THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR

Part One

Sue: Six parts? Bloody hell. Oh well, it is the last part of the Key to Time, so it has to be epic.
Me: You’ll be pleased to hear that The Armageddon Factor is our last six part story.
Sue: Honestly?
Me: Yes, I swear on our cats’ lives this is the last six part Doctor Who story broadcast on television.
Sue: If you are lying to me, I will kill you, and then I will feed you to our cats.

The Armageddon FactorThe story begins with two characters spouting cheesy dialogue at each other in front of a badly chromakeyed backdrop.

Sue: Are we watching Doctor Who? The fringing on this CSO is even worse than usual.
The Hero: Men out there, young men, are dying for it!

I suppress a giggle.

Sue: Grow up, Neil. Hey, haven’t we seen these characters before?
Me: No we haven’t.
Sue: Yes we have. Rewind it. Look, she’s wearing the same green PVC uniform we saw in the story where a giant prawn attacked that hospital. She is playing a nurse and George Osborne over there must be a doctor.
Me: How is it you remember that but you can never remember anything important?

When she realises that it’s a cheap propaganda film, Sue cuts it some slack.

Sue: It’s very postmodern. And they played the “it’s bad on purpose” card again, I see.

An explosion hits an already ramshackle hospital ward and some masonry falls on top of a patient. A young doctor rushes over to help.

Merak: It’s all right, it’s all right.
Sue: Yeah, it’s fine. A huge slab of concrete just severed your spine, but don’t worry about it. It’s all right.

In a large control room, the Marshal monitors his war.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Oh, it’s him. Don’t ask me what’s he’s been in before, but he’s very good. Wait, wait. don’t tell me… He plays a copper. A hard-nosed copper.
Me: It’s John Woodvine and you probably remember him from Edge of Darkness, among other things.
Sue: Yes, Edge of Darkness. That’s definitely it. Good, he’s good.

We are also introduced to Lalla Ward’s Princess Astra.

Sue: Oh, she’s familiar. (pause) She’s one of the Doctor’s companions, isn’t she? (pause) Does she come back later to play a companion when he turns into Peter Davison? Or does she join him at the end of this story? Does the Doctor travel with two women? That won’t work.
Me: Stop trying to guess the end.

Princess Astra visits a hospital, where she illicitly confers with a young doctor named Merak. They are both pacifists and strongly opposed to the war that is raging around them.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Is she the Princess Diana figure in this story?
Me: Visiting the hospital, you mean?
Sue: No, she’s having an affair with a commoner.

The Marshal broadcasts a Churchillian speech to his people.

Sue: I like this. It’s very cynical. It’s nicely directed, too, with its swooping camera moves and huge close-ups. Yeah, I like this a lot.

The TARDIS materialises in a parking orbit above Atrios. But the planet – and its twin, Zeos – are nowhere to be seen.

Sue: Since when has the Doctor ever bothered to park above a planet first? He’s getting cautious in his old age.
Neil: Romana looks amazing in that dress.

Yeah, sorry, that was me.

The Marshal rubs his neck as he stares into a distorted mirror.

The Armageddon FactorSue: This is what happened to Londo in Babylon 5. Has he got an invisible alien living behind his ear?

A guard is escorting Princess Astra to a children’s hospital when he receives orders to escort her to K-Block instead.

Sue: The actor playing this guard is so bad, the director won’t give him a close-up during this conversation. Jesus, did they go to the BBC canteen and grab the first person they found?

The Doctor finally locates Atrios. Romana suspects that they may have stumbled into the middle of a nuclear war, and the Doctor chides his companion for her glass-half-empty attitude.

The Doctor: Where’s your joy in life? Where’s your optimism?
Sue: Forget that, where’s your bra?

They use the tracer to locate the sixth segment’s coordinates.

Sue: How did the Doctor get his little stick out of the last segment? I was worried about that at the time.

The Armageddon FactorThe TARDIS materialises on Atrios and even K9 gets to go for a walk.

Sue: I’m glad to see K9 back in action. Dogs get depressed if you keep them locked up for long periods of time.

K9 notices the body of Astra’s personal escort, shot dead by the Marshal earlier, lying in a nearby corridor.

Sue: K9 has the best peripheral vision in the whole series. And he’s only got one eye.

The Doctor and Romana are arrested by the Marshal and prosecuted as spies.

Sue: Everywhere they go, people want to execute them. That would get on your tits after a while. No wonder he invented the psychic paper, this would drive anybody up the wall.

The Doctor protests his innocence but the Marshal isn’t listening.

Sue: Tom Baker is very good again this week. He must be trying to impress John Woodvine.

The Armageddon FactorMeanwhile, a mysterious figure in black adducts Princess Astra.

Sue: Is that the Black Guardian? Silly question, I suppose. Who else would it be?

The episode concludes with the Doctor and Romana discovering that the TARDIS has been buried under several tons of rubble.

Sue: I liked that. So far, so good.

 

Part Two

The Armageddon FactorSue: Good game! Good game!
Me: I beg your pardon?
Sue: The Black Guardian looks like Bruce Forsyth. Look at the size of his chin!

The Doctor contemplates his rubble covered TARDIS.

Sue: He really needs to invent a remote control. And psychic paper. He basically needs to sit down and work out a list of things that will speed up his adventures. Especially when he’s on a mission like this.

The Doctor and Romana run into Merak and the Doctor immediately suspects that the Marshal was responsible for the death of Astra’s escort, thanks to a long list of coincidences.

Sue: What coincidences? What is he talking about?

The Marshal is acting even more strange than the writers.

Sue: He bloody loves that distorted mirror, doesn’t he? He should go to a fun fair, he’d be like a pig in shit.

The Armageddon FactorK9 is taken away to be recycled.

Sue: And on tonight’s conveyor belt we have some Christmas tinsel and a robot dog. Seriously though, why doesn’t K9 just put himself in reverse?

The Doctor and the Marshal discuss strategies for winning the war against Zeos.

Sue: John Woodvine is trying really hard not to laugh. Oops, he almost went there. Tom can be a bad bugger.

The Doctor and the Marshal watch the latest battle unfold on a large computer screen.

Sue: Why didn’t they use different coloured dots for the enemy ships? No wonder the Marshal can’t follow what’s going on.

The Doctor asks the Marshal to locate Princess Astra for him.

Sue: **** Astra, rescue K9!

The Armageddon FactorThe Doctor rushes onto the conveyor belt that leads to the furnace.

Sue: Just switch the conveyor belt off, you idiots!

The Doctor saves K9 from being turned into slag and clinker in the nick of time.

Sue: Didn’t he do well?

Suddenly, Princess Astra appears on television, where she begs the people of Atrios to surrender to the might of Zeos.

Sue: Does this episode end with the bad guys cutting her off head with a rusty penknife?

The episode concludes with the Doctor falling into a very obvious trap.

Sue: This is rattling along quite nicely. I’ve seen worse.

 

Part Three

The Armageddon FactorRomana and Merak decide to join forces.

Sue: Romana could definitely have her own show. She doesn’t really need the Doctor. I wouldn’t have him as a companion, though. She could do a lot better than him.

The Shadow’s minions place the Doctor into a special booth.

Sue: (Singing) Mr & Mrs! Be nice to each other.
Me: That reminds me: it’s our 13th wedding anniversary today. I just thought I should throw that out there, in the middle of The Armageddon Factor.

The only reason I remembered in the first place is because my best man sent me a text wishing me a happy anniversary. The smug git.

Thankfully, Sue had forgotten the date as well.

Sue: What are we like?
Me: The most unromantic couple in Britain?
Sue: Or maybe even the world.
Me: I’ll make it up to you. I’ll take you to Paris next week.
Sue: Yeah, right.

The Shadow wants to know where the Doctor has hidden the first five segments, but the Doctor won’t play ball. So they torture him with bolts of electricity that flow through the cubicle’s architecture.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Why doesn’t he a) stop touching the bars and b) just step out through one of the large gaping holes?

The Shadow says he knows all about the Doctor and his jackdaw meanderings.

Sue: It’s not, is it?
Me: No.
Sue: Just checking. I didn’t really think so. Don’t put that on the counter, it makes me look stupid.

As if I would (of course I did).

The Doctor is released from the cubicle and the Shadow lets him go.

Sue: He’s the first villain who can’t be arsed to follow through on any of his threats. Plus, he’s got a wonky nose.

