Doctor Who #503: The Armageddon Factor Part 2

"Warm for the time of the year. It's a little trick I picked up from the fire-walkers in Bali. They do it all the time."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.27 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The Marshal makes an about-face and allies with the Doctor in the hopes of gaining some weapon against Zeos. Meanwhile, K9 is heading for the furnace.

REVIEW: Whoever is controlling the Marshal - some icky wax skull, so it's probably the Black Guardian through those skulled shadow guys - he changes his mind about the Doctor and now the Time Lord must be kept alive. That's a new kind of cop-out, I suppose, or we might not yet be able to see the larger picture. Maybe the villain's variable motivation will be explained later, but it means the Doctor isn't really in charge of his own survival. K9 doesn't make friends so easily and almost gets melted down, which leads to one on the more preposterous rescues of the era, as the Doctor uses fire-walking techniques to walk into a furnace unharmed and come out with what should be a red-hot metal dog. It's hard not to share the Marshal's confounded expression, let's just say.

By siding with the Marshal, the Doctor does learn a little more about what's happening. Atrios' fleet is down to six ships (now three) and the Marshal's military mind doesn't allow him to see diplomacy is the only option left. Obviously, he takes the Doctor's comment to that effect as a compliment. Nice tension in the attack scene too. While squadrons of barely-trained Atrian rookies die, Zeos seems fine, but as we know, it wasn't where it was supposed to be in Part 1. Is it being hidden, as the Doctor surmises, or is the truth more sinister still? Why does the Marshal have access to a T Mat platform that sends you straight to Zeos? Does he even know what he's doing anymore? As the episode progresses, he becomes more and more unhinged, ripping wires out when Princess Astra makes a plea for surrender on a transmission from Zeos, and twitching furiously when the Doctor mentions the word "neck" - in reference to the puppetry do-dad on his neck - just to screw with him. Major Shapp looks, for all the world, used to it, not even reacting when the Marshal tries to strangle him. Just another Monday at the office, eh?

The Doctor sends Romana away a couple times - as a look-out, or while he has a private chat with someone - which bodes ill for Mary Tamm to go out with a proper bang at the end of this serial. She does get a few good investigative moments, looking behind the mirror, for example, and discovering the princess' circlet ISN'T the segment of the Key. But alas, she also plays the part of the cabbage head as the Doctor mimes simple examples of what he means about Zeos' invisibility. Merak should be playing that part, truly. Speaking of the young surgeon, I dearly love the moment when he tells the Time Lords he loves Astra and their reaction ("Oh.") falls somewhere between embarrassment and "That never occured to me". That sort of asexual quality the Doctor has is shared by other members of his species. They're too cerebral to read emotion easily.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- Perfectly watchable, but some moments are rather questionable, especially the whole K9 jeopardy element.

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