This week, the final season of Patrick Troughton’s reign as the Doctor begins with The Dominators.
The Dominators (5 Episodes)
10 August – 07 September 1968
Another week, another rundown of missing episodes…
Tomb of the Cybermen is the only intact story from season 5 of Doctor Who, and it’s the first episode of the season. Everything else from that season is missing, and there’s some key moments that we need to cover before moving on to The Dominators.
In The Abominable Snowmen, The Doctor battle the Yetis for the first time. The Yetis would make a repeat appearance in The Web of Fear, a storyline that also introduces Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, who would eventually become a pivotal member of the Who cast.
The Ice Warriors introduces the Martian villains of the same name, a race that would make several repeat appearances.
Fury of the Deep sees the departure of Victoria Waterfield. It’s a shame, since I enjoyed her appearance in Tomb. Hopefully one day more episodes featuring her will be released.
Finally, The Wheel in Space sees the return of the Cybermen (their 4th appearance to date). More importantly, it introduces Zoe Heriot, a genius astrophysicist from the 21st century whose IQ is comparable to The Doctor’s. Zoe joins The Doctor and Jamie at the end of the storyline.
An alien craft bearing the ruthless Dominators lands on the Island of Death on the pacifistic planet of Dulkis. The Island, once a nuclear test site, now houses an anti-war museum. The Dominators despatch Quarks, their robotic servants, onto the island to prepare bore holes into the planet’s crust so that the Dominators can convert the planet into rocket fuel, destroying the planet in the process.
When a group of adventure seekers stumble upon the operation, Dominator leader Probationer Toba order the Quarks to open fire on them. Three of the party are killed and their craft destroyed, but the group’s pilot, Cully, manages to escape. The Dominator’s navigator, Rago, is infuriated by Toba’s rash actions, as the Quark’s power reserves are low and the adventurers could have served as slaves to aid the robots.
Writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln hoped that the Quarks would become the next big Doctor Who villains, rivaling the popularity of the Daleks. They genuinely believed that the Quarks would be a highly marketable product. There are two major problems with their line of thinking; The Quarks are in no way frightening. Actually, they’re kind of silly looking. You might even call them cute. The Daleks, on the other hand, are genuinely menacing with an incredible visual and easily marketable design. The Quarks are mindless robot servants of the Dominators with no actual personality at all, very little back story, and no motivation beyond following the Dominators orders. The Daleks are their own race with clear and ominous motivations and a fascinating culture and background. Whatever Haisman and Lincoln were hoping to achieve, unfortunately they failed in their creation of the Quarks.
The TARDIS arrives on the Island and The Doctor, Jamie and their newfound companion Zoe begin to explore their new surroundings. The Doctor acknowledges that he has been to Dulkis in the past and is looking forward to holidaying here. The explosion of the adventurer’s craft being destroyed draws them to the museum building, where they take shelter. There, they meet three Dulcians – Educator Balan and his young students Kando and Teel.
Balan and his charges take the TARDIS crew to a survey unit for decontamination, only to discover that the Doctor and his companions are not registering any radioactivity, something that is impossible since the island has been irradiated since a nuclear explosion 172 years ago. Cully soon joins the group and warns them of the Dominator arrival, but Balan doesn’t trust him; Cully is a known con artist. The Doctor and Jamie decide to investigate.
Meanwhile, the Quarks begin their drilling. With their power levels low, Rago is eager to conserve their energy supplies for essential tasks only. When the Doctor and Jamie stumble upon them, they are taken prisoner and tested to determine whether they are capable slaves to aid in the drilling. Believing them to be Dulcians, the Dominators subject them to both physical and mental testing. They deliberately fail every test they are subjected to and are released as worthless idiots who cannot aid the Dominator cause.
Here we see once again the more mischievous and manipulative side of the Doctor coupled with his intelligence and quick-wittedness. Quickly determining the Dominator’s intentions, he improvises a plan that ensures his and Jamie’s freedom. There’s a hint of roguish playfulness in Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, a trait synonymous with his time in the role and one that would carry over into later iterations of the character.
While the Doctor outwits the Dominators, Cully makes contact with his father, Dulcian leader Director Senex. With Zoe accompanying him, Cully heads to the Dulkis Capital City to meet with his father and the Dulcian ruling Council. There, they attempt to convince the Council of the threat the Dominators pose, but their pleas fall on deaf ears; the Council follows the pacifist philosophy and refuses to believe Cully’s story. They seek to debate the matter further, much to Cully’s frustration. He and Zoe head back to the Island of Death to gather proof of their claims. Unfortunately, they are both captured by the Quarks, as are Balan and his students. They are tested to determine their suitability for enslavement then put to work on the drilling operation.