The Marshal’s right-hand man, Shapp, finds the secret transmat chamber and he accidentally transports himself to Zeos.

The Armageddon FactorSue: He reminds me of the bloke from Terry and June.
Me: Terry.
Sue: Yes, Terry. I wouldn’t trust him to put up a sun lounger, let alone win a nuclear war. Even his gun looks like it’s a joke. He is basically waving a cafetière around in the air.

The Doctor and Shapp traipse through the corridors of Zeos (thankfully, the walls are a different shade of brown to those seen on Atrios).

Sue: This place could do with a bloody good hoover. What’s with all the sawdust? Are they expecting horses?

Everyone is awfully eager to catch up with Princess Astra.

Sue: I think Princess Astra could be the sixth segment. Am I right?
Me: Stop trying to guess the end!

K9 reappears and he says he has talked to his “own kind”.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Another robot dog? Has he been sniffing its circuits?

The Marshal records another emergency broadcast, only this time he replaces defiance for megalomaniacal arrogance.

Sue: From Churchill to Hitler in two episodes, that’s impressive.

The Marshal prepares his ship for one final assault.

Sue: This reminds me of Star Wars. All that’s missing here is a Wookie.

K9 seeks permission for the Doctor to meet with Zeon’s commandant, and while they wait, Merak lets it slip that he doesn’t know what a bee is. The Doctor tears Merak a new one.

Sue: Why did the Doctor jump down his throat like that? He hasn’t done that for ages. I know this Merak character is wet and irritating, but even so.

The Armageddon FactorK9 introduces the Doctor to Mentalis, an automated computer that has been conducting a war against Atrios, even though there are no Zeons left on the planet to win it.

Sue: Okay, so maybe the computer is the sixth segment? It’s got a big crystal sitting on top of it, so that would make sense. Having said that, that crystal is too big to fit with all the other pieces, so maybe not.

Shapps tries to shoot Mentalis and fails miserably.

Sue: (As Shapp) JUNE!

The Doctor questions the machine via K9. It is a very protracted process.

Sue: I hope they don’t ask the computer another question, I think I’m losing the will to live. This story isn’t in a hurry, is it?

The Armageddon FactorThe camera sweeps into the cockpit of the Marshal’s ship.

Sue: The story is very slow but at least the direction is interesting. That tracking shot was great.

The episode concludes with the Marshal preparing to attack Zeos.

Sue: And a dull cliffhanger wraps up a rather dull episode. Classic Part Three, really.

 

Part Four

Sue: It’s a bit like The War Games (sic), this. Not the Doctor Who one, the one where Matthew Broderick plays noughts and crosses against a mad computer.

The Armageddon FactorThe Shadow uses his deep voice to hypnotise Princess Astra.

The Shadow: Astra, you are to meet your lover. Smile.
Sue: He sounds like Barry White after a night on the cigars.

Sue is beginning to lose patience with Merak.

Sue: He’s such a wet blanket. We’ve seen loads of people like him in Doctor Who: bland, hangers-on who you forget twenty minutes after the episode has finished. Actually, this one is so forgettable, I keep forgetting who he is in the middle of an episode.

Shapp heads back to the transmat chamber but he gets into a fight with one of the Shadow’s minions. He ends up falling flat on his back with his feet sticking up in the air.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Someone took his sun lounger away at the last moment.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open up Mentalis and its screws are sent flying through the air.

Sue: Watch out! You could have Romana’s eye out with that.

Meanwhile, the Marshal’s ship continues to close in on Zeos.

The Marshal: Go in closer. As close as you dare.
Sue: It’s a planet. How close do you need to be? How can you miss a ****ing planet?

The Doctor is desperate to save Zeos.

Sue: But there’s no one there. It’s empty. It’s just one shitty room with a broken computer. Just leave!

Shapp tries to recall the Marshal but he has decided to do a Dr. Strangelove instead.

Sue: Even Peter Sellars couldn’t save this.

The Armageddon FactorThe Doctor cobbles together a replacement for the missing sixth segment.

Sue: You can’t fake the Key to Time! If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

The Doctor uses the Key to Time to set up a time loop.

Sue: (Singing) Let’s do the Time Warp again!
Me: Time Loop. Loop. And even if it was a time warp, please, just… don’t.

The Doctor has put the entire universe in a three-second loop.

Sue: Why doesn’t it affect the Doctor and Romana?

Romana asks the very same question and the Doctor bites her head off.

Sue: Okay, steady on, I was only asking.

The Doctor tells the Key to place the Marshal’s ship in a localised time loop.

Sue: So the Key to Time is basically a ****ing genie? How many wishes do you get?

The Armageddon FactorWhile this is going on, Princess Astra finds Merak lying at the bottom of a very deep hole.

Sue: This is getting a bit weird now. Has he shrunk? She looks massive.
Me: Don’t be silly. The plot to this story is weird enough without people shrinking in it.

K9 picks up a distress call.

K9: Please identify source of distress.
Sue: My ****ing ears are the source of the distress! Turn that bloody alarm off!

K9 investigates the source of the signal and he is transported to the Shadow’s lair on the third planet (keep up at the back).

Sue: Ooh, K9 is getting his own little adventure. That’s nice.

But it’s anything but nice and the episode ends with K9 under the thrall of a new master.

Sue: Bad boy.

 

Part Five

The Armageddon FactorEarly in the episode, the Doctor passes himself in a corridor.

Sue: Is he part of the time loop, now?
Me: No.
Sue: This is ****ing confusing.

The Doctor communicates with the Shadow and he tells him that he knew he was controlling Princess Astra from the very beginning.

Sue: And did it ever cross your mind to tell Romana this? You know, just before you let her wander off with her?

The Shadow tells the Doctor that he works for the Black Guardian.

Sue: So this bloke isn’t the Black Guardian? This is very confusing.

The Doctor suddenly bumps into a figure from his past.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Who the hell is that?

He’s Drax, and he greets the Doctor like he was an old friend.

Sue: Eh? Have I missed something? Or have I forgotten something? Or am I just thick?

Drax says he studied with the Doctor at the academy on Gallifrey.

Sue: He calls is Gallifree as well. Bloody hell.

He says he was good at all the practical stuff, but he wasn’t so hot on the theory.

Sue: I have met hundreds of students just like Drax.

Drax addresses the Doctor by the name Theta Sigma.

Sue: What? Is that his name? That’s his real name? (pause) That’s disappointing.
Me: It’s a nickname. Probably. I don’t ****ing know.

The Armageddon FactorDrax says he picked up his ridiculous cockney accent when he was stranded in Brixton for a while.

Sue: So what was he doing when all those alien invasions were kicking off? Why didn’t he ask UNIT for a job?

Drax suggests that the Doctor’s moniker is purely academic.

Sue: Is there a Time Lord who calls himself the Bachelor? That could work.

The Doctor tackles a possessed K9 and Drax removes the Shadow’s control device from his collar.

Sue: Why does the bad guy stick that thing on people’s necks where everyone can see it? Why doesn’t he stick it where the sun don’t shine? No one would find it there.

The Armageddon FactorThe Shadow revels in a good old “HA! HA! HA!” at everybody else’s expense.

Sue: It’s a bit panto, this.
Me: Oh no it isn’t.

The episode concludes with Drax pointing a rifle shaped device at the Doctor. He pulls the trigger and the Doctor begins to shrink.

Sue: So is Drax the bad guy after all, or is his just an idiot?

As the credits roll, Sue shrugs her shoulders. She has nothing left to say.

Me: I know quite a few people who hate that episode. Some of them think it’s the most boring episode of Doctor Who ever to be produced.
Sue: Then they are quite mad. That episode was just as bad as the other four. No better but certainly no worse. It’s just slow and cheap. I like some the ideas but they are dragging it out. I’m bored now.

 

Part Six

The Armageddon FactorMe: Are you still excited to see how it ends?
Sue: A little. Not as much as I was when we started this, but I’m still curious.
Me: How would you like it to end?
Sue: I want the Man from Delmonte to pat the Doctor on the head and say “Well done, Doctor. You are a very good Time Lord”. Something like that would be nice.

Drax turns the gun on himself and he ends up a few inches tall, along with the Doctor.

Sue: What? Why did he do that? Who thought that would be a good idea? The idiot!

