Friday, July 16, 2010

Serial 103: The Armageddon Factor - The Key to Time Part VI

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)
Companions: Romana I, K-9

Written by: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Directed by: Michael Hayes

Background & Significance: So it comes to this. The end of the Key to Time.

With its sixth story, the Key to Time season came to an end. There were ups and downs, certainly, but more than anything it was at least watchable.

Yeah... Until this.

Y'see, I do think highly of Bob Baker and Dave Martin (Of note that they've done is "Claws of Axos" and "The Three Doctors". And while I don't necessarily agree or enjoy the "let's make it comedic and let Tom Baker do whatever the hell he wants" mentality of his era, I do think Graham Williams is an entirely competent producer. Likewise, Anthony Read (script editor for the past season and a half) is fine, suitable even.

But "The Armageddon Factor"... This is where I draw the line.

Of course, it's not as easy as the weak, weak script this turned out being. Tom Baker was incessantly fussy about this whole thing (as he gets at the end of every season when he demands more creative control and threatens leaving and gets to be a "diva"), Mary Tamm decided to leave at the end of the season, Baker/Martin split as a writing team after handing one of their drafts of the script, and, as always happens because of poor planning, the budget was running extremely, extremely tight.

In the end, what you have is this... well... I guess we'll just have to take it as we go.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We start with a really, really lame mock soap opera. Why? No idea. (Well we’ll find out in a second). But it’s definitely a parody. Definitely.

Know what’s not a parody? This episode. Although that would have been better.

So for some reason The Doctor and Romana are talking about Atrios, which is where they’re going next. Romana, in some great, in-no-way boring exposition mentions emphatically that Atrios has a twin planet, Zeos.

So then we go back to the soap opera, which is playing in a hospital ward, which is being bombarded and attacked. Which I guess is to tell us that life is crap and there’s a war on?

Yeah, kids. Welcome to Atrios.

We then cut to a war room, where The Marshall (in red and with those ridiculous[ly awesome] shoulder pads) watches some war stuff on the screen. And Princess Astra, in the back in the purple, watches on.

Things aren’t going so well for Atrios. Hospitals are flooding with radiation and Princess Astra is asking to go around to all the wounded to inspire hope and confidence. The Marshall forbids it, but allows her to go with armed escort (despite the fact that, spoilers, there are no Zeons on Atrios).

Also, Princess Astra looks a lot like a certain later incarnation of Romana.

So while Astra goes to visit this ward, The Marshall addresses the people in one of the most… just… uninspiring of speeches. No, really. It bored me.

But Astra isn’t listening long enough to roll her eyes at the situation. No. No. She’s more interested in Surgeon Merak. He pulls her aside and they confess their love and such.

Woah! Princess of Nobility loving a lowly servant! This has never been done.

Also interesting? These two have NO chemistry. None. Like, zero. Also, he’s really bad at acting.

They’re interrupted just after Astra mentions that none of her attempts to sue for peace have worked and Astra is pulled away.

Don’t worry. They’ll get some private time a little later. (No they won’t).

So the TARDIS materializes in space (lookit how awesome it looks!) and not on Atrios as they had planned. Romana theorizes it’s the work of the Black Guardian.

I’m gonna point this out now. We’re less than ten minutes into this, and The Black Guardian has been mentioned. Yes! Awesome! Season finale! It is on!

Elsewhere, The Marshall notices The TARDIS on scanners and order a missile fired at it as soon as it’s within weapon’s range. And then he goes to go look at himself in the mirror.

And then his assistant gets REALLY in his personal space. And there is sexual tension.

The Marshall tells his assistant to do his job and then he, himself, heads out to handle something personally.

There it is, man. Just like Count Grendel. He is a go-getter.

The guard leading Princess Astra to the hospital of sick children and orphans stops her and leads her into a room she claims is filled with radiation. He says it’s not, but locks her inside and her radiation wrist bracelet alarm thing goes off. And then her guard’s killed by The Marshall.

