Serial 5F:
The Armageddon Factor


The Black Guardian, the embodiment of evil and darkness, is closing in as the Doctor, Romana and K·9 go in search of the sixth and final segment of the Key To Time on the wartorn planet Atrios. Atrios is in a state of perpetual conflict with its neighbour, Zeos, and the planet's entire civilisation is being held together only through the tireless efforts of Princess Astra. But it soon becomes clear that there is more to the Atrios-Zeos war than meets the eye, and discovering the key to the mystery may become the deciding factor in the Doctor's quest for the Key To Time.


The sixteenth season of Doctor Who was complicated by producer Graham Williams' decision to unite all six stories under the umbrella storyline of the Doctor's search for the Key To Time. To compensate for this, Williams and script editor Anthony Read decided to approach Bob Baker and Dave Martin to contribute the climactic serial. Baker and Martin -- known as the Bristol Boys -- were Doctor Who veterans, having most recently written both The Invisible Enemy and Underworld the year before. Baker and Martin took inspiration from the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union to compose an adventure entitled “Armageddon”.

In Baker and Martin's original storyline, submitted on December 19th, 1977, both Atrios and Zeos were populated. Astra (at that point called “Reina”, a name later changed to avoid confusion with Prince Reynart from The Androids Of Tara) was an astrophysicist who had discovered the Shadow's planet lying between the two warring worlds. The conflict had arisen because Atrios and Zeos blamed each other for a catastrophic shift in their orbits; they were being egged on by the Shadow, known as “the Presence” on Atrios and “the Voice” on Zeos. The Doctor was forced to use the makeshift Key To Time to temporally freeze both planets' armies. The Shadow's own shadow turned out to be the sixth segment of the Key To Time. His plan was to use the powers of the Key to pit one half of the universe in war against the other half. The Doctor stopped the Shadow by unfreezing the Atrian and Zeon armies and giving each the coordinates of the Shadow's “Castle of Evil”.

Originally, the Shadow's own shadow turned out to be the sixth segment of the Key To Time

Recalling the Time Lord character Drax they had created for their original version of Season Fourteen's The Hand Of Fear, the Bristol Boys decided to resurrect him for “Armageddon”. They initially envisaged Drax as an elderly eccentric, thinking along the lines of the aged prisoner in the novel The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (originally published as Le comte de Monte-Cristo in 1844). Subsequently, they decided to portray Drax in the manner of a South London car salesman. They were partly inspired by Trevor Ray, who had been Doctor Who's assistant story editor during Season Six. Baker and Martin were commissioned to write the scripts for “Armageddon” on January 27th, 1978.

Around the end of the summer, the Bristol Boys decided to end their eleven-year writing partnership. Baker was interested in moving to the production side of film and television, while Martin was keen to return to the theatre and pursue a new career as a novelist. In fact, “Armageddon” would turn out to be Martin's final contribution to televised Doctor Who, although his subsequent literary endeavours included four K·9 novels published by Sparrow Books in 1980 and two Doctor Who: Find Your Fate editions published by Ballantine Books in 1986. Martin wrote occasionally for television (including an episode of Out Of The Labyrinth) before succumbing to lung cancer on March 30th, 2007.

With Baker and Martin no longer writing together, the burden of rewrites chiefly fell on Read's shoulders. Of particular concern was the cost of “Armageddon” and to this end, Read decided to eliminate the Zeons altogether, replacing them with the computer Mentalis. By the end of the script editing process, Read was being trailed by his successor, Douglas Adams. It was Adams who changed the serial's name to The Armageddon Factor, and he and Williams cowrote the Doctor's climactic confrontation with the Black Guardian. As originally written, the Doctor simply decided that he did not trust the White Guardian with the Key, and consequently scattered the six segments again to prevent anyone from controlling it.

The Armageddon Factor was designated Serial 5F, and was directed by Michael Hayes, who had just finished work on The Androids Of Tara. As Princess Astra he cast Lalla Ward, actually the Honourable Sarah Ward, daughter of the seventh Viscount Bangor. Having studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Ward had considerable experience on stage, television and film, including programmes such as The Duchess Of Duke Street, The Professionals and Armchair Theatre. Ward was also an accomplished artist, and had recently returned to show business after a spending a year painting in France. Ward immediately hit it off with the Doctor Who cast and crew, especially Tom Baker.