Back on Atrios, Shapp tries to work out what Astra’s connection to the sixth segment might be.

The Armageddon FactorSue: June!
Me: Yes, we’ve already done that.
Sue: I can’t help it. Look at him. Separated at birth.

Speaking of weird births, Princess Astra drops the bombshell that she is the sixth princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth Royal House of Atrios.

Sue: I knew she was the sixth segment. It’s so obvious. Her bracelet would have been an anticlimax, and what was left? I feel sorry for her. She really drew a shit card when she was born.

The Doctor and Drax discuss the best way to tackle the Shadow.

The Doctor: Small is lovely.
Drax: Big is better, though, innit?
Sue: I’m saying nothing.

The Armageddon FactorThe Shadow tries to access the Doctor’s TARDIS but he is stopped in his tracks by a blinding light.

Sue: Okay, so what’s causing that? Is that the Key doing that, or is it the TARDIS? Hasn’t the bad guy got any sunglasses that he can put over his wonky mask?

Merak risks life and limb by infiltrating the Shadow’s ranks.

Sue: He really loves Astra, and she is going to turn into a perspex puzzle piece. It’s tragic, really.

K9 transports Drax and the Doctor into the Shadow’s throne room.

Sue: It that K9’s theme tune? It’s very jaunty.

Astra accepts her destiny with open arms.

Sue: She can’t wait to be turned into a lump of plastic. That’s weird.

Princess Astra is transformed into the sixth segment and the Shadow is triumphant.

The Armageddon FactorSue: Oh dear, he’s showing us his sex face.

Just as the Shadow looks like he will break the time loop, dooming Atrios and Zeos to obliteration, Drax turns the Doctor back to his normal size.

Sue: Why didn’t you shrink the bad guy first? You idiot!

The Doctor grabs the Key to Time and he runs back to the TARDIS with Romana.

Sue: They are leaving without K9!

The Doctor returns to Zeos where, with some help from Drax, he defuses Mentalis.

Sue: We had exactly the same scene last week. That’s sloppy script editing.

The time loop is removed and the Marshal joins reality again. He launches his missiles and –

Sue: He missed! He actually missed a whole planet. That has to be the worst miss in the history of Doctor Who, and that’s really saying something.

The missiles destroy the Shadow’s planet of evil, but the Black Guardian isn’t all that bothered, really.

The Armageddon FactorSue: So that’s the Black Guardian. I bet he has a negative personality. Because they are –
Me: Yes, I get it.

Drax leaves the Doctor and Romana to it.

Drax: Remember me to Gallifree!
Sue: You were a terrible actor. Goodbye!

The Doctor and Romana have the Key to Time in their possession. The Doctor shows us what might happen if he ever turned into a raging psychopath.

Sue: Mental. There’s no other word for it.

The White/Black Guardian appears on the TARDIS scanner to claim the Key.

Sue: We already know that he isn’t the White Guardian, and it’s pretty clear that the Doctor doesn’t believe that he’s the White Guardian either, so where is the tension supposed to come from in this scene?

The Doctor defies the Guardian and he scatters the Key’s segments through time and space again.

Sue: That’s it?
Me: That’s it.
Sue: Give me strength.

The Armageddon FactorThe good news is Princess Astra gets to live.

Sue: That’s nice. She definitely comes back in the series later. I’m sure of it.
Me: Did you like her?
Sue: She’s a bit posh. Pretty, though.

The Doctor fixes a randomiser to his TARDIS to stop the Black Guardian from following him.

Sue: So he’s put his TARDIS on shuffle?
Me: Something like that.
Sue: And he’s basically broken it again in the process. Brilliant.

As the credits roll, I ask Sue to sum up.

The Armageddon FactorSue: It was a massive anticlimax. I knew it would be. I don’t even know what happened at the end. Where was the White Guardian when all that was going on? I bet an eight year old would be disappointed by that. What did you think of it when you first saw it?
Me: I don’t remember.
Sue: Exactly. I rest my case.

 

The Score

Sue: I really like story arcs but that was a complete waste of time. And six parts, too. On the plus side, K9 had a big part and some of the ideas were interesting. The director did his best but the acting was all over the place. The end of the Key to Time needed to be epic and meaningful. They had months to get it right but it still felt rushed.
Me: You could interpret the ending so that the White Guardian fixes the universe while the Doctor is chatting with the Black Guardian.
Sue: Yeah, but would an eight year get that when they first saw it? I doubt it.
Me: Douglas Adams wrote the last five minutes.
Sue: So what? They were the worst five minutes. It’s nothing to be proud of.

4/10

 

Coming Soon

 

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Comments

  1. Thomas Bush  July 25, 2012

    Congrats Sue! Are you ready for the next challenge? Douglas Adams has taken over as script editor, so be prepared for some rollicking and undecisive stories!

  2. Rob Shearman  July 25, 2012

    Sadly, I can’t really argue with that. Much as I might try.

    (Still, Sue liked it more than the majority of the last season, so things are still looking up, and my sunny optimism remains undaunted!)

  3. Darryl Gillikin  July 25, 2012

    Technically true about the last six part story. But I still fear for your safety come the middle of Colin’s first season. 🙂

  4. Rayo Jehghella  July 25, 2012

    I have *very* early memories of this. I’d just turned 4 not long before. The possessed K9 is quite clear in my mind still, though as a 4-year-old I interpreted it to mean that K9 was always a conduit for the Shadow, and that sometimes the Shadow was good and sometimes he was bad. It was weird to me to find out that the cute robot dog was actually remote controlled by the ugly man (who I misremembered as being Davros).

    I watched it again a few years ago. I seem to remember quite enjoying the random lunacy of the ending, much as I did with the Invasion Of Time, but it is a definite shame that they couldn’t come up with something better for the finale of the story arc, especially considering how strong some of the preceding stories were.

  5. Neowhovian  July 25, 2012

    But hey, cool sfx for that time loop, right? Right? ~sigh~ OK, maybe not.

    Looking forward to Sue’s reaction to the first ~5 min of the next one. 😀

    • SparkyMarky  July 25, 2012

      Yeah but it’s also Terry ****ing Nation time again!

  6. Dave Sanders  July 25, 2012

    Yeah… fair score really when you think about it. As good as the ideas in the first half are presented, right up to the wonderful point where you can almost see K9 visibly blanche when he simply says “…..everything.”, as soon as it turns into a runaround in some caves (and why the f**k are there cave tunnels in an obviously artifical satellite anyway?), it all falls completely to bits.

    You want to know what the real weak link in The Armageddon Factor is? It’s not Merak, or Shapp, or even Drax, who is ‘lovable’ when you’re nine years old and at no other point in history, but annoyingly impossible to simply write off since he provides the heavily-signposeted Chekov’s Doohickey that resolves the plot. Nope, the weak link is the Shadow. Don’t just take the Black Guardian’s word for it – he’s a SHIT villain, apply named for being devoid of any substance whatsoever. Nothing about his motives or methods make any sense, and his on-screen weaknesses are writ so large, just whip out a laser pointer he’ll be running away from it in exactly the way that cats don’t. The only thing he’s got going for him is patience, and he doesn’t even utilise that properly; clealy he’s been monitoring Atrios directly for years, long enough to watch Astra grow up; he knows all about the sixth-sixth-sixth bollocks but he’s never ever twigged to it, the berk.

    And what on earth is the Atrios / Zeos war FOR? Practice? All it does is make the Shadow’s job harder. What if Astra had died in the bombardment, or in K-block, or a million other possible times since the war started? And when DID the war start? It’s left irritatingly unstated as to when and how Zeos was left empty. Did the Shadow have them destroyed? There’s no evidence to suggest it (and if the Shadow can wipe out a whole planet, why piss about with Atrios like this anyway, other than boredom?), and for all we can see, they just got up and left. So then, er, how did the war actually start? Was Mentalis the one to declare it, and nobody realised? Because from what Shapp tells us, it doesn’t sound like the Zeons did. And if the idea in the end is for Mentalis to go foom and take out the whole system, what was expected to happen to the third planet, smack dap in the middle, which ultimately gets taken out by a few poxy missiles?

    Yes, I still like The Armageddon Factor on the whole, but it’s woefully unbalanced and much of the second half is at best wallpaper, and at worst arrant piffle. Typical Bob ‘n Dave then. Synaptic adhesion? Yes, that’ll be my braincells melting and running into each other.