The Marshall then reaches the control room and orders the TARDIS blown out of the sky, fearing it’s a Zeon attack. The Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS at the last second, making everyone think they were destroyed with the missile while giving them opportunity to land on Atrios.

They start searching for the key and find a lead door. The Doctor asks K-9 to blast a hole in it so they can look inside. Dramatic irony: Princess Astra is behind the door.

In the command center, The Marshall is still staring at himself in the mirror when someone informs him about a break in near K-Block, where Astra was left. The Marshall says not to do anything. He’ll take care of this himself.

I like that. Going out and doing it for yourself. The ultimate in micro-managing.

He arrives just as The Doctor and Romana notice there’s a woman behind the locked door. Before they can get too far, he hauls them away to the command center, completely not seeing the staying-hidden K-9.

The Marshall starts interrogating The Doctor and Romana, but doesn’t get very far, because Surgeon Merak walks in, raising this huge stink about Astra going missing. He calls Merak a traitor and in league with The Doctor and Romana, but Merak denies it.

Then The Doctor tricks one of them into blowing K-9’s whistle.

And Princess Astra is kidnapped and transmatted away by some weird looking dude with a giant stone in his mouth.

K-9 shows up and starts firing off his laser, killing the lights and distracting everyone long enough for The Doctor and Romana to scarper off and get back to the TARDIS.

And they get back, just to find out that the TARDIS has been buried. It’s gone.

Oh come on, really? This is your cliffhanger? The TARDIS is gone? Like that’s not been done before. Pathetic, that is. Really pathetic.

Part 2:

Surgeon Merak meets up with The Doctor and Romana, demanding they show him Princess Astra. The Doctor tells K-9 to blow a hole in the door and then there’s more pointless talking that’s nothing but a regurgitative waste of time.

They break into the room to find it empty and Romana finds Astra’s head circlet thingy, which has a weak signal for the Key to Time.

After some warnings from K-9 (and Merak NOT SHUTTING UP ABOUT HOW MUCH HE LOVES ASTRA) they leave, with The Doctor leaving K-9 behind to watch over the room to make sure there’s nothing sneaky going on.

K-9, being a good dog, watches as a hole appears in the wall of the room he’s supposed to be watching. The panel slides up and a weird looking red thing appears and starts running away from K-9, giving chase, and the panel slides back, sealing him in.

And where does he land?


That can’t be good.

While K-9 IS PLUNGING TO HIS DOOM, The Marshall has apparently forgotten all his wrongs against The Doctor and has declared him the savior of Atrios, making him sit in the Captain’s chair.

Hey, K-9? How you doin, buddy?


The Marshall declares a counter-attack on Zeos, and then we find out that Atrios has only six fighters left, whereas Zeos has many.

And then Atrios loses half their ships in the battle.

Insert your own Atari sounds here.

All this while we’re watching little yellow lights clumsily saunter around and toward each other. So DULL. I mean, at least tell us which are Atrios and which are Zeos.

Apparently the fighter pilots are horrible and untrained and they’re out of fighters because the war’s gone so poorly. This all seems to come as a surprise to the Marshall, which would be funny if he was a funny character. Unfortunately, it just makes him look like an incompetent commander. Surrender isn’t bad if you can get a good deal out of it, dude.

He demands The Doctor tell him the secret to winning the war, and The Doctor calls it peace, but The Marshall will have none of that. He doesn’t want peace! He wants victory.

There comes a point where your characters go from being dedicated to being insane. I dunno what the writers wanted to pull off her, but the end result is “insane”.

And then we get another shot of K-9 getting chucked into the furnace.

The Doctor then makes up some poppycock tale about a forcefield he can put around Atrios to keep Zeos from wiping them out completely, thereby winning the war, but The Marshall wants victory. So he gets mad.

And then The Doctor gets mad when he finds out K-9’s about to get incinerated. He runs off to the furnace and crawls along the conveyor belt, reaching the end just too late to reach the dropped-off-the-edge K-9.

