Read Doctor Who: Ribos Operation Online

Authors: Ian Marter,British Broadcasting Corporation

Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who

Doctor Who: Ribos Operation



Based on the BBC television serial The Ribos Operation by Robert Holmes by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation


Chapter 1
Unwelcome Strangers

The tall loose-limbed figure, clad in voluminous shirt-sleeves and
baggy tweed trousers tucked into creaking leather boots, strode
around the faintly humming chamber. His nose was buried in an
enormous tattered chart which he held up in front of his face
with long, outstretched arms. From time to time he stopped in
mid-stride and muttered unintelligibly to himself before setting
off again, deep in thought, in the opposite direction.

Suddenly the chart flew out of his hands. He uttered a short
bellow of pain and hopped about clutching an injured knee, his
movements grotesquely reflected in the polished metal walls
surrounding him. Then he stood still and glared at the
hexagonal control console which pulsed and flashed in the
centre of the chamber.

‘Can’t you look where you’re going?’ he cried, with a
resentful frown. He picked up the chart and spread it out over
the mass of switches, buttons, dials and lights which covered the
buzzing console. Smoothing the crackling, curling edges with
large, careful hands he pored over the maze of faded patterns
printed on the thick, brittle paper. As he bent forward with a
frown of intense concentration, his rugged features were
dramatically illuminated in the fluorescent glow spilling over

Suddenly his eyes opened wide and he fixed a spot on the
chart with a piercing stare.

‘That’s the place...’ he cried, straightening up and ruffling
his shock of curly brown hair with both hands. ‘The very place.
We’ll go and take a look at...’ His excited booming voice was cut
short by a tremendous cracking sound. He whirled round, body
tensed and arms at the ready, in a stylish karate stance. But the
chamber was empty: he was quite alone. For a few seconds he
stood there, blinking in confusion. Then he suddenly crouched
on the defensive again as one of the doors leading from the
chamber seemed to open slightly. All at once he broke into a
broad toothy grin as he realised his mistake. Turning to the
console he saw that the chart had rolled itself up with a snap into
a tightly coiled tube.

‘As I was saying,’ he went on, seizing a broad-brimmed,
rather shapeless brown felt hat from its perch on top of the tall
glass cylinder which formed the centre of the control console,
‘we’ll go and take a look at...’

Once again the cheerful resonant voice stopped in mid-sentence. The tall figure looked round the chamber. ‘K9?’ he
called, staring at the door which was ajar. Then he shrugged,
and after frantically fumbling in his cluttered pockets, took out a
tiny silver dog whistle and blew several blasts. His cheeks bulged
and his eyes popped with the effort. The whistle made no sound,
but immediately there came a distant whirring and clattering,
and seconds later the door was pushed wide open. Into the
chamber trundled a curious dog-like creature with metal body
and head, fiercely glowing eyes and eagerly revolving antennae
in place of ears.

The mechanical hound stopped with a jerk, cocked his head
sharply to one side and announced in a rasping voice, ‘A less
extreme ultrasonic signal is quite adequate to effect summons,

The tall figure glanced at the tiny whistle in his hand. ‘I’m
very glad to hear it, K9,’ he panted, dabbing at his flushed face
with a large, red and white spotted handkerchief. ‘Next time I’ll
be sure to...’

‘Your statement not understood, master,’ retorted the robot,
his circuits chattering busily. ‘The signal is not audible to the
human ear.’

The tall figure wagged a warning finger. ‘I am not human,’
he said firmly, ‘kindly remember that.’

‘You are the Doctor,’ K9 replied, ‘and according to my data
bank that name is of human origin.’

The tall figure crouched down and tapped the robot on the
muzzle. ‘I didn’t call you in to be argumentative, K9,’ he
murmured scoldingly. K9’s eyes dimmed and his antennae
drooped. Slowly he lowered his head. His circuits went quiet.

The Doctor sprang to his feet, cramming the battered hat on
the back of his riot of curly hair. ‘Listen, I’ve got a surprise for
you,’ he cried with a delighted smile. ‘We are going to take a
little holiday... just the two of us.’