    Oh well. Season 17 to look forward to, or as I’m calling it, the Roald Dahl season – Tel of the Unexciting, Tales of the Uncredited, Tales of the X-Rated, Tales of the Intoxicated, Tales of the Inexpensive, and Tales of the (Expletive Deleted).

    • Leo  July 25, 2012

      Me: You could interpret the ending so that the White Guardian fixes the universe while the Doctor is chatting with the Black Guardian.

      Sue: Yeah, but would an eight year get that when they first saw it? I doubt it.

      ***

      I was seven when I first saw it, and while I didn’t pick up on it at the time, I hadn’t really picked up on what the reason for the quest for the Key at the time was either, so they kind of cancelled each other out…

      At 43 for the season, that’s a rather higher mark than 22 for the last one, by the way…

    • Leo  July 25, 2012

      The original draft of the script did include several Zeon characters, as it happens, and they seem to have all been removed after Anthony Read’s revisions and rewrites shortly before recording, so I’d suggest that’s probably why the question of what’s happened to them is unclear – I’m not sure why Read changed that aspect, might have been for budgetary reasons or because he felt their scenes weren’t substantial enough, maybe a bit of both.

      There’s an extra line in the book about how the Zeon survivors are probably hiding out on the other side of the planet, which might be Terrance Dicks trying to cover the question. The TV story isn’t clear on it, as although the Doctor speculates “There are no more Zeons on Zeos”, there is later concern expressed that “Millions on Zeos and Atrios” will die, suggesting that there might be survivors somewhere, and as only a very small part of the planet is shown, I suppose that’s a possible inference.

      I don’t think it’s ever made clear whether the Shadow started or is just fomenting the war, but the idea with Mentalis, I think, is that Drax built it at the Shadow’s behest and that the Zeons made use of it, before being either wiped out in the fighting or sustaining heavy losses and abandoning whatever buildings are shown in the story, while the computer carried on.

    • encyclops  July 25, 2012

      The great thing is that if you’re as thick as I am, you don’t think of all of these questions while it’s on, even when you’re watching it for probably the third or fourth time tops as an adult like I just did. By the time you’re saying “is that all then?” it’s over.

      I do appreciate some isolated elements here. Lalla makes Astra just appealing enough that I really don’t want to see her sacrificed to a quasideity’s magic talisman; Shapp’s just animated enough to be fun to watch in a story full of psychopaths and drips; K9 gets some great lines, and line readings; and I do like the last five minutes, once I know that it’s going to be quiet rather than spectacular. And really, if you’re ever going to have a generic villain, why shouldn’t it be the Black Guardian’s avatar? He is at least visually disturbing, with his skull communicator on Atrios and his half-mask and his oddly twisted face.

      Even Drax’s unfortunate qualities are offset by the fact that he’s the first and to my memory only Gallifreyan expat we’ve seen who isn’t either a villainous renegade, an aging pensioner, or part of the TARDIS crew. That’s very interesting and mythos-expanding in theory, if not in practice.

      This line:

      ‘The Shadow revels in a good old “HA! HA! HA!” at everybody else’s expense.’

      had me reveling in the same. The commentary for this season has been fantastically entertaining, and I for one am very much looking forward to next season in which, I must be honest, there is not a single story I despise. There is only one that I unreservedly admire, of course, but that’s not at all a bad record.

    • Frankymole  July 25, 2012

      I always took it that the Mutes/Mutts/Mutoes or whatever they’re called were the mutated Zeons, late of Zeos, now controlled by the Shadow. From the recent DWM Fact of Fiction it appears I was right.

  7. Alisaunder  July 25, 2012

    All that I remember about this is that I liked Astra, and really didnt want her to be the piece once it was revealed that she was. I remember the first scene of the next one though still to this day. Overall I remember not really enjoying the Key To Time much, though parts here and there. This wasnt one of them.

  8. EJR Tairne  July 25, 2012

    It has always seemed clear to me — and to my mind this is the only way that the story arc makes a lick of sense — that the Doctor never met the White Guardian at all. The entire adventure was a ruse put forth by the Black Guardian, since for whatever reason he was unable to undertake it himself. The devil always wears white, and all.

    It would have helped the point if they had gotten the same actor back again, of course.

    • Thomas  July 25, 2012

      Yeah, reading up on the behind-the-scenes stuff, they were originally planning that the White Guardian and the Black Guardian were one and the same, but Cyril Luckham (who played the White Guardian in Ribos Operation) had scheduling conflicts when they came to film this story, so that idea kinda went out the window.

      • encyclops  July 25, 2012

        Apart from the fact that it makes the Shadow at best a risky belt-and-suspenders sort of lackey, this scenario would have been far more interesting. It would surely have increased the fan appreciation of this season tenfold.

        • django  July 25, 2012

          Ever since watching the series when it first went out (I was 9) up to now, its never ocurred to me that the White Guardian was actually in this. We know he can change his shape, so I’ve always assumed that in ‘Ribos’ we had the Black Guardian pretending to be the White Guardian.

          As a child, the ending surprised me, but that was the only bit I enjoyed. By giving this a 4, Sue’s being VERY generous!

  9. kevin merchant  July 25, 2012

    Sue is right it was a huge disappointment when it was shown. It is better watching it again because you don’t have any illusions about it and can just watch it for what it is – Doctor Who doing it’s best when the money has run out and they’ve just managed to avoid the BBC annual strike

  10. Fuschia Begonia  July 25, 2012

    That’s the really odd thing: I have absolutely no memory of the Key To Time when it was on, although I remember Mary Tamm as Romana. I also have very clear memories of the first five minutes of the next episode, too, but nothing more. Odd what sticks in the mind of a seven year old

  11. Broadshoulder2  July 25, 2012

    I am a refugee from GB where one of the mods moved the entire thread from the ‘class’ series thread to one obscure place and the thing was buried. Its best to come straight to the website.

    Armegeddon Factor is fine but six parts does drag. Tom and Mary keep it bubbling along but even Mary looks bored by the end. She looks stunning during this one. Bond girl quality. It might have worked better as a four parter. I do like the KTT being fragmented at the end. Nice irony.

  12. John Williams  July 25, 2012

    “Sue: He reminds me of the bloke from Terry and June.

    Me: Terry.”

    Brilliant, as was the whole of the Key to Time season. Can’t wait for Season 17.

  13. John Callaghan  July 25, 2012

    Another fun commentary!

    And another missed opportunity, script-wise: if Romana had nobly given up one of her lives to save Astra, it would have been a nice way to have the apprentice step out of her mentor’s shadow, and to explain why she looks like her.

    But then, we wouldn’t have the first five minutes of Destiny!

    Does Sue hear Glen’s trailers, by the way? Do you vet then for spoilers first, Neil?

  14. Silent Hunter  July 25, 2012

    I’ve actually decided to get the box set for this season based on these reviews. Except something on these in the future on Phoenix’s blog.

    Going back to the story, would you agree that most six-parter are two episodes too long?

    • Peter J Ross  July 25, 2012

      There’s an essay by G K Chesterton in which he discusses the common complaint that Sir Walter Scott’s novels are too long. To paraphrase Chesterton’s answer: If you like that kind of thing, why would you want to have less of it?

      I feel much the same way about six-part Doctor Who stories as Chesterton felt about Ivanhoe et al. I don’t mind if the story is spread thin as long as it’s still entertaining.

      The problem with The Armageddon Factor isn’t that it’s too long, or even that it’s particularly bad. It’s just a huge let-down after the excitement and humour of the previous stories in the set. It’s like reading Waverley, Guy Mannering and The Antiquary with ever-increasing pleasure, only to be disappointed by The Black Dwarf.

      Anyway, this isn’t about your opinions or mine. It’s about Sue Morecambe and Neil Wise, who continue to be the best Doctor Who double-act since Jago and Litefoot. Maybe 2Entertain can be persuaded to book them to a do a commentary?

      • encyclops  July 25, 2012

        Assuming your paraphrase does it justice, that seems an awfully fatuous argument of Chesterton’s. Just about anything in life that’s pleasant can be made unpleasant by increasing the amount of it past a certain point, but confining the argument to fiction: if you stretch it too thin, sooner or later you’re probably going to pad it with less of the kind of thing you like and more sawdust and scrapings. The question is not why you’d want less Ivanhoe if you like it; the question is whether you like all of it as much as you like the best parts, and whether it’s a drag to skim past the not-best parts to get to the good stuff. I’ve never read it, so I don’t know how consistent it is. I have read Chesterton, and I know that he was able to thrill me AND piss me off in a relatively short space, so I’m grateful he didn’t practice what he preached.

