Doctor Who – The Dominators Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Dominators
  • Story #: 44
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 08/10/1968 – 09/07/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“You wanted to destroy. Unnecessary destruction is wasteful.” – Dominator

“Dominators do not seek assistance. What we want – we take.” – Dominator

“Medical kit? Oh – it’s surprising what you can do with a few simple chemicals and a little ingenuity.” – The Doctor

I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to re-watching this story, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered. The story opens with a group of very interesting traditional-looking UFOs approaching a planet. One of the UFOs lands and the two beings inside, the Dominators, remark they have finished absorbing the radiation from the planet below. Meanwhile, a more traditional type of ship approaches the nearby “Island of Death”. The people on the ship are young thrill seekers. They crash into the Island, survive, are shocked to discover the island is no longer registering radioactivity – though it’s very lucky for them that it isn’t, and the young people are cut down by the Dominators. Their ship is also destroyed.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor tells Zoë and Jaime they are on Dulkis, a completely peaceful world occupied by total pacifists. Unfortunately, The TARDIS didn’t land in the capital but on the radioactive Island home to a museum of war and weapons – the only place on the planet that weapons exist.

The Dominators order their Quarks to set-up drilling.

As the TARDIS crew examines the museum they are found by some people – Dulcian students and their professor. They are forcibly decontaminated, before the Dulcians realize they are not radioactive in the first place. The professor jumps to the conclusion that it takes 170 years for radioactivity to completely disappear – and doesn’t believe their could be any other explanation. When Cully, the leader of the ill-fated thrilling adventure tour shows up, they figure that the Doctor and company are his charges – remarking the existence of life on other planets has been disproven.

The Doctor and Jaime leave the education and research center, and run into the Dominators and their robot servants, the Quarks. They are taken into the spaceship, examined and tested. Only Jaime is physically examined and the Dominators assume the Doctor is the same. The Doctor also intentionally flunks the intelligent tests.

The Dulcian professor and students send first Cully and Zoë to the capital and then the Doctor and Jaime who have escaped the Dominators. The leader of the Dulcians and his council are completely useless, not believing the TARDIS crew are from another world, unwilling to investigate the Island because what they say can’t be true, and even the emergency coordinator is stubbornly unwilling to accept any new information or to check on the story that Cully and the TARDIS crew tell them.

The TARDIS crew returns to the Island. The students and the professor have been captured by the Dominators and forced to work as slaves, clearing the area near the former research/education station for drilling. One of the Dominators had ordered the Quarks to destroy the building and his commander had become upset with him for wasting energy. The one Dominator also keeps wanting to destroy the Dulcians on the Island, while the other insists on using them as slave labor to spare using the Quarks which are low on power. The two argue about this. Often.

The Dominators argue with each other a lot, and eventually argue so much in front of the Doctor and Jaime that they reveal the plot. They plan on drilling through the Dulkis’s crust, which will cause a volcanic eruption. But they are also drilling a bore hole to drop a nuclear device in which will destroy the planet and create a lot of radioactive material which they can then mine for power. They also determine the Dulcians are unsuited to being a slave labor force and plan to destroy them with their planet.

The students on the Island, the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë discover this plot. The Dulcian students had discovered an old underground bomb shelter from the days of the testing – and have used it as hidden shelter throughout much of the story. The TARDIS crew decides what they must do is dig a cross tunnel to the bore hole and catch the seed device and deactivate it. This will take a little time, so Jaime and Cully are sent out to distract and destroy the Quarks and slow down or stop the drilling. Jaime, since he was free and returned to the Island with Cully, has been running a campaign of harassing the Quarks and destroying as many as he can with unique weapons, like boulders.

The plan more or less succeeds – the Doctor catches the nuclear seed device, but cannot deprogram it because it’s sealed – so he sneaks it on the Dominators spacecraft (which blows-up in the atmosphere). Unfortunately, the drilling had started a local volcanic eruption. The TARDIS crew barely make it inside the TARDIS ahead of the lava.

“The Dominators” has some very silly costumes. The Dominators costumes look like the lightweight plastic blow-up loungers one has in a pool. The Quarks are more cute than threatening, though the ray gun effect at the beginning is truly horrific. However, the Dominator Commander is determined to not kill anybody, not out of altruism but more because he doesn’t want to waste energy. His subordinate would rather just destroy everything. Their bickering leads to their downfall, but is also really annoying (as is their shouts of “destroy, destroy, total destruction”). The Dominators are a bit laughable. The plot is actually horrific – destroying an entire occupied planet, simply for energy?

The Dulcians are rather unbelievable too. OK, so they are total pacifists who have outlawed war and all weapons. I can actually buy that – but when they are threatened, it seems strange they would rather debate about it than take some sort of action. The Doctor warns the council of the dangers from the Dominators, but the council refuses to believe that the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are from another world, and they refuse to believe the Dominators intend them harm, since they won’t harm anyone else. Yet, you would think it was obvious that the TARDIS crew weren’t from Dulkis, since they are all brunette and everyone on Dulkis is blonde. And even the Dominators with their scans figure out their are two groups on the planet. Also, doesn’t Dulkis have some way of keeping track of people? You’d think they realise Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor aren’t locals.

So this isn’t one of my favorite Troughton stories, and I’d give it probably a 2 or 3 out of 5. But the Domintor plan is horrifying and the story does actually move along fairly fast, so there is that. And it’s good to see the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë – my favorites of the Second Doctor’s companions.

 

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