BBC Doctor Who - The Stories BBC
QuickNav to a Season: 
QuickNav to a Story: 
 
The Previous Story
The Armageddon Factor
 The Previous Story
The Previous Story
(The Power of Kroll)
 The Next Story
(Destiny of the Daleks)
Season
Details
SynopsisGeneral
Information
The
Episodes
Audience
Appreciation
ArchivesNotesFirst and LastThe PlotQuote of
the Story
Release
Information
In PrintPhoto
Gallery
 

Tom Baker
The Armageddon Factor
Fourth Doctor Logo


Synopsis


The Doctor, Princess Astra and Romana
The Doctor, Princess Astra and Romana
 The Doctor, Romana and K9 conclude their search for the six disguised segments that make up the powerful Key to Time.

 Arriving on the planet Atrios, The Doctor and his companions become embroiled in the Atrians' seemingly endless war with their neighbouring planet of Zeos. Their ruler, the Princess Astra, has been kidnapped, leaving the deranged Marshal in sole charge of the war effort. However, the Marshal is being controlled, receiving orders from behind a strange black mirror in the command centre.

 The Doctor learns that no-one on Atrios has ever seen a Zeon, and travels to Zeos in an attempt to bring the war to an end, and hopefully find the Princess Astra - who seems to be linked in some way to the Sixth Segment. He finds the planet deserted, run entirely by a huge computer, Mentalis. When the Marshal launches an all-out final attack on Zeos, Mentalis responds by activating its Armageddon Program - rather than lose the war, the computer will destroy everything.

 However, a third planet hangs in space between Atrios and Zeos, shielded from their sensors. This is the lair of the Shadow. He has been waiting for The Doctor to arrive, manipulating the war to his advantage. He is willing to use The Doctor's own friends against him and he wants the Key to Time.

 Although The Doctor's quest is nearly over, he begins to realise that he may lose everything. For the Shadow is a servant of The Black Guardian.

Source: BBC VHS Video


General Information

Season: Sixteen
Production Code: 5F
Story Number: 103
Episode Numbers:500 - 505
Number of Episodes: 6
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"Armageddon"
Production Dates: October - December 1978
Broadcast Started: 20 January 1979
Broadcast Finished: 24 February 1979
Colour Status: Colour
Studio: Ealing Television Film Studios and BBC Television Centre (TC3)
Location: None
Writers:Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Director:Michael Hayes
Producers:Graham Williams and David Maloney (Uncredited)
Script Editors:Anthony Read and Douglas Adams (Uncredited)
Editor:Rod Waldron
Production Assistant:Ann Aronsohn
Production Unit Manager:John Nathan-Turner
Assistant Floor Managers:Rosemary Padvaiskas and Steve Goldie
Designer:Richard McManan-Smith
Costume Designer:Michael Burdle
Make-Up Designer:Ann Briggs
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Dick Mills
Studio Sounds:Richard Chubb
Lighting:Mike Jefferies
Visual Effects:John Horton
Title Sequence:Bernard Lodge
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 2The Companions: Mary Tamm (Romana 1) (Departs) and John Leeson (voice only) (K9 Mk II) Guest Cast: Lalla Ward (Princess Astra), Valentine Dyall (The Black Guardian) Additional Cast: Barry Jackson (Drax), John Woodvine (Marshal), William Squire (The Shadow), Davyd Harries (Shapp), Ian Saynor (Merak), John Cannon (Guard), Harry Fielder (Guard), Iain Armstrong (Technician), Pat Gorman (Pilot), Ian Liston (Hero), Susan Skipper (Heroine)Setting: Planets Atrios and Zeos Villains: The Black Guardian and The Shadow

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
500Part 120 January 197924'39"7.5PAL 2" colour videotape
501Part 227 January 197923'56"8.8PAL 2" colour videotape
502Part 303 February 197925'03"7.8PAL 2" colour videotape
503Part 410 February 197925'09"8.6PAL 2" colour videotape
504Part 517 February 197924'42"8.6PAL 2" colour videotape
505Part 624 February 197925'09"9.6PAL 2" colour videotape

Total Duration 2 Hours 29 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 8.5
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (1998)61.98%  (Position = 111 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)56.94% Lower (Position = 168 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)59.25% Higher (Position = 204 out of 241)


Archives


 All six episodes exist as PAL 2" colour videotapes.



