Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Story 44 - The Dominators


In which the Doctor decides that he needs a rest. Showing mental images of his last encounter with the Daleks has been quite tiring, so when the TARDIS materialises on the tranquil planet of Dulkis, he plans a relaxing break. He has been here before and tells his companions that the Dulcians are a peaceful people, who gave up warfare generations ago. They are on an unoccupied island. A spaceship has just landed nearby - belonging to the belligerent Dominators. Cully, rebellious son of the Dulcian leader Senex is conducting unofficial tours of the island - known as the Island of Death as it had been the site for nuclear testing. The radiation warning fails to activate and his craft crashes onto the beach. His three passengers are killed by Quarks - squat robot servants of the Dominators. The Doctor and his companions encounter a party from the university who have come to study the island. Cully turns up at their base and tries to warn them all about the new arrivals, but he often tells tall tales and is not believed. Educator Balan assumes the time travellers to be his passengers. A scan reveals that the radiation has vanished entirely from the island.


The Dominators - Navigator Rago and Probationer Toba - order the Quarks to start marking out drill sites around the island. Rago is worried about the power levels of the robots and is furious with Toba for destroying the three Dulcians and Cully's craft earlier. It is a waste of resources and they should have questioned and examined the natives. The Doctor and Jamie are captured and tested. The Doctor feigns stupidity and so Rago assumes they do not pose a threat - but Dulcians might make a good slave labour force. Cully decides to go and see his father, and Zoe goes with him. They travel by small rocket pod to the capital city. Senex and his council also fail to heed the warnings. Cully and Zoe return to the island. The  Doctor and Jamie use Balan's pod to go to the city, only to find they have just missed Cully and Zoe. The council witnesses an attack on the university base by Quarks on a video link. Balan and his pupils - Teel and Kando - are captured and put to work helping the Dominators drill bore holes.


Dominator spaceships absorb radiation for fuel. They plan to drill down to the molten core of the planet - the crust being quite thin beneath the island - and unleash volcanic forces. An atomic seed capsule will be introduced. The planet will be turned into a radioactive mass which their space-fleet can use. The Dulcians will be enslaved or left to die. Balan is killed. Cully and Jamie begin a campaign to disrupt and delay the drilling. They destroy some of the Quarks. The Doctor and the others take refuge in an underground bunker close to where the atomic seed will be dropped. The Doctor uses his Sonic Screwdriver as a thermal lance to start a tunnel from the bunker to the bore hole. He is able to catch the capsule, and he smuggles it onto the Dominator ship as it takes off. The Dominators are destroyed. Cully and the others leave the island. The volcanic eruption is still triggered - but its effects will be confined to the island. Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find it about to be engulfed by lava...


This five part adventure was written by Norman Ashby (really Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln), and broadcast between 10th August and 7th September, 1968. It opened the sixth season of Doctor Who. The story opens with the Doctor referring to having shown Zoe the events of The Evil of the Daleks - a repeat of which had been shown during the summer break.
The Dominators had a very troubled history. It was originally a six part story, but the production team was not happy with it. Script Editor Derrick Sherwin ordered numerous rewrites and eventually had it condensed to five episodes, which did not please the writers. They decided to take their names off it and so the pseudonym of Norman Ashby was used. Haisman and Lincoln were further enraged when the BBC used the Quarks in a number of merchandising projects without their permission or any consultation - leading them to refuse to contribute further to the programme.
Frazer Hines was being encouraged by his agent to leave the programme, and Patrick Troughton was becoming unhappy with the quality of some scripts as well as the punishing recording schedule.


For a season opener, the story is a very weak one. The original title was going to be The Beautiful People, and it was going to be a comment on the growing hippy movement. What would happen when pacifists were confronted by a totally uncompromising warlike group - fight, flight or submit to slavery and destruction? An interesting concept - but poorly realised. It is difficult to take the Dulcians seriously as they wear such ludicrous costumes - the council members in maternity gowns and the younger men in skirts. The women are in leotards with see-through skirts. Wendy Padbury looks quite embarrassed when Zoe has to adopt this look. Balan seems quite open minded at first - accepting that the Doctor and his companions come from another world simply because they say they do. Once Cully turns up, however, he starts to refuse to listen to anyone else's opinions. Cully looks like the oldest teenager in the cosmos, when the part really needs a James Dean. Arthur Cox is another one who seems embarrassed by the costuming. It took him 42 years to get over it and return to the programme - as Mr. Henderson in The Eleventh Hour.
The council are incapable of making any decisions that matter. As they are a people of peace, they simply cannot countenance other races not being like them.
Rago and Toba (Ronald Allen and Kenneth Ives) have great costumes - with huge shoulders implying they don't have any necks. They bicker constantly - Toba wanting to destroy everything like a petulant child, and Rago acting as the exasperated parent who has to keep him in order.
It was hoped that the Quarks might become a new regular foe for the Doctor. Their appearance lets them down in the sinister, threatening stakes. They were played by schoolboys, and the voice is, unfortunately, a feminine squeak which is hard to comprehend at times.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Doctor and Jamie are at the Dominator spaceship when they see Toba watching them. Quarks ask him if they should destroy them.
  2. Toba has the Quarks attack the university base - with Cully and Zoe trapped inside as it collapses.
  3. Toba has the Quarks attack the nuclear test museum where Jamie and Cully are hiding out.
  4. Toba has the Quarks kill Balan, and then threaten the Doctor.
  5. Toba has the Quarks... Sorry, they're destroyed already. (Had it been a six parter, Toba would have had the Quarks attack something). The Doctor and his companions see molten lava flow towards the TARDIS...

"Use the Quarks to attack one more thing and I'll ram this gun up your...."
Overall, Sherwin was probably right that there isn't enough to sustain a longer story. The argumentative Dominators can be quite amusing. The visuals let it down - so perhaps best listened to rather that watched.
Things you might like to know:

  • Thanks to this story, we were denied the third Yeti story that would have seen Jamie return to Scotland and become Clan Laird - and so leave the series.
  • This story sees the Doctor tuck into Jelly Babies for the very first time.
  • Patrick Troughton did not appear in any location filming. His double - Chris Jeffries - is clearly seen on a couple of occasions.
  • Part 3 has no episode number caption.
  • The Quarks never did return to the programme (apart from a cameo in Episode 10 of The War Games) - but they became a fixture of Second Doctor TV Comic strips. They were responsible for the departure of his grandchildren John and Gillian - the Doctor packing them off to university for fear of meeting up with them. The Dominators themselves never featured in the strips. Bizarrely, Quarks could control giant wasps among other things...
  • Despite it not being a favoured serial, Patrick Troughton asked for this story to be screened at his birthday party during the convention in Columbus, Georgia, at which he died in 1987.

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