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Eessentially acting as a ‘proto’ version of the Valeyard (“The Trial of a Time Lord”) as he proclaimed himself to be the manifestation of the Doctor’s guilt and fear.
King Magus was the creation of the space station referred to by production crew as the Psychodrome, an advanced facility that could somehow make the memories, fears and desires of the inhabitants a reality. Its exact history is unknown, with the reasons anyone created it and abandoned it in the first place a mystery, but it was located in close proximity to a red giant star, which gave it access to a great deal of power. When the TARDIS materialised on board the Psychodrome, the ship’s crew were already in a state of emotional turmoil, as the Fifth Doctor and his three companions were still getting comfortable with each other after The Doctor’s recent regeneration and the Master’s last attack emotionally affecting Adric, Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka to varying degrees (“Castrovalva”).
As a result, upon their arrival in the Psychdrome, four different worlds were created, each based in some manner on the TARDIS crew’s past histories and their perception of their fellow travellers. Space explorer Professor Rickett, Magpie, and Perditia was based on Tegan’s impressions of the Doctor, Adric, and Nyssa, while their background reflected the colonial attitude that had created Australia in the first place, although Tegan’s childhood memories of being lost in a cave also affected their overall environment. Denyx, Javon, and Zaria were based on Adric’s impressions of the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan on a spaceship based on the starliner where Adric had grown up amid a mixture of other spaceships he’d seen since he joined the TARDIS crew, with a class system based on a meritocracy, as well as various monsters in the cave system including blood-drinking spiders based on the monsters in the marshes of Alzarius (“Full Circle”) and the Great Vampires (“State of Decay”). Calcula, Jenessa, and Pyrrha of the Guardians of Observance were based on The Doctor’s impressions of Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan, isolated in a monastery dedicated to intellectual pursuits and contemplating the wider universe, much like society back on Gallifrey. However, the most dangerous manifestations were King Magus, Prince Erdos, and Queen Antigone, based on Nyssa’s impressions of the Doctor, Adric, and Tegan, in a kingdom based on Traken.
Once the TARDIS crew had arrived in the Psychodrome, they encountered large rock formations and giant glowing mushrooms, followed by Nyssa having a premonitedition of danger. When they attempted to return to the TARDIS, they were just in time to see it being carried away by natives, with The Doctor and Adric running into Denyz’s group while trying to find the ship and Nyssa and Tegan meeting Professor Ricket’s crew as they waited. while The Doctor was looking around the ship, Adric was trapped outside with Zaria while encouraging her to explore options outside the rules of her ship, resulting in them being saved by the Guardians of Observance. As Nyssa and Tegan met and were unnerved by Magus and his kingdom, The Doctor was rescued from the ship by Professor Ricket when Javon tried to shoot him in the belief that Adric’s actions proved he was a saboteur, allowing The Doctor to note the similarities between him and Ricket.
As the TARDIS crew tried to reunite with their fellows, Professor Ricket’s expedition and the crew of the ship were struck by a mysterious plague, Nyssa finding herself unable to help any of the infected. Back at the observatory, The Doctor began to realise the truth of their environment, helping the Guardians of Observance recognise the flaws in their existence by noting that they should certainly have seen the citadel or the starliner before now, and the only explanationwas that none of them had existed before that day. While the Guardians were left reeling at this revelation, Zaria revealed the truth of their existence to the citadel to try and reconcile the groups with each other, but this provoked Magus to take action. As was revealed later, due to Nyssa subconsciously associating The Doctor with The Master after everything that had happened sincethe Fourth Doctor came to her planet (“The Keeper of Traken”), Magus essentially represented a combination of both Time Lords, prompting him to resolve to kill the other kingdoms to establish his power, recruiting the local primitives as his army and claiming the TARDIS for himself. When The Doctor and Adric went to rescue Nyssa from the ship, The Doctor received further proof of his theory, as Nyssa was faced with an incurable disease and Adric’s attempts to stop the ship exploding found himself faced with a mathematical-based security system that he couldn’t crack.
Before the ship could explode, it was taken by an army of primitives led by Erodas, who brought the dying Denyx and Rickett back to the citadel along with the TARDIS crew and the ship itself. As he revealed his true nature as a representation of the Doctor and the Master, King Magus merged with his ‘counterparts’ in the form of Professor Rickett and Denyx to gain more power, proclaiming that he would keep the crew imprisoned so that their imaginations would provide him with a greater kingdom. At the same time, he taunted his prisoners with his knowledge of their inner thoughts and doubts about each other, apparently aware of certain key details of their personal lives, such as how Adric had stowed away to join the TARDIS (“Full Circle”) and Tegan subconsciously wondering if her aunt would have lived if The Doctor hadn’t come to Earth at that time (“Logopolis “), even if he still did not consciously understand details such as how the TARDIS worked. The TARDIS crew realised that they could use their current environment to escape Magus’s cell by creating a new cell door, but even as they retreated to the citadel to plan their next move, The Doctor knew that their options were limited as the mental energy they used would give Magus even more power.
After taking a moment to collect themselves when the Magus’s attempt to send his forces against the citadel was thrown back by Adric bringing back his memory of the monsters he had seen earlier, the TARDIS crew allowed themselves to be ‘recaptured’. As the TARDIS crew confronted Magus once again, Magus attempted to encourage the companions’ darker thoughts of the Doctor, but Erdos and Antigone were eliminated when Adric and Tegan affirmed their belief in The Doctor, refusing to agree with Magus’s claims that The Doctor caused death in his travels and reasserting their view of the Doctoras a good man. With his closest allies lost, Magus began to lose his own power as the citadel started to collapse, The Doctor and his companions retreating to the TARDIS by using the residual power of the station to ensure that they would be able to find the ship. Magus attempted to convince The Doctor to take him with them, but The Doctor abandoned his darker counterpart as the citadel collapsed, Magus’s last words ironically foreshadowingthe Fifth Doctor’s last words of ‘Is this death?’ (“The Caves of Androzani”).