The Armageddon Factor: Part 6
First broadcast February 24th 1979 @ 6.25pm (9.6m viewers)
This episode brings to an end the six-part story ‘The Armageddon Factor’ but also the Season 16 ‘Key to Time’ quest and would prove to be Mary Tamm’s final appearance as the first incarnation of Romana. The role of Romana would later be taken on by an actress who appeared in this story but playing another role, Princess Astra, following in the footsteps of Peter Purves and later Colin Baker, Karen Gillan and Peter Capaldi who also played other characters before returning to become regulars. So taken were the production team by Lalla Ward, although her performance is bland yet ethereal in this story, that she was recruited for the next season when it became apparent that Mary Tamm would not be returning.
The Armageddon Factor’ is a difficult tale to quantify. Against a backdrop of two warring planets, Atrios, and Zeos, a myriad of characters present one-dimensional roles that offer musings about the conflict, from the maniacal Marshal to the pacifist Astra. Whilst Drax, another renegade Time Lord but with a curious Cockney accent, adds an element of comic relief to the tale, the Shadow is a solid villain, elevated by the vocal performance of William Squire, with his followers bearing a curious similarity to the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. Driven to capture the Key to Time the Shadow is of course defeated and the power remains in the hands of the Doctor.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
Because 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.
With all the loose ends tied up it soon becomes apparent to the Doctor that he is now in possession of the finally complete Key to Time. This scene works so perfectly because of Tom Baker’s characterisation of the Doctor, his alien quality and unpredictability making it easy to consider that he could be seduced by such power. Fortunately, he is having Romana and the audience on but neatly demonstrated that in the wrong hands the Key would be a devastating weapon. Such an outcome was the intention of the Black Guardian who has been attempting to gain possession of the Key during the story through his servant the Shadow. In order to defeat him the Doctor scatters the pieces throughout time and space once again, a conclusion which future producer John Nathan-Turner, production unit manager on the show for this story, found rather anticlimactic after a 26 week journey. After fitting a new piece of equipment, the randomiser, to the TARDIS the Doctor and his companion also now had a reason for why they would journey randomly throughout the universe.
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Web of Fear: Episode 4
- Frontier in Space: Episode 1
- Planet of Fire: Part 2