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5.0 out of 5 stars Baker Unhinged!
This is very entertaining stuff. You need a sharp wit and sense of the fantastic to enjoy this one. If you want pretentious nonsense stick to the stilted McCoy stories. Only Tom Baker could carry this story off with such style. All the other doctors who came after him are pale imitations.
Published on July 19 2002 by Scott

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars "Your silliness is noted."
It's somewhat fitting that THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR features a time loop in the later episodes, as viewing this serial gave me a similar feeling of being trapped in an impenetrable sequence of technobabble. Watching the same footage over and over. Seeing the same plot twists mentioned time and time again. Observing identical corridor scenes with no ending in sight. My...
Published on Jan. 6 2003 by Andrew McCaffrey


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4.0 out of 5 stars Last story to the Key To Time is also the weakest, Jan. 31 2004
By 
Daniel J. Hamlow (Narita, Japan) - See all my reviews
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In their search to the final segment to the Key To Time, the Doctor and Romana land on war-torn Atrios, which has been fighting a war of attrition against its twin Zeos. As there's variable radiation counts even 140 meters beneath the surface, one can imagine what it's like on the surface. The Doctor jokingly says of the high radiation reading that it might not necessarily be nuclear war, that someone might be holding a huge breakfast party.
Things begin bad, as usual. The Marshall, the military leader conducting the war, mistakes the Doctor and Romana as Zeon spies, yet he does a volte-face and welcomes the Doctor as "the one to head us to victory." However, he's not all he seems. One, he makes his decisions by meditating and mumbling in front of a black reflective surface. Two, he has a tiny black object around his neck. Three, he and Princess Astra, a figurehead in charge of people's morale and comfort, are at odds what with her pacifist stance.
Astra and her lover, the surgeon Merak, are trying to contact Zeos to try to negotiate a peace, but something is jamming their communications. The same jamming that is blocking the navigation system of the Marshall's fleet, perhaps? First Astra, then the TARDIS, and then the Doctor vanishes, kidnapped by sinister masked figures in black robes. On Zeos, he meets his nemesis the Shadow, who's working for the Black Guardian in the same way the Doctor's working for the White Guardian.
The Doctor's condemnation of a war fought by machines is given when he describes the commandant of the Zeon side as a "passionless lump of mineral and circuitry, highly efficient, doing very well, giving Atrios a beating, killing millions without a flicker, just doing it's job, and it's totally invincible." Yet it's programmed to not accept defeat, and as the Doctor says, "there'll be a rather large bang, big enough to take Zeos, take Atrios with with it, and make the whole thing end in a sort of draw. That's the way these military minds work-the armageddon factor." But the story condemns war period; even the lamely romantic patriotic drama in the beginning is a satire on propaganda movies.
I agree with K-9's definition of optimism: "belief that everything will work out well. Irrational, bordering on insanity." And the Doctor lectures Romana on optimism, but doing an about face as he goes on: "Listen Romana, whenever you go into a new situation, you must always believe the best until you find out exactly what the situation's all about, then believe the worst." Romana: "Ah, but what happens if it turns out not to be the worst after all?" Doctor: "Don't be ridiculous. It always is." Classic Tom Baker comedy right there.
John Woodvine does an portrayal of the Marshall as a ruthless leader fanatical on victory. "You don't beg for peace... you win it!" he tells Astra. He's someone who'd use the ultimate deterrent, and when the Doctor ironically congratulates him on having a typical military mind, he takes it as a compliment, missing the irony. His patriotic speeches bear in mind Churchill's morale speeches during WW2, but with a more rabid edge. And Lalla Ward (Astra) would regularly appear as Romana in the next two seasons, replacing Mary Tamm.
But in Episode 5, we meet Drax, a renegade Time Lord who picked up a chirpy Cockney accent, and Barry Jackson's presence lightens things up when the story plods along.
As the final story to the Key To Time season, The Armageddon Factor draws it to a conclusion, but leaving with it an atmosphere of "Is that what it's all been about?" It also suffers from weak characters and continuity errors, such as Merak knowing things about the Key To Time though not told about it, and bad acting, such as the Shadow's diabolical laughter. The weakest of the six stories, although redeemed by the themes of the follies of war, especially total war. Rating: 3.5, rounded to 4.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lukewarm DVD material, Aug. 30 2003
By 
Jason A. Miller (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor (DVD)
"The Armageddon Factor" is a mostly funny representative of "Doctor Who"s late-1970s over-the-top years. It's the final episode of "Who"'s first experiment with what's now known as the "season-long story arc" -- the search for the Key to Time -- and shows the Doctor and Romana's completion of their task, and final confrontation with the Black Guardian, who it turns out has been opposing their move at every step. It comes from a time when Tom Baker, the Doctor, was reportedly hijacking the show with wacky ideas and random ad-libs.