There was a pause while K9’s circuits buzzed into activity
again. ‘Holiday?’ he rasped, raising his head.

‘Why not?’ the Doctor said, striding over to the console and
eagerly unrolling the chart. ‘I thought we might pop over to
Occhinos and bask in one of its suns for a few...’

At that moment all the lights in the central console blacked
out and the systems went dead with a dying whine. The Doctor
uttered a cry of dismay and stumbled round the console in the
eerie glow from K9’s eyes, frantically flicking switches and
pressing buttons. Nothing happened.

‘There would appear to be a general systems malfunction,
master,’ K9 announced, trundling towards the console with
antennae busily waving, his probe emerging from his muzzle,
eager to help.

‘Stay!’ the Doctor ordered. ‘Don’t touch anything.’

Obediently K9 ground to a halt. Silently he watched as the
Doctor tried in vain to locate the fault, struggling with the dead
controls in the silent shadows.

‘Come on, old girl,’ he muttered coaxingly, ‘this is no time to
have one of your moods. Whatever’s the matter?’ After a while
the Doctor gave up. He leaned over the console biting his lip
and shaking his head. ‘There is no interior fault as far as I can
see,’ he murmured, frowning across the chamber at the row of
frosted-glass panes along the top of one of the doors. ‘The
TARDIS must be in the grip of some colossal external force.’

As he spoke, an intense amber light began to flood through
into the chamber. The Doctor stared up at it, shielding his eyes
as the glare grew rapidly brighter until he could no longer look.
K9 was unaffected. The only sound was the steady whirr of his
circuits as he quickly analysed the strange brilliance.

‘Spectrum unidentifiable, master,’ he suddenly rapped out.

The Doctor slowly walked towards the door. As he
approached, the amber light gradually dimmed and when he
reached it he was able to uncover his eyes. For a moment he
hesitated. Then, with a decisive gesture, he took down a brown,
three-quarter length overcoat with broad lapels and a high collar
from the ornate wooden hallstand beside him, and thoughtfully
put it on.

K9 gave a little whine of caution from the shadows as the
Doctor adjusted his hat and braced himself to open the door.

‘Stay’ murmured the imposing figure, cautiously turning the
brass door handle. A high-pitched shriek split the air as the door
opened on its dry hinges. The Doctor clung to the handle to
regain his balance as a momentary gust of warm air swept past
him. Then, with his eyes narrowed to slits beneath the wide brim
of his hat, he stepped carefully out of the TARDIS and into the
sulphurous glow surrounding it.

The sound of running water and the chirruping of birds
filled the air as the Doctor took a few hesitant paces and stopped
to peer about him. He was standing in what looked like an exotic
garden, filled with gigantic orchids nodding in the warm breeze,
and shaded by enormous cool trees rustling overhead. Nearby,
fountains sent up a cluster of bright rainbow sprays into the
glistening leaves.

A faint creak of wickerwork came from beneath the weeping
willow in front of him, and a gentle but sonorous voice
murmured, ‘Welcome, Doctor. Welcome.’

The Doctor approached and found himself staring with
blinking, bewildered eyes at an elegant old gentleman dressed in
an immaculate white suit, white panama hat, silk cravat and tan
patent-leather boots. He was seated in a high-backed, elaborate
veranda chair beside a round bamboo table, on which stood a
dazzling crystal decanter filled with a rich amber liquid, and an
empty crystal tumbler. In one raised hand the distinguished
figure held a similar tumbler filled with the liquid, and from
time to time he took a sip as he studied the Doctor with piercing
blue eyes.

‘We deeply regret the necessity of altering your plans,
Doctor,’ he said at last, ‘but your presence is urgently required.’

The Doctor glanced at the idyllic scene around him and
shrugged. ‘Oh, that’s all right,’ he grinned. ‘I’d gladly swap a
trip to Occhinos for this little spot any day.’

The old gentleman smiled faintly, surveying the Doctor’s
well-worn attire and glancing briefly across at the chipped blue
paintwork and cracked windows of the lopsided Police Box from
which he had just emerged. ‘I am afraid that this is no holiday
resort, Doctor,’ he said coldly. ‘You are here because you have
been chosen to carry out an urgent and vital assignment.’

