Recap: The Doctor and Romana arrive on Atrios, a planet at war with its twin, Zeos. After much goings and doings, they find themselves on Zeos, talking to the computer that runs Zeos – it seems all the Zeons have died. There is a third party involved, a being calling himself ‘The Shadow’, though we have not quite learned of his part, though he is aware of the Key To Time and is trying to get the five segments from The Doctor.

The Marshal of Atrios, a complete nutjob, is approaching Zeos, with intent to blow it up.

Episode 4:

The Doctor explains that Mentalis thinks the war is over, and though it is aware that the Marshal is coming to attack, it cannot retaliate. He posits that it will likely self-destruct, “I think obliteration was the term it used.” He says that the explosion of Zeos will destroy Atrios along with it – “A sort of draw. That’s the way these military minds think… the Armageddon Factor.” (And now that we have the title out of the way, we can get on with the story…)

The Marshal’s ship comes in on an attack vector.

The Doctor discusses meeting The Shadow with Shapp and Merak, saying he is a spectator, watching the war games.

Elsewhere, The Shadow and his robed cronies enter the chamber where Astra is held. He places a control circuit on her neck and she slips into a trance-like state. He tells her that she will help him in his quest, that she will go to meet her lover and to smile. She does.

The Doctor sends Shapp and Merak back to Atrios to try to stop the Marshal from attacking while The Doctor tries to deactivate Mentalis. As they head to the transmat chamber, Merak hears Astra callling him. Shapp turns around and yells for him to hurry up, but instead he and one of The Shadow’s men exchange blaster fire. Both go down, Shapp falling into the transmat chamber.

Merak calls out for Astra. He finds a projection of Astra, and moves to her, but goes right through her. Confused, he looks for her, but seems to fall into… something, perhaps being beamed to The Shadow’s lair.

Romana says that it makes sense that The Shadow has a third planet, one blocking Zeos from Atrios, and that must be where he is hiding Astra. The Doctor opens an access panel in Mentalis and the computer’s alert systems go active.

The Marshal’s ship approaches Zeos.

Mentalis identifies the Marshal’s ship as approaching and begins the self-destruct sequence. The Doctor realises that Shapp must have failed to stop him.

The Doctor makes a last ditch effort at something, crouching near Mentalis’ base. The laser beams in the wall fire, hitting Mentalis instead. (Really?)

The Marshal orders the pilot to arm all warheads.

The Doctor reveals that since he was trying to alter Mentalis’ controls, the lasers purposefully targeted the control center (okay, I guess that makes more sense), and that it is mindless now. The countdown sequence seems to be continuing. They rush off for the TARDIS.

The Marshal tells his pilot to get the ship in as close as possible.

In the TARDIS, they assemble the five pieces and insert the core, but nothing happens. The Doctor suggests making a piece to fit the gap.

Shapp contacts the Marshal from Atrios control. The Marshal orders the communication turned off, saying bureaucrats are trying to steal his thunder. The ship gets closer and closer…

The Doctor has created a fake piece and they put it together. Romana says they’ve failed, but there is a short time loop – the countdown from Mentalis repeats 10 – 9 – 8 over and again, and the Marshal’s ship comes in over and over, while he gives the command to fire, over and again.

The Time Lords realise that the entire universe is in a time loop, except for them. The Doctor talks about the power, how it feels to be a god for an hour or so, but K-9 informs him probabilities indicate it will only last for more than three and a quarter minutes.

Romana suggests localising the time loop, that should help it last longer. The Doctor tries commanding the Key. Apparently it works, though the time loop is already stretching.

The Shadow sends Astra to lure The Doctor back to his lair, in hopes of gaining access to the TARDIS and the Key.

Merak lays at the bottom of wherever, bleeding from his head. He wakes when Astra calls out to him from above. He says his leg is injured but he thinks he can stand.

As The Doctor and Romana work on Mentalis’ countdown, we see the loop stretch from three seconds to four.

Astra helps Merak walk through the corridor, The Shadow’s men hiding from him. K-9 confronts them, but Merak identifies himself and Astra. K-9 detects The Shadow’s men and engages in a firefight with them.

Astra moves to the TARDIS, saying she must see inside. When Merak says they should go back to Atrios, Astra argues, saying they must find his friends.

K-9 herds The Shadow’s men into the transmat chamber and they are beamed to Atrios. In their place is a small device, emitting a distress call. He tries to speak to the distress call, and enters the chamber. The door shuts and he is transmatted away.

The Time Lords are reunited with Merak and meet Astra. The Doctor tries to talk them into returning to Atrios, but Astra seems more interested in staying with The Doctor. He manages to talk Merak into taking Astra to Atrios.

K-9 is transmatted to The Shadow’s world. He begins to explore.