        I’m trying to imagine a six-part Kinda, for instance. I think it probably could have worked. I’m not sure a six-part Snakedance would have. Enlightenment? Maybe. Robots of Death? City of Death? As much as I adore them, probably not. But Seeds of Doom and Talons are great, and I don’t find them too long at all. I’d imagine, too, that if you watch even the lackluster six-parters episode by episode week by week instead of in one sitting, it’s less of “what a bloated mess” and more of “well that bit was kind of uneventful, but nice cliffhanger, maybe next week will be better.” Which is how I often feel with Game of Thrones and True Blood, actually.

        I feel that almost all of the New Who episodes are too short.

        • PolarityReversed  July 25, 2012

          Agreed that most new Who is too short to make sense of the blizzard of stuffy-wuffy thingy-wingys that they flingy-wingy at you. But then, unlike old Who, it is consciously being made to be rewatched.

          Arrmageddon Fedupwithis isn’t as bad as I remember it. Oh, it’s bad, but not awful on reconsideration. Proxy war, touch of the princess-rough trade romance, I even like the understated Taoist denouement. But they had to balls it up with corridor padding, a Time Lord equivalent of Arthur Daley and that needless rubbish about the Trojan dog…

          Farewell then Mary Tamm. Solid season of work, and well done for sneaking in under Sue’s poshometer.

          • encyclops  July 25, 2012

            My complaint isn’t that New Who is hard to understand; by and large, it isn’t, at least not in any way that really matters. It’s that the short stories are just hard to get into for me. By the time there’s any sort of interesting atmosphere built, the story’s just about over, and there has to be some incredibly rushed solution to every problem because there isn’t time for anything else. It ought to be better with the two-parters, but often it’s worse, because half the time they blow those on crap like “Rise of the Cybermen,” “Daleks In Manhattan,” and “The Sontaran Stratagem,” not to mention “The Hungry Earth,” and then they’ll give each episode a separate title so that I SHOULD have written “Rise of the Cybermen”/”The Age of Steel,” which, ugh.

            I was surprised about Romana too, what with the poshometer. Not that I blame Sue for having one.

          • PolarityReversed  July 26, 2012

            Check.
            I’m with you on most of that. Pacing is a problem these days. By the time they’ve let you figure out what the hell’s going on and who you’re supposed to care about, there’s usually only 5 minutes wand-waving time left. Different solutions for different times, attention spans and attitudes, I suppose. I do approve heartily of the modern-era guaranteed pre-titles screamer, though. Neat solution.

            We seem to be about 30 years ahead of ourselves. Neil will be cross.

            But padding is not my main problem with Armageddon Outahere…

          • encyclops  July 26, 2012

            Oops, somewhere I got the impression Sue had seen New Who, or at least most of it. I’ll zip it!

          • PolarityReversed  July 26, 2012

            Don’t think he’s bothered about spoilers for new Who, just likes things to stay on topic. Used to be a teacher…

          • Frankymole  July 26, 2012

            Mary Tamm wasn’t posh – she was from Yorkshire!

          • PolarityReversed  July 26, 2012

            Yup, but she had ‘lectrocution lessons, and spoke like proper cut-glass…

        • John G  July 25, 2012

          The irony is that pretty much all Who stories in excess of 6 parts (excluding Trial) are to my mind either very good or all-time classic adventures, and nowhere near as padded as many of the 6-parters.

          • encyclops  July 25, 2012

            I actually find the dreaded padding to be the least of Classic Who’s sins. One person’s padding is often another person’s suspense and atmosphere. The New Who stories are so streamlined that they’re often unsatisfying to me, as I’ve said above; they could benefit from a LITTLE padding in much the same way that your knees and your sofa do. And for some reason I snipped a remark from the above comment about how most stories work best at one length, and I think the many-parters that are great do so because the story has been given its proper length.

            That said, while I’d agree that “The Daleks” (to name one example) is undeniably an all-time classic, it really loses me in episodes 4-6ish. I don’t know whether that stuff could meaningfully have been condensed, but I never can enjoy much of it.

      • Wm Keith  August 4, 2012

        And, incidentally, didn’t Scott invent the Hartnell historical (and the character of The Doctor) with “The Antiquary”?

  15. Jamie  July 25, 2012

    No doubt Neil, you’ll be taking the alternate route to Paris: via the scenic sandpits and quaint quarries of Dorset.

  16. Lewis Christian  July 25, 2012

    I love the “I’ll take you to Paris next week” joke! Such a tease, Neil, and Sue has no idea! Roll on Destiny too!

  17. chris-too-old-to-watch  July 25, 2012

    Well done Sue: congratulations on managing to get through this without having to resort to a self-induced coma.
    Always found this story boooooooring as anything, so I quite agree with the score.
    Suprised Sue didn’t spot Drax as the pathologist from Midsomer Murders…..

    • Peter J Ross  July 25, 2012

      “Surprised Sue didn’t spot Drax as the pathologist from Midsomer Murders…..”

      I’m banned from watching Midsomer Murders with my counterpart to Neil’s Sue, since I tend to say “Look, it’s Drax!” and then repeat all Barry Jackson’s lines in an even worse Cockney accent than his was. “Hit’s too hearly to be shoo-ah ‘ow ‘e worz killed, hactually, me old china.”

      What surprises me is that Sue never recognised Mary Tamm from EastEnders. I can “marvel at her talent for spotting actors who have appeared in EastEnders” no longer!

      • Dave Sanders  July 25, 2012

        There’s the joke for Destiny part one then: “Oh look! Drax!”

        • encyclops  July 25, 2012

          I hope we have reason to establish an “Is it Drax?” counter very soon.

          • Jamie  July 26, 2012

            Could lead to confusion for Sue, whenever she watches Moonraker.

  18. DamonD  July 25, 2012

    “Sue: He reminds me of the bloke from Terry and June.
    Me: Terry.”

    Beautiful.

  19. Paul Mc Elvaney  July 25, 2012

    “Sue: Does the Doctor travel with two women? That won’t work.”

    Heh, just you wait, Sue.
    Another great review and a fair score. The finale could have been so much more…

  20. P.Sanders  July 25, 2012

    Agree with the score for this one, but delighted that overall Season 16 has gone down well – after Invasion of Time I feared it was all over for Sue. Really not sure now how Season 17 will be received. Destiny should be interesting – I really like it, but it seems to be the archetypal story for every non-Who-fan’s stereotypical idea of what Who was from that point onwards: shoddy daleks, silly-looking aliens, Tom Baker silliness, quarries, etc. Still thoroughly enjoy it though. I think it may have been the first Doctor Who book I read (and consequently my first “proper” book).

    • encyclops  July 25, 2012

      I think those silly-looking aliens look fabulous, but then I would.

  21. John G  July 25, 2012

    “I’ll make it up to you. I’ll take you to Paris next week.”

    I hate to be unoriginal, but that has to be one of the best lines in the whole experiment – very clever!

    I think Armageddon Factor is probably the nadir of Tom’s entire reign, just beating out Invasion of Time. It is incredibly tedious, the Shadow (whose name always reminds me of Blackadder the Third) is a pretty forgettable villain, and the ending is the single greatest anticlimax in the show’s history. I suppose it is quite subversive in its way, but it just makes the whole quest seem completely pointless. I do like the theory floated above though that the White Guardian we saw in Ribos was just the Black one in disguise, which would make much more sense of everything. Pretty much the only thing I find entertaining about the story is Tom’s “possessed” acting at the end, which is at least fun. It’s a shame as well that Mary Tamm gets so little to do in her swansong, and doesn’t even get a proper farewell.

