Doctor Who #504: The Armageddon Factor Part 3

"There's your enemy, Shapp. Runs everything. Attack, defence, surveillance, production, everything. The ideal war general. No glory, no speeches, no medals and no blood."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.3 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Everyone goes to Zeos where K9 acts as ambassador to a computer commandant.

REVIEW: A middle episode and it shows. The war is over, so has the Shadow decreed, but the Marshal just can't let it go, and must undertake one final strike against all reason. Clearly, he's been unhinged by the Shadow's manipulation, and can't see peace unless there is victory. It's a little unfortunate that a great actor like John Woodvine is given the most over the top dialog, allowing for very little nuance. Or perhaps he's just not feeling it. He's still better than Davyd Harries as Shapp, his John Cleese-inspired comedy performance at odds with the dreary nihilism of the serial. Why does he even get into the T Mat? He's gone from jaded officer to bumbling clown in between episodes.

William Squire's Shadow is about as mannered, but at least he's supposed to be in stark contrast with the Doctor, being the Time Lord's opposite number, an agent of the Black Guardian. Where the Doctor is casual, he's stridently operatic. It's not a GOOD performance, mind you, but it has the virtue of being OPPOSITE. Similarly, the Shadow is willing to wait a thousand years for the Doctor to make a mistake and make the segments of the Key available, while the Doctor is very much in danger of doing just that through his innate impatience. The Doctor is never better than when he's being insolent with his captors, and there's some of that before they let him loose (with a spooky disappearing act) to get himself into the required trouble.

And then the story slows to a crawl. There's some walking around on dusty Zeos as Shapp tries to out-bugeye Tom Baker. K9 is off looking for the Doctor, the Doctor out looking for K9, Romana out looking for Merak, Merak out looking for Astra (who isn't on the planet after all). Aside from Romana showing a little Venusian Aikido, they're only killing time until they're all reunited so they can mean the Zeon commandant, yet another sentient computer (that's four in the past three seasons, I think, but I do wonder how they did the sparkly bits). K9 gets to play ambassador to one of his own kind, but that means a lot of bleeps and bloops are exchanged (the future's equivalent of modem sounds) and oh yes, lest I forget, K9 goes all around the room saluting CCTV cameras or something. It's all impossibly dull. Please Doctor, talk about your limbo closet some more. That, at least, sparks my nerd interest.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's not uncommon for 6-parters to actually be 4 or 5-parters in disguise. This is the part where you notice it.

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