This morning I watched the five hundredth episode of Doctor Who to be aired. It was numbers 501 and 502 that I have watched since February, since I began by viewing the original unaired pilot first. That's a heck of a lot of Who. Today also featured the first appearance of Tom Baker's future ex-wife Lalla Ward, although not in the role of Romana (that will happen later this week), but rather as Princess Astra. It's just an all around big day of viewing for me.
So let's talk about that.
The Armageddon Factor - Parts 1 & 2
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
As the entire Key to Time saga comes to a head, the Doctor and Romana locate the final segment on the planet of Atrios. Unfortunately, that planet is locked in a seemingly neverending nuclear war with its twin planet Zeos. With bombs falling and radiation levels through the roof, the military leader of Atrios is clearly both insane and under the control of some unknown entity. Princess Astra is the nominal planetary leader, but wields no actual power. In fact, she is betrayed by her military commander and by the end of the second episode has been captured and taken to Zeos.
This is some pretty heavy stuff going on for a children's show. Perhaps not as stark as Genesis of the Daleks, but darn close. At one point K9 is very nearly melted down in a scrap furnace. In another scene, Princess Astra is seen wasting away from severe radiation poisoning. We also see hospital wards with overflowing critical patients laid out on the floor, and with the ceiling caving in from dropped bombs. It's seriously some bleak storytelling going on here.
I am certain I must have seen this story before, but it was decades ago and I remember very little. At this point I question whether or not the planet Zeos even exists, and I presume that the shadowy figure who acts as the puppet master will turn out to be the Black Guardian. But I could be completely wrong.
Without question, this is the strongest story of the season. I'll be dragging myself out of bed in about seven hours to find out what happens next...
Companion(s): Romana, K9
Episode(s): The Armageddon Factor - Parts 1 & 2
Steps Walked: 7,415 today, 1,734,257 total
Distance Walked: 4.12 miles today, 872.89 miles total
Weight: 253.62 lbs (five day moving average), net change -53.68 lbs