Return to the top of this page
 


Notes


"The Armageddon Factor" is the final story of Season Sixteen and so the final chapter of the quest for The Key to Time. The first episode is also the 500th episode of the show.

This story though is renowned for introducing The Black Guardian, played by Valentine Dyall, and for the final appearance of Mary Tamm as Romana while her ultimate replacement, Lalla Ward, appears in this story in a different role as Princess Astra.

This was the final contribution of Bob Baker and Dave Martin as a writing team, though Bob Baker would later return to write solo scripts for the show. His next story being next season’s "Nightmare of Eden".

This was the last story to be script edited by Anthony Read. He would continue writing for television, including episodes of The Professionals and Sapphire & Steel, as well as writing next season’s story "The Horns of Nimon". Producer Graham Williams offered the position of Script Editor to Robert Holmes (who had already held this position during Season Twelve to Season Fifteen). When Robert Holmes turned this request down the post was then offered to and accepted by Douglas Adams who then trailed Anthony Read during the making of this story.

Douglas Adams changed this story’s name to "The Armageddon Factor", and he and Graham Williams co-wrote The Doctor’s climactic confrontation with The Black Guardian. In the original draft of the script, The Black Guardian did not appear at all. The Doctor simply decided that he did not trust The White Guardian with The Key to Time, and consequently scattered the six segments again to prevent anyone from controlling it.

Former Doctor Who Director David Maloney deputised for Graham Williams during early preparations for this story as Graham Williams was absent due to illness.

The Director allocated to this story was Michael Hayes, who had just finished work on "The Androids of Tara".

It was during the recording of this story that Mary Tamm informed Graham Williams that she would not be returning to Doctor Who.

The part of Princess Astra was played by Lalla Ward (actually the Honourable Sarah Ward) who is the daughter of the seventh Viscount Bangor. Having studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Lalla Ward had considerable experience on stage, television and film, including programmes such as The Duchess of Duke Street, The Professionals and Armchair Theatre. She immediately hit it off with the Doctor Who cast and crew and especially Tom Baker. Lalla Ward was subsequently cast as the second incarnation of Romana.

John Leeson also decided to make this story his last as the voice of K9, though he would return during Season Eighteen.

Cyril Luckham, who had played The White Guardian in "The Ribos Operation", was unavailable for "The Armageddon Factor" and so Valentine Dyall was cast as both The Black Guardian and The White Guardian for these sequences.

Valentine Dyall would return as The Black Guardian in the Black Guardian Trilogy, consisting of the 1983 Fifth Doctor stories "Mawdryn Undead", "Terminus" and "Enlightenment", where he attempts to force The Doctor’s new companion Vislor Turlough to kill The Doctor in revenge for depriving him of The Key to Time. The Black Guardian also appears in Virgin Book’s The Missing Adventures novel "The Well-Mannered War".

It is revealed that Drax is a Time Lord, complete with a broken TARDIS. He also studied with The Doctor. For Drax this occurred about 450 years ago.

Drax refers to The Doctor by the name ‘Theta Sigma’. Not counting aliases like John Smith, this was the first time an actual name (albeit a nickname) was attached to The Doctor. Later, in the 1988 Seventh Doctor story "The Happiness Patrol", The Doctor confirms that Theta Sigma was his old college nickname. Later, in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang", the characters for theta and sigma are the first two sigils under River Song’s ‘Hello Sweetie’ message written to The Doctor as the oldest words in recorded history.

Drax also features in the BBC Books’ The Past Doctors Stories novels "Divided Loyalties" (in a flashback sequence to the First Doctor’s school days) and "The Quantum Archangel" (in an alternate timeline where he is working with The Master, The Rani and Mortimus to destroy Earth), as well and in "Search for The Doctor", a Make Your Own Adventure book by Dave Martin.

It is revealed that the warring planets of Atrios and Zeos are on the edge of the helical galaxy and the domain of The Shadow is situated halfway between the two. These planets are also a ‘long way from Gallifrey’. Atrios and Zeos have been waging nuclear war on each other, despite the fact that for the last five years Zeos has been uninhabited and that its warfare has been prosecuted by Mentalis, a computerised commandant built by Drax at the behest of The Shadow.

