The Armageddon Factor: Wikis


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103 – The Armageddon Factor
Doctor Who serial
The Doctor and Romana question Princess Astra about the mysterious third planet.
Guest stars
Writer Bob Baker
Dave Martin
Director Michael Hayes
Script editor Anthony Read
Douglas Adams (uncredited)
Producer Graham Williams
David Maloney (uncredited)
Executive producer(s) None
Production code 5F
Series Season 16
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast January 20–February 24, 1979
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Power of Kroll Destiny of the Daleks

The Armageddon Factor is a serial in the British 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.


  • This is the sixth of six linked serials that comprise the whole of Season 16, known collectively as The Key to Time.
  • The episode implies that at some point after The Invasion of Time but before The Ribos Operation a new Time Lord president was installed, whose form the White Guardian assumes when he recruits Romana off-screen. It's not clear whether this is an incarnation of Borusa.
  • Drax refers to the Doctor by the name "Theta Sigma". Not counting aliases like John Smith, this was the first time an actual name (albeit a nickname) was attached to the Doctor. Later, in The Happiness Patrol, the Doctor states that Theta Sigma was his old college nickname.
  • Drax also features in the novels Divided Loyalties (in a flashback sequence to the First Doctor's school days) and The Quantum Archangel (in an alternate timeline where he is working with the Master, the Rani and Mortimus to destroy Earth), as well and in Doctor Who: Search for the Doctor, a "Make Your Own Adventure" book by Dave Martin.
  • Valentine Dyall would return as the Black Guardian in the Black Guardian Trilogy, consisting of the Fifth Doctor serials Mawdryn Undead, Terminus and Enlightenment, where he attempts to force the Doctor's new companion Vislor Turlough to kill the Doctor in revenge for depriving him of the Key to Time.
  • The fate of Princess Astra is revealed in the Big Finish Productions audio story The Chaos Pool, the third in new series of Key to Time stories that start with The Judgement of Isskar, which reveal that the Doctor's use of a substitute sixth segment for the Key to Time disrupted the balance of the segments and caused them to decay.
  • In the spin off series " The Sarah Jane Adventures" episode "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith" The Trickster mentioned how the Doctor once held the Key to Time, which was the story arc of Season 16. It is also implied that the Shadow is a member of the Pantheon of discord.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewership
(in millions)
"Part One" 20 January 1979 (1979-01-20) 24:39 7.5
"Part Two" 27 January 1979 (1979-01-27) 23:56 8.8
"Part Three" 3 February 1979 (1979-02-03) 25:03 7.8
"Part Four" 10 February 1979 (1979-02-10) 25:09 8.6
"Part Five" 17 February 1979 (1979-02-17) 24:42 8.6
"Part Six" 24 February 1979 (1979-02-24) 25:09 9.6
  • 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

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor
Series Target novelisations
Release number 5
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Bill Donohoe
ISBN 0-426-20104-3
Release date 26 June 1980
Preceded by Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll
Followed by Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in June 1980.Dicks accidently has the Marshall introduce himself as the warlord of Zeos.

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[4]. 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.


  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Armageddon Factor". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 2008-08-30.  
  2. ^ "The Armageddon Factor". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.  
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Armageddon Factor". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.  
  4. ^ "DVD News". BBC. 18 May 2007.  

External links



Target novelisation


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