Doctor Who – The Armageddon Factor

Doctor Who Story 103 – The Armageddon Factor

Written By

Bob Baker and Dave Martin

What’s It About

The search for the Key to Time is near its end. The Doctor and Romana have traced the final piece to Atrios, a planet in perpetual war with the nearby planet Zeos. Their ruler, Princess Astra, has been abducted, and their Marshal seems to be taking secret orders from an unknown source. And hidden in the darkness between the two planets is a third planet, a shadowy planet.

I’ve Stopped the Universe

Source: Wikipedia. Copyright by BBC.
Source: Wikipedia. Copyright by BBC.

At least, that is how this story feels. It is six parts, and it is slow. This is a shame because on the whole, season 16 has been a lot of fun. “The Ribos Operation,” “The Stones of Blood,” and “The Androids of Tara” were great stories. “The Pirate Planet” was full of witty dialogue and was conceptually amazing, but it was a bit too ambitious to realize. It has only been these last two stories, “The Power of Kroll” and “The Armageddon Factor” that have let the season down. Bob Baker and Dave Martin are usually great at concepts, even if they don’t always realize them. And while the idea of the final segment being a living, breathing, sentient being is a great idea that has the potential to create a moral dilemma, in the end even that is squandered, and we have the equivalent of a megalomaniac trying to assemble a super-weapon. The tension between the White and Black Guardians, the restoration of balance to the universe, is gone. The scope is nothing more than a Cold War space opera, which doesn’t even have the courtesy to work on a meta-textual level. Indeed, what could be more fascinating than the Guardians being a metaphor for the East and the West, and true balance being the unification of the two. There is no shadow without light; there is no yin without yang. The anima and the animus. This is not pursued, and neither does “The Armageddon Factor” attempt to subvert them. And all the potential of the Key to Time falls apart.

In truth, at the end of this second Graham Williams season, I feel sorry for the show. I genuinely believe Williams wanted the show to succeed. The entire concept had potential, and the season started well. But beyond the MacGuffin, there seemed to be no real unity to the concept. There themes didn’t play out as well as they should have. This was one of the most ambitious stories Doctor Who had ever told, and it failed. And it is incredibly sad knowing that Graham Williams’ troubles are far from over.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Armageddon Factor

  1. I was quite disappointed in The Armageddon Factor, as well. Apart from the huge problem that occurs from the story being stretched out too much over the six episode duration, as well as most of the characters simply being dull & uninteresting, the biggest flaw is the anti-climactic final episode.

    As I understand it, when Graham Williams & Anthony Read conceived the Key To Time season, they never actually bothered to decide beforehand how the story arc would end. Consequently, once the season reached its finale, they were suddenly left to resolve the arc at literally the last minute. And that task then ended up falling to incoming script editor Douglas Adams, who is the one who actually wrote the final scene of episode six.

    I cannot help but compare this to the last few series of Doctor Who. I realize that Steven Moffat is a divisive figure. Keeping that in mind, and say what you will about him, he does plan very far ahead. Moffat had the origins of River Song, the method of the Doctor escaping getting killed by the Impossible Astronaut, and the secret of Clara “Impossible Girl” Oswald mapped out from pretty early on. So once the time came for all these revelations, there wasn’t any creative head-scratching or last-minute scrambling to pull a solution out of thin air.

    And that was big problem with The Armageddon Factor. Because Williams and Read did not think to plan out how they would conclude Season Sixteen, after 26 episodes we are left with a very disappointing non-ending.

    1. While I haven’t always liked Steven Moffat’s endings, I admit that they at least fit. It is a shame that Williams and Read didn’t have a conclusion. This arc started very strong and I get the impression the writers were trying to do something epic. I admire the attempt, even if it was a disappointment. Unrealized ambition–this almost becomes a theme of the Graham Williams years. Shada, likewise, fell apart, but for very different reasons.

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