by Mark Greig
And so we come to the grand finale of The Key to Time saga. Although there is very little about it that you could call grand.
‘The Armageddon Factor’, is a dull, plodding, overlong mess of a story. Probably the worst Tom Baker story ever made. I don't know whose bright idea it was to hire Bob Baker and Dave Martin to write this one, but that person should've been sacked on the spot. Even Douglas Adams, who rewrote most of it along with outgoing script editor Anthony Read, couldn't save this one. With four very different cooks in the kitchen, it’s no surprise the tone of the story is all over the place.
Initially there is some vague semblance of a plot, some nonsense about two planets being locked in an endless, bitter war (like we've never seen that one before). But by episode 2, either because of a lack of time or money, the writers abandon the concept of story altogether and just start throwing a load of random crap at the screen: like Drax, the galaxy’s first, and thankfully last, cockney Time Lord; a miniaturised Doctor for reasons I don't even want to begin to understand; and an evil K-9.
After so many great villains this season, it’s a shame that the Doctor's final foe is someone as naff as the Shadow. He is terrible villain, one of the worst the series has ever produced. He's one of those annoying villains who is constantly amused by everything he does and randomly bursts into fits of laughter. The make-up looks ghastly and William Squire's performance is just abysmal.
The acting from the guest cast is pretty lousy all round. John Woodvine, a fine actor most of the time, hams it right up as the Marshal. And Davyd Harries' (Shapp) “I’ve been shot” acting has to been seen to be believed. Even Baker and Tamm come across like they can't be arsed some of the time. The sole bright light in this dark abyss of a tale is the angelic Lalla Ward. It's not hard to see why they brought her back the following season as Romana II (or why Tom married her).
After being teased all season, the Black Guardian finally bothers to show his face. And what a disappointment he is. In 'The Ribos Operation' the White Guardian was portrayed as this awesomely powerful, god-like being, capable of stopping a TARDIS mid-flight. You would think the Black Guardian would be equally as powerful. Instead we get five minutes of sub-Dick Dastardly villainy. His brilliant scheme for getting the Key to Time is to disguise himself as the White Guardian (and do as piss poor job of it too) and just expect the Doctor to hand it over to him. Why the Doctor feels he needs to go on the run from this guy is beyond me.
Notes and Quotes
--Love the cheesy patriotic film that was playing at the beginning.
--Drax refers to the Doctor by the name "Theta Sigma", his nickname at the academy.
--Because filming on 'Shada' was never completed, this story ended up being the last six-parter to be broadcast.
The Doctor: "There'll be a rather large bang, big enough to blow up Zeos, take Atrios with it, and make certain the whole thing ends in a sort of draw. That's the way these military minds work."
Marshal: "How can we have peace until we have the ultimate deterrent that will ensure a lasting peace?"
The Doctor: "Tell me Marshal, if you had this ultimate deterrent, what would you do?"
Marshal: "Use it of course, make sure it works."
The Doctor: "Yes... You have a true military mind, Marshal."
Marshal: "Thank you."
The Doctor : "We have the power to do anything we like. Absolute power over every particle in the universe. Everything that has ever existed and ever will exist. As from this moment - are you listening to me, Romana?"
Romana: "Yes of course I'm listening..."
The Doctor: "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."
Romana: "Doctor, are you all right?"
The Doctor: "Well of course I'm all right... but supposing I wasn't all right?"
Marshal: "To halt the hated Zeons in their tracks, wipe their presence from our skies, and free this land, this world, this Atrios..."
The Doctor: "This Blessed Plot!"
Marshal: "Good! Good! ... this blessed plot from the terrors of war and the evils of pestilence!"
The Doctor: "Yes! ... No, I prefer the original."
The Doctor: "Well, here we are. We've tracked him to his lair."
Romana: "Yes, we've got him exactly where he wants us."
One out of four beautiful princesses play by Richard Dawkins' missus.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.