The episode is pretty funny, if also silly. The plot is a little reminiscent of something you might find in a Douglas Adams' book, with two neighboring planets (the alphabetically opposed Atrios and Zeos) at war, only neither side has ever seen the other... and it turns out that nobody lives on Zeos, anyway. And then you find out that Douglas Adams actually worked on the story, so everything comes full circle.
The DVD was released in North America only, and lacks a lot of the special features you'd find on other "Who" DVDs released worlwide. Other discs in the "Key to Time" box set have a more impressive set of features, but "Armageddon Factor" is basically bare bones. The text commentary is more useful than usual, providing the original story breakdown by episode writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin. It's fun to see how the story was improved by the producers and script editors, although I like the notion that the 6th segment of the Key To Time was the shadow... of a character called The Shadow. Less useful is how the text spends minutes at a time listing the UK film and TV credits of all the guest actors. This is a North America-only release, remember?
The audio commentary can only charitably be described as "strained". There's a funny story from director Michael Hayes about how a typo in the original script led to the inadvertent creation of a race of alien creatures known as "The Gurads". The rest of it is tame bantering by actors John Woodvine (who was only in half the story) and Mary Tamm, appearing for the 3rd or 4th time in this box set.
"Armageddon Factor" is mostly enjoyable, and the text commentary alone makes it a step up from the VHS purchase.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "Your silliness is noted.", Jan. 6 2003
By 
Andrew McCaffrey (Satellite of Love, Maryland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor (DVD)
It's somewhat fitting that THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR features a time loop in the later episodes, as viewing this serial gave me a similar feeling of being trapped in an impenetrable sequence of technobabble. Watching the same footage over and over. Seeing the same plot twists mentioned time and time again. Observing identical corridor scenes with no ending in sight. My hand kept reaching for the big red button, but like the Marshall's pilot (hey, it's Pat Gorman, kids!) my fingers kept being smacked back before they could end it all. As the end to the Key of Time season, this story comes as a huge disappointment.
Tom Baker tries to save a lot of scenes with his own brand of bizarre humor. He only partially succeeds, and this just leaves the parts of the story that he isn't in with a huge Tom Baker shaped hole. Despite the threat of universal armageddon that the story presents us with, I simply couldn't feel bothered by anything that was going on. The plot concerning two major power blocs locked in a constant state of warfare is an idea that would barely cover three episodes, yet here it's stretched out to double that number. And while padding Doctor Who serials could sometimes result in sparkling dialog, engaging subplots and memorable extra characters, all that's added on here are excess corridor scenes, repeated time loop footage and clichéd villains.
One of the biggest flaws of this story is the real lack of urgency. Despite the huge stakes that the script offers, despite the endless series of countdowns, and despite the momentum of an entire season leading up to this, the story just seems to be hanging around with no serious weight to it. This is driven home by the inclusion of the Drax character, who enters the picture in episode five. In any other serial he would have been an amusing foil to Tom Baker's Doctor, but he's a bizarre addition here. He's the comic relief, but the story simply isn't as serious and grim as it thinks it is and therefore he's counterbalancing something that doesn't exist. It's a bizarre and haphazard inclusion. A pity, because there are loads of other Doctor Who stories that would have greatly benefited from a goofy character like Drax.
The serial really suffers from the annual "Oh my God, the season's over and we've no money!" syndrome. Their solution to the lack of a set budget apparently includes stripping down an old mainframe and gluing the circuit boards to the wall. Ho, ho, ho, futuristic. Yeah.
The DVD commentary doesn't really tell us anything that we didn't know already, save the fact that the cast and crew evidently found the story to be as boring as the audience did. It's a pity that they don't have much to say, and by the time the final closing credits roll, the three commentators seem utterly burnt out. Clever anecdotes dotted the first five of the Key To Time discs, but on this one the best story is about a silly typo on one of the script pages - a story that gets repeated far past the point of tolerance.
