Doctor Who #483: The Ribos Operation Part 2

"You can't be a successful crook with a dishonest face, can you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.9 1978.

IN THIS ONE... Garron and Unstoffe perpetrate their con on the Graff Vynda-K, but get caught, along with the Doctor.

REVIEW: I have to admit that seeing Romana jump into the Doctor's arms at the cliffhanger's resolution made me think of romantic comedies and how characters starting out at each others' throats eventually find themselves romantically involved. After all, Romana is the first companion of the Doctor's own species unrelated by blood. Though she is of the tender age of (nearly) 140, this would still seem to be the most appropriate Doctor-companion romance possible. He even finds her "well-preserved" (that's up there with "I like your new dress"). And if you DO want to 'ship these two, in perfect Time Lord fashion, they'll be a little antagonistic for most of Romana's first incarnation, then turn their adventures into some magical date when she changes bodies. Rom-com relationship shifts seen as regenerations. Forgive me these thoughts, as there's really very little in the episode to show there was ever such a plan. What we do have is more amusing banter, and Romana showing her inexperience so the Doctor can once again take control of the situation. If she can't spot an obvious liar like Unstoffe, she really is wet behind the ears.

As Garron and Unstoffe's con develops, it never ceases to amuse. Garron is sensibly irritated at his partner's sense of "initiative" (made me think of Danny Blue in Hustle), and the Graff, though a fine mark because of his megalomania, isn't particularly stupid and is soon on to them. The whole scringe stone bit is pretty funny, but Garron isn't without responsibility. It's his bug that made the Graff suspicious in the first place. There's some joy to be had in the three parties playing off one another, as the Doctor captures Garron, and the Graff captures them all. Clearly, the con artists aren't working for the Black Guardian, so they must be what the Doctor pleasingly calls "innocent crooks". They'll be his untrustworthy allies before long.

There are some weaknesses I should mention, however. While most of the characters are smartly written, the guards (or "shrieves") are treated abominably. I'm quite happy with how Garron steals the captain's keys, but he and his men are made blind by thoughtless staging when Romana and the Doctor hide in their line of sight. The Doctor and Romana watching the proceedings, apparently unseen, from behind the glass case is equally mystifying. And I'd much rather see the Doctor fast-talk his way around such morons than pull out a watch and play at being the Master. But maybe that's just me.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Still perfectly entertaining, staging issues take it a step down.

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