Although the story is not especially original, the script is fairly tight, and everything seems to work. Perhaps by the fourth episode it seems slightly padded, but there's always enough going on to keep you interested.
Most valuable player in this story must go jointly to the two conmen, who are of the old-school, honorable type. In other words, they'll switch the precious stone from the doctor for a piece of rock, but when he switches it back and they find out, they are appalled!!
It's good fun.
"Ribos" is a light-hearted story, once the introduction to the season-linking Key to Time concept is rapidly explained (and set aside). Boisterous con-man (played to operatic high comedy by Iain Cuthbertson) attempt to swindle deposed Emperor, The Graff Vynda-K, by selling him a primitive ice planet suggestive of Czarist Russia. This went well and truly over my head when I was 12, and you wouldn't think Paul Seed's Shakespearian reading of a forged real estate contract would ever interest anyone, but it's quite captivating now. How many other DVDs do you own which contain the word "suzerainty"?
But, more seriously, it's a Robert Holmes script, and Holmes' DW stories always stood out for their attention to detail. Ribos may be populated by just three British character actors, but so much of the planet's culture is explained in 90 minutes that it's surprising DW never went back there again. I like the fact that the story devotes quite a bit of time to "Binro the Heretic", the discredited astronomer who's banished for proving the world is round, but at the same time the local witch is shown to be not a fraud, but rather 100% accurate.
The DVD includes, as always, text and audio commentary tracks. The pop-up production notes are written by a new researcher, and are much more enlightening here than many of the previous releases.Read more ›
The atmosphere is superb. The sets and, in particular, the costumes are exceptionally well done, especially when one considers the budget they were working with here. Possibly a lot of it was taken from stock and then given superficial modifications, but this really adds to the script's medieval and Russian flavors. It feels old-fashioned, and the few futuristic elements slide right alongside the historical pieces. The aliens are planet-hopping aristocrats with lasers, wrist-communicators and space-drives, but they trade in gold, and are concerned with half-brothers on thrones. The soldiers in the story more resemble knights in armor than science-fiction stormtroopers. The modern and the tradition merge extremely well and the two parts complement are a great complement to each other.
Science vs. magic/superstition is another theme that rears its head in this serial. Unlike other stories (say, THE DAEMONS), this story puts both of those subjects on the same level. The magic isn't just given a technobabble explanation; it actually appears to work in the confines of the story. The Seeker makes predictions that prove correct, has second sight, and uses magical incantations, while the story gives every indication that she genuinely does possess unearthly powers.Read more ›