Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Book Review


Doctor Who and the Armageddon Factor


Author: Terrance Dicks
Read by: John Leeson
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £20.00 (CD), £6.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78753 578 7 (CD),
978 1 78753 579 4 (download)
Release Date: 06 June 2019

Some time ago, the White Guardian – one of the most powerful beings in the cosmos – set the Doctor an urgent task to find and reassemble the six segments of the Key to Time. Having successfully retrieved five of the segments, the Doctor and Romana arrive on the planet Atrios in the middle of an atomic war. There they must search for the last, most vital piece of the Key. However, sinister dangers await them in this final stage of their quest. The actions of the Marshal of Atrios, operating under a mysterious influence, look certain to bring about armageddon for them all…

In early 1979, The Armageddon Factor made for an inauspicious ending to the Key to Time season. Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s scripts present a decidedly modest interplanetary war and, despite bringing the search for the Key to the foreground and featuring an inventive use of the almost completed device by the Doctor, the ultimate conclusion of the quest is far from Atrios-shattering.

The novelisation of the six-part serial by Terrance Dicks in 1980 does little to raise the story’s profile, aside from trimming some of the fat from the middle episodes and (as observed by David J Howe in his liner notes to the CD release) restoring the exterior appearance of the Shadow’s planet to the writers’ original intentions, “a huge chunk of jagged rock with pinnacles and crags that gave it a strange resemblance to some fantastic castle in space.”

Even this unabridged audio book feels a little lacklustre. Reader John Leeson can always be relied upon to re-create the voice of the robot dog K9. Indeed, he often plays a supporting role to other readers in this range by doing just that. However, his armoury of additional voices isn’t that great. It’s easy to tell, for example, the Doctor from Romana, or the gruff Marshal from his bumbling subordinate Shapp, but conversations between other characters, such as the Marshal and Merak, or Romana and Astra, prove more challenging.

The high points of the adventure in this medium are pretty much the same ones as in the television version, beginning with the briefly seen hero and heroine of an Atrian propaganda broadcast – the reader hams up their performances by just the right amount. He is also very good as the villainous Shadow, adopting a sinister voice that is remarkably similar to that of William Squire, who originally played the part. Dicks likewise does good work with this character, adding to his menace by having him appear “to radiate darkness, so that light dimmed wherever he moved.” The Shadow’s voice is said to echo, “as if coming from the depths of a tomb.” Sound designer Simon Power applies an effect to the voice that makes it seem as though it’s doing just that. Leeson also has fun with the Cockney-accented cheeky chappie renegade Time Lord Drax – but he is no Valentine Dyall as the blustering Black Guardian at the end of the tale.

The Armageddon Factor may be no great shakes, on screen, in print or on audio, but this talking book remains the key to pleasantly passing a little time.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Digital Download