This gives Romana an opportunity to hear The Marshall talking to himself about The Doctor and how he can’t die “yet”. And then he reveals that he has a GIANT INCONSPICUOUS DEVICE ON HIS NECK.

And somehow The Doctor rescued K-9.

Romana tells The Doctor about this, and The Doctor gives her the important task of investigating it while he goes off to try and find some Zeons to find out what their lives are like. Romana calls him crazy, but he says there’s something blocking the way.

And then Astra comes on the viewers and tells everyone to give up on the war because it’s over and they cannot win.

Somewhere in here, somehow, Romana and Merak break into the room behind The Marshall’s mirror and see that The Marshall is talking to a skull. Which is strange. But they hear enough to realize that The Doctor is walking into a trap.

The Doctor arrives at the room with the transmat beam and bids K-9 farewell. K-9 clearly doesn’t want him to go, cuz he rolls right over The Doctor’s scarf. The Doctor yanks it free and steps inside. He’s accosted by two street toughs and transmatted away.

Part 3:

So let's review. We've come through two episodes and what has happened. The Doctor landed on Atrios, Princess Astra was captured, and then The Doctor goes to investigate where she was captured and, because of that, he, himself, got captured.

Wow. That's totally deserving of two episodes.

The worst part? I could live with it being one part, but not two. Move along and tell the story. For crap's sake...

So let’s head back in..

The Marshall talks to the not-really-a-Fendahl skull, telling him The Doctor is on his way and the Fendahl Skull says that attacks from Zeos will now stop. The Marshall gets really excited and sees this as an opportunity for victory!

And then Romana uses K-9 to figure out that the TARDIS is gone! From behind the pile of rubble! Oh no!

The Doctor gets transmat dumped on Zeos and is held hostage by people while this youtube happens. Why am I youtubing it? Because there's really very little in this story that is Youtubable, and it showcases what I feel is probably definitely the second strongest thing in this story: Mr. Tom Baker.

Also, the evil bad guy guy speaks with only one side of his mouth.

So I love that. I love that the bad guy (who is The Shadow and also NOT The Black Guardian) is just like “Mwahahaha. I have you now Doctor but I will let you go so you can explore.”

What a dumbass.

Speaking of dumbasses, Romana and Nurse Merack try to break into the transmat beam room to find The Doctor. Romana tells Merack that the tracer will lead them to Astra, so he steals the tracer, pushes her out of the way, jumps into the transmat beam, lands where The Doctor did, and chases after Astra.

I mean, really? Was she that much of a threat to you finding your woman, dude? I mean really. Come on. That’s just stupid.

The Shadow has tied up Princess Astra and makes her cry. Because he is a bad guy. He asks her what she knows about the Key to Time, but she claims she knows nothing. He threatens her with Merak, and she cries some more.

Romana and K-9 get into the transmat room and beam over to Zeos. They split up and Romana goes to find Merak and K-9 goes to find The Doctor. Yawn.

The Marshall’s assistant follows them and runs into The Doctor who explains Transmatting.

And then Romana wrestles Merak for the tracer?

Look, guys, it’s not my fault. Truth of the matter is nothing’s happening.

And then The Marshall gives another uninspired, lame ass speech that convinces no one, despite the fact that he’s leading the final attack on Zeos and that should be important.

So he goes and leads the final attack on Zeos.

The Doctor and The Marshall’s assistant call K-9, who says he was speaking to the Commandant of Zeon. He leads them to the Commandant, who he says is like him. And this is what the Commandant looks like.

Be tee dubs, at some point The Doctor and The Marshall’s assistant meet up with Romana and Merak, who is still not shutting the frak up about how much he misses Princess Astra.

Oh for god’s sake. Get a room.

And I saved you about four minutes, during which K-9 convinces The Commandant to allow them access by moving around in a specific dance pattern (but he does spin for a few minutes so it's not a total loss...).

