Doctor Who – The Armageddon Factor

The Key to Time – Story 6

And so we come to the last story in the Key to Time season. At the time, the usual pattern of a Doctor Who season was five four part stories followed by one six parter, and this is the long story. The two Time Lords arrive on the planet Atrios, which is engaged in an endless war with the neighbouring planet Zeos[1]. The military leader, known only as the Marshall of Atrios, is planning the traditional final strike to win the war. The Doctor discovers that nobody is actually alive on Zeos, with their side of the war being managed by the even more traditional computer, which was built by Drax, an old friend of the Doctor, who is being kept prisoner by the Shadow, an agent of the Black Guardian, who has finally made an appearance.

It turns out that the final segment of the Key to Time has been disguised as Princess Astra of Atrios. Bit of a cunning disguise, that. It’s the Shadow who does the conversion job, but the Doctor manages to grab the segment and escape with Romana in the Tardis. Once on board, the White Guardian appears on the Tardis scanner and congratulates the Doctor on succeeding in his mission. He then demands that the Doctor hand over the completed Key. The Doctor hesitates, and decides that the power of the Key is too much for any individual to possess, especially

if I can’t tell Black from White!

and so he removes the detector from the Key and disperses it through space and time again. This is good for Princess Astra, who is restored to life on Atrios, but not so good for the Guardian, who reveals his true colour – Black. He vows that the Doctor will die for his defiance. In an effort to evade the Guardian, the Doctor fits the Tardis with a randomiser, so nobody (even the Doctor himself) will know where he’ll end up next.

This was a good end to the season, and for me, having a link between all the stories worked well. But it wasn’t attempted again until the Trial of a Time Lord in 1986. Best line of the story:

K9 to Drax: Your silliness is noted

There’s an especially generous selection of extras on this double disc package, which include:

  1. Making Shadows – the usual “making of” thingy
  2. Rogue Time Lords – a look at some of the other Time Lords who’ve appeared in the series
  3. Late night story – not actually Doctor Who material, but it is Tom Baker reading some moderately chilling stories. First shown in 1978.
  4. And all the other usual stuff

[1] This sounds remarkably similar to a concept in a story in the original Star Trek series, doesn’t it?

Read my comments on the rest of the Key to Time season