Nothing is revealed about The Shadow and his Mute helpers, beyond the fact that they are serving The Black Guardian and that The Shadow has been waiting ‘since eternity began’.

The original sixth segment was to be The Shadow’s shadow, which would have been revealed by the light of the key tracer, but this was changed to be Princess Astra herself.

The fate of Princess Astra is finally revealed in the Big Finish Productions audio story "The Chaos Pool", the third in a new series of Key to Time stories that started with "The Judgement of Isskar". They reveal that The Doctor’s use of a substitute sixth segment for The Key to Time disrupted the balance of the segments and caused them to decay, resulting in them causing significant damage to the Web of Time. "The Chaos Pool" also explains Romana’s decision to regenerate and take Princess Astra’s form in the next story "Destiny of the Daleks".

In The Sarah Jane Adventures spin-off story "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", The Trickster is heard stating how The Doctor once held The Key to Time, (Although The Doctor only finally gets to hold the complete Key in "The Chaos Pool" as it remains on a table when completely assembled in this story). It is also implied that The Shadow is a member of the Pantheon of Discord.

The Doctor is heard to mention Troy which he previously visited in the 1965 First Doctor story "The Myth Makers".

The Doctor has been shrunk before. In the 1964 First Doctor story "Planet of Giants" and in the 1973 Third Doctor story "Carnival of Monsters". A clone of The Doctor was also injected into the Fourth Doctor in the 1977 story "The Invisible Enemy".

K9 suffers the indignity of being called ‘a tin dog’. This happens again in the 2006 Tenth Doctor story "School Reunion".

This story contains a number of errors. Namely: In episode two, after the TARDIS has left, it can be seen behind Romana just after K9 begins blasting a door; in episode four, when K9 exits the transmat, he has got the new left panel he gains in episode five; Romana somehow forgets that she has already been told (in "The Stones of Blood") that it wasn’t the President who sent her on the mission; Princess Astra is heard to say that she is ‘the sixth princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth royal house of Atrios’ when it should be ‘the sixth house of the sixth dynasty’; In episode four Merak expounds on how only The Doctor and Romana can get into the TARDIS, despite the fact that he shouldn’t even know what the TARDIS is and then in episode six he talks knowledgably of the sixth segment having been told nothing about it.

At the end of this story The Doctor makes a false sixth segment and, after scattering The Key to Time, he fits a randomiser to the TARDIS guidance systems to avoid the wrath of The Black Guardian. This randomiser would remain installed until the 1980 story "The Leisure Hive".

This was the last 6-episode story to be broadcast (next season’s "Shada" would have been the last but due to industrial action at the BBC it remains incomplete and unaired). From here on stories would be a maximum of four episodes in length, with the sole exception being the 1986 The Trial of a Time Lord season of stories, which, although actually being a linked three 4-part and one 2-part stories, was broadcast as a 14-part story. The 1985 story "The Two Doctors" along with the 2007 story arc "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords" (which some fans consider to be one complete story) were both roughly the same length as a 6-part story but were broadcast in three parts as their respective season’s episodes were 45 minutes in length.

The original broadcast of the fifth episode was interrupted by a break in transmission for several minutes (the break occurring at the point where The Doctor is being escorted to the TARDIS by the Mute). Music was played and a caption slide was displayed until the fault was rectified. When transmission restarted, there was a repeat of the action immediately prior to the break; the videotape having been slightly rewound. A reconstruction of the break can be found as a bonus item on this story’s re-mastered DVD release.

A novelisation of this story, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in June 1980. Terrance Dicks though accidentally has the Marshall introduce himself as the warlord of Zeos.

Several clips of scene performances, outtakes and gag reel footage not intended for broadcast have been circulated from this story, including two sequences videotaped during rehearsal (as evidenced by the fact Mary Tamm is not in full costume, is wearing her off-screen glasses and has her hair in curlers). In one scene, Mary Tamm and Tom Baker jokingly pretend to move in for a kiss after delivering a line, and in another widely circulated clip, The Doctor replies to a negative comment from K9, ‘You never f---- know the answer when it’s important!’. The production crew are heard laughing at both of these outtakes.

