OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 505
STORY NUMBER: 103
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 24 February 1979
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Michael Hayes
SCRIPT EDITOR: Anthony Read
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.6 million viewers
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)
"Doctor, you shall die for this! I shall destroy you for this! I will disperse every particle of your being to the furthest reaches of eternity!"
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 Marshal'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.
Well.... Shall we start at the beginning?
The shrinking get out to "Drax shooting the Doctor" was vaguely hinted at last unit with repeated references to dimensional stabilisers and you can see the effect of the Doctor reducing in size at the end of episode 5 if you look carefully but it was still a surprise at the time. Shrinking is another Doctor Who staple having been used in Planet of Giants, The Faceless Ones where it's a method of imprisonment, Carnival of Monsters and as recently as the previous year in Invisible Enemy. The shrinking, and the using K-9 as a Trojan Horse really stands out in my memory of this episode from seeing it in my youth.
But the main thrust of the episode is revealing what the sixth segment of the Key to Time is:
ASTRA: My destiny is here, in this place. Not on Atrios, not on Zeos. Here.Laying the clues on a bit heavy there. The thing is we have this from an earlier episode:
ROMANA: Astra, listen. You're not under the Shadow's influence any more. Now, let's get out of here before he comes back.
ASTRA: No, I must stay. I am the sixth princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth Royal House of Atrios.
ROMANA: Yes, yes, but we must get out of here before the Shadow comes back!
ASTRA: This is the time of my becoming, my transcendence.
ROMANA: What are you talking about?
ASTRA: I don't know! I don't know, I tell you.Which doesn't quite match up. Throwing a few things into earlier episodes about the sixes in Astra's lineage might have helped as clues but it doesn't come up till the sixth episode of the sixth story! The only thing we get earlier on in the tale is the tracer getting a signal off of her headband:
SHADOW: You must know. You are a daughter of the Royal House of Atrios.
ASTRA: Yes, and I tell you, whoever you are, that I've never heard of the sixth segment or the sixth anything!
SHADOW: And I tell you, Princess, the secret has been passed down through generation after generation of the Royal House, and since you are the sole surviving member of the line, you must know and you will tell me, if I have to tear it from the living fibre of your very being. Do you understand?
ASTRA: Yes. And if I knew, I would tell you.
ROMANA: And then Merak said he found this. It's Astra's. The strange thing is, it gives off a very faint signal on the tracer. It's obviously not the sixth segment, so what is it?Merak then nicks the Tracer to find Astra but after that, nothing.
DOCTOR: Well, I'd say it's been in touch with the sixth segment, wouldn't you?
ROMANA: Well, yes
Romana gets the hints that are bing dropped quite quickly though:
ASTRA: Destiny. My destiny is near.And the sixths keep on coming laying it on really heavy.
ROMANA: Astra, remember you're the sixth princess of the sixth Royal House of the sixth dynasty. And we're looking for the sixth segment of the Key to Time. Oh, you're in greater danger even than we imagined.
SHADOW: You see, Princess, you cannot escape your destiny.Till finally Astra is transformed
ASTRA: My destiny.
SHADOW: It is for this that you were born. The sixth child of the sixth generation of the sixth dynasty of Atrios. Born to be the sixth and final segment of the Key to Time. Come, Princess, prepare yourself.
ASTRA: I am ready.
Did the Doctor know Astra was the sixth segment? He prevents her from touching the key in the previous episode, claiming it was hot, but had he actually figured it out and was trying to prevent her transformation.
ROMANA: Right, I'll set the coordinates for Gallifrey, shall I?
DOCTOR: Why Gallifrey?
ROMANA: Well, that's where we're going, isn't it?
DOCTOR: We have the power to do anything we like. Absolute power over every particle in the universe. Everything that has ever existed or ever will exist. As from this moment are you listening to me, Romana?
ROMANA: Yes, of course I'm listening.
DOCTOR: Because if you're not listening I can make you listen, because I can do anything.
DOCTOR: 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?
DOCTOR: Well of course I'm all right. But supposing I wasn't all right. This thing makes me feel in such a way I'd be very worried if I felt like that about someone else feeling like this about that. Do you understand?
DOCTOR: What do you understand?
ROMANA: That the sooner we hand this over to the White Guardian
BOTH: The better!
GUARDIAN: My congratulations to you, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Oh, thank you, sir, thank you.
GUARDIAN: You performed your task with admirable dispatch. The universe has much to thank you for.
DOCTOR: Well, it was a pleasure, sir. Wasn't it a pleasure, Romana?
ROMANA: Doctor, that's not the President.
DOCTOR: What's the President got to do with it?
GUARDIAN: I can change my form or shape at will, my dear child. I appeared to you as the President so as not to alarm you.
DOCTOR: Just be careful who you're talking to.
ROMANA: Sorry, I
GUARDIAN: You have the Key to Time, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Ah. Oh, I have, I have indeed, sir. Do you like it?
GUARDIAN: Do I like it? Yes, yes, I suppose you could say that I like it.
DOCTOR: Yes, we're very proud of it, sir. Aren't we, Romana, proud of it?
ROMANA: What? Oh, yes, yes.
