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The Dominators ★★

Season six kicks off with the robotic Quarks and bickering Dominators for a "boring" operation

Published: Monday, 27th July 2009 at 11:00 pm

Season 6 – Story 44

"I warn you, a Dominator must be obeyed. Your leader is nothing to me. I respect only one thing: superior force" - Navigator Rago


The Tardis lands on the peace-loving planet of Dulkis at the same time as the Dominators, an aggressive race backed by armed servant robots called Quarks. The population seems powerless to the enslavement plans of the invaders, but the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe motivate a rebellious faction of Dulcians in a bid to repel the Dominators. However, the oppressors' ultimate aim is to drill into the planet's core and trigger a radioactive outpouring to refuel their fleet of spaceships…

First transmissions
Episode 1 - Saturday 10 August 1968
Episode 2 - Saturday 17 August 1968
Episode 3 - Saturday 24 August 1968
Episode 4 - Saturday 31 August 1968
Episode 5 - Saturday 7 September 1968

Location filming: April 1968 at Gerrards Cross quarry, Bucks; Olley sandpit, Trottiscliffe, Kent
Filming: April/May 1968 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: May 1968 in TC4 (eps 1 & 2) and May/June 1968 in TC3 (eps 3-5)

Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Zoe Heriot - Wendy Padbury
Navigator Rago - Ronald Allen
Probationer Toba - Kenneth Ives
Cully - Arthur Cox
Kando - Felicity Gibson
Teel - Giles Block
Senex - Walter Fitzgerald
Balan - Johnson Bayly
Bovem - Alan Gerrard
Tensa - Brian Cant
Tolata - Nicolette Pendrell
Etnin - Malcolm Terris
Wahed - Philip Voss
Quarks - John Hicks, Gary Smith, Freddie Wilson
Quark voices - Sheila Grant

Writer - Norman Ashby (pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln)
Special sounds - Brian Hodgson
Designer - Barry Newbery
Script editor - Derrick Sherwin
Producer - Peter Bryant
Director - Morris Barry

RT Review by Mark Braxton
Backstage unrest can either bring out the best in a production crew by stimulating its creative juices, or be manifested on screen with merciless clarity. The opening two stories of season six provide textbook examples of these scenarios - and it's apparent in seconds which is which.

Originally slated as a six-parter, The Dominators was, incredibly, the work of Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, whose brace of Yeti yarns is such a focal point of the classic canon. But the pair submitted their screenplay late and script editor Derrick Sherwin rewrote it heavily, reducing the adventure by an entire episode. Unhappy with the result, the writers donned pseudonymous camouflage, and resentment simmered for some time afterwards.

Welcome, then, to the world of bullies versus weeds… Dennis the Menace v Walter the Softy, if you will. A comment on the hippie movement of the time, The Dominators, according to Haisman, examined "what happens to a completely submissive society… when it is suddenly overrun". A diverting idea, certainly, but not a new one (The Daleks). Neither is the plan of drilling into a planet's core (The Dalek Invasion of Earth), nor the concept of a space museum (The, ahem, Space Museum).

In just one small example of the laxity on display, the woolly phrase "sort of" can be heard five times in less than 20 seconds. That could be down to actorly improvisation, of course. In which case director Morris Barry should have stepped in - as he should when Johnson Bayly repeatedly mispronounced robots as "roe-berts". Stop it! The cliffhangers are hopeless, too, the worst being the Quarks' destruction of the museum, with any anxiety about the fate of Jamie and Cully doused by clearly seeing the pair flee the area beforehand!

It's hard to root for anyone among the black-and-white protagonists. The scowling, bickering Dominators are one-note, while the Dulcians (surely Dulkian is the correct derivative of Dulkis? Then again, maybe Dullard does the job just as well) are mostly cringing simpletons. Arthur Cox does his best with the more spirited Cully but…

Such a lack of audience identification makes watching the serial a terrible trudge, and the characters aren't helped by their costumes. The floaty dress worn by male and female Dulcian may suggest the necessary combination of apathy and hedonism, but just looks daft. I pity poor Wendy Padbury for having been made to go native. The Dominators fare no better, either; Rago and Toba look like the unfortunate love-children of a piñata donkey and the Thames Barrier.

Happily there are a few saving graces. One is the Quarks, whose foldaway arms and mace-heads were nice pieces of draughtsmanship. But any intention to create a worthy successor to the mighty Dalek was scuppered by the Quarks' barely comprehensible baby-on-helium voices.

There are some magnificent examples of on-location pyrotechnics, too, the best of the bunch being the obliteration of Cully's craft in episode one. Very satisfying. As is the stirring sight of Jamie once again taking the game to the opposition. He's right up there in the shortlist of best companions, no question.

But this is grasping at straws. Centring an entire plot on a boring operation says it all, really. It's tempting to say: "Move along - there's nothing to see here." But given the behind-the-scenes turmoil, perhaps we should be grateful it ever made transmission at all.

Radio Times archive material

Dom trail
Dom 1
Dom 2
Dom 3
Dom 4
Dom 5


[Available on BBC DVD and BBC Audio CD]


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