But finally, they do get access and The Doctor tells the assistant that Zeos’s war is completely automated, which explains why Atrios is losing so bad.

And then the assistant gets zapped for pulling a weapon on the computer.

Like you thought that’d work…

The Doctor then asks the Commandant (whose real name is “Mentalis”) what’s going on with the war. Mentalis replies that it has ceased its bombardment of Atrios. All that remains is obliteration of everything.

And then everyone stares at each other.

And then The Marshall tells his ship to go faster so they can attack Zeos.

So to recap. What happened in this? The Doctor met the bad guy. Romana and Merak and K-9 made it to Zeos. They meet the Zeos computer that’s controlling war operations.

All that over the course of twenty five minutes. HOW DID THEY DO IT?!

Part 4:

The Doctor begins to explain that Mentalis thinks the war is over, but when The Marshall attacks it will lead to obliteration of the world because it will retaliate (because it needs to win the war) without attacking (because the war is over).

Confused? So am I.

All that matters is Mentalis is going to explode a lot, which The Doctor won’t let happen.

The Shadow places a control-o-chip on Astra’s neck and gives her orders, making her now under his command.

The Doctor sends back The Marshall’s assistant to go see if he can stop the Marshall’s assault on Zeos. And then he’s accosted by one of The Shadow’s goons.

This is the sequence of events.

What the frak is that?

And then Astra tempts Merak and he falls for it and falls randomly through trippy place.

The Doctor and Romana and K-9 attempt to dismantle Mentalis, but they are too late. Mentalis detects the approaching Marshall and beings to start a countdown.

Fortunately, The Doctor’s too fast, and manages to trick all the laser defense things into shooting Mentalis, destroying it.

But what to do about The Marshall?

The Doctor races back to The TARDIS and puts together the five pieces of the Key to Time and, theorizing something so crazy it just has to work, proposes they make a fake sixth piece, as close to accurate as the real sixth piece in terms of size, shape, and composition, in order to use the Key to stop time enough to buy them time to stop The Marshall.

Yeah. That did make sense. I promise.

So The Doctor puts on a smock and makes a fake sixth piece of the Key.

They assemble this almost-completed-key and activate it, sending The Marshall and his ship into a three second time loop the instant before they fire their nukes at Zeos.

And this is actually really cool, I will say that. I thought my video was skipping, but it was not. It was well played.

And then they kept doing it over and over and over. And really, after three times, we get it, there’s a time loop.

Unfortunately it’s deteriorating, and deteriorating rapidly because of the imperfection of the sixth piece. They’ll only have just over three minutes until it all goes kablooey.

Of course, then The Doctor figures out that the rapid deterioration is because of the fact that the entire universe is looping for three seconds. So he shrinks the area to just The Marshall and the Zeon computer room, which slows the deterioration significantly, but not enough to make them out of the woods quite yet.

The Shadow sends Astra to be bait for The Doctor and to help him break into The Doctor’s TARDIS, and she and Merak arrive at The TARDIS to find K-9 standing guard.

And this? This is greatness. What this basically turns into is a lot of K-9 having an adventure on his own, which is rad. Like, a lot. Especially when he goes chasing after The Shadow’s goons and leaves Astra and Merak looking at The TARDIS.

K-9 follows the goons into another Transmat, which carts him off on an adventure to a rocky moon place. And then he goes off ‘splorin.

The Doctor and Romana meet up with Astra and Merak, and tell them to go back to Atrios. Astra, still under control of The Shadow, walks away, kicks Merak to the ground, and walks away with two goons. And then Merak gets in the transmat and heads back to Atrios, dejected.

Way to fight for her, dude.

Astra then plays the I’m-all-scared card and The Doctor and Romana bring her into the TARDIS, where she becomes transfixed by The Key to Time.

And we get some really great Tom Baker as he plays with her connection to the Key, tempting her with it and noticing the chip on her neck.