In October, Graeme McDonald advised Graham Williams to fire Tom Baker

Production began on The Armageddon Factor amidst simmering tensions behind the scenes. In early October, Baker had informed Williams that he would be leaving Doctor Who, a result of the actor's perceived lack of input in what he increasingly viewed as “his” programme. At the same time, Head of Drama Graeme McDonald had advised Williams to fire Baker. Towards the end of October, however, a détente was reached, with Baker agreeing to table his resignation until further discussions could be held. Meanwhile, Williams also found himself uncertain as to the status of his other regular, with Mary Tamm remaining noncommital on the topic of returning to Doctor Who for Season Seventeen. To make matters worse, it was becoming clear that the BBC was about to be subjected to another round of industrial action, something which had previously plagued the recording of The Invasion Of Time one year earlier.

Model filming for The Armageddon Factor took place at the Ealing Television Film Studios during October. Serial 5F then moved into the studio, where it was made in three three-day blocks, all of which were assigned to BBC Television Centre Studio 3. The first session ran from November 5th to 7th, and concentrated on the Atrios scenes for episodes one and two. Also recorded were the Marshal's preparations for departure in part three, plus the war room scene and Astra's resurrection in Merak's office for part six.

The second studio block spanned November 20th to 22nd. Material from episodes three and four on Zeos and in the Marshal's command module was recorded. All three days experienced delays due to the industrial disputes, resulting in the taping of the TARDIS scenes being deferred. Cyril Luckham, who had played the White Guardian in The Ribos Operation, was unavailable for The Armageddon Factor and so Valentine Dyall was cast as both the Black and White Guardians for these sequences.

At around the same time, Williams met with Tamm and her agent in an effort to clarify her status for Season Seventeen. Williams was eager to retain the actress, but she felt that Romana had not been developed as fully as had been promised. There had originally been suggestions that Romana might be an expert in disciplines such as archery and karate, but Tamm felt that Romana had instead degenerated into just another screaming companion. Despite Williams' efforts, however, he was still unable to secure a firm decision from Tamm.

Instead of a companion, Tom Baker suggested that the Doctor could talk to a creature perched on his shoulder

Aware of the situation, Baker offered his own -- intentionally bizarre -- ideas in case Romana did not return the next year. Unhappy with being saddled with a companion in the first place, Baker suggested that the Doctor could wander around with a talking creature -- a parrot or even a cabbage -- perched on his shoulder, to whom he could explain the plot. Alternatively, Baker thought it would be interesting to cast a very different kind of companion: a portly, out of shape woman in the vein of Miriam Margolyes.

The final recording session for The Armageddon Factor took place from December 3rd to 5th. This involved all of the scenes set on the Shadow's planet, with the TARDIS material taped on the final day (which also marked the end of Doctor Who's sixteenth production block). Williams opted to proceed as if Tamm would be returning the next year. Tamm herself, however, was now leaning towards leaving the show, and proposed to Ward that she might take over as a new incarnation of Romana. This suggestion came much to the delight of Baker, who had become very fond of Ward.

Finally, in mid-December, Tamm informed Williams that she would not be returning to Doctor Who; her departure was confirmed to the press on December 16th. In addition to her theatrical work, Tamm continued to make numerous appearances on television, including Jonathan Creek, Agatha Christie's Poirot, The New Adventures Of Robin Hood and Doctors. Starting in 2005, Tamm returned to the role of Romana for Big Finish Production, appearing in the Gallifrey and Companion Chronicle ranges. Tamm subsequently recorded a season of new adventures opposite Baker as the Fourth Doctor for release in 2013, but before these could be released, the actress finally succumbed to a long battle with cancer. Tamm passed away on July 26th, 2012.

Anthony Read had also finished up his Doctor Who duties by this stage. He would continue writing for television, including episodes of The Professionals and Sapphire & Steel, as well as The Horns Of Nimon for Doctor Who's seventeenth season. Read also adapted the John Wyndham novel Chocky and served as script editor on Hammer House Of Horror. In addition, Read became a prolific novelist, with publications including the Baker Street Boys series and several books about Nazi Germany, some of them written with his Doctor Who collaborator, David Fisher (author of The Stones Of Blood and The Androids Of Tara). Read passed away on November 21st, 2015.