The Doctor looked aghast. ‘You mean... work?’ he muttered.

The mysterious figure nodded gravely and took a long slow
drink from the flashing tumbler. For a moment the Doctor was
speechless. Then he thrust his hands deep into his overcoat
pockets and stepped forward. ‘Who are you anyway?’ he

The old gentleman held up the tumbler in both hands and
revolved it slowly back and forth, so that the Doctor was dazzled
by the sharp beams of multicoloured light thrown out from its
angled surfaces. ‘Do you really need to ask, Doctor?’

The Doctor’s jaw dropped. He snatched off his hat and
bowed with dignified respect. ‘If I had known...’ he began,
quickly trying to tidy his unruly hair, ‘if I had realised that... that
one of the Guardians...’ His voice trailed away and he stood
there tongue-tied, screwing up his hat with embarrassment.

‘Your assignment concerns the Key to Time,’ said the
Guardian sternly. ‘You know of the Key to Time, Doctor?’

The Doctor nodded, his huge eyes alive with curiosity. ‘The
Perfect Cube which maintains the equilibrium of Time itself,’ he

The Guardian leaned forward. ‘It is divided into six
different Segments which are scattered throughout the Universe
disguised in various forms,’ he said quietly. ‘When the Segments
are re-assembled into the Cube they embody an elemental force
which is too dangerous for single being to possess.’

‘Yes indeed,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘Much better that they
should remain undisturbed and unrecognised.’

The Guardian sipped at his drink and shook his head.
‘Doctor, at this very moment the forces of Chaos are disturbing
the balance of the Cosmos...’

‘You don’t have to tell me,’ the Doctor cried. ‘That’s precisely
the reason why I was going off to get away from it all.’ He spread
his arms in apology for his interruption as the Guardian leaned
across and poured some of the liquid from the decanter into the
empty tumbler.

‘We require the completed Cube, Doctor,’ the Guardian
snapped, offering him the glass, ‘with the minimum of delay.
Without it we cannot prevent the Universe from being plunged
into total and eternal chaos.’

‘And you want me to volunteer,’ the Doctor said,
approaching the table and watching the Guardian like a hawk, a
trace of suspicion crossing his face. The oldgentleman stared
back at him without speaking. ‘And if I refuse?’ the Doctor
asked, picking up the tumbler and examining the contents

‘You will not refuse, Doctor.’

The Guardian’s curt reply rang out with unexpected
hollowness and the Doctor jumped. Quickly recovering himself,
he drained the golden liquid in one gulp. ‘Where do I start?’ he

‘All that you require will be found in your... your
conveyance,’ the Guardian replied with a gesture of disdain
towards the TARDIS. ‘You begin immediately.’

With a shrug of resignation the Doctor replaced his empty
glass on the bamboo table. ‘Persuasive little wine,’ he murmured.
‘Not a bad year at all. Thank you.’ With that he turned and
shuffled reluctantly towards the open door of the dilapidated
Police Box.

‘Oh Doctor, just before you go...’ the Guardian called in a
warning tone, ‘I am the White Guardian. For the sake of cosmic
stability there is also a Black Guardian...’

‘Yes, I thought there might be,’ the Doctor muttered
gloomily, stopping and turning round in the doorway.

‘The Black Guardian also seeks to possess the Key to Time—
for evil purposes,’ the White Guardian went on. ‘You must
prevent that, Doctor, whatever happens...’

The Doctor made a low, respectful bow of farewell. When he
looked up the luxuriant garden had disappeared. Only a
swirling amber mist remained, and within seconds it had been
swallowed up into the black void, leaving the Doctor teetering on
the edge of the abyss.

By furiously rotating both arms simultaneously in reverse,
the Doctor managed to keep his balance and propel himself
backwards into the TARDIS micro-seconds before the outer
door was sucked shut by the vacuum outside. Mopping his brow
with the spotted handkerchief, he strode across to the control
console which was buzzing and flickering into life again.

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