They dematerialize and re-materialize on the space station where The Shadow is, the third planet in this conflict. Which is random.

Then The Shadow pets K-9 and K-9 calls him Master.

And The Shadow laughs because he thinks The Key to Time is his.


So what happened in this episode? They instituted a time loop to slow down the stakes and brainwashed Astra gained access to The TARDIS. So not that much…

Part 5:

The Shadow sends K-9 off to be his eyes and ears over The TARDIS crew and then laughs maniacally (he doesn’t, but it’s more hokey and hilarious that way).

He then tells Astra to bring him Romana, separating her from The Doctor, and through a series of optical house of mirrors tricks and holographic illusions, effectively manages to confuse The Doctor enough to make him lost.

The Doctor then talks to no one, and somehow that means the default operator is The Shadow (really, he should probably get a secretary, but whatever), who admits that he works for The Black Guardian.

Oh sw33t. Black Guardian. When does he show up?

And if The Shadow is The Doctor’s opposite (as The Shadow was quested to find The Key to Time), why hasn’t he been around before to be a real threat?

It knocks The Doctor out and sends him down into a cavern where he meets this awkward looking guy.

Astra leads Romana to The Shadow’s main lair, where she is tortured. It looks painful maybe. And then The Shadow sends K-9 out to kill The Doctor.

So this guy The Doctor met (who wears Cyberman shoes) is apparently a Time Lord named Drax who’s been employed by The Shadow to create all of The Shadow's devices, including Mentalis on Zeos.

But he wants to escape in The Doctor’s TARDIS. Not that he will, he just wants to.

The Doctor goes out ‘sploring through tunnels and comes across K-9, who reveals he works for The Shadow and issues The Doctor an ultimatum: trade Romana for The Key To Time.

And then The Doctor jumps K-9 and sends him down the chute and to Drax, who removes the re-program chip with ease and K-9 is back to normal.


The Doctor goes off to do more ‘splorin, but he’s captured by a Mutie and brought to The Shadow. The Shadow demands that The Doctor bring him The Key to Time so that he can assemble it and light the universe to war.

And for some reason The Doctor agrees (probably because Romana was being tortured, probably because he doesn’t think five pieces are a bargaining chip for the final one).

K-9 helps Drax fix the dimensional something or another he’s been working on, and he chases after The Doctor to try and help him out.

Just as Drax catches up to him, The Doctor reaches The TARDIS and opens the door. The Doctor tells Drax to do it now, but instead of firing at the goon, Drax fires the gun at The Doctor, making the The Doctor into nothing as he screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

So what happened in this one? They arrive at The Shadow’s base and are captured by The Shadow and then The Doctor is forced to open the police box and then he’s shrunk by random Time Lord.

That wasn’t an episode’s worth of material.

Part 6:

It turns out that this gun Drax was using wasn’t really that dangerous at all. It was a shrinking ray. And Drax uses it on himself.

So now they’re really small. For no reason.


The Doctor gets angry at Drax for not shrinking the goon because now he’s small and the TARDIS door is open. Drax tries to come up with a plan but it turns out he’s a total moron and he has no idea what the hell he’s doing. IF YOU WERE SMART YOU WOULD HAVE SHRUNK THE OTHER GUY.

Know who’s a bigger moron?

The other guy. Who doesn’t walk into the TARDIS. No no. That’s too easy. He’s walking around the place looking for The Doctor.

Hey dude. You want what’s in the TARDIS. GO IN AND GET IT.

And time is running out! The Time Loop is deteriorating! (So we get some more watch of the loop in action, which is really boring. All we’re watching is time stretching. That is so boring).

Elsewhere, The Shadow (who is competent enough to notice that The TARDIS door is open), runs off to go break into the TARDIS, leaving Romana alone with Astra and no guards.

