Doctor Who: The Key to Time

Doctor Who: The Key to Time
Doctor Who:
The Key to Time
The Key to Time DVD cvr.jpg
Cover of the 2008 Region 2 DVD release
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 23
Original channel BBC One
Original run 3 September 1978 (1978-09-03) – 24 February 1979 (1979-02-24)
Home video release
DVD release
Region 1 3 March 2009 [1]
Region 2 24 September 2007
Limited release
16 November 2009
Region 4 7 November 2007
Series chronology
← Previous
Season 15
Next →
Season 17
List of Doctor Who serials

The Key to Time is the umbrella title that links all six serials of Season 16 of Doctor Who. The arc was originally conceived of by producer Graham Williams, who had proposed it as part of his application for the producer's job in 1976.[2] The name refers to the powerful artefact whose segments the Doctor, Romana and K-9 are searching for during the season.



The Fourth Doctor is recruited by The White Guardian to seek out an unimaginably powerful artefact called the Key to Time. This key was an incredibly powerful device that could be used to control history on a large scale throughout the universe. To keep this device from being abused the Key to Time was broken into six indestructible pieces that were hidden throughout both time and space. The quest to retrieve each of these pieces was treated by the producers as a complete self-contained serialization.


Tom Baker continued his role as The Fourth Doctor, and saw the introduction of Romana I played by Mary Tamm.


Douglas Adams took over as script editor from Anthony Read for The Armageddon Factor. Season 16 consists of one long story arc encompassing six separate, linked stories.

Story No. Serial Title Directed by Written by UK viewers
Original air date Production
098 1 "The Ribos Operation" George Spenton-Foster Robert Holmes 8.1[3] 2-23 September 1978 5A
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. 
099 2 "The Pirate Planet" Pennant Roberts Douglas Adams 8.3[3] 30 September - 21 October 1978 5B
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 8.0[3] 30 September - 21 October 1978 5C
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 9.1[3] 25 November - 16 December 1978 5D
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 9.4 [3] 23 December 1978 - 13 January 1979 5E
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
8.5 [3] 20 January - 24 February 1979 5F
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. 


DVD Release

All serials of The Key to Time were released in a complete box set in 2009 and 2007.


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