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Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Armageddon Factor originally aired in 1979. It was the sixth and final part of The Key to Time saga.

The Key to Time was perhaps the first conscious attempt to tell a season-long story in Doctor Who. Sure, we’ve had elements of an arc before. The first season, for example, gave the Doctor himself a character arc where he evolved from cowardly curmudgeon into an unlikely heroic figure. Jon Pertwee’s second season was given the Master as a linking element. Tom Baker’s Doctor embarked in a pretty much unbroken series of adventures from Robot through to Terror of the Zygons, with the ending of one serial seemingly leading directly into the next. None of these were necessarily that ambitious and you could argue they evolved more by chance than by design.

So, The Key to Time represented a bit of a learning curve, an attempt to tie a season’s stories together using an over-arching concept. As I’ve discussed quite a bit in my reviews of the season, the result was a little clunky, with those concepts seemingly clumsily shoe-horned into a separate bunch of adventures. That leaves the finalé, The Armageddon Factor to do the heavy-lifting with regards to The Key to Time saga. Unfortunately, the pay-off feels a bit jumbled, over-wrought, disorganised and non-sensical, as it juggles a wealth of elements that never add up to more than the sum of their parts.

While a great many Doctor Who six-parters suffer from being too long, too padded, too stretched for their story and concepts, The Armageddon Game feels curiously over-stuffed, lacking a tight focus on the interesting elements and too many distractions clogging up the story.

The problems are crystal clear...

The problems are crystal clear…

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