Tom Baker agreed to a new contract on January 15th, winning none of his demands for control over scripts, directors or casting

Meanwhile, Williams was still trying to deal with Baker. The star had been offered a contract for Season Seventeen on December 15th, but after two weeks had still not acted upon it, apparently because he demanded to first be informed as to the identity of his new co-star -- even though the casting process for the new companion likely wouldn't take place until well into the New Year. Williams was now increasingly of the opinion that Baker had played the Doctor for too long, and asked his agent for a final decision on Season Seventeen by January 4th, 1979. This ultimatum was the final straw as far as Baker was concerned; he wrote to Graeme McDonald to renew his resignation unless he was given more power behind the scenes, and also decried the way he was being treated by Williams. The producer, in turn, informed McDonald that he would quit if Baker's demands were met. At last, McDonald brought Baker and Williams together to clear the air. Following this meeting, Baker finally agreed to a new contract on January 15th -- having been granted none of his demands for control over scripts, directors or casting.

Nonetheless, a few days later Baker was delighted to learn that Tamm's suggestion had been taken up, and Lalla Ward was being cast as a regenerated Romana. A new incarnation of Romana had not been Williams' only option: he had also considered introducing a brand new character, and had even toyed with the idea of casting a different actress as Romana in each serial (although this would have created storyline havoc in terms of devising reasons for each regeneration, and made continuity between stories very difficult). Ward was contracted for Season Seventeen on January 24th, and a photocall was held on February 6th.

By the time the sixteenth season concluded with the February 24th broadcast of The Armageddon Factor part six, Williams had finally brought some renewed stability to Doctor Who after months of uncertainty. Nonetheless, the strain of two difficult seasons had begun to take its toll on the producer, and Williams began considering whether it was time to move on from Doctor Who himself...

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fourth Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20369 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Seventies by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 444 1.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #223, 15th March 1995, “Archive: The Armageddon Factor” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #9, 22nd December 2004, “I'll Put You Together Again” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In·Vision #37, April 1992, “Production” edited by Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 20th Jan 1979
Time 6.25pm
Duration 24'39"
Viewers (more) 7.5m (93rd)
· BBC1 7.5m
Appreciation 65%
Episode 2
Date 27th Jan 1979
Time 6.27pm
Duration 23'56"
Viewers (more) 8.8m (49th)
· BBC1 8.8m
Episode 3
Date 3rd Feb 1979
Time 6.28pm
Duration 25'03"
Viewers (more) 7.8m (76th)
· BBC1 7.8m
Episode 4
Date 10th Feb 1979
Time 6.28pm
Duration 25'09"
Viewers (more) 8.6m (60th)
· BBC1 8.6m
Episode 5
Date 17th Feb 1979
Time 6.26pm
Duration 24'42"
Viewers (more) 8.6m (66th)
· BBC1 8.6m
Episode 6
Date 24th Feb 1979
Time 6.30pm
Duration 25'09"
Viewers (more) 9.6m (36th)
· BBC1 9.6m
Appreciation 66%

Doctor Who
Tom Baker
Voice of K·9
John Leeson
Mary Tamm
John Woodvine
Princess Astra
Lalla Ward
Davyd Harries
Ian Saynor
Ian Liston
Susan Skipper
John Cannon
Harry Fielder
The Shadow
William Squire
Iain Armstrong
Pat Gorman
Barry Jackson
The Guardian
Valentine Dyall

Written by
Bob Baker and
Dave Martin
Directed by
Michael Hayes
Produced by
Graham Williams

Incidental Music by
Dudley Simpson
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Production Assistant
Ann Aronsohn
Production Unit Manager
John Nathan-Turner
Mike Jeffries
Richard Chubb
Visual Effects Designer
John Horton
Electronic Effects Operator
Dave Chapman
VT Editor
Rod Waldron
Costume Designer
Michael Burdle
Make-up Artist
Ann Briggs
Script Editor
Anthony Read
Richard McManan-Smith

Working Titles

Updated 24th November 2015