a real world point of view
|The Armageddon Factor|
|Novelised as:||Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor|
|Main enemy:||The Shadow, Black Guardian|
|Number of episodes:||6|
|Premiere broadcast:||20 January - 24 February 1979|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Power of Kroll||Destiny of the Daleks|
|The Power of Kroll||The Creature from the Pit|
The Armageddon Factor was the sixth and final story of Season 16. It concluded the season-long Key to Time story arc. Mary Tamm makes her final appearance as Romana I while her replacement, Lalla Ward, appears in the story in a different role. The Black Guardian appears for the first time and isn't seen again until Mawdryn Undead.
The final segment of the Key to Time is at the heart of a devastating war between neighbouring planets Atrios and Zeos. The Fourth Doctor discovers that a sinister entity is manipulating events and the cost of obtaining the final segment may be more personal than he imagined.
Twin planets Atrios and Zeos are locked in a long-running war. The young Princess Astra, nominal leader of Atrios, is appalled at the devastation, but the Marshal, in charge of the war, actually possesses the power. The Marshal secretly confesses to his aide-de-camp Shapp that they are losing. He is desperate for the edge that will bring victory. On instruction from an unseen entity, he leads Astra on a fool's errand into a trap, where she is abducted and transmatted to an unknown place. Meanwhile, he watches helplessly as the last fleet of Atrian fighter ships are shot down by Zeon forces.
The Doctor and Romana land on Atrios, and the Doctor's TARDIS is soon buried in rubble from a Zeon aerial bombardment. They meet the Marshal, who implores the Doctor to assist Atrios. The Doctor proposes a shield that will stop the Zeons from attacking, but the Marshall insists he create a weapon for total victory. The Doctor notices that the Marshal is acting under an outside influence.
The Doctor, Romana, K9, Shapp and Merak (Astra's lover) are transported to Zeos. They find the planet empty. The entire Zeon war operation is conducted by the powerful supercomputer Mentalis. K9 interfaces with Mentalis and they learn that if it is destroyed, it will destroy Zeos and Atrios - a concept known as the Armageddon Factor. They discover the Marshal, in a last-ditch effort, is piloting the last Atrian warship to destroy the Zeon capital with a nuclear missile. The attack will set the mutual destruction in motion.
Desperate to stop the Marshal's attack, the Doctor uses the five segments of the Key to Time, plus an artificial sixth segment made from chronodyne, to generate a temporary time loop around the Marshal's ship. They uncover the ultimate truth: a third party, known as the Shadow, is manipulating the entire war from his enormous vessel midway between the two planets. An agent of the Black Guardian, the Shadow has been watching the final segment of the Key (Princess Astra herself), setting the war in motion, employing the renegade Time Lord Drax to construct Mentalis, and simply waiting while the Doctor risked life and limb to find the first five segments.
The Doctor persuades Drax to assist him and they foil the Shadow's plans. When the artificial time loop expires, the war rockets are deflected by a force field, destroying the Shadow and his ship instead.
Astra converts herself into the final segment, completing the Key to Time and giving the Doctor, for the moment, absolute power over the entire Universe. The White Guardian appears on the TARDIS monitor. He demands that the Doctor hand the Key over to him. When he rather callously dismisses Astra's sacrifice, the Doctor realises this is actually the Black Guardian in disguise. The Doctor orders the Key segments to disperse across the Universe, which also allows Astra to reunite with Merak. The Black Guardian is furious and threatens to destroy the Doctor. However, the Doctor has installed a randomizer on the TARDIS console, ensuring that neither he nor the Black Guardian knows where he'll end up next.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Romana - Mary Tamm
- Voice of K9 - John Leeson
- Princess Astra of Atrios - Lalla Ward
- The Black Guardian - Valentine Dyall
- Drax - Barry Jackson
- Marshal - John Woodvine
- The Shadow - William Squire
- Shapp - Davyd Harries
- Merak - Ian Saynor
- Guard - John Cannon
- Guard - Harry Fielder
- Technician - Iain Armstrong
- Pilot - Pat Gorman
- 'Hero' - Ian Liston
- 'Heroine' - Susan Skipper
- Assistant Floor Manager - Steve Goldie
- Assistant Floor Manager - Rosemary Padvaiskas
- Costumes - Michael Burdle
- Designer - Richard McManan-Smith
- Make-Up - Ann Briggs
- Producer - Graham Williams
- Production Assistant - Ann Aronsohn
- Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner
- Script Editor - Anthony Read
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Mike Jefferies
- Studio Sound - Richard Chubb
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - John Horton
Astronomical objects Edit
- Atrios and Zeos have been waging nuclear war againt each other.