On the way to the transmat, Merak’s leg gives out. He asks Astra to help him out, but she smirks and says she has more important work to do. “I’d stay and watch you die, but I haven’t the time.” She sets off, accompanied by The Shadow’s men that K-9 had herded into the transmat.

Confused, Merak staggers into the transmat and is beamed away.

The Shadow does the maniacal laughter thing, rubbing his hands together.

Astra runs to the TARDIS, screaming for The Doctor, saying she’s being pursued. The Doctor and Romana take her inside the TARDIS, where she stares at the key. On the scanner, the Marshal’s ship is still looped, but the loop has stretched to five seconds. The Doctor says they maybe have an hour or two.

The Doctor asks Astra if the key triggers any hidden memories; he was hoping she could tell him where the sixth segment was, but she says it doesn’t seem familiar. He notices she has a control device on her neck.

Astra reaches out to the Key, but The Doctor stops her, saying it is hot.

Romana has determined the coordinates for The Shadow’s lair and they take the TARDIS there. The Shadow, who sits in his throne, with K-9 at his side, says, “Your friends have arrived. We must greet them.”

K-9 replies in the most chilling words I can imagine, “Affirmative, master.”

The Shadow gloats, saying the Key To Time is his and begins to laugh… and the credits roll.

Now that’s a creepy cliffhanger.

Episode 5:

The Shadow sends K-9 to greet the TARDIS.

On the TARDIS, Astra stands, staring at the Key To Time. Romana points out that they can’t find the sixth piece without the tracer, which is now part of their mishmash key – if they take the tracer out, the time loop ends.

It also seems the time loop has stretched to six seconds.

The Doctor asks Astra to help them find The Shadow, but she doesn’t want to leave the TARDIS. We hear The Shadow’s voice telling her to go with them, to bring Romana. She touches her neck, as The Doctor watches and chagnes her story.

Astra and Romana set off, leaving The Doctor there. (Now that’s interesting, and has to do with Lalla Ward’s later role in the series.) The Doctor picks up the intergalactic distress signal, the same tones that the little box that lured K-9 into the transmat chamber made. He sets off, leaving the Key To Time in the TARDIS.

Astra and Romana set off; K-9 watches them and consults with his master (The Shadow) who tells him to follow The Doctor.

The Doctor leaves the TARDIS, with a device that tracks the distress signal. As he sets off, he sees a projection of Romana and Astra. As he looks elsewhere, they disappear and then the signal is lost by his little device.

In another cave chamber, The Doctor sees five projections of Romana, all calling out to him. They disappear and he goes out the room.

The real Romana and Astra follow him, Romana calling his name. Astra says they can go another way and meet up with him.

The Doctor walks by a projection of himself, one that waves at him. The Doctor sees a projector/viewer in the wall and addresses The Shadow, saying he wasn’t fooled by Astra. He brags about how Romana can take care of herself, as she and he are Time Lords.

The Shadow replies, through a projection, that he has always known who The Doctor was. He says he also serves a Guardian. The Black Guardian. This scares The Doctor, who falls into the same type of trap that Merak did. K-9 reports to The Shadow that The Doctor is captured.

Astra leads Romana to The Shadow’s chamber.

The Doctor wakes up in a room. The distress signal transmitter is there and he shuts it off. Suddenly, a rock/panel in the wall opens and a man crawls through. He recognises The Doctor, addressing him as “Thete”, short for Theta Sigma.

Romana is in a cell in The Shadow’s chamber, a sort of torture device. She is shocked by electrical bursts.

The Doctor slowly recognises the man as a fellow Time Lord, Drax. It turns out that Drax is behind Mentalis’ construction, though he swears it was under duress. It turns out that the distress signal device was made by Drax. He tells The Doctor he’s been trying to find his way to the transmat, as his TARDIS is back on Zeos.

They crawl back to Drax’s little cubbyhole, where The Doctor sees he has a dimensional stabiliser from his TARDIS there. Drax ends up revealing that he’s been sent by The Shadow to try to get the Key To Time; again, he’s working under duress and didn’t realise that the Time Lord he was after was going to be an old friend.

Romana is released from the torture chamber; she told all she knows but The Shadow is not enough. She is horrified when she overhears The Shadow send K-9 to fetch The Doctor.

The Doctor finds another of Drax’s tunnels, which Drax says leads to the upper levels, but cautions him to be wary of the mutes (The Shadow’s men, I’m guessing, as they don’t seem to talk.) In the tunnel, K-9 calls out to him from the other side of a gate, but The Doctor notices the robot addresses him as “Doctor,” not “master”.

K-9 delivers a message from The Shadow, Romana in exchange for the Key To Time. The Doctor grabs K-9 and pushes him down the tunnel to Drax’s cubbyhole, where Drax removes the control chip. The Doctor sets off, telling Drax to keep working on the stabiliser.