    Still, I’m happy Sue enjoyed Season 16 so much overall, as I think it does deserve something of a reassessment. Time now though for the Silly Season (appropriate, given the time of year). I await Sue’s verdicts with baited breath…

    • Leo  July 25, 2012

      There’s at least two possible ways of reading the scenario. One, as mentioned, being that the only Guardian shown in the season is the Black Guardian, meaning that the whole quest is an elaborate trap set by him at the start which the Doctor only unravels right at the last moment, so as to deny him what he wants. The other, made more explicit by the book, where Dicks adds the line ” imagine the real White Guardian has had all the time he needs”, is that the Key only needs to be complete for the White Guardian to restore the balance – he doesn’t need it in his possession. This is suggested when the Doctor asks the Guardian if he can’t just do all this now ie before he’s given it to him, to which the Guardian agrees that he can, but that he needs the Key “for safe-keeping”. It’s the fact that the Guardian insists he needs to keep it permanently which confirms that he’s an imposter to the Doctor.

      It could be considered anti-climactic, but then it’s as well to consider what the most we could have expected was. There’s no way they’d ever have tried to show the effects of the rest of the universe being put back to normal on screen as, quite apart from budgetary considerations, it would be a very difficult kind of concept to represent visually within the programme’s production style anyway. Moreover, there wasn’t any attempt made to depict the opposite situation visually in The Ribos Operation either, when we simply had the Guardian’s reportage to tell us that chaos was approaching. This would have been right at the start of the season, with budget less of an issue, but it would clearly still have been awkward to render visually, for similar reasons.

      The most obvious way of the season ending would have been the Doctor giving the Key to the Guardian, and the latter saying something like “And now it’s all restored”, before he disperses the Key again, the end. They probably thought that would be a bit of a dull ending, rather too predictable, and so tried to spice it up by making it into a twist ending where the Doctor seemingly almost gets caught in a Black Guardian trap and avoids it right at the last moment. Someone, I think either Williams or Adams, is also on record as being uneasy about the power represented by the Key, but I think that’s a bit of a red herring at this stage. Whatever happened, it was obvious that the Doctor wouldn’t be keeping the Key for himself permanently, that would have been clearly unworkable and pointless, and if the White Guardian had done his work, it would have been dispersed again anyway, as the implication seems to be that that’s its usual condition. So, either the entire season is just an attempt at a trap by the Black Guardian, meaning that the background threat given in the first story wasn’t real, or it was genuine, in which case it’s already been resolved (off-screen as it always would have been) when the Key is dispersed again.

      • John G  July 25, 2012

        The two scenarios you describe would both have been,for me, perfectly acceptable ways to end the story. The problem is the script leaves things frustratingly vague, and so the overwhelming feeling I had watching was that the whole quest had been a complete waste of time. Also, while I agree with you that it would have been impossible to realistically visualise the threat to the universe, the final confrontation between the Doctor and the Black Guardian could have been made far more extensive and dramatically tense, conveying a clear sense of the looming danger. Instead, we get an annoyingly flippant five minute coda which completely fails to wrap things up in a satisfactory manner.

        • Leo  July 25, 2012

          Yeah, it’s a scripting issue really I think. And a tonal one to some extent as well, maybe.

          • encyclops  July 25, 2012

            I read the novelisation of this long before I ever saw it. It’s been a while, but doesn’t one of the scenarios you describe appear there? I had this recollection that there was dialogue outright stating that the White Guardian had set things right in the mere moments the Key was assembled, but when I watched it recently of course it wasn’t there. Did I remember that from the book, or just imagine it completely?

          • Leo  July 26, 2012

            Yes, as I said earlier, there’s a line in the book where the Doctor says “I imagine the real White Guardian has had all the time he needs.”

  22. BWT  July 25, 2012

    “Another robot dog? Has he been sniffing its circuits?”

    Yes, Sue. Yes he has.

    Well… it was better than sniffing arse. There was six episodes worth of that to get through…

  23. John S. Hall  July 25, 2012

    After the fact, I always wondered if the waves of entropy/heat death unleashed upon the Universe during “Logopolis” is the catastrophic event that the White Guardian foretold of at the start to “The Ribos Operation”?

    Judging by the on-TARDIS-scanner evidence, it looks like a good third of the universe was wiped out in February 1981, which surely has to count as the largest on-screen death toll in any “Doctor Who” story ever?? 😉

    • encyclops  July 25, 2012

      We are really going to spoil Sue if we’re not careful!

      • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 25, 2012

        Can I add my plea to this comment: don’t overtly discuss any episode until it’s review. Showing off your knowledge of the series will only spoil the “fun” Sue’s going to have.

        • Neil Perryman  July 25, 2012

          She has been banned from reading the comments. But yes, it would be great if we could stop spoiling stuff down the road. Cheers.

          • Frankymole  July 25, 2012

            The Black Guardian’s mates keep on about a state of perpetual chaos/war, anyway, into which the Universe will dissolve if they get their way. So anything we see in later seasons doesn’t quite tie up – though the Millennium Wars of the 1980-ish comics might apply.

          • John S. Hall  July 26, 2012

            [chastened]

            Sorry — let my enthusiasm get the better of me there… :-/

  24. jsd  July 25, 2012

    While I don’t agree with 4/10, I can’t argue with it either. Yes, it’s long and slow and doesn’t make a lick of sense. I’d give it a 6 or 7 just for sentimental reasons, and there’s enough stuff in there that I find entertaining. Hell, it’s worth 5 just for the “Are you listening to me Romana? Because if you aren’t listening I can make you listen” scene.

  25. Richard Lyth  July 25, 2012

    It’s a shame this was Drax’s only appearance – he had a lot of potential, and could easily have kept popping up played by different actors every time. David Jason or Ronnie Barker would have done a good job. Who knows, maybe Moffat will bring him back for the 50th anniversary, played by Russell Brand?

    • Frankymole  July 25, 2012

      …or Jonathan Ross?

      • PolarityReversed  July 25, 2012

        Or nobody ever. Ever.

    • John G  July 25, 2012

      “Who knows, maybe Moffat will bring him back for the 50th anniversary, played by Russell Brand?”

      If anything could finally put me off watching Doctor Who, I think that would be it!

      • PolarityReversed  July 25, 2012

        John –
        Watch it you, or I’ll phone your grandpa and lie to him about what we’ve been up to.
        Don’t you know I’m a genius and This Little ISLAND Can’t Hold ME ANYMOOOOORE?
        Hmmm. Reminds me of someone. Maybe Mops vs Bins will clarify.

        • John G  July 26, 2012

          I can just imagine this rant being delivered in front of a bizarre photo of a dictator, perhaps Kim Jong-Il…

          • PolarityReversed  July 27, 2012

            In a similar vein, we could have for the anniversary year:
            Ricky Gervais and Graham Norton voicing the daleks
            Jack Dee as a bored Davros
            Stephen Fry as the Pompous Guardian
            Paul Merton as a sardonic cyberman, doing a Charlie Chaplin walk
            Theme tune specially redone by Justin Bieber, Gary Barlow, Elton John and the remaining Rolling Stones.

            Possibilities abound.

    • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 26, 2012

      Considering the dreadful cock-er-knee accent, perhaps Dick van Dyke is available?

      • Jamie  July 26, 2012

        …..or David Tennant.

  26. Jazza1971  July 25, 2012

    Something I would like cleared up, and hopefully someone can help here (probably Greg). Back in the day when UK Gold were repeating Tom’s stories in chronological order I would watch them every Sunday morning – I had very few videos of the series and it was my only chance at the time to re-watch old stories. Anyway on the fateful morning that this story was due to be screened I switched on UK Gold and was rather confused to see Jon Pertwee. I sat watching for a while until a caption came on the bottom of the screen to say “Turn to Sky News for breaking news”, or some such phrase. In the adverts I flicked over and it then all became apparent as to why “The Armageddon Factor” had been bumped from the schedule – a story about a Princess who is sacrificed to complete the Key to Time not being appropriate on the morning that Princess Di met her final end….

    But here comes the part I would like cleared up. I clearly remember that the Jon Pertwee story being shown at the time was “Carnival of Monsters”, and yet the recent DWM “Fact of Fiction” article on “Factor” stated it was another story – “Planet of the Spiders”, I think. So is my memory cheating, or did DWM get it wrong?

    • Glen Allen  July 25, 2012

      As the person who chose that replacement Doctor Who story on UK Gold I can confirm it was “Planet Of The Spiders”.
      The sole reason being that we had no other 6 parter stories knocking about in the UK Gold library. Usually they were sent back to the Beeb after TX.
      I wasnt convinced it was necessary to change the story to be honest but bearing in mind everyone was treading on eggshells at that time. I went scurrying around the library and it had to be a six parter to fit the original slot left by ARMAGEDDON.