- For the last five years Zeos has been uninhabited. Its war has been prosecuted by Mentalis, a computerised commandant built by Drax at the behest of the Shadow.
- Atrios and Zeos are in the Helical Galaxy.
- K9 is influenced by the computer Mentalis, with which only he can communicate.
The Doctor Edit
- Drax graduated with the Doctor from the "Class of 92", where they were "on the tech course together".
- Drax says that was four hundred fifty years ago.
- The Doctor was called Theta Sigma by Drax and his other classmates (TV: The Happiness Patrol later confirms that this was a nickname, not the Doctor's actual name).
- The Doctor mentions Troy.
- This episode features the first appearance of the Black Guardian.
- The Doctor makes a false sixth segment out of chronodyne.
Transport technology Edit
- There is a transmat between Atrios and Zeos.
Story notes Edit
- Originally the sixth segment was to be the shadow of the Shadow's shadow.
- Lalla Ward appears as Princess Astra; next season, she would play Romana.
- This story had the working title of Armageddon.
- Episode 1 was promoted as the five-hundredth episode of Doctor Who.
- This was the last six-part story broadcast.
- According to Mary Tamm in the DVD featurette "There's Something About Mary", it was while filming this serial that she made her final decision to leave the series.
- Twenty-three minutes into transmission of Part Five, a technical fault on the playback equipment – which occurred at the point where the Doctor is being escorted to the TARDIS by the Mute and the Shadow makes to remove his control device from Princess Astra, saying "Now, Princess, your work is done. Your destiny is at-" – resulted in the programme going off the air for twenty seconds. BBC continuity apologised to viewers for the breakdown in transmission, displaying a TEMPORARY FAULT caption slide and playing music, "Gotcha" by Tom Scott (better known as the theme music to Starsky and Hutch), until the fault was rectified. When transmission was restarted, the 625 line PAL Colour Videotape had been slightly rewound so that there was a repeat of the action immediately prior to the break, with the Shadow's line finally completed as "Your destiny is at hand."
- It was on the set of The Armageddon Factor that Tom Baker was very angry with some scripts. However, Michael Hayes got along with Baker.
Outtakes and gag reel footage Edit
Several clips of scene performances not intended for broadcast have been circulated from this serial, including two sequences videotaped during rehearsal (Mary Tamm is seen wearing glasses and hair-curlers). In one scene, Tamm and 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!" Producers laughed at both of these outtakes.
It was also during production of The Armageddon Factor that Baker, Tamm and John Leeson filmed a brief one-minute gag scene dubbed "Doug Who?" 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; 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 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?", retitled "Merry Christmas Doctor Who", is included as a bonus feature in the expanded Key to Time DVD set released in 2007 in the UK and 2009 in Region 1.
- Part 1 - 7.5 million viewers
- Part 2 - 8.8 million viewers
- Part 3 - 7.8 million viewers
- Part 4 - 8.6 million viewers
- Part 5 - 8.6 million viewers
- Part 6 - 9.6 million viewers
- Theta Sigma is the Doctor's real name. It's implied here and further established in TV: The Happiness Patrol that this is a nickname.
- The outtake in which Tom Baker barks at K9 "You never f***ing know the answer when it's important" is sometimes described as an outtake from actual filming, and sometimes is used as an illustration of Baker's temperament on the set. In reality -- as revealed from an actual viewing of the clip -- it was simply a joke that occurred during a taped rehearsal (as evidenced by the fact Mary Tamm is not in full costume, is wearing her off-screen glasses and has her hair up in rollers).
- Similarly, the rumour that Baker and Tamm filmed an unbroadcast kissing scene also stems from the existence of another rehearsal gag take, as well as the infamous "Doug Who?" skit (described above). Nothing of this sort was filmed for TV broadcast, nor was "Doug Who?" ever intended as part of the televised story either.
- A longstanding myth holds that Mary Tamm revealed to the production team that she was pregnant and this led to her resignation during or after production of Armageddon Factor. This is openly contradicted by Tamm in interviews and the 2007/09 DVD featurette "There's Something About Mary" in which she states she chose to leave because she was no longer satisfied with the character of Romana and would have returned to film a regeneration if she'd been invited.