It was also during production of this story that Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and John Leeson filmed a brief one-minute gag scene that was not intended to be part of the televised story. Dubbed "Doug Who?" it was recorded for the BBC staff Christmas party. The scene begins with The Doctor and Romana sitting on the floor by the TARDIS console, apparently kissing off screen, and then acting tipsy as they share a bottle of vodka with K9, who is asked to sing a few bars of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". The Doctor then asks K9 what he wants for Christmas in which K9 replies and then asks The Doctor for what his desire is, to which The Doctor looks into the camera and then leers at Romana, who leers back before the two actors and the production crew break into laughter.

To date, the rehearsal outtakes have not been commercially released, though they are widely available on video-posting websites. "Doug Who?" (re-titled "Merry Christmas Doctor Who") has though been included as a bonus feature in the Key to Time DVD box set released in 2007.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 David Maloney' first involvement in the show as Producer (all-be-it uncredited).

 Douglas Adams' first involvement in the show as Script Editor (all-be-it uncredited).

 The first appearance of the Black Guardian.


The Lasts (Subject to Future Stories):

 The last story of Season Sixteen.

 Mary Tamm's last story as the first incarnation of Romana.

 John Leeson's last story as K9 until "The Leisure Hive".

 The last of six linked stories covering the quest of The Key to Time.

 The last Doctor Who story to be co-written by Dave Martin and Bob Baker.

 Anthony Read's last involvement in the show as Script Editor.

 The last story with more than 4 episodes to be broadcast.


Return to the top of this page
 


The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
On The Bridge
On The Bridge

The final segment of The Key to Time is traced to the planet Atrios which The Doctor, Romana and K9 are soon to discover is engaged in a long interplanetary war with its neighbouring planet Zeos.

When the TARDIS arrive on Atrios, as the latest bombing raid by the Zeons comes to an end, The Doctor, Romana and K9 discover that the Marshal of Atrios, who is desperately seeking a means by which to win, intends to deploy a final strike to destroy the Zeons.

As they go in search of the sixth and final segment of The Key to Time, K9 is lured into a metal recycling system and The Doctor is forced to go in after him towards the furnace. After K9 is rescued they discover that the Marshal is being controlled by someone else, and receives his orders from a skull-like communicator behind a two-way mirror.

The Marshal
The Marshal

Intrigued The Doctor, Romana and K9 make there way to Zeos but discover the planet is deserted. Instead they find that the war between the two planets is being controlled from Zeos by a giant computer commandant called Mentalis. Using K9, as an interpreter, The Doctor learns from Mentalis that the computer was built by Drax, a Time Lord and old college friend of The Doctor’s. They also learn that Mentalis is planning a final strike to counter the Marshal’s similar plan even though this will result in everything being destroyed. The Doctor, with the assistance of Romana and K9, disables the computer to prevent both worlds from being destroyed.

The Doctor also learnt from Mentalis that there is third planet orbiting between Atrios and Zeos and that this is their true opponent. Called the Planet of Evil it is an invisible planet ruled by The Shadow, who, with his servants the Mutes, is working for The Black Guardian to try and gain control of the final segment before The Doctor can find it. The Shadow has captured Princess Astra of Atrios and is holding her under threat of torture in the belief that she can tell him where the segment is, but she does not know.

The Marshal and The Doctor
The Marshal and The Doctor

To stop the Marshal, now on his way in a spaceship to deliver a final missile strike on Zeos, The Doctor builds a fake final segment for The Key to Time out of chronodyne, and in this form The Key to Time has enough power to create a temporary time loop, trapping the Marshal and his spaceship.

On the Planet of Evil, The Doctor encounters Drax, who it seems has been employed under duress by The Shadow. However, he agrees to help The Doctor. With K9 now under his control, The Shadow forces The Doctor to retrieve the five segments of the The Key to Time from the TARDIS. On exiting the TARDIS The Doctor is suddenly shrunk to a tiny size when Drax uses the dimensional stabilizer from his own TARDIS. Drax then uses the dimensional stabilizer on himself.

The Mute, who escorted The Doctor, returns to The Shadow with The Key to Time, and it is then that The Doctor realises that Princess Astra is herself the sixth segment. The Doctor though is powerless to stop The Shadow converting her into the crystal.

