The Armageddon Factor
Working Title: Armageddon.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), John Leeson (Voice of K-9), Mary Tamm (The First Romana).
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.
Very early in the process of putting together the Key To Time stories for Season Sixteen, it was decided that the veteran Doctor Who writing team of Bob Baker and Dave Martin should pen the six-part season finale. The Bristol Boys -- who had most recently written Underworld the year before -- put together a fifteen-page storyline called Armageddon by December 19th, 1977 and this was approved by the production team in early 1978. One major change made at this stage was in the nature of the sixth segment. Originally, this was concealed as the Shadow's shadow, revealed in the light of the Tracer. This was revised so that Astra (originally called Reina, renamed to avoid confusion with The Androids Of Tara's Prince Reynart) became the segment instead.
Script editor Anthony Read nonetheless had to perform considerable rewriting himself on the serial before it went into production, mainly for budgetary reasons. Originally, Zeos was a planet populated much like Atrios -- the Shadow influenced events on Atrios by visiting there are "the Presence" and on Zeos as "the Voice". Read removed all the Zeon characters, replacing them with the computer Mentalis. Most of the episodes also required extensive cutting, as they were severely overlength. It was around this time that Read elected not to renew his contract for Doctor Who, feeling somewhat exhausted by his season-and-a-half on the programme and eager to try his hand at writing a novel. Producer Graham Williams' first choice for Read's replacement was his immediate predecessor, Robert Holmes, but Holmes was not interested in returning to Doctor Who after less than two years away. At Read's suggestion, Williams turned to young writer Douglas Adams, who had written The Pirate Planet for Season Sixteen. Adams accepted the post and began trailing Read in mid-October, performing some additional rewrites on Season 5F, which he renamed The Armageddon Factor. In particular, Adams and Williams reworked the final TARDIS scene, introducing the confrontation with the Black Guardian (originally, the Doctor simply decided he didn't trust the White Guardian with the power of the Key, and rescattered the segments).
An all-studio story, The Armageddon Factor was made in three blocks under the auspices of director Michael Hayes, who had just completed The Androids Of Tara. The first recording session ran from Sunday, November 5th to Tuesday the 7th and included amongst its cast Lalla Ward, playing Astra. Ward (whose real name was Lady Sarah Ward) had done considerable stage, television and film work, including a semi-regular role in The Duchess Of Duke Street, and had just concluded a yearlong break from acting to paint in France. Although no one realised it at the time, Hayes' decision to cast Ward in The Armageddon Factor would shortly have major consequences for the programme.
The second block, from Monday the 20th to Wednesday the 22nd, saw considerable time lost due to the ongoing technical disputes (the same disagreements which had nearly caused the abandonment of The Invasion Of Time a year earlier). As a result, the TARDIS scenes due to be taped during this period had to be postponed to the third recording session, which occurred from Sunday, December 3rd to Tuesday the 5th. Fortunately, the addition of an hourlong morning session on the 4th and 5th made it possible for all the required scenes to be completed. Two and a half months later, episode six aired on February 24th, 1979, drawing to an end the experimental Key To Time season.
The conclusion of recording on The Armageddon Factor also saw the end of several individuals' tenures on Doctor Who. Mary Tamm held fast to her conviction to only do one season of the show and did not renew her contract for Season Seventeen, despite the fact that Romana was not given a proper departure scene in The Armageddon Factor. Tamm would restrict her acting career mainly to the theatre after leaving Doctor Who. Meanwhile, her co-star John Leeson also decided not to return for Doctor Who's next season, desiring to return more to fully-fledged acting as opposed to just doing voicework.
Read's official involvement as script editor ended with episode six, although he would return the following season to write The Horns Of Nimon. He also wrote for and script edited several other programmes, including Hammer House Of Horror and Into The Labyrinth as well as publishing a variety of books. Finally, during the production of The Armageddon Factor, Bob Baker and Dave Martin elected to dissolve their longstanding writing partnership (indeed, it was this event which contributed to Read and Adams having to do so much work themselves to massage the scripts). Although Baker would return to Doctor Who the next season, Serial 5F marked Martin's final contribution to the programme. Martin would continue to write for television and also penned several K-9 books aimed at young children. In the late 1990s he attempted to bring K-9 back to television in his own programme, but nothing has come of the effort as of this writing.