Doctor Who: The Dominators by Norman Ashby (DVD review).
I remember when the sixth season of ‘Doctor Who’ was about to be shown on TV back in 1968 that there was a lot of media promotion about the new villains, the Quarks. Which at the end of the day were some of the worst robots in creation although they packed as powerful a wallop as a Dalek zap-gun being able to destroy humanoids and buildings with aplumb. Actually, the used a heat gun because as you know, you can’t shoot anyone with plums.
On the disused island on the planet Dulkis, once used to test a nuclear bomb and now only tested for radioactive fall-out. Cully (actor Arthur Cox) is taking some young people to see the island but warns them not to go outside because of the radioactive contamination from the only time an atomic bomb was detonated on their planet. At the same time, the advance guard of Dominators have arrived in their spaceship on Dulkis’; forbidden island with the objective of collecting vital minerals and to enslave the inhabitants as a labour force. Toba (actor Kenneth Ives) orders the Quarks to kill the wandering tourists, much to the distain of his boss, Rago (actor Ronald Allen). He isn’t exactly nice, neither, just a little less impetuous.
The TARDIS arrives with the Doctor (actor Patrick Troughton) and companions, Jamie McCrimmon (actor Frazer Hines) and Zoe Heriot (actress Wendy Padbury) wanting to take a holiday on the peaceful planet. Instead, they discover the original outpost after the nuclear detonation and meet the scientific team who don’t believe the radioactivity has gone. Cully finds them and the scientific team don’t believe him about the invasion force neither. The Doctor and Jamie go to investigate, get captured by the Dominators and act like simpletons so they aren’t taken seriously and left alone.
Meanwhile, Cully and Zoe go to the capitol to warn them. Cully’s father, the Director, is their leader but disbelieves them as well. They return to the island only to find the scientific team missing and Toba destroying the observatory. Captured, they join the rest of the Dulkisians on the island as physical labourers to test how good a set of slaves they are.
In a reverse of circumstances, the Doctor and Jamie are in the capitol, unsuccessfully trying to convince the Director and his committee of their peril, but their pacifistic attitude seems impossible to beat until they use a camera in the island observatory and see a Quark. Even so, they think the Dominators will be an equally benevolent as the aliens in front of them. Had enough, the Doctor and Jamie return to the island with the former stopping their travel capsule short of arriving at the observatory and capture. However, they do spot Zoe and her labour force and split up to get around the Quarks. The Doctor gets captured and after Zoe’s plan to get Cuffy inside the bunker to the old laser gun inside goes awry, Jamie uses it to destroy a Quark. Unfortunately, Toba orders the place destroyed.
On the Dominator spaceship, Rago offers to injure the returned Zoe unless the Doctor gives some information about the planet, before using the downed travel capsule to the capital and menaces the committee, demanding the healthy for slaves. Jamie and Cuffy survive the explosion in a deep bunker before getting out and causing more trouble. This diversion allows the Doctor and Zoe to examine the spaceship to see what makes this island so important and what is its power source.
Back on the island, Rago really does have to rattle Toba to keep the Quarks working on the five drills sites instead of pursuing Jamie and Cuffy, especially when they orchestrate the Doctor and the Dulkisians hiding in the bunker. Unable to stop the bomb directly, Jamie suggests tunnelling to the central drill shaft and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver for the second or third since being introduced in ‘Fury From The Deep’, to get the tunnel started and the others to clear the debris. He then prepares some bombs for Jamie and Cuffy to disable the Quarks. For the rest, you can watch the story for yourself.
The Dulkisians are an odd species, especially as being dressed in curtain material drawn tight seemed all the vogue. The Dominators seem happy to discover that the Dulkisians have twin hearts and although they didn’t get as far as examining the Doctor, one has to wonder if the idea for Gallefreyian physiology started here, especially as it was only six stories before a certain regeneration.
In many respects, this is a Jamie story, mostly because he comes up with the battle strategy plans and together with Cuffy, thwarts the Quarks, with the Doctor helping with the explosives at the end. Quite what the Dulkisians have in their medical kits that could do that is anyone’s guess.
The audio commentary with actors Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Arthur Cox and Giles Block and make-up artist Sylvia James, who has the notoriety of having worked on the most ever episodes, presents a lot of useful info and I wonder how many of you spotted that Patrick Troughton didn’t actually appear in the outside filming?
‘Recharge And Equalise’ explore the making of the story and why it was seen as going wrong and why co-writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln had their name taken off the credits and ownership of the Quarks with the BBC. Script editor Derrick Sherwood describes the story as a bit of a mess and it was condensed from six to five episodes. Looking from my aged perspective, I have to wonder what they were all on for insipid curtains for costumes and small robots who if tipped on their fronts would be next to useless at firing at anything. Not to mention that they weren’t particularly fast and couldn’t climb stairs.
‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Second Doctor’ is presented by Caroline John in the ‘Points Of View’ format showing the critics reaction to ‘Doctor Who’ from that time period. I wish it had been a bit rounder and covered what the tabloids also said about the show.
‘The Dominators’ is an odd story. The areas of menace with the Dominators themselves is certainly menacing but the likes of the Quarks, even more vulnerable than the Daleks, and the curtain costumes tends to take a little getting used to but the acting from all manages to pull everything together. With so few Troughton stories available, don’t forget to add to your list.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD2807. 1 DVDs 121 minutes 5 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: about £ 8.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Ronald Allen, Giles Block and Arthur Cox
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