Filming locations Edit
- BBC Television Centre (Studio 3), Shepherd's Bush, London
- Ealing Television Film Studios, Ealing Green, Ealing
Production errors Edit
- In part two, after the TARDIS has left, it can still be seen behind Romana just after K9 starts blasting a door.
- In part three Shapp's gun falls apart when it hits the floor.
- In part four, when K9 exits the transmat, he's got the new left panel he gains in episode five.
- In part six Astra regains the circlet Merak had used to distract the Mute.
- In part six one of the Mutes kicks up a piece of studio carpet.
- A number of shots call for the Shadow to lean his head back (when laughing manically or exulting triumphantly). These shots have the unfortunate side-effect of exposing the actor's real nostrils and making the mask - with its moulded skull-like nose - look blatantly fake.
- When the Doctor calls to K9 to come out of the TARDIS upon arrival on Atrios, he mentions the absence of "water" or "swamps"; this is a reference to the planet Delta Magna in The Power of Kroll, the events of which saw K9 "marooned" in the TARDIS.
- The Doctor has been shrunk before, in TV: Planet of Giants.
- In an attempt to evade the Black Guardian the Doctor activated the TARDIS' randomiser and programmed it to travel to approximately 1,000 planets, which took approximately one month. He left K9 aboard the TARDIS while he and Romana took up residence in a London townhouse in the 1920s. (AUDIO: The Auntie Matter)
- The Fifth Doctor would later encounter Princess Astra on Chaos at the end of recorded time. (AUDIO: The Chaos Pool)
DVD and Video releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
- This story was released along with The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara as Doctor Who: The Key to Time. This October 2002 release was only in Region 1. Extras include commentary by Mary Tamm, John Woodvine and Michael Hayes, a photo gallery and production information subtitles.
- It was also released with same stories as Doctor Who: The Key to Time, an extras-laden box set limited to 15,000 in its initial UK release on 24 September 2007, later followed by wide release in Region 1 on 3 March 2009 as The Key to Time - Special Edition. In the 2009 version, The Armageddon Factor is presented over two discs, with the six episodes and minimal extras on disc one and the remaining extras on disc two.
Contents (2009 version):
- Commentary by Mary Tamm, John Woodvine and Michael Hayes (carried over from the 2002 set).
- New commentary by Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and John Leeson.
- Production subtitles.
- Doctor Who Annual 1979 DVD-ROM feature (PC/Mac)
- Radio Times Billings - Original listings from Radio Times (DVD-ROM PC/Mac)
- Defining Shadows - featurette on the production of the serial, featuring interviews with Bob Baker, Dave Martin, Richard McManan-Smith, Lalla Ward, David Harries, Barry Jackson.
- Directing Who - retrospective on Michael Hayes' work directing the serials The Pirate Planet, The Armageddon Factor and City of Death.
- Rogue Time Lords - featurette on various errant Time Lords featured throughout the series.
- Pebble Mill at One interview with Tom Baker promoting the broadcast of the 500th episode of Doctor Who, Armageddon Factor part 1.
- Pebble Mill at One featurette on Dick Mills and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, featuring the creation of sound effects for The Armageddon Factor.
- The New Sound of Music - a brief look at Dick Mills creating a sound effect for Doctor Who.
- Merry Christmas Doctor Who - an infamous skit filmed for BBC staff viewing only in which the Doctor and Romana get a little tipsy while celebrating the season and get K9 to sing a holiday song.
- Alternative/deleted scene from the serial.
- BBC continuity announcements played before and after each episode of the serial.
- Photo Gallery
- Bonus series: Five episodes of Late Night Story, a never-shown series from 1978 featuring Tom Baker performing dramatic readings of "The Photograph" by Nigel Kneale, "The Emissary" by Ray Bradbury, "Nursery Tea" by Mary Danby, "The End of the Party" by Graham Greene, and "Sredni Vashtar" by Saki.
- Easter egg: On disc two, click right on continuities to find this Easter Egg. On 17 February 1979, as 8.6 million watched Part Five of The Armageddon Factor near its climax…a break in transmission which lasted several minutes. Presumably derived from an off-air video recording, this is a presumably cut-down (1:26) reproduction of it, complete with apologetic continuity announcer and temporary music.
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
The Key to Time boxed set covers Edit
Video releases Edit
- The Armageddon Factor at the BBC's official site
- The Armageddon Factor at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of The Armageddon Factor at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Armageddon Factor at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)