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Doc and Romana blow up and/or rescue a Space Princess from a Darth-Vader-wannabe on their hunt for the final Horcrux

The twin planets of Atrios and Zeos have eluded Doc’s travel plans up until now but that’s all about to change as Atrios is the location of the sixth, and final, piece of the Key to Time. The tricky situation surrounding this piece is that the planets are on the brink of annihilating each other! With the warmongering Marshal on one side, a nihilistic computer on the other, and a small army of shadowy figures stalking a mystical third planet, locating the sixth piece might be complicated.

Fortunately, Romana is staying focused this time and they pinpoint its location as somewhere in the royal house of Atrios. Did we forget to mention that? Oh, yes, there’s a Royal House, or a Space Princess, at least, appropriately named Astra, and she and her Not-a-Time-Lord-but-still-a-Doctor boyfriend might be agents of the opposition. Will even their high morals be able to withstand the power of the dark side or will they be Jedi mind tricked into doing its evil biddings?

Here's what we think of C103 The Armageddon Factor

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what we think of C103 The Armageddon Factor

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what you think 8 Responses to “C103 The Armageddon Factor”
  1. Peter Zunitch

    Okay straight up, I love this story. It’s the perfect serious drama to conclude the overall arc. It does have a few plot holes however, not the least of which is the one that’s plagued me for years. Since the white guardian never gets the key, did he really get to fix the vagueness that was plaguing the universe? I know there’s one line about, “you don’t actually need to hold it to fix it”, but it just doesn’t fly. Second, since Romana actually placed the temporary segment, why does the key listen to the Doctor? Third, why are Drax, and Romana still unfrozen once the real segment is in place? Finally, when the key is broken, Astra comes back to life and goes home. Logically, let’s track where the others go…

    Segment 5 – magically re-appears in the carcass of a dead squid

    Segment 4 – turns into a Grendel family statue on the now defunct estate grounds

    Segment 3 – is again a necklace around a recently executed Cessair of Diplos.

    Segment 2 – A dead planet just appeared, throwing Zanak into tidal Armageddon

    Segment 1 – A whole lot of jethrik going on in the doctor’s storeroom.

    Anyway, It’s a beautifully produced story that will probably make a ton more sense once I get around to listening to the Big Finish sequel. It’s got tremendous re-watch value and it’s nice to finally get some good writing for K-9. This story rates a half skull on the outside, 4.4

  2. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    As the final story, one hoped for the Armageddon Factor to end the Key to Time arc with a bang, but it ends up being more of a whimper. The regulars are on good form though, and the relationship between the Doctor and Romana has moved from antagonism to mutual respect. It’s a shame Mary Tamm doesn’t continue beyond this story as I think she’s fantastic as Romana.

    The Marshal is well-cast and convincing as a general who wants victory at any cost. I like Shapp, but the scene where he is shot, freezes, and then falls backwards is a bit (okay, a LOT) cringeworthy. Drax is not as witty as Garron from The Ribos Operation, but adds some much-needed humour to an otherwise dark and depressing story. The Shadow is an over the top pantomime villain (boo hiss), but that’s not unusual for Classic Who.

    There are some clever moments to the story, including the way the Doctor works out that the ‘White Guardian’ is an imposter, the Shadow’s strategy of finding one segment and then waiting for the Doctor to come to him, and the creation of the Randomiser. One wonders if the Randomiser is necessary though, given that the Doctor never seems to know where he is going anyway!

    Overall, this is the weakest Key to Time story, but not so bad that it spoils an otherwise excellent season. 3/5

  3. Phil Salter

    What’s this? Of course it’s a story about the futility of war using a mad marshall leading a losing side, a battle computer and ‘The Shadow’. Frankly this story commits the cardinal sin of being boring, lots of talking and LOTS of corridors.

    • The shadow has pretty good makeup on the whole, I like the idea that he’s the ‘anti-Doctor’ in this story, setting out on the quest at the same time as the Doctor, but I wish we’d had some suggestion through the season that someone was doing this – make it more of a race!
    • The main villain really should have been the Black Guardian. The way he appears right at the end is poor
    • It is an utterly disappointing end to a season, all that work just to have the key split apart again. They do have another crack at the Guardian thing, and it works a bit better, but not that much better
    • It’s a shame that this is Mary Tamm’s last story, I love her style and I MUCH prefer her to Romana 2.
    • The way Merak was fawning after the princess every few seconds was deeply irritating
    • Every time they cut back to the marshall saying ‘fire’ I die a little inside.
    • It’s got enough story for perhaps 4 parts, luckily this is the last 6-parter ever made (if you don’t include Shada which never actually broadcast)
    • A boring story, boringly filmed with no money and a horrendous resolution to a season… 0.3


  4. Jim The Fish

    The Armageddon Factor ties up The Key to Time-Wasting in a typical Moffat resolution, spending more time on cool scenes and funny in-jokes and complicated timey-wimey stuff than on making sense, and then throwing in all the big revelations in a rush at the end in hopes you won’t realize that they don’t so much answer all your questions as make you feel stupid for expecting an answer.

    Astra was bland. Drax was a fun, interesting character adding a touch of light heartedness to story.

