditional green monster, it doesn’t feel like there’s any real threat.

It feels as though things might be starting to gain traction from here, though. I know there’s several characters in the story who have yet to put in an appearance, so I’m guessing that the tale will be veering off in a slightly different direction from tomorrow. Actually, and for the first time in ages, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Doctor gets out of the current cliffhanger. He looks genuinely surprised to see that they’ve been captured (even more surprised than when the Sontarans part-way through the last story), and I’m actually excited to see where we go next. Perhaps more importantly, I’m looking forward to seeing how they finally get their hands on the segment of the Key that they need before leaving Ribos. At this point, I’m staking my bet that they simply end up swiping it during a struggle in the final episode and leg it to the TARDIS, but I’m hoping there’s something a bit more cunning involved than that! 

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