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The Armageddon Factor is a serial in the Britishmarker science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from January 20 to February 24, 1979. It is the last story in The Key to Time arc, and the last to feature Mary Tamm as Romana.


The quest for the final segment to the Key to Time brings the Doctor and Romana to Atrios, a world caught in a perpetual, stalemated war with its planetary neighbour Zeos. But the Black Guardian is closing in...


In their search for the final segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on the planet Atrios, which has endured a recent bombing by their neighbouring planet Zeos, with whom they are at war. The Marshal of Atrios is about to launch a counterstrike on Zeos, but the Doctor finds that Zeos is deserted save for the giant computer Mentalis, which is controlling the war. He also discovers that the true opponent is a third planet called the Planet of Evil, ruled by "the Shadow". The Shadow, an agent of the Black Guardian, has Princess Astra of Atrios captive, threatening to torture her if she doesn't give him the location of the final segment of the Key to Time (which she doesn't know).

After disabling Mentalis, with the assistance of Romana and K-9, the Doctor creates a substitute sixth segment out of chronodyne, which gives the Key enough power to create a time loop in which to trap the Marshal's ship (armed with missiles for the final strike) as well as the Mentalis control room (engaged in an automatic self-destruct sequence). On the Planet of Evil, the Doctor encounters an old Academy mate, a fellow Time Lord named Drax, who has been employed under duress by the Shadow but agrees to help the Doctor.

With K-9 and Astra now under his control, the Shadow wants the Key for himself, and forces the Doctor to retrieve it for him. The Doctor leads the Mute to his TARDIS and opens the door, but is suddenly shrunk to tiny size by Drax, using the dimensional stabilizer from his own (in-need-of-repair) TARDIS. (Originally, as implied by the Doctor's reaction, Drax was supposed to use the shrinking beam on the Mute, but deliberately shrinks the Doctor instead. Episode 5 ends on this scene, and it's only at the beginning of Episode 6 that Drax shrinks himself as well, having misinterpreted the Doctor's plan.)

The Mute returns to the Shadow with the Key, but the Doctor realises why the Shadow has requested it: Astra is the final segment, and is transformed in front of everyone. Using their diminished size, the Doctor and Drax smuggle themselves into the Shadow's lair inside of the now-restored K-9. Drax again uses the stabilizer, this time to return them to their normal size. The Doctor snatches the partially assembled Key and the final segment, and disappears with Romana and K9 in the TARDIS, assembling the Key after dealing with the Mentalis self-destruct (with the help of Drax) as well as the Marshal's missiles (using the TARDIS to deflect them onto the Planet of Evil).

The White Guardian appears to congratulate the Doctor on finding and assembling the Key to Time, and requests that it be sent to him. However, the Doctor, realising that it is actually the Black Guardian in disguise—due to his lack of compassion for the fate of Princess Astra—orders the Key to re-disperse. Enraged, the Black Guardian, now reverted to his true form, threatens him with death. In an attempt to shake him off, the Doctor fits a randomiser into the TARDIS console, sending it to an unknown location in time and space, and leaving the Doctor and the Guardian with no idea of where they are headed.



  • Working titles for this story included Armageddon.
  • In the original draft of the script, the Black Guardian did not appear at all. He was only inserted in the later drafts by incoming script editor Douglas Adams and Producer Graham Williams.
  • This story was the last that Bob Baker wrote with Dave Martin. Baker's next story, Nightmare of Eden, would be a solo effort.
  • This was the last 6-episode serial to be broadcast (the later Shada being incomplete and unaired). From here on serials would be a maximum of four episodes in length, with the sole exception being The Trial of a Time Lord, which, although actually linked three 4-part and one 2-part stories, was broadcast as a 14-part serial. The Two Doctors and "Utopia"/"The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords" were roughly the same length as a 6-part serial but were broadcast in three parts as their respective season's episodes were 45 minutes in length.

In print

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in June 1980.

Broadcast, VHS and DVD releases

  • This story was released on VHS in June 1995.
  • This serial, along with the rest of season sixteen, was released on DVD in North America as part of the Key to Time box set in 2002. The set was only available in Region 1.
  • A remastered limited edition Key to Time box set was released in Region 2 in the United Kingdom on September 24, 2007. It contains more extras than the previously released US set, This remastered set was released in Region 1 on March 3 2009.
  • During transmission of Part Five, a technical breakdown resulted in the episode going off the air for a few minutes (the break occurring at the point where the Doctor is being escorted to the TARDIS by the Mute). Music was played and a caption slide displayed until the fault was rectified. When transmission restarted, there was a repeat of the action immediately prior to the break; the videotape having been slightly rewound. A reconstruction of the break can be found as a bonus item on this serial's remastered DVD release.


External links


Target novelisation

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