The Doctor is taken prisoner by a mute.

K-9 comes to, panicking that he’s on his side. When Drax ignores his plea for help, K-9 threatens to obliterate him and the Time Lord uprights him. He calls K-9 a “tin dog” (a recurring nickname over the years, even used in the new series).

Your silliness is noted,” K-9 replies to Drax.

The Doctor is brought before The Shadow, who demands the Key To Time. The Doctor retorts, “I refuse to negotiate in an atmosphere of threat,” but as soon as they start torturing Romana he gives in. The Shadow says the sixth piece is here, that The Doctor has already seen it. The Doctor seems to find some import in that statement. (I know where it is, do you?)

The Shadow reveals that the Zeos-Atrios war is a test run for a grand design (he claims partial responsibility for it, but I’m sure it’s all the Black Guardian’s plan.) He gloats that, while The Doctor was scavenging for the first five pieces, he located the sixth.

Once we have the Key To Time, we shall set, not two small planets, but the two halves of the entire cosmos at war and their mutual destruction will be music in our ears!”

Reluctantly, The Doctor sets off to fetch the Key To Time. Romana cries out, “No,” as The Shadow laughs and laughs…

Drax gets the device he’s working on completed and sets off. He tells K-9 to stay.

The Shadow removes the control device from Astra. She reacts in horror at his presence, asking who he is. Romana says, “The Shadow,” but The Shadow replies, “The Shadow… who accompanies you all.”

Drax sees The Doctor, escorted by a lumbering, growling, gasping mute, as they head to the TARDIS. As they reach there, The Doctor tries to distract the mute, but Drax points the device at The Doctor and blasts him, shrinking The Doctor!

The mute stares, confused… and the credits roll.

Episode 6:

Drax spins the gun on himself and shrinks himself down. He calls The Doctor over, who runs (narrowly avoiding getting stomped on) to him and yells at him for shrinking them instead of the mute. The Doctor worries about the time loop must be at breaking point by now.

The Key is smoldering and then we see the countdown is going down all the way to 2 before looping.

Back on Atrios, Shapp keeps trying to contact the Marshal. Merak posits that the sixth piece has something to do with Astra. He realises that if the knowledge was placed in her head, it would show up in her medical records.

The mute keeps pacing back in the room outside the TARDIS as Drax and The Doctor hide in a crack in the wall. The Doctor feels that Astra has the segment on her.

The Shadow sees the door to the TARDIS is open and sets off to find the Key To Time.

Astra tells Romana that she senses her destiny is there, not on Atrios. She says she is the sixth princess of the sixth dynasty of the sixth royal house of Atrios. She says this is her time of transcendence, metamorphosis.

The Shadow tries to enter the TARDIS, but there is a great brilliance from within and he is not able to enter it. He sends one of his mutes in to fetch the Key and the creature does so. The Shadow takes the Key, laughing as he carries it off.

Romana suddenly realises what Astra is talking about.

Merak has found a genetic abnormality, passed down through the royal line. He says that her every cell is part of the Key To Time!

Drax and The Doctor are inside K-9, who heads back to The Shadow’s lair.

Merak takes a mute guarding the transmat chamber on Atrios prisoner, making him take him to the third planet. There, he exits, wearing the mute’s robes. He hides and watches The Shadow and a bunch of mutes walk by; The Shadow is carrying the Key.

They file into The Shadow’s lair. He sets it down on a rock table, which glows. He tells Astra that this is her destiny, that she was born to be the final segment to the Key To Time. She steps forward, willingly, ready. When she reaches forward to touch the Key, she is transformed into the final segment.

Merak throws off his hood, calling out Astra’s name, but nobody pays him any mind. The Shadow is too busy reveling in the moment.

Suddenly, K-9 bursts through the wall. The Shadow demands to know what’s going on and he apologises to his “master”. K-9 points out that there is an intruder – Merak. When The Shadow asks where The Doctor is, K-9 lies and says Drax and The Doctor have been eliminated.

As The Shadow moves to remove the core, The Doctor and Drax hop out of K-9 and restore their normal size. The Doctor grabs the Key to Time and the sixth segment and a brilliant light flashes. While The Shadow is recoiling, everyone flees.

Drax stays to hold them back while the others make it to the TARDIS. Merak says he’s staying to look for Astra. The Doctor drags Romana into the TARDIS. He tells her to set the coordinates for Zeos, but she’s too busy being mad about Astra and Merak. She says they have to do something, it’s wrong of the Guardians to play games like that.

