The Key to Time
|The Key to Time|
Cover of the 2008 Region 2 DVD release
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of stories||6|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||2 September 1978– 24 February 1979|
The Key to Time is the umbrella title that links all six serials of the sixteenth season of Doctor Who. The arc was originally conceived by producer Graham Williams, who had proposed it as part of his application for the producer's job in 1976. The name refers to the powerful artefact for whose segments the Doctor, Romana and K-9 are searching during the season.
A figure calling himself the White Guardian commissions the Doctor and K9, assisted by a new companion, the Time Lady Romana, to find the six segments of the Key to Time, a cosmic artifact resembling a perfect cube that maintains the equilibrium of the universe. Since it is too powerful for any single being to possess, it has been split into six different segments and scattered across space and time, disguised by the raw elemental power within them into any shape or size. However, since the forces balancing the universe are so upset, the White Guardian needs to recover the segments of the Key to stop the universe so that he can restore the balance. The White Guardian also warns the Doctor of the Black Guardian who also wishes to obtain the Key to Time for his own purposes. In the final episode, the Black Guardian, disguised as the White Guardian, attempts to take the Key from the Doctor. However, the Doctor sees through the figure's charade and orders the segments of the Key to Time to once again become scattered across all of time and space, bar the sixth, which he reinstates as Princess Astra. Afterward, the Doctor decides to install a device called a randomiser into the TARDIS' navigation system for a period of time to make his following voyages unpredictable to evade the Black Guardian.
The six segments
- The first segment is disguised as a lump of Jethrik on the planet Ribos.
- The second is the planet Calufrax, shrunk to miniature size by the space-hopping pirate planet Zanak.
- The third is the Great Seal of Diplos, which has been stolen by a criminal of that planet.
- The fourth is part of a statue on the planet Tara.
- The fifth has been consumed by the squid Kroll, causing it to turn into a gigantic monster.
- The final segment is a female humanoid – Princess Astra.
Tom Baker continued his role as The Fourth Doctor, and saw the introduction of Romana played by Mary Tamm. This season was the only one to feature Tamm as the first incarnation of Romana, as the second incarnation, played by Lalla Ward, began her run in the first serial of the next season (Destiny of the Daleks).
|Story||Serial||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.
|98||1||The Ribos Operation||George Spenton-Foster||Robert Holmes||2 September 1978
9 September 1978
16 September 1978
23 September 1978
|The Doctor is recruited by the White Guardian to seek the six segments of the Key to Time. The quest for the first segment takes them to Ribos, a medieval planet that galactic confidence trickster Garron is trying to sell to the Graff Vynda-K.|
|99||2||The Pirate Planet||Pennant Roberts||Douglas Adams||30 September 1978
7 October 1978
14 October 1978
21 October 1978
|The quest for the second segment takes them to the planet Zanak, which has been hollowed out and fitted with hyperspace engines, allowing its insane half-robot Captain to materialise it around other smaller planets and plunder their resources.|
|100||3||The Stones of Blood||Darrol Blake||David Fisher||28 October 1978
4 November 1978
11 November 1978
18 November 1978
|The quest for the third segment takes them to 1970s Earth, where the travellers have to contend with stone circles, Druidic rituals, and a not-so-mythical goddess known as the Cailleach.|
|101||4||The Androids of Tara||Michael Hayes||David Fisher||25 November 1978
2 December 1978
9 December 1978
16 December 1978
|The quest for the fourth segment takes them to the planet Tara. The Fourth Doctor and Romana find themselves embroiled in the political games of the planet Tara, where doubles, android or otherwise, complicate the coronation of Prince Reynart.|
|102||5||The Power of Kroll||Norman Stewart||Robert Holmes||23 December 1978
30 December 1978
6 January 1979
13 January 1979
|The quest for the fifth segment takes them to the third moon of Delta Magna, caught in the middle of a dispute between the crew of a methane refinery and the natives (known as 'Swampies').|
|103||6||The Armageddon Factor||Michael Hayes||Bob Baker and Dave Martin||20 January 1979
27 January 1979
3 February 1979
10 February 1979
17 February 1979
24 February 1979
|The quest for the sixth and final segment takes them to Atrios, a world caught in a perpetual, stalemated war with its planetary neighbour Zeos. But the Black Guardian is closing in.|
The Key to Time was broadcast from 2 September 1978 to 24 February 1979.
This entire season was released on 1 October 2002 with minimal restoration and commentaries and pop-up production notes in region 1, both as a box set as well as being available individually. A limited edition box set of 15,000 copies with full restoration, expanded extras and a fold out box design was released in region 2 on 24 September 2007. This limited edition version was later issued in a standard box for the 7 November 2007 region 4 release and the 3 March 2009 region 1 "Special Edition" release (region 1 serials were also available individually), and the 16 November 2009 non-limited region 2 re-release in a slipcase box. There is also a region 4 version with the same fold out box design as the UK limited edition.
|Serial name||Novelisation title||Author||First published|
|The Ribos Operation||Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation||Ian Marter||11 December 1979|
|The Pirate Planet||The Pirate Planet||James Goss||5 January 2017|
|The Stones of Blood||Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood||Terrance Dicks||20 March 1980|
|The Androids of Tara||Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara||Terrance Dicks||24 April 1980|
|The Power of Kroll||Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll||Terrance Dicks||26 May 1980|
|The Armageddon Factor||Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor||Terrance Dicks||26 June 1980|
- "Season 16". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
- "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
- "The Key to Time" DVD Feature Comparison. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Adams, Douglas; Goss, James (5 January 2017). "Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet". BBC Digital. Retrieved 25 August 2016 – via Amazon.
- "Gallifrey Guardian". Doctor Who Magazine. Tunbridge Wells: Panini UK Ltd (486): 7. April 2015.
- Dave Golder (30 April 2015). "Doctor Who Pirate Planet Novelisation Announced". GamesRadar+.