Number : Season 16, episode 6 of 6.
Which One : The Doctor assembles the Key-To-Time.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Mary Tamm
K9 MK-II : John Leeson (voice)
Princess Astra : Lalla Ward
The Marshal : John Woodvine
Shapp : Davyd Harries
Merak : Ian Saynor
The Shadow : William Squire
Drax : Barry Jackson
The Guardian : Valentine Dyall
Hero : Ian Liston
Heroine : Susan Skipper
Written By : Dave Martin & Bob Baker
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 20 January – 24 February.
Length : 6 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor and Romana travel to Atrius, looking for the final piece of the Key-To-Time and find a planet at war with its neighbouring world; Zeos.
Whats good : Its a wrap up (of sorts) to the Key To Time story.
Whats bad : It doesn’t wrap up the story arc, very well.
Review With Spoilers : The Armageddon Factor marked the sixth and final episode in the Key-To-Time season, with the Doctor on the hunt for the final segment.
This is the first episode to directly incorporate the Black Guardian’s influence – on this season; whose inclusion upto this point, had been largely through second hand mention.
His agent of destruction – called “Shadow” – is a creepy looking fellow with black robes and a half gold Skeletor mask thing going on. Also under the influence of the Black Guardian is The Marshall, expertly played by John Woodvine – as a ruthless war-monger.
The Armageddon Factor also introduces actress Lalla Ward to Who, who plays Princess Astra and is unwittingly, also the segment of the Key-To-Time herself.
Lalla Ward would go on to replace actress Mary Tamm, as Romana – in the following 2 seasons; by way of Romana taking inspiration from the “image” of Princess Astra amd regenerating into her likeness (yes apparently Timelords can do this too!).
So the Doctor has the task of averting nuclear annihilation between Atrios and Zeos. The sterile computer war being waged between the two planets, which is very similar to the plot from original Star Trek episode – A Taste Of Armageddon.
The Doctor also meets a fellow ex-academy Timelord – called Drax. Who is initially on the wrong side but then changes sides to help the Doctor and refers to the Doctor as “Thete” or “Theta Sigma”.
It’s also here that, the White Guardian reveals itself infact to have been the Black Guardian – all along, following the Doctor’s refusal to hand over the re-assembled Key. Instead, the Doctor decides to go on the run – from the Guardian, with the intention to rescatter the Key all over the universe.
For all of the promise The Armageddon Factor sets up in terms of its own story and finishing up of the Key-To-Time season. It doesn’t really work.
The actual wrap of the Key-To-Time story arc, takes place in the final part and feels largely rushed – considering this is a 6-parter, that feels criminally neglectful of the Key storyline and why we are even here in the first place.
“We have the power to do anything we like, absolute power over every particle in the universe, everything that has ever existed or ever will exist as from this moment. Are you listening to me, Romana? ‘Cause if you’re not listening, I can make you listen, because I can do anything. As from this moment there’s no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There’s only my will because I possess the Key to Time!” The Doctor
The inclusion of the Guardian is too short to really satisfactorily explore, for what ends – the Black Guardian wanted the assembled Key for; and the Doctor seems to easily defeat him, before going on the run.
The Black Guardian was (bizarrely) not featured in the original script at all and his last minute inclusion by headscripter – Douglas Adams makes The Armageddon Factor infact – more of an earlier Key-To-Time story, than purposefully written as the season finale.
The actual adventure – prior to the Key To Time wrap up, is – promising from the outset but largely falls into tbe camp of ‘another average studio-bound Who episode’.
Aside from good performances from Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward and John Woodvine, it feels strangely flat and largely pedestrian – for a season finale.
They should have set a whole adventure around the Black Guardian acquiring the Key and some terror befalling all space-and-time which required the Doctor to act to save the fabric of the universe.
So in the end, the season finale of the Key-To-Time comes off as a farely flat and pedestrian walk to the finish.
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