The countdown on Zeos is all the way to one, now. The TARDIS arrives and The Doctor and Romana exit and then Drax comes running in (guess he took the transmat.) They ask him which wire to cut, and he dithers, saying green but when they ask if he’s sure, he says it’s been a while. He ends up digging in his pockets for a piece of paper, confirming that it is green.

The Doctor cuts the green wire and the countdown reaches zero. Nothing happens, no boom. The Doctor and Drax argue.

Romana says they’re forgetting someone – the Marshal! She drags The Doctor into the TARDIS.

The Marshal gives the order to fire and the pilot obeys. The time loop has ended and the missiles fly towards Zeos, as the Marshal waxes poetic about beautiful mushroom clouds, like the maniac he is.

The missiles change course and hit The Shadow’s base, blowing it up instead. As the base explodes, we see, super-imposed, The Shadow calling out to his master, “Sire, I have failed you, The Doctor has accomplished his purpose, he has the Key To Time!” Then, we see a super-imposed Black Guardian (played by the same actor as the White Guardian, but dressed in black and filmed in negative image.)

I expected no less of you, you whimpering wraith! But your death is already encompassed in my designs, for now The Doctor shall release the Key to me! And Chaos shall break upon the universe.” As the Black Guardian speaks, he becomes solid and is dressed in white.

The Doctor celebrates the Marshal’s shot. He explains that he set up a forcefield between the missiles and Zeos, bouncing them towards the ‘planet of evil’. (It’s not a planet, it looks like a space station.)

Drax explains he has a job with the Marshal, helping Atrios rebuild. The Doctor asks when he arranged all this, and Drax says, “In about half an hour’s time, I should be.” They say their goodbyes to Drax.

Romana says she’ll set the coordinates to Gallifrey, but The Doctor says they have the power to do anything they like. “Absolute power over every particle of the universe.” He begins to act over the top, rolling his eyes back, saying as of this moment free will doesn’t exist. “There’s only my will, as I possess the Key To Time!”

Romana asks if he’s all right and he stops playing, saying he’s quite fine. They both agree that the sooner they hand it over to the White Guardian, the better.

Just then, the scanner screen rises and the White Guardian can be seen. He congratulates them. Romana is bothered, saying it is not the President of Gallifrey, but the Guardian explains he can change his form.

The Doctor asks if he likes the Key To Time and the Guardian agrees that he does. The Doctor asks if he will use the Key to stop the universe to reset the balance of good and evil. The Guardian says that he will and asks if The Doctor will release the Key to him.

Yes, certainly, of course,” the Time Lord replies and walks over to the Key, addressing it. In the midst of commanding the Key to do something, he stops and turns to the Guardian, “Can I ask you something else, sir?” The Guardian says he may.

He asks can’t the Guardian restore the balances now, since the Key is assembled? The Guardian says he can, but he must have the key, “…for safe-keeping.”

Again, The Doctor begins to address the Key, but stops to ask the Guardian about the sixth segment. “What about it, Doctor,” the Guardian asks. The Doctor is concerned that if the Key is kept assembled, Astra will be stuck as part of the Key and not be able to live. The Guardian says this is regrettable, “but, with the Fate of the Universe at stake…”

The Doctor commands the Key To Time to “stay exactly where you are.” He turns and activates the TARDIS’ defense fields. The Doctor explains he can’t be too careful and there would be terrible consequences if he were colour-blind. The Guardian gets angry, demanding that the Key be released to him immediately.

As the Guardian becomes consumed with anger, he transform, becoming negative. The Doctor explains to Romana that the White Guardian would “never have had such a callous disregard for human life.”

The Black Guardian threatens The Doctor, saying he will destroy him for this. The Doctor takes out the core/tracer from the Key and snaps it in half.

Merak wakes up in a hospital bed, Astra standing at his beside.

In the TARDIS, The Doctor explains that he’s scattered the Key in space and time. Romana asks where they’re going and he says he has no idea. She begins to rant that he has no sense of responsibility that he is capricious and arrogant and a bunch of other adjectives and she cannot believe he doesn’t know where he’s going.

He explains that if he knew where he was going, then the Black Guardian might know, too. Thus, he’s set up a device to randomise the guidance of the TARDIS.

Now, no one knows where we’re going, not even the Black Guardian,” The Doctor says, activating the TARDIS.

Not even us,” Romana laments.

The Doctor smiles and laughs… and the final credits roll.

Okay, so I’m confused – was it the Black Guardian all the while, even in the first serial of the season? Becuase if The Doctor really was contracted by the White Guardian to assemble the Key, did the White Guardian get the chance to reset the balance?

Or was it the Black Guardian all the while?

This serial was really good, for the most part – yes, there are some silly bits, as it usual for the show. But all in all, this was highly enjoyable, outside of the confusion over whether the entire season was a plot by the Black Guardian or if The Doctor failed to help the White Guardian.