      • Glen Allen  July 25, 2012

        p.s Who’s Greg?

        • PolarityReversed  July 25, 2012

          Ah, so that would have been The People’s Spider, introduced by Tony Lupton?
          I do sympathise Greg (you do know that’s going to stick now, right?) I was working for a paper at the time and nobody dared so much as break wind without say-so.

          • Jazza1971  July 25, 2012

            If it is any consolation to Greg/Glen, I am a school teacher and I am always calling the kids by the wrong names. I end up just calling all the boys “Bob” and all the girls “Gertrude”…it’s easier that way.

      • Jazza1971  July 25, 2012

        Cheers, Greg! I knew you would know. Funny how in my mind it is clear as anything that it was “Carnival” – it really is a proper memory cheating moment!

        • Jazza1971  July 25, 2012

          I know…I just realised that myself. Damn, my memory is shit! Sorry Glen!

          • Jazza1971  July 25, 2012

            My only excuse is that I knew somebody called Greg Alan (different spelling). I should really lay off the wine…

          • PolarityReversed  July 25, 2012

            Don’t be so sheepish. He’s a big boy.

      • Tim Cook  July 25, 2012

        UK Gold voiceovers and listings always refered to Atrios as ‘Atrics’, which was annoying, as it reminded me too much of ‘Adric’.

  27. Tim Cook  July 25, 2012

    My sole memory of watching this as a 6-year-old was bursting into tears when it looked like K9 was heading for a meltdown. Odd thing was, I knew K9 wasn’t going to be killed off, but they very idea was enough to set me off. Come to think of it, wasn’t there a breakdown in transmission during one of the episodes?

    As for Drax, it was nice to see at least one ‘ordinary’ rogue Time Lord, just interested in earning a living rather than taking over the galaxy.

    • Wholahoop  July 26, 2012

      If you lived in the North West of England and your TV got its signals from the Winter Hill transmitter – it’s somewhere near Bolton, visible from the M61 and I have actually been walking up there, around 1995 I think, but I digress. Anyway if you were watching the original broadcast of “K9 and Company” there would have been a break in transmission as the Winter Hill transmitter gave up the ghost part way because of some freak wintry weather conditions.

      At the time I was quite annoyed at missing the programme. I was however, not as annoyed as I was years later when I bought the video, watched the programme and realised I had just paid £10.99 for it

      • Wildean  July 30, 2012

        Actually the Winter Hill transmitter was completely out of action for pretty much the whole afternoon and evening. It certainly blanked out more than K9 and Company.

  28. Dave Sanders  July 25, 2012

    You haven’t told us Sue’s reaction to *that* Christmas Tapes rehearsal outtake…

    “Yeah, you never f**king know the answer when it’s important.”

  29. Longtime Listener  July 26, 2012

    Since cushion-throwing is apparently now off the agenda, how about a “Don’t be silly” counter?

    Alternatively, what about “Spinoffs pitched”?

  30. John Williams  July 26, 2012

    It’s been lovely over the past couple of weeks to hear Sue’s appreciation of Mary Tamm’s performance as Romana, so that makes it all the more sad and shocking that Mary’s death has just been announced. I’m stunned by the news. RIP.

    • John G  July 26, 2012

      Oh no, dreadful news, and I notice it was the wretched Big C again. RIP Mary, and thanks for the memories.

    • Jazza1971  July 26, 2012

      That is very sad. RIP Mary, you will be missed.

    • DamonD  July 26, 2012

      Just heard too, terrible news. RIP 🙁

    • Frankymole  July 26, 2012

      62 is no age to go, these days. I’m very distressed by this news; there’s been such a lot of bad news lately – the BBC article mentions Mary Tamm’s contemporaries like Angharad Rees who recently passed away, and of course Caroline John too. I’m also still reeling from Philip Madoc’s passing, although he had a longer innings.

      I suppose the news can’t feature the births and marriages of Dr Who stars (or their babies!) but it might be nice to hear more about their doings whilst they’re still with us: “Light bulb still on!” It’s been lovely hearing Sue’s fresh perspective on the First Romana stories – and as a fan I do appreciate Mary Tamm’s commentaries on the DVDs. Her “Tomorrow’s Times” was also amusingly-delivered.

      • PolarityReversed  July 27, 2012

        Well we did get Who births, marriages and babies all wrapped up in one news story recently.
        Agreed though – the closing “kitten rescued from tree” news item (the “pudding” as it was known by some in the trade) seems to have fallen out of fashion.

        • Frankymole  July 28, 2012

          Yes, the “and finally…” story now seems to have been replaced with “now, finality: mortality”. Oh well no doubt the pendulum will swing back after a decade-plus of increasingly depressing news.

          • Dave Sanders  July 28, 2012

            It’s worse on the internets – boot up any mail or messenger program like AIM, for purposes other than looking at ‘news’, and the homepages that EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN ONE will bring up consists of nothing but LOOK AT EVERYONE WHO DIED SINCE YOU LAST LOGGED ON splattered all across the front pages. I don’t want to be repeatedly told that shit, thankyouverymuch. At least with TV news you get the option of not turning it on in the first place.

  31. chris-too-old-to-watch  July 26, 2012

    Quite agree John: devastating news on radio. I was always disappointed by her departure from Who, as I felt she could have become even more popular than she was.

  32. StevieH  July 26, 2012

    Another sad sad day for Whovians..ironic too that Neil and Sue have just completed Mary’s era.

  33. Thomas  July 26, 2012

    RIP Mary Tamm. Ribos Operation was my first classic episode, and as such, Romana was my first classic companion. She will be missed. 🙁

    As for this story, I will unabashedly say that I LOVE The Armageddon Factor, and consider it an objectively good story to boot. To explain- the serial as scripted is bland and uninteresting. Baker and Martin wrote a very typical ‘epic’ end to the arc that just sums it all up in a very dull way. But with the rewrites from Read and Adams (which apparently only lends to the final scene, though I’m inclined to think Adams lent his hand to other parts of the script as well) and the subsequent production, there’s an interesting gap that happens between the script as written and as executed.

    Basically, no one in the whole thing is taking it seriously. Woodvine and Squire are being glorious Hamms, Tamm and Baker are just having fun, and basically it feels like the whole cast and crew are having the time of their lives (even Leeson gets some fun moments). What ends up happening is that the serial plays out like a subversion of expectations- “Here’s all the things you expected this overblown finale to have, so we’re gonna give it to you and show you how ridiculous it all is to being with”. So we have the Evil Villains of Evilly Evil being completely laughable and worthless, the Romantic Love Hero being a wet rag, and the whole thing just being played for fun and laughs.

    That’s not to say they’re intentionally making it bad- that’d be silly. Rather what’s happening is that the story treats the Key to Time arc as being rather silly to begin with- hence the key being broken up again at the end (the implication being that the Doctor really doesn’t give a flip about the White Guardian getting ahold of it). Though I don’t think this necessarily invalidates the rest of the arc- character-wise, Romana grows a lot throughout the season, and I do think there are some interesting things to be learned from the season as a whole (plus, any season with Ribos Operation and Pirate Planet can’t be completely worthless). So basically, if you treat the story as a giant parody of traditional sci-fi epics, it’s a ton of fun.

    Now, this reading doesn’t entirely save the story. For one thing, although a subversion of epics is rather clever, I can’t see it being a very worthwhile resolution for children. Plus, the decision to keep the Black Guardian to the very end is a stupid one (just have Squire play him and get rid of the Shadow altogether). Drax just doesn’t work, though for what reason I just don’t know (it’s not the acting- something about the character as written just seems off, though I do enjoy him anyways), and there are several completely bewildering moments that stick out amongst everything else (a number of the cliffhangers, for example). But on the whole, I think that reading saves a good part of the serial, and at least for me, makes it immensely enjoyable. I love Season 16. One of my favorites.

    • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 26, 2012

      So your reading of Armageddon is that it’s good because no one takes it seriously?
      That’s when the worse productions occur, whether on film, TV or the stage. Actors, director, producers and backstage crew must take their productions seriously, whether it’s high drama or the lowest farce. If they don’t then how can the audience? Even in “non-serious” productions, for example Police Squad and the Naked Gun films, everyone involved believes in what they are doing, and presents their world as being real. Even when artists break the fourth wall (e.g. Up Pompei), it is not because they aren’t taking things seriously, but because they believe (or at least pretending to believe) the situations they are in are real, honest and truthful, and they are taking the audience into their confidence.
      Sorry to have a rant, but all too often well-loved series can get away with sloppy acting and production values because there are too many fans willing to forgive them.