Romana says that now they’re unguarded it’s their chance to leave, and then Astra says she’s not leaving because she is “The Sixth Princess of the Sixth Dynasty of the Sixth House of Atrios” and now she’s going to metamorphose into something.

Okay, what? First of all, that’s ridiculously blatant. Second of all, you’re just now noticing this? Really? People would have been telling you this since you were born. Shape up.

And then The Shadow reaches the TARDIS, which is too bright for him.

Five dollar sunglasses, dude. Get them.

But he gets The Key to Time anyways, so that really doesn’t matter.

Finally, Romana realizes what is going on. Because they’re looking for the Sixth Piece of the Key to Time.

Yeah, no crap, Romana.

Although that seems REALLY random. What if they didn’t go for it last? What then? Find it out of order, and Astra means nothing except a lot of sixes.

While this is going on, The Doctor formulates a plan with Drax to take The Shadow by surprise using K-9. But they are shrunk! How will it happen?

And because we’re accelerating towards endgame, Merak has RANDOMLY figured out about Astra being the sixth piece to the Key to Time (because yes, that’s exactly what it is, hope you figured it out) and heads off to The Shadow’s little planet place to go save her from total destruction, falling in with The Shadow’s men and following The Shadow back to his lair now that The Shadow has the Key to Time.

So now everyone’s in one place (Almost, we’re still waiting for The Doctor) and The Shadow tells Astra that she was born to be this, the sixth segment for the Key to Time.


Astra approaches the Key to Time and transforms into the small object. Which I find hilarious. So she was always the Key to Time? How was she born? Was she always like this? Was her mother the Key to Time? HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE.

And K-9 charges in like a total badass.

The Shadow gets upset that K-9 ruined the moment, but K-9 says it’s all okay and that he should keep going. The Shadow revs up his speech and big words about having The Key to Time and being power guy, still not as forceful as before, but… yeah. You just can’t recapture the magic of that first talk energetic outcry.

And then The Doctor and Drax jump out of K-9 and resize.

The Doctor grabs The Key to Time and the final piece, and The Shadow does NOTHING more than just yell at him and call him a fool. Well, The Doctor’s the one with the Key to Time, so who’s the fool now?

Come on! You’re power guy. Don’t take that crap from a loony in a scarf. You’re better than that!

The Doctor, Romana, K-9, and Merak run back for the TARDIS (Drax volunteered to fend them off), and they’re about to get into the TARDIS, when Merak starts crying and freaking out, saying he’s not leaving until he finds Astra.

Dude. She’s a temporal crystal with one-sixth the power of stopping time in the entire universe. You saw her change into it. There’s no need to look for her, cuz she’s in The Doctor’s pocket.

Ah, well, you’re an idiot. You deserve the heartbreak you have coming to you.

The Doctor and Romana head back to Zeos, but Romana doesn’t want to go because this whole thing is nonsense, what with the Guardians manipulating everyone and such.

And then The Doctor looks at her funny and they’re on their way.

But the time loop is running out! The ten second countdown is slowly resetting and getting closer to zero every time. The Doctor races to Mentalis and cuts the wire with Drax’s help just in time.

Wait a minute. Drax was covering the rear. That’s random.

Apparently he brought Merak with him?


I could explain it or try to figure it out, but I’m going to be honest. I don’t know. And I don’t care.

They race back into the TARDIS to try and stop The Marshall. But it turns out the missiles completely miss the planet and hit The Shadow’s weird space station planet place and there is an explosion.

Then we see The Shadow apologizing to the Black Guardian.

And FINALLY we see The Black Guardian. With EIGHT MINUTES LEFT IN THE KEY TO TIME. Come on. That’s awful. You set The Black Guardian up as some big bad bad guy and he doesn’t show up until the last five minutes? That’s awful. Make him the bad guy of the serial. Something. At least. Pathetic.

And then The Black Guardian gives a really quaint monologue about how The Doctor is going to hand him The Key to Time. And we see that he is disguised as this dude in white.

That’s great. I hope that’s not a spoiler.

