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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Doctor Who: The Dominators (1968)

A saucer-craft of the imperious Dominators lands on the peaceful world of Dulkis, with its crew of two Dominators and half-a-dozen robot quarks, for refueling.

The Dominators see an opportunity to not only enslave the entire population, but also percolate further nefarious (read 'possibly preposterous') plans for the planet.

The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive soon afterwards and get entangled - as they do - with the rather one-sided conflict between The Dominators and the Dulcians.

The Dulcians are an advanced race that have allowed their pacifist society to stagnate into a tedious bureaucracy, incapable of questioning the status quo - much like a more technologically-savvy version of the Eloi of 'future Earth' in HG Wells' The Time Machine.

They also have a wonderfully 60s sci-fi fashion sense about them with male Dulcians dressed in bizarre pleated togas that bear an unfortunate resemblance to adult nappies while the women wear bathing costumes under see-through skirts.

This sadly cowardly hippie race (a satire of the social and political mores of the times, but with the older generation as the pacifists and the young generation as the rebels) are prime material for conquest really!

The only voice of dissent comes from Cully (Arthur Cox), the son of the planet's director, Senex (Walter Fitzgerald), who runs an illegal adventure holiday company, and ends up helping The Doctor and his companions to overcome the invaders.

Even with their ridiculous, giant shoulder pads, the grim-faced Dominator duo - Navigator Rago (Ronald Allen) and  Probationer Toba (Kenneth Ives) - are the best thing about this story, constantly bickering and butting heads over the correct course of action.

They represent a force which controls "ten galaxies", and their harsh, sadistic temperaments conjure up favourable comparisons to Star Trek's klingons, and as such it's a great pity we have yet to see them again in Doctor Who.

Their all-too-brief appearance in this story, their cracking banter, their ranks etc all suggest that The Dominators could have a rich, interesting history as a race and even be a threat to established major factions of the Whoniverse if they're confident enough to believe a crew of two, and a half-dozen wobbly robots, can 'dominate' an entire population.

Cut down from six episodes to five before it went into production, The Dominators, as a story, is, however, still too long.

To be fair, the script pretty much keeps the action going for its two-hour duration, but much is quite repetitive and you feel you're going round in circles - like a debate in the Dulcian council chambers.

So little actually happens that the plot could have been condensed down into two or three episodes, making the story a lot tighter and less inclined to feel so bloated.

The Dominators
was designed to introduce the Quarks as the "new daleks", but unsurprisingly the robots' silly, squat style and vaguely humanoid appearance never caught on with the general public like the elegant, sleek daleks.

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