The Dulcian Council seems to be an attack on the peace movement of the era. Unfortunately, the attack is neither subtle nor interesting. There was an opportunity here to explore the concept of pacifism as a philosophical or social movement, and in the hands of more skilled writers this could have formed a pivotal element of the storyline. Instead, the writers take cheap shots and the Council scenes disrupt the narrative flow of the story.
Zoe and Cully try to rally their companions to overthrow their oppressors, but Balan and Kando are opposed to the idea, seeking a peaceful, pacifistic solution to the problem. Cully manages to escape, however, and return to the museum, where he secures a weapon from an exhibit.
The Doctor and Jamie travel to the Capital City, where they too encounter the ruling Council. Like Cully and Zoe, they attempt to convince the Council to act, but the Council refuses. They return to the island, seeking to aid Zoe. Unfortunately, the Doctor is captured by the Quarks and forced to join the others as slaves aboard the Dominator ship.
Jamie manages to join up with Cully at the museum, and together they destroy one of the Quarks. In a rage, Toba orders the Quarks to destroy the museum, much to the dismay of Rago, who sees these actions as a waste of the limited powers of the Quarks. Toba is declares that Cully and Jamie are dead, but Rago isn’t convinced.
Fortunately, Jamie and Cully survive the explosion by hiding out in a nuclear bunker below the main building. They find themselves trapped, but manage to force their way free. They continue their assault, destroying another Quark. Enraged, Toba goes to investigate, leaving the Doctor and Zoe free to explore the Dominator ship. They manage to discover the ship’s power source while Jamie and Cully continue their attacks on the Quarks.
Jamie continues to shine as a companion. Here we see his resourcefulness, strategic mind and bravery as he launches a series of guerilla attacks on his enemies. The more I see of him, the more convinced I am that he is the best Who companion to date.
Back in Capital City, the Dulcian Council continues their debate. Rago makes his way to the city with a Quark and kills Director Senex, declaring that the fittest Dulcians will be converted into a slave force for use on the Dominator home world. Those not deemed worthy will die when the drilling destroys the planet.
Back on the island, Toba rounds up the slaves and demands to know who destroyed the Quarks. When Balan refuses to answer, Toba kills him, then turns his attentions to the Doctor. Before he can kill the Doctor, Rago returns, incensed that Toba has wasted more lives. More importantly, he has neglected the drilling operations. He sends Toba to complete the drilling with the Quarks and the slaves then focuses on preparing the seed that will be dropped into the planet’s core to destroy it.
Jamie and Cully manage to destroy another Quark and free The Doctor and his fellow slaves. Having seen the Dominator’s drilling work firsthand, the Doctor has now determiend their plan; they will drop a nuclear fission seed down the central bore hole and convert the entire planet into a radioactive mass to power the Dominator fleet. Several smaller bore holes will generate volcanic explosions to aid in the process.
Although they can do nothing to stop the volcanic eruptions, the freed slaves continue to attack the Quarks. Despite their growing animosity to one another, Rago and Toba manage to complete the bore hole and prime the seed. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to intercept the Seed, but he cannot deactivate it.
While Cully, Teel and Kandos flee to the Capital City and Jamie and Zoe return to the TARDIS, the Doctor smuggles the seed aboard the Dominator ship, destroying it. He then returns to the TARDIS, which departs in a hurry to avoid the lava from the new volcanoes.
The Dominators was plagued by script rewrites and problems between the writers and producers, and it’s clearly evident in the story. There’s no flow to the episodes, giving the entire storyline the feel of something that was being produced on the run. It’s an ambitious story but one that really fails to deliver on any level.
It’s unfortunate that there are so few surviving storylines featuring Patrick Troughton, as his “cosmic hobo” approach to the Doctor is certainly endearing. The more roguish elements of the character as portrayed by William Hartnell are brought to the forefront, making Troughton’s depiction of the Doctor more entertaining and charismatic than his predecessor.
One of the few genuine highlights to emerge from The Dominators is the relationship between the doctor and his two companions Jamie and Zoe. All three perfectly compliment one another; Jamie is physically strong and resourceful with quick instincts and adaptability. Zoe has a genius computer mind that is in many respects equal to the Doctor’s, while maintaining a youthful exuberance and fulfilling the surrogate daughter role that we haven’t seen since the days of Vicki (William Hartnell’s second companion). All of this is enhanced by the genuine camaraderie between actors Patrick Troughton, Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines.
For the first time, we have the perfect balance for the doctor and his companions
Neither the Dominators or the Quarks really stand out as villains. The Dominators are standard imperialist villains whose constant bickering, while essential to the story, makes them look weak and ineffectual. The Quarks, as stated above, are just silly looking and don’t really pose much of a threat to the Doctor and his companions. The weakness of the villains detracts from the storyline in every possible way.
The Dominators is really a mess of a story, made bearable predominantly by the chemistry between Troughton, Hines and Padbury.
Join us next week as The Doctor and his companions enter the bizarre, surreal world of The Mind Robber.