And now, a very special episode of Doctor Who: the one broadcast on the day I was born. It’s not, to be brutally honest, one of the classics. It’s not even the best episode of The Armageddon Factor. After two episodes on Atrios and two on Zeos, this moves the focus to the Shadow planet but largely puts off anything that might be construed as a climax until next time. Romana gets captured and tortured, and the Doctor is shunted into a bizarre side plot that, even more bizarrely, casually answers the first question: Doctor who?
The name of the Doctor, it appears, is Theta Sigma (the Greek letters sort of look like WHO, if you squint and tilt your head). So that’s what River Song whispered in his ear in the Library. A later script editor, appalled at the casual revelation, ret-conned it as a nickname. But they tried to ret-con the Morbius faces as well and look where that ended up. No, the Doctor’s name is Theta Sigma, his name day is the same as mine. It’s not quite as casual as it appears, either. Drax, who otherwise seems less like a Gallifreyan and more like a Cockney twerp, establishes his credentials by speaking the Doctor’s real name. The Shadow-controlled K9 betrays himself by referring to Theta Sigma as “Doctor” rather than “Master”. Names matter.
While Theta Sigma and Drax catch up, the Shadow very slowly puts his plan into action. What he lacks in looks (and urgency) he makes up for in gloriously overripe dialogue: ‘I have been waiting for you. I too serve a Guardian. The Black Guardian, he who walks in darkness, and you are in the valley of the Shadow’; ‘Unlike others, it is not power we seek, but destruction that we glory in.’ And while he’s obsessed with the vast scale of the cosmos at war with itself, Theta Sigma is, predictably, more interested in saving the lives of everyone on Atrios with his ‘puny time loop’. It’s boiling down to this: the battle between life and death, light and darkness. This might not be the greatest episode, but the stakes have never been bigger.
Next episode: The Armageddon Factor – Part Six