Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Armageddon Factor - "Your silliness is noted."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Armageddon Factor - Details

Season 16, Story 6 (Overall Series Story #103) | Previous - Next | Index

Astra and Romana via The Gallifreyan Gazzette
So the White Guardian needed the Key to Time to stop the universe and restore balance but, after all the work of collecting the pieces, the Doctor disperses it again, randomises off, and that's that. The universe didn't really need re-balancing then? I mean, what was the point of this whole arc? Well, at least the Black Guardian didn't end up with the thing.

At six parts, this wears out its welcome long before we get to the disappointing conclusion. By the time the Doctor's, errr ... Theta Sigma's, old college chum Drax, the Cockney Time Lord who bounces from Brixton to Zeos doing non-union electrical work, shows up we're off the rails ...

The Atrion soap opera intro to this story was a fun idea and works well. Atrios's real military leader, the Marshal, is a classic instance of a villain so obviously under the control of another power that it's kind of hilarious nobody thinks it odd he spends long stretches staring into the the mirror, touching the device on his neck, and issuing megalomaniacal proclamations when he snaps out of his little trances.

We're also introduced to Lalla Ward playing Princess Astra, the embodiment of the final segment of the Key to Time, in this story, so have the delight of seeing the current Romana with what we the viewer know will be her successor in the role. Much as I love Ward's Romana II, I can't help but feel a pang that this is it for the late Mary Tamm's Romana on screen. In addition to being strikingly beautiful -- does anyone not fall head over heels for her in that white dress? -- she's utterly charming and, when not dutifully fulfilling the damsel-in-distress function of the role, a brilliant foil for the Doctor.

Ms. Tamm passed away in 2012, far too young, but she did make some Big Finish Audios with Tom Baker prior to passing so there's a bit more of her Romana out there for me to track down. (I've been reluctant to start getting too deep into the audios though ... still have a long way to go re-watching the series! Can't get sidetracked or I'll be working this 'til I'm 80.)

This story bogged me down in my blogging mission. I kept turning it over and over looking for a way to write about it that would transmute it from a mostly boring and occasionally cringe-inducing story into something worth recommending and I keep coming up empty. Tom Baker, as usual, has some moments of manic charm that we can hang our hats on. Romana, as I mentioned, but it bears repeating, is lovely -- if blogs came with eye tracking that allowed us to play a tune when you reached a certain point in the post, you'd be hearing a snippet of Kevin Rowland crooning, "with you in that dress / my thoughts I confess / verge on ..." each time Tamm's Romana is referenced. The Key to Time sequence ended with a whimper. We never even got a proper farewell for Romana I.

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