DOCTOR: What happens now, sir? You said, if I remember in our first conversation, that once it was assembled it would stop the entire universe and enable you to restore the natural balances of good and evil throughout the whole of the universe.
GUARDIAN: That is correct, Doctor. So, will you release the Key to me that I may do this?
DOCTOR: Certainly, sir, yes, certainly, of course. Key to Time, I command you. Could I ask you something, sir?
GUARDIAN: Yes, Doctor?
DOCTOR: It's just that, well, the Key is already assembled, sir. I mean, couldn't you restore the balances now?
GUARDIAN: Yes, Doctor, but I must have the Key for safe keeping. It is an awesomely powerful key.
DOCTOR: Oh yes, sir, yes, and mustn't be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. I quite understand, sir, yes. Key to Time, I command. What about the sixth segment?
GUARDIAN: What about it, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, I mean, as you know, sir, the sixth segment was in fact a human being, and I mean, if the pieces are maintained in their present pattern it means that she'll be imprisoned forever, sir.
GUARDIAN: That is, of course, regrettable.
DOCTOR: Very regrettable.
GUARDIAN: But with the fate of the universe at stake.
DOCTOR: Quite. You can't be too careful. I quite understand. Key to Time, I command that you stay exactly where you are!
GUARDIAN: Doctor! You have fully activated all the Tardis' defences!
DOCTOR: We can't be too careful, can we? And it would be a terrible tragedy for the universe if it suddenly turned out that I was colour blind.
GUARDIAN: Doctor, release the Key to me immediately!
DOCTOR: Unable to distinguish between the White Guardian and the Black Guardian.
ROMANA: Doctor, what do you mean?
DOCTOR: Don't you see? The White Guardian would never have had such a callous disregard for human life.
ROMANA: Of course. Astra, the sixth segment. He would have dispersed it immediately.
GUARDIAN: Doctor, you shall die for this!
DOCTOR: I think not. Remember, the Key to Time is still mine, rage all you like.
GUARDIAN: I shall destroy you for this! I will disperse every particle of your being to the furthest reaches of eternity!
DOCTOR: Ah well, I wish I could stay and watch you try, but you know how it is. Places to go, people to see, things to do. Romana?
DOCTOR: When I give the signal
As a child I was sorry to see the Tracer go having go used to it throughout the season.
Appearing in this episode only as The Black Guardian is Valentine Dyall.
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.
So Astra is reunited with Merak at the end of the story. The episode almost feels a bit odd returning to Merak, Shapp, the Marshal & his missile attack after their absence last episode. They could have done with something then to keep them in the picture and I imagine some viewers would have forgotten quite who they were by the time they pop up out of nowhere in this one.
I found this little epilogue on Atrios confusing as a child and it made me think the whole thing had somehow been a dream. I can vaguely see how my mind got there with the dialogue not being 100% clear what's going on as the key breaks up. The novel adds dialogue making it clear that the Doctor has ordered the key to be dispersed with Astra returned to Atrios.
Meanhwile the Doctor has gained a powerful new enemey so has come up with a way to evade him.
DOCTOR: You see? I think of everything.I can see what they're getting at here, a device to explain why the Tardis keeps turning up in random places. But the first place it takes the Doctor to is somewhere very familiar to him, then it's straight back to Earth with lots of very controlled journeys in Time (City of Death) and space (Horns of the Nimon, Shada). I'm guessing then that the randomiser can be overridden!
ROMANA: What exactly have you done with the Key to Time?
DOCTOR: Key to Time? Oh, well, I just scattered it round through space and time.
ROMANA: I see. So where are we going?
DOCTOR: Going? I don't know.
ROMANA: You have absolutely no sense of responsibility whatsoever.
ROMANA: You're capricious, arrogant, self-opinionated, irrational and you don't even know where we're going.
DOCTOR: Well, if I knew where I was going, there'd be a chance the Black Guardian would, too.
DOCTOR: Hence this new device.
ROMANA: What is it?
DOCTOR: Well, it's called a randomiser and it's fitted to the guidance system and operates under a very complex scientific principle called pot luck.
DOCTOR: Now no one knows where we're going. Not even the Black Guardian.
ROMANA: Not even us.
Watching the episode again 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 here, when showing a legion of Zeon ships earlier in the story would have added to the scale. Scale really is the problem here, oddly enough for an episode that features shrinking, in that for such big concepts it really is an up close and personal episode.
As an experiment the Key to Time generally 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 anywhere near as long as this.
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. The dates on her Wikipedia page also indicate she was pregnant with her daughter at the time so that may have been factor as well. 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.
The Mary Tamm Romana was the first companion I ever saw on screen so I may have a certain bias, but I think she's done a fine job and would have loved to see her do more.
Mary Tamm died on 26th July 2012.
It's also the last appearance, for the time being, of John Leeson as the voice of K-9. Next season K-9 is voiced by David Brierly who then leaves allowing John Leeson to return to the role in The Leisure Hive.
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 Bob Baker & Dave Martin who had been writing together for Doctor Who since 1971. I've struggled with some of their stories, The Mutants and the Underworld in particular, but am rather fond of The Three Doctors and most of Hand of Fear, though that goes off the rails a bit too in episode 4! 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 Doctors, 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 so is 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 the 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 released stories from the Key to Time season, 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.