    So The Shadow parked his spaceship between the two planets and started their war so that when the Doctor showed up with the first five segments of the Key he’d get killed in the war, so Shadow could just swoop in and pick up his five segments plus the sixth. This may be the dumbest plan any Doctor Who villain has ever had, because it turns out that Shadow didn’t actually know how to get the sixth segment. It’s only because his plan failed miserably, that the Doctor survived and Romana found Astra, that he had any chance of succeeding. Bravo, Shadow.

    Lots of great K9 bits:

    Doctor: “We all make mistakes, don’t we, K-9?”
    K9: “Negative.”

    And K-9 clearing his throat before saying his rehearsed line was such a brilliant touch you just know it was Doug Adams who added it, him being the script editor for some of this season and the next.

    Great sets, weak story, still had fun watching though.


  5. Joe Ford, Doc Oho Reviews | @docoho

    A perfect representation of the Graeme Williams era; moments of comedy, darkness and imagination interspersed with moments of pure pantomime. The first four episodes are as good as anything in the sixteenth season but the story really stutters come episode five and thankfully recovers for a marvellous conclusion. It’s a well-plotted story, at least initially and the script keeps bringing fantastic ideas to the surface and dramatically explores a very unusual war.

    Tom Baker is driving the show at this point and he and Mary Tamm are completely comfortable with each other by now, indulging in some very witty interplay. Despite some empty moments, I find the Armageddon Factor an extremely watchable story full of inventive touches, thoughtful direction and a general feeling of everybody (aside from a few dodgy performers) trying their damdest to make this end of season oh-shit-the-budget-has-run-out spectacular as impressive as possible. Underrated: 3.5

  6. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Ahhhhhhh! I didn’t realise this was a five parter! Slap dash review may arrive in real time but in case it doesn’t, rating: ‘MAC’ for Massive Anticlimax!


    Episode 1:

    • Just zap the Marshal K-9! For a mobile weapons platform that mowed down an entire legion (well, five blokes) a few stories back, you’re certainly selective about using your firepower.
    • Black Guardian Detector:……(static noise).

    Episode 2

    • “K-9’s watching our rear!” (hehehehehe)
    • I love the Marshal. (“Another one of their ships destroyed!” “Erm, no sir, one of ours.”)
    • Black Guardian Detector…..(more disappointing static noise)

    Episode 3:

    • Uh oh. I’m starting to get Underworld vibes.
    • Black Guardian Detector:…beep….beep….fizzle. Damn-it, false alarm. Just the maniacal laughing shadow guy.

    Episode 4

    • Shapp! Nooooo! Why, God, Why! Award for the best-worst death in ‘Who. Ever!
    • Shapp Lives! Harrah! (Unfortunately though, we’ll be taking back the previous award).

    Episode 5

    • Black Guardian Detector:………(rusty clanking sound). I think this thing is broken.

    Episode 6

    • Award for the Stupidest TimeLord for Drax, taking the Award from previous incumbent, fishbowl-head Morbius. Why didn’t you shrink the bad guy you total berk!
    • Best moment: the Doctor’s Gollum impression.
    • Black Guardian Detector: BEEP BEEP BEEP! He’s finally here! Blink and you miss him. What a swiz.
    • You did WHAT with the Key? Why didn’t you just find the White Guardian – he still wants it, right? This whole series was utterly pointless! Just like Picard!

    Summary: With the exception of Pirate Planet and the robot Game of Thrones one, I want those hours back.
    Rating: 1.3/5 minutes of screen-time for the over-hyped Black Guardian. Booo!

  7. Kristaps Paddock

    For some reason I love it. It’s fairly boring, and many parts of this serial are the very definition of padding (especially the looped footage of the Marshal) and yet I like this a lot. I like the sets for their cheapness, I like the wandering in tunnels for all it’s pointlessness, I like the fascism themes for their recycled tiredness, I love the unconvincing villain that is The Shadow. I love it all, and I’m not going to apologize.

    The wrap up of the Key to Time sequence is often faulted, and it is a bit shit, but given that prior stories barely even paid attention to it, I’m going to give this high marks for being written to address the season-long narrative.

    And of course, I love the introduction of Lalla Ward, who would later go to play the Second Romana, and to marry not only Tom Baker, but also Richard Dawkins (to whom she was introduced by Douglas Adams). She’s under-rated, but easily places in my top two Romanas ever.

    I’m going to give this a Four Point Zero. I love it, and keep rounding up my score.

  8. Derek Moore

    Hello Who Back When!

    The Armageddon Factor would have been good if it were four episodes long. Oh my, it stretched way too long and was filled way too much with probably the world’s worst annoying computer sounds. The only thing missing from the this symphony of ear piercers was the dial-up modem sound from the 80s and the AOL “You’ve got mail” on infinite repeat. I am sad to see “Romana the First” leave, but at least she didn’t leave to marry a stranger on a distant planet. Wasn’t a living organism being the key to time the plot of the Power of Kroll also, and good job Men in Black II for stealing this ending. Overall, 3 out of 5 inches that need to be cut from Tom Baker’s out of control hair that sticks out so much we can’t see his face.

    Thanks again for all of your Who groovieness!

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