Tuesday 10 April 2012

505 The Armageddon Factor Part Six

EPISODE: The Armageddon Factor Part Six
TRANSMITTED: 24 February 1979
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Michael Hayes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

Drax turns the gun on himself, shrinking himself to a minuscule height the same as the Doctor. The Doctor berates him: the gun was meant for the Shadow's mute servants, not them. The Tardis door has been left open but the Shadow cannot enter because of the light within and sends a servant to retrieve the key. As Astra reveals she is the sixth child of the sixth dynasty of the sixth royal house of Atrios, Romana realises she is the sixth segment, a conclusion Merak comes to at the same time, forcing a Mute servant to take him to the Shadow's planet. He arrives too late to prevent Astra's transformation into the sixth segment but the Doctor & Drax enter the Shadow's lair using a seemingly Shadow controlled K-9 as a Trojan Horse. They restore themselves to full size seizing the segment and the key. A delirious Merak searches for Astra, returning to Atrios while the others go to Zeos. The Doctor erects a force shield deflecting the missiles from the Marshall's ship, which has become free from the Time Loop, into the Shadow's planet destroying it. The Doctor completes the Key as the White Guardian arrives to claim it but the Doctor realises it is the Black Guardian in disguise. Realising the White Guardian has had the necessary time to use the Key he disperses it to the corners of the universe, with the sixth segment returning to Atrios restored as Princess Astra. The Doctor fits a Randomiser to the Tardis' guidance systems to prevent the Black Guardian from tracking them and exacting his revenge.

I can remember bits of this episode from my youth, in particular the shrinking and hiding in K-9, using him as a Trojan Horse. But watching it now there's not a lot that stands out to me. Yes the Black Guardian confrontation is good, especially the concept that he'd disguise himself as the White Guardian to obtain his goal. This episode isn't just the climax to the story, it's the climax to the whole season long Key to Time story and somehow it's just not up to the job. There's no real sense of the spectacular to it, with a minimal cast, no location filming. We get one special effects shot of a spaceship when showing a legion of Zeon ships would have added to the scale.

As an experiment the Key to Time works as a season long story for me. The problem is it flags a little towards the end. Linked stories will be tried again in the future but never as long as this again.

Joining the cast for this episode is Valentine Dyall as The Black Guardian. Known for being the Man in Black, the narrator of the BBC radio series Appointment With Fear, his distinctive voice has been heard in many productions including Captain Slarn in the Doctor Who radio serial Slipback, Norl in the episode City at the Edge of the World in Blake's 7 and Deep Thought on the TV Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy as well as Gargaval on the radio version. He'll be back for Mawdryn Undead, Terminus & Enlightenment.

This episode contains a whole bunch of lasts for the program. It's the last appearance by Mary Tamm as Romana, who felt her role hadn't developed as planned. However since Romana was a Time Lord it would be easy to just regenerate & recast her..... She recommended Lalla Ward, who appeared as Astra in this story, to take over the role. This episode is also the last to be credited to script editor Anthony Read and by the time this episode was completed his successor, Douglas Adams was in place. Read would return to write one of the stories broadcast in the next season. Armageddon Factor is the last story written by the partnership of last Bob Baker & Dave Martin who had been writing together for Doctor Who since 1971. Bob Baker will be back next season with another story, but it is the last we'll hear from Dave Martin who died in 2007. This is the last broadcast Six part Doctor Who story: another was intended to close the following season but as we'll see industrial action prevented it from being completed. *Technically* 1985's The Two Doctor's, broadcast as three 45 minute episodes, is the equivalent of a six parter but.... As a consequence of this being the last broadcast six part story, it's thus the last broadcast Tom Baker six parter and thus the last time we'll hear the middle eight (the extra bit) on the original Tom Baker end titles. A regular musical cue in earlier Doctor Who title sequences it's only used on six part Tom Baker stories, usually on final episode.

This episode completes Tom Baker's fifth season on Doctor Who, taking him past Jon Pertwee and making him the longest serving Doctor Who in terms of time.

The Armageddon Factor was novelised by Terrance Dicks. It was released on video in June 1995 on the same day as the preceding story, Power of Kroll, to form the final pair of stories from the Key to Time season released, with The Ribos Operation & The Pirate Planet coming out in April of the year and followed by Stones of Blood & Androids of Tara in May. The Key To Time season was a set of releases which came with a specially designed spine picture that ran over all six title. While there has never been a video boxset release of the Key To Time, it's only ever been available as a boxset on DVD. In October 2002 all six Key To Time stories were released in Region 1 with minimal extras & restoration to help satisfy the American demand for Tom Baker stories. The Key to Time was then released as a special edition, numbered & limited to 15,000 with brand new extras in Region 2 on the 24th September 2007, which sold out very quickly with this set commanding a premium price on eBay for quite some time. The Key to Time Box Set was reissued in a non limited edition in November 2009 and can now be had for a very reasonable price.

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