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Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation was a novelisation based on the 1978 television serial The Ribos Operation.

Publisher's summary[]

Reluctantly cancelling his well-earned holiday, the Doctor sets off in the TARDIS to trace and re-assemble the six segments of the Key to Time on which the stability of the entire Universe depends.

Assisted by the argumentative Romanadvoratrelundar and K9, he lands on the planet Ribos in search of the first segment and finds himself entangled in the machinations of two sinister strangers, Garron and the Graff Vynda Ka.

Who are they? Is Garron simply a shady confidence-trickster dealing in interplanetary real estate? Is the Graff Vynda Ka just a power-crazed exile bent on revenge? Or are they both really agents of the Black Guardian, intent upon seizing the precious Key in order to throw the Universe into eternal chaos?

Risking his life within the monster-infested catacombs of Ribos, the Doctor has to use all his wit and ingenuity to find out ...

Chapter titles[]

  1. Unwelcome Strangers
  2. The Beast in the Citadel
  3. A Shaky Start
  4. Double Dealings
  5. Arrest and Capture
  6. Unlikely Allies
  7. Escape into the Unknown
  8. The Doctor Changes Sides
  9. Lost and Found
  10. Conjuring Tricks

Deviations from televised story[]

  • The Doctor plans to holiday in Occhinos instead of Halergan 3.
  • The Guardian's meeting place dissolves into space and the Doctor nearly makes it to the TARDIS.
  • The tracer is called the Locatormutor Core.
  • Romana graduated from the Academy with a Triple Alpha while the Doctor graduated with Double Gamma on the second attempt.
  • Cyrrhenis Minima is renamed Cyrrhenis Minimis.
  • Jethrik is renamed Jethryk.
  • The Graff Vynda-K is renamed the Graff Vynda Ka.
  • The Graff is unhinged and needs Sholack to control him.
  • The Seeker is unaffected when the Graff stabs her to death, but carries on in a zombie-like form.
  • The end of the story happens in a different order to the televised story. (This was how the story was scripted and filmed, but the sequence was changed in editing.)
  • The White Guardian does not tell the Doctor he will be given a new assistant, with Romana explaining the situation when the Doctor finds her in the TARDIS.
  • The relic room is lit with oil lamps, rather than the electric lights seen on screen.
  • Both the Doctor and Romana consult a roll-up star chart in the TARDIS.
  • Garron edits his comments to Unstoffe rather than making indiscreet remarks.
  • Unstoffe poses as a trapper when giving the Shrieve a drink and there is more emphasis on him stealing the man's uniform.
  • Romana's comment about Unstoffe having an honest face is said to be ironic, rather than the Doctor having to explain to her that he is a crook.
  • The Ribos seasons are said to last eleven years instead of thirty-two.
  • Much of the Graff's back story is omitted, with him simply describing himself as the rightful heir of the Levithian throne.
  • Garron recounts a local legend that the wearer of the crown can force back the Ice Time.
  • Sholakh attempts to confiscate the Locatormutor but the Doctor palms it back.
  • K9 stuns a Shrieve on his way to rescue the Doctor and Romana and stuns three Levithian guards rather than just one.
  • Garron's line about dying being the last thing he'll do is given to the Doctor and rewritten to remove much of the humour.
  • The Seeker tells the Shrieve captain to direct the Graff to the catacombs.
  • There is an extra sequence of the Doctor thinking Romana and Garron have been sealed in a crevice by a cave-in.
  • There is more materials with the Shrievenzales, with Unstoffe and later Romana and K9 hiding from them and the Graff's men being attacked by one, killing several of them.
  • The Graff explains his guards to the Captain by saying they are a regiment formed to protect trade routes.
  • There is much dialogue between the Doctor and Sholakh when the former is disguised as a guard, with the Doctor claiming to be Gammon, a member of the special reserve.
  • The Seeker is blown apart by the Shrieves' cannon. (This comes from early storylines.)
  • The Graff is trying to clear the blocked entrance when the charger blows up, implying that the explosion clears a way for the Doctor's group to leave the catacombs.
  • There is no mention of Garron and Unstoffe having the Graff's ship.

Writing and publishing notes[]

  • Although based upon the first story to feature Romana I, this book (and all the Key to Time novelisations that followed) was actually published after Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks, which began the character's second series.
  • When Target retroactively numbered the first seventy-three novelisations alphabetically, this was given the number #52; by coincidence it was the 52nd book to have been published.

Cover gallery[]

British publication history[]

First publication:

  • Hardback
W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd. UK
  • Paperback


This Target Book was released as an audiobook on 3 March 2011 complete and unabridged by BBC Audio and read by John Leeson.

The cover blurb and thumbnail illustrations were retained in the accompanying booklet with sleevenotes by David J. Howe. Music and sound effects by Simon Power.

The audiobook version was reissued as part of the audio anthology The Second Alien Worlds Collection on 6 December 2018.

External links[]