The Armageddon Factor
Target novelisation
Dr Who and the Armageddon Factor

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1980
ISBN 0 426 20104 3
First Edition Cover Bill Donohoe

Back cover blurb: Some time ago, the White Guardian, one of the most powerful beings in the Cosmos, had set the Doctor an urgent task - to find and reassemble the six segments of the Key to Time. The Doctor and Romana had successfully retrieved five of the segments and now they have reached the planet Atrios in the middle of an atomic war, to search for the last, most vital piece. Sinister dangers await them in this final stage of their quest...


Showdown by Tim Roll-Pickering 23/2/06

The cover merely shows the Doctor and Romana wandering looking around a computer room, not exactly the image one would associate with the story. One has to wonder whether Bill Donohoe was given anything in the way of story information to create it.

Otherwise, this book seems to be lacking much of what makes the story work on screen. The early sequences now feel interminably boring as the characters wander around Atrios and don't really advance the plot very much, whilst the onscreen subtle mysteries feel incredibly pronounced, not least because of Dicks' willingness to include brief paragraphs that spell out points such as Astra and Merak's support for peace efforts before it is discovered or the Marshall's ruses being telegraphed. The trip to Zeos brings little in the way of relief and instead we get a rather confused run around on both planets.

A common criticism laid at the Key to Time season, and indeed at much of the series as a whole, is that grand events on an inter-planetary or even cosmological scale are often merely alluded to and never shown. Whilst this is realistic for the budgets available, it can occasionally result in all sense of context being lost. In print, there is no such restriction and if ever a book was crying out for a few additions to sort this out, it is The Armageddon Factor. There is no real sense of the scale of the conflict between Atrios and Zeos or of the problems facing the universe that the White Guardian needs the Key to Time to solve. Given Dicks' aim of trying to produce effectively a printed video this may be expecting too much, but the result leaves the book weak.

The Shadow's world is labelled "the Planet of Evil" and it's an accurate reflection on how the character is handled. Absent is the subtlety and intensity of William Squire's performance and we are left with a cliched villain in black. The plothole that Astra is deduced to be the sixth segment because she is sixth Princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth house of Atrios is even harder to understand and no attempt is made to explain how the Shadow knew that the Doctor would arrive with the rest of the key.

The final scenes are improved a little on the television, with the almost comical scene of the Doctor pretending to get delusions of godhood transformed by the suggestion that he is succumbing to the influence of the Key. But there's still nothing to really explain how the White Guardian can operate the Key merely because it has been assembled, and yet his exact counterpart the Black Guardian needs to actually receive the Key to use it. This is even more pronounced by the new line, "The Key's been reassembled for some little time now. I imagine the real White Guardian has had all the time he needs." Consequently the confusion continues.

Like so many of the books released around this time, Dr Who and the Armageddon Factor fundamentally fails to do much more than mechanically turn the script into prose. There's no sense of scale or mystery, whilst dramatic moments are squandered and cliché reigns. This book is one to avoid. 1/10

(N.B. The inside frontspiece says "Dr Who and the Armageddon Factor", despite the full "Doctor" being used on the cover and spine.)