    • PolarityReversed  July 26, 2012

      “Romantic Love Hero being a wet rag”
      Par for the course these days, innit? Actually, back in the day as well – I mean Leela’s squeeze was hardly Brad Pitt was he? Nope, seems the only people allowed to do cool and thrusty things to inflame passion are the Doctor himself and Captain Jock Harness.

      Fair enough, you can enjoy stories like this as camp subversion a few decades on. But I’m far from sure that was the intention at the time. Always interesting when Tom clowns up a story – you’re never quite sure whether it was planned or he just thinks the script is a load of old Shapp.

      • Thomas  July 27, 2012

        I don’t mean to say they aren’t taken it seriously at all, per se, just that they’re having enough fun with it that the story comes across as comedy more than anything else. If it was taken with 100% seriousness it would have been utter crap, but there’s just enough of a tongue-in-cheek quality that it allows it to be enjoyable. “Camp subversion” is a very good way of putting it (though I loathe the word ‘camp’). It’s much more along the lines of something like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though unfortunately not as smart.

        And yeah, it’s doubtful it was much of the intention at the time- like I said, I think the Adams rewrites and the general feeling I get from the cast lend to the point, but I don’t think they went into it saying “let’s do a complete subversion of epics!”. I think of this as more on the lines of one of Sandifer’s ‘redemptive readings’ than anything else.

        • PolarityReversed  July 30, 2012

          Sorry – didn’t mean to cause offence re “camp”, to you or anyone else here.
          I meant “camping it up” in the context of a bit of showboating, improvised, baudy, irreverent send-up, rather than the problematic and divisive “Jules & Sand”-type connotation.

  34. Frankymole  July 26, 2012

    I think the reason Drax was “stranded” in Brixton, specifically, is that it is implied he was stuck in the prison there. Hence why he didn’t help UNIT out.

  35. Dave Sanders  July 26, 2012

    Much like Matt Smith, I think the beauty of Mary Tamm’s portrayal is in how successful she was in giving Romana an air and presence of being so much ethereally older and than you’d have thought possible beforehand. If Tamm hadn’t given Tom Baker such a good run for his money with dialogue and screen presence, would this have come off so well?

  36. John S. Hall  July 26, 2012

    Has Sue been told the dreadful news about Mary Tamm yet? 🙁

    Mary made glamour and being Tom Baker’s on-screen equal seem so effortless, and I know we’ll all miss her terribly…

    • Neil Perryman  July 26, 2012

      Yes, I’ve told Sue. We are both gutted. RIP Mary Tamm, you were amazing.

      • James C  July 26, 2012

        This is terribly sad, and I’m sorry for you and Sue for the timing. It’s a quirk of fate that has brought her back into our collective mind these last couple of weeks, and yours most of all.

        At the same time it’s lovely that these blogs celebrate how great she was, and to recognise how she improved the stories she was in, in this small corner of her career.

  37. Rayo Jehghella  July 26, 2012

    Really sad. I remember seeing Mary and Tom having a ciggie outside Milton Keynes shopping centre a few years back, and thinking how weird it was to a) see a Doctor and his companion just hanging around a shopping centre and b) smoking. But really exciting to see them both.

    We’ve lost too many 70s companions over the last year and a bit. 🙁

  38. Paul Mc Elvaney  July 26, 2012

    Gutted to hear about Mary Tamm. One of my all-time favourite companions. RIP

  39. Ozzy Baxter  July 26, 2012

    Talk about timing. At least Sue got to embrace and enjoy Mary Tamm’s Romana just as she was leaving this life. I can only imagine what extra significance it will be for ‘you-know-what’ at the beginning of next episode. RIP Mary. You really were the best of the Romana’s… 🙁

  40. Judkins Major  July 27, 2012

    Long time reader, first time commenter. One of my first thoughts when reading of Mary Tamm’s untimely passing today was of the weird coincidence that her era would conclude on Wife in Space. I’ve gotten such a kick out of the blog over the past few weeks, and it’s great to see that old stories like these can continue to affect viewers in so many different ways (even, I suppose, boredom). Many thanks for this great, hilarious, and thought-provoking experiment; it’s certainly encouraged me to revisit the well of old Who.

    As for “The Armageddon Factor,” I think that, though it’s a relatively unsatisfactory conclusion to the Key to Time, it’s an all right enough story on its own. Merak’s a bit of a liability, but everyone else is amusing or hammy enough to make up for some of the dramatic weaknesses, and John Woodvine’s always worth watching. I always found the intrusion of the Shadow’s influence into the war between Atrios and Zeos profoundly creepy, with the bizarre plot twists adding to the sense that anything could happen. It’s a great story for K9, too, even as he’s faced with a seemingly unprecedented number of indignities. I’d go maybe six out of ten, but there’s room for considerable leeway. Very interested to see what the reaction to Season 17 will entail, not to mention Sue’s impressions of some of the uber-posh cast members…

    • PolarityReversed  July 27, 2012

      Don’t mention the P word. I’m dreading it.

      To be frank, I’m very fond of the guys, but given that Perryman Heights seems to be a pretty spacious and well tricked-out affair and both Neil and Sue seem to have their livings from skilled middle-class professions, I do get a little irked at anyone with an accent South of York and East of Exeter being knocked down as “posh”.

      Honestly. I know it’s really just a bit of fun knockabout, but we’re not exactly talking huddling around stotties on the 9th floor of a delapidated Gateshead estate, are we?

      • P.Sanders  July 27, 2012

        But if it’s the lovely Lalla we are talking about, then surely “posh” is appropriate – technically she’s related to royalty – her father is a Viscount, she is “the Honourable Sarah Ward”, etc. Doesn’t mean she should be judged on that (she clearly got the job on Who on her own merits and was great) but if anyone who ever worked on Who could be legitimately called posh, it’s her. Hopefully recent sad news won’t count against her though as she was delightful as Romana II.

        • PolarityReversed  July 27, 2012

          Fair enough. I genuinely do not want to stir this into something it needn’t be, but would like to make the gentle observation that there can be a bit of an idle pejorative edge in there. As in “so-and-so’s a bit posh, *but* quite good really”.
          My notion is “take as you find” (Lancastrian origins btw)..

          Interesting to consider that all the classic-era Whos had pretty unposh backgrounds (AFAIK), yet the role required RP diction. Such was the way of the acting profession at the time, but being the Doctor seemed to demand it anyway. Thirty years on, we got Tennant dropping his native brogue opposite Piper dropping her home counties ping and meeting in the middle with a slightly toned-down consensus of urbane ’00s gor’ blimeyness.

          Just a few observations. I’m not trying to start a fight!

          • Frankymole  July 28, 2012

            I don’t think Swindon is in the Home Counties…

          • PolarityReversed  July 30, 2012

            Oh alright. Drama school ping then. You know what I mean. I suspect the Swindon identification might be a touch of zeitgeisty biog cred. It’s still a long way from Wiltshire (urban or suburban) to RTD’s indeterminate geezerish Sarf London manor. Lor’ luv a dalek… (being born within a clue of Bow Bells isn’t actually possible anymore, but there’s quite a proud “cockney” diaspora.)
            Still, both of them were professional ac-tors “doing accents”.
            Plus ca change.

            PS Interesting piece on the World Service today about how a lot of foreign students are choosing to study English in Ireland, proposing that the accent is one of the clearest and least class-identified.

  41. encyclops  July 27, 2012

    Oh, you English and your adorable class distinctions!

    (Ours are much less adorable.)

    • PolarityReversed  July 27, 2012

      Give it time – we have had much more practice at it…

  42. Paul Mudie  July 27, 2012

    It’s very sad about Mary Tamm. I’m not a huge fan of the Key to Time arc, but she certainly added a lot to it with her charisma, intelligence and wit, and her chemistry with Tom Baker. The two of them make a great team on the auduio commentaries too. RIP.

  43. Ryan Hall  July 27, 2012

    Mary was my 1st Doctor who assistant i ever remember seeing and loving , thank you for that my darlin . RIP xx