All in all, THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR is a let down after the five serials leading up to it. The production money ran out, the script ideas ran out, and what should have been a massive spectacular ends up looking like an unexciting mess.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Baker Unhinged!, July 19 2002
By 
Scott (Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This is very entertaining stuff. You need a sharp wit and sense of the fantastic to enjoy this one. If you want pretentious nonsense stick to the stilted McCoy stories. Only Tom Baker could carry this story off with such style. All the other doctors who came after him are pale imitations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Key to Time is the key to the Baker years, July 7 2002
By 
Robert Gil (Aurora, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor (DVD)
The tug of war that goes on between the two warring planets of Zeos and Atrios is just the backdrop for an intriguing end to the Key to Time landmark episodes. For the first time, the Doctor Who series carries a single mission throughout six distinct stories. The brilliant end to the series forces the Doctor to choose between the life of Princess Astra and time itself. This moral dilema is best outlined in the famed mantra of Spock in Star Trek II, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one." The subplot of the Doctor reunited with his old college chum is hilarious. The Troy-like ending with a brainwashed K-9 playing the trojan horse makes the ending even more fun. The tongue in cheek soap opera is quite humorous from the opening scene to the end. A lot of criticism is pointed at this show due to the rash ending, but hey, you cannot have the light without the dark! Oddly enough, the actress playing Princess Astra returns the following season as a regenerated Romanavoratrelunder.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Key to the Past, Present and Future, July 7 2002
By 
Robert Gil (Aurora, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor (DVD)
The tug of war that goes on between the two warring planets of Zeos and Atrios is just the backdrop for an intriguing end to the Key to Time landmark episodes. For the first time, the Doctor Who series carries a single mission throughout six distinct stories. The brilliant end to the series forces the Doctor to choose between the life of Princess Astra and time itself. This moral dilema is best outlined in the famed mantra of Spock in Star Trek II, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one." The subplot of the Doctor reunited with his old college chum is hilarious. The Troy-like ending with a brainwashed K-9 playing the trojan horse makes the ending even more fun. The tongue in cheek soap opera is quite humorous from the opening scene to the end. A lot of criticism is pointed at this show due to the rash ending, but hey, you cannot have the light without the dark! Oddly enough, the actress playing Princess Astra returns the following season as a regenerated Romanavoratrelunder.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Dr Who at its worst!, July 1 2002
By A Customer
This was a dreadful story, from the Shadow's hamming it up - "the key to time is mine!" - to the endless running around in caverns and corridors. There is barely enough plot to sustain four episodes, let alone six. A very disappointing end to the "Key to Time" series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The search for the Key to Time, ends....now, June 4 2002
By A Customer
This serial climaxed an entire season spent tracking down the pieces of the fabled "key to time and space". While some episodes were light hearted or satiric (in one serial, the key is located almost immediately, but plot twists rapidly turn the serial into a send-up of "The Prisoner of Zenda"), this serial is downright dark and foreboding.
BACKGROUND: the Dr., an incorrigible 700 year old expatriate of a master race, journeys across time and space (and delightfully bad special effects) in a time machine whose exterior resembles a London Police call box. In the season capped off with this story, the Dr. was recruited by the mysterious but apparently benign "White Guardian" to recover the key to time, the pieces of which have been scattered and their appearance altered. There was a Black Guardian as well, and the search is also a race to recover and complete the key before the Black Guardian. Though the BG makes no appearance until this story, the Dr. (and his comely if brainy assistant Romana) know their luck won't hold out.
In "Armageddon", the Dr, knows that he's on the verge of completing the key and, therefore, knows the BG is around. The story starts out on Atrios, one of two planets caught in an endless and debilitating nuclear war. Under direct control of The Marshal, an agent of the Black Guardian, the planet hurls at and absorbs devastating attacks from its neighbor, Zeos (not to be confused with the similarly situated planet in the Classic Trek episode, "Patterns of Force") while Atrians alleviate their suffering with a steady dose of propaganda TV. Arriving in a dingy corner of Atrios, the Dr. soon learns that the last piece of the keys figures in the interplanetary war that is slowly destroying both planets. In typical "Who" fashion, the Dr. arouses suspicion from those he first meets - the autocratic Marshal and his bumbling aid, Shap. There is a beautiful princess (Lalla Ward) in love with the heroic (but not quite as heroic as the script thinks) Merak, and the Marshal (in league with evil) is bound to exploit them all. The story shouldn't work - it's much too slow and not a lot even happens , and the nominal villain, another BG lieutenant called "Shadow" is unintentionally funny- but the script hints at the darker evil of the Black Guardian, and the tension he exudes keeps it all together.
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Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor by William Hartnell (DVD - 2002)
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