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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"There's only my will, because I will possess the Key to Time!"
―The Doctor
The Armageddon Factor
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 16
Story Number: 103
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Companions: Romana I (final appearance in this form)
K9 Mk2
Enemy: The Shadow
The Black Guardian
Setting: Atrios
Writer: Bob Baker and
Dave Martin
Director: Michael Hayes
Broadcast: 20th January - 24th February 1979
Format: 6 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: The Power of Kroll
Following Story: Destiny of the Daleks

The Armageddon Factor was the sixth and final story of Season 16 and concluded the season-long Key to Time story arc. Mary Tamm makes her final appearance as Romana, while her ultimate 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 neighboring planets Atrios and Zeos. The Doctor discovers a sinister entity manipulating events, and that 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, and is desperate for the edge that will lead him to 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 location.

The Doctor and Romana land on Atrios, and the TARDIS is soon buried in rubble resulting from a Zeon aerial bombardment. They meet the Marshal, who implores the Doctor to assist the situation. The Doctor proposes a shield that will prevent the Zeons from attacking, but the Marshall insists that he create a weapon that will allow him to achieve total victory. He notices that the Marshal is acting under an outside influence.

The Doctor, Romana, K9, Shapp, and Merak (Astra's lover) are transported to Zeos, where they discover that the planet is vacant. The entire Zeon war operation is being conducted by the powerful supercomputer Mentalis. K9 interfaces with Mentalis and they discover that in the event of its destruction, it will destroy both Zeos and Atrios - a concept known as the Armageddon Factor. They then learn that the Marshal, in a last-ditch effort, is piloting the last remaining Atrian warship to destroy the Zeon capital with a nuclear missile, and the oncoming 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 then discover the ultimate truth: a third party, known as the Shadow, is manipulating the entire war from his enormous vessel midway between the two planets. He is an agent of the Black Guardian, and has been overseeing 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 manage to foil the Shadow's plans. When the artificial time loop expires, the war rockets are deflected by a force field and destroy 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. Knowing this, he teases Romana into thinking he is going to rule the universe with an iron fist before returning to normal. The White Guardian appears and demands that the Doctor hand the Key over to him. When he callously dismisses Astra's sacrifice, however, the Doctor realizes that he's actually the Black Guardian in disguise, and orders the Key segments to disburse (reuniting Astra and Merak). The Black Guardian is furious and threatens to destroy the Doctor, but the Doctor installs a randomizer on the TARDIS console, ensuring that neither he nor the Black Guardian knows where they'll end up next.




Story Notes

  • Originally the sixth segment was to be 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 500th episode of Doctor Who.
  • 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.

It was on the set of Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor that Tom Baker was very angry with some scripts, but Michael Hayes got along with Baker.


Outtakes and gag reel footage

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 K-9, "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 K-9, who is asked to sing a few bars of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". The Doctor then asks K-9 what he wants for Christmas; K-9 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 later established in The Happiness Patrol that this is a nickname.
  • The outtake in which Tom Baker barks at K-9 "You never f---ng 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 rumor 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

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • In episode two, after the TARDIS has left, it can be seen behind Romana just after K9 begins blasting a door.
  • In episode three Shapp's gun falls apart when it hits the floor. Why shouldn't it? The same might happen to a porcelain gun of the kind you can find on Earth.
  • In episode four, when K9 exits the transmat, he's got the new left panel he gains in episode five
  • In episode six Astra regains the circlet Merak had used to distract the Mute.
  • Romana forgets that she's already been told (in The Stones of Blood) that it wasn't the President who sent her on the mission.
  • The Doctor says he's never seen K9 spin around before, so he's forgotten about The Pirate Planet. He may have been referring to K-9's behaviour in this particular context, including K-9 unusually imperious dialogue in this scene.
  • In episode six one of the Mutes kicks up a piece of studio carpet.
  • Astra says that she is the sixth princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth royal house of Atrios. It should be sixth house of the sixth dynasty or it could be a different system to the earth tradition
  • In episode four Merak expounds on how only the Doctor and Romana can get into the TARDIS, despite the fact that he shouldn't even know what it is. His insight continues in episode six, where he talks knowledgeably of the sixth segment, having been told nothing about it. On screen. The scene cuts away during his and Romana's search for the TransMat in episode 3, in which she had plenty of time to explain what they were looking for and why.
  • In episode six Shapp acquires the same ability, somehow understanding the functions of the time loop.
  • Drax repeatedly mispronounces Gallifrey as 'Gallifree'. Perhaps that's how Drax pronouces Gallifrey. Note also that this seems to be Tom Baker's preferred pronunciation: see, for example, The Invasion of Time.
  • Why doesn't the Black Guardian appear to the Doctor in the guise of the White Guardian, instead of arousing suspicion by appearing as the Lord President? He doesn't. He is trying to pass himself off as the white guardian. However, this makes little sense either as he does not remotely resemble the White Guardian the Doctor encountered at the beginning of the season.
  • If the sixth segment returns to its original location and form when the Doctor splits the Key up, does that mean the original segments simply returned to their original locations on Tara, etc.[Its segments probably took different forms.]
  • The Shadow explains that the Atrios-Zeos war was only intended to be a practice run for the universal war the Black Guardian was intending to start once he had control of the Key to Time. Firstly, would a war between two small planets really be a good model for such a vast conflict, and secondly, would a being such as the Black Guardian really require any preparation for causing chaos, given that it is the essence of what he is?


DVD, Video and Other Releases

DVD Releases

  • 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 24th September 2007, later followed by wide release in Region 1 on 3rd 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):

Disc One:

Disc Two:

  • 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 K-9 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.



Main article: Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor

See also

Stories involving shrinking

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide for The Armageddon Factor
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Armageddon Factor
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) entry for The Armageddon Factor
Season 16
The Ribos Operation  • The Pirate Planet  • The Stones of Blood  • The Androids of Tara  • The Power of Kroll  • The Armageddon Factor

This article uses material from the "The Armageddon Factor" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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