So now The Key to Time’s been assembled (I’d tell you what happened to Drax, but you don’t care enough, do you? Yeah, I thought not).

But now The Key to Time has been assembled? What happens now?

Tom Baker kills it.

God. Love that.

So then there’s a flourish of organ and The White Guardian in the guise of Time Lord President appears and congratulates The Doctor.

There’s a conversation in which The Doctor asks for clarification about The White Guardian’s instructions, which The Guardian clarifies, saying he needs The Key.

But The Doctor is concerned about Princess Astra, and how she’ll always be trapped in the Key to Time, but The Guardian doesn’t care. The Key is more important.

And then The Doctor knows!

He raises The TARDIS’s defenses, making the Guardian get pissed and reveal himself as The Black Guardian (The Doctor knew because of the Guardian’s lack of concern for life).

The Doctor removes the tracer from the Key to Time and tells Romana to dematerialize when he gives the signal.

He grips the tracer and then BREAKS it, dematerializing the TARDIS at that exact moment.

The Key to Time SHATTERS and the pieces are scattered across time and space.

And somehow that means Astra lands back on Atrios and by Merak’s side.

… Okay.

So in response to this whole debacle, The Doctor installs a randomizer to The TARDIS, meaning he has no idea where he’ll be going next, because if he doesn’t know, The Guardian won’t either, and they'll be safe from his threat.

And now the show can just be... Totally random. Fantastic.

Final Thoughts?: So this sucked.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to be completely upfront about this. I hated this story. It was long, boring, drawn out, and a huge waste of what can only be described as a neat concept with potential to be an action packed thrill ride of a finale.

What we get instead are storylines that don't matter. The Marshall doesn't matter, Zeos doesn't matter, Drax doesn't matter... Not even The Shadow really matters when you get right down to it. Very little in this overall six part story does. It drags and goes on and then gets a really fast wrap up.

Also, if you're going to tease The Black Guardian and make a huge deal about him, why wouldn't you just make him the bad guy of the final story instead of having him be a really anti-climactic epilogue of sorts? That's just... that's not good. That's just weakening your story, which is already weak.

And because of that, I really have to call The Key to Time a tremendous let-down and... yeah. I think I'd have to call it a failure.

But... That's not really why I chose to do The Key to Time here. Because of my initial misgivings and trepidations about Tom Baker as The Doctor, part of the reason I decided to do the Key to Time in such a rigorous, six part stream is to try to focus my attention on Tom Baker and really get to know him as The Doctor.

And you know what stood out in this story? Other than K-9 (who was just awesome with his adventures and stuff).

Tom Baker.

Tom Baker really killed it in this story. Like really really. I think, other than perhaps Genesis of the Daleks, this was my favorite of him so far. Every minute of this was him being awesome, and all the moments that I remember in this that aren't about K-9 are all about Tom Baker. He was goofy and weighty and everything I look for in a Doctor is right here in this story.

So you know what? I get it now.

Tom Baker doesn't deliver the thing every second. He's not the acting chops that Troughton or Davison or Tennant or Smith are. He's not the specific interpretation Hartnell, McCoy, and Colin Baker are. He's not even the "I'm playing myself" of Jon Pertwee.

He's improvising. He's taking a scene, taking a moment, and playing it the way he thinks The Doctor would. Now, this leads to some rugged inconsistency, like sketch comedy. Sometimes he's really good, sometimes he's really weak. When he's weak, he is nothing less than watchable but when he's on, he's really on and really good and I understand why people love him. He's a mystery, always making the viewers and the actors and the characters playing against him stay on their toes and pay attention to what he has to say.

Because he's The Doctor, dammit. And he can do anything.

And in that discovery, I'd call The Key to Time a success.

Next Time!: 3rd Doctor! Silurians! A new Companion to talk about! Some early UNIT years! And another story that is in no way too padded! "Doctor Who and The Silurians" coming at you on Tuesday.

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