Princess Astra and Romana
Princess Astra and Romana

Using their diminished size, The Doctor and Drax smuggle themselves into The Shadow’s lair inside of the now-restored K9. Drax again uses the dimensional stabilizer, this time to return The Doctor and himself to their normal size. The Doctor is able to snatch all the segments that make up Key to Time and return, with Romana and K9, to the safety of the TARDIS.

After dealing with the Mentalis self-destruct (with the help of Drax) as well as the Marshal’s missiles (using the TARDIS to deflect them onto the Planet of Evil) The Doctor is finally able to complete The Key to Time.

This results in The White Guardian appearing on the TARDIS scanner who congratulates The Doctor on a job well done. He is now to hand over The Key to Time. But The Doctor, realises that this is a deception - due to The White Guardian’s lack of compassion for the fate of Princess Astra - and also the realisation that The Key to Time is far too powerful for any one being to control. He therefore orders it to re-disperse itself, much to the chagrin of The White Guardian who in his rage reverts to his true colour - Black.

Enraged The Black Guardian vows that The Doctor will die for his defiance. Princess Astra appears back on Atrios with her lover, Merak. The Doctor then fits a randomiser to the TARDIS controls, which means that in future no one, including The Black Guardian, will know where or when the TARDIS is going to materialise.

 
K9 in the Incinerator
K9 in the Incinerator
The Marshal and Shapp
The Marshal and Shapp
The Doctor and Drax
The Doctor and Drax
The Shadow
The Shadow
 
The Black Guardian Disguised as the White Guardian
The Black Guardian Disguised as the White Guardian
The Black Guardian
The Black Guardian
The Completed Key to Time
The Completed Key to Time
The Doctor with The Key to Time
The Doctor with The Key to Time




Quote of the Story


 'I have waited so long, even another thousand years would be nothing for me. But you. I have watched you and your jackdaw meanderings. I know you, and I know there is a want of patience in your nature.'

The Shadow



Return to the top of this page
 


Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
VHS
The Tom Baker YearsSeptember 1992BBCV 4839PhotoClip only Introduced and commented on by Tom Baker Double cassette release
Audio
CD
30 Years at the Radiophonic Workshop1993BBC CD 871Photo-montageSound effects
Video
VHS
The Armageddon FactorApril 1995BBCV 5612Colin Howard with spine art by Andrew Skilleter
Video
DVD
The Armageddon FactorSeptember 2007BBCDVD 2335 (F)Photo-montagePart of the "Key to Time" limited edition box set (15,000)
Video
DVD
The Armageddon FactorNovember 2009BBCDVD 2335 (F)Photo-montagePart of the re-released "Key to Time" box set


In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
Novel
Novel
Doctor Who and the Armageddon FactorJune 1980Target No. 5Terrance DicksBill DonohoeISBN 0-426-20104-3
CD
CD
The Armageddon FactorJune 2019Target No. 5Terrance DicksBill DonohoeAudio version of the Target Novel read by John Leeson (K9).
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision)Issue 37 (Released: April 1992)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 223 (Released: March 1995)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 364 (Released: January 2006)
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of FictionIssue 448 (Released: June 2012)
Doctor Who DVD FilesVolume 136 (Released: March 2014)

Return to the top of this page
 


Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companions

 
Tom Baker
The Fourth Doctor

   

Mary Tamm
Romana 1
 
John Leeson (voice only)
K9 Mk II
   




On Release

Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover
Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Sound Effects CD Cover
Sound Effects CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
VHS Video Cover
VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
   
Re-released DVD Box Set
Re-released DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO



In Print

Target Book Cover
Target Book Cover

Target
NOVEL
 
Target Audio CD Cover
Target Audio CD Cover

BBC
CD
   


Magazines

Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 37
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 37

CMS
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 223
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 223

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 364
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 364

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 448
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 448

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 136
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 136

GE Fabbri


Return to the top of this page
 
 
Who's Who
KJ Software
Who Me
Episodes of the
Fourth Doctor


Season 16 (The Key to Time) Press to go back to the previous visited page References
 
 
Doctor Who is the copyright of the British Broadcasting Corporation. No infringements intended. This site is not endorsed by the BBC or any representatives thereof.