The Dominators

An unintelligent enemy is far less dangerous than an intelligent one, Jamie. Just act stupid. Do you think you can do that?

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on Dulkis, where other less peaceful aliens have also arrived.

Review

From a personal perspective, The Dominators has an interesting detail: it is the Doctor Who serial to be filmed closest to where I grew up as Wrotham Quarry in Kent doubles for the surface of the planet Dulkis. Unfortunately, this item of personal intrigue was not to be a redeeming feature in the story. I have written a couple of times about the dangers of knowing a story’s reputation before watching it, and sadly, The Dominators did nothing to dissuade me that this is possibly the worst Troughton serial. We had to reach it at some point, really.

I think if my name was associated with The Dominators in some bizarre parallel universe, I’d want my name taken off it too. It is paced so poorly that to claim that it has a snail’s pace would be a great disservice to snails and has no sense of urgency or threat. Elements like Zoe and then the Doctor and Jamie going across the Capital of Dulkis, Toba ordering the Quarks to destroy things and the Dominators arguing are repeated so frequently that it just feels like padding and all the more remarkable that Derrick Sherwin who script edited this was not able to find more than a sixth episode to take out of it. It’s not helped by the fact that this story feels incredibly cheap for a season opener. The planet of Dulkis feels like a typical quarry location, and it is painfully obvious when the actors are on location or on a set by how fake the backdrop looks. Then there are the costumes, which saw the costuming team presumably raiding Television Centre for all their curtains and sofa cushions to make the male Dulkian and Dominators costumes respectively. Then we have the Quarks, who ultimately feel like a halfhearted attempt to create another monster to replicate the Dalekmania effect, but can only go a short distance without having to recharge.

The guest cast here are really poor, in some cases feeling horrendously miscast, and it contributes to this story falling flat. Perhaps the worst example of miscast is Arthur Cox as Cully, who would seem to be a young wastrel rather than the balding middle-aged man that ended up onscreen. Granted that this is not entirely Cox’s fault, and director Morris Barry has to take some share of the blame, but it does not make it any easier to watch a grown man complaining about how his father is treating him. The Council scenes deliberating about whether or not to do something about the Dominators’ threat to their planet reminded me of the protracted Senate scenes in the Star Wars prequels, and the pale male and stale cast that make up the Council really don’t help the near-glacial pace of these scenes. The Dominators are mixed and Ronald Allen is probably the only member of the guest cast who manages to escape with any credit – he is really solid when he confronts the Council in the Capital and in his scenes telling off Kenneth Ives’ Toba, and it is just a shame that his scene partner in those scenes is not a better actor.

The TARDIS trio here are pretty solid, even if Wendy Padbury feels underused in what is only her second story as a companion. Patrick Troughton certainly goes a long way to prove that he is the best actor to play the Doctor as he is able to lift this story out of the doldrums on many occasions here. Troughton is nothing less than entertaining in the majority of his stories, and here where everyone else seems to be sleepwalking to the end of Episode 5, he is absolutely trying his utmost. His chemistry with Hines is great, especially in the scenes with the Dominators. In a better story, their dynamic is capable of making a good episode great, however, here, there are just too many elements that don’t work.

Verdict: Probably one for the completists, The Dominators might make you wonder what other five episodes you’d rather have in the Archives than these. 1/10.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot), Ronald Allen (Rago), Kenneth Ives (Toba), Arthur Cox (Cully), Philip Voss (Wahed), Malcolm Terris (Etnin), Nicolette Pendrell (Tolata), Felicity Gibson (Kando), Giles Block (Teel), Johnson Bayly (Balan), John Hicks, Gary Smith and Freddie Wilson (Quarks), Sheila Grant (Quark Voices), Walter Fitzgerald (Senex), John Cross and Ronald Mansell (Council Members), Alan Gerrard (Bovem) & Brian Cant (Tensa).

Writer: “Norman Ashby” (a pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln)

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 5

Behind the Scenes

  • This story had a rumoured working title of The Beautiful People, however, this does not appear on any official paperwork.
  • The decision for this story to be credited to the pseudonym Norman Ashby seems to have been made relatively late in the day, as Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln’s names appeared on the camera scripts. The writers wanted it credited to the pseudonym as they felt unfairly treated by the production team, and it came from the forenames of both writers’ fathers-in-law.
  • The story was originally six parts long, but cut down to five parts by script editor Derrick Sherwin. As of 2020, this is the longest story to open a season.
  • Patrick Troughton requested a screening of The Dominators at his birthday party shortly before his death in 1987.
  • Chris Jeffries doubles for Troughton in all location shooting.
  • The only story directed by Morris Barry not to feature the Cybermen, and the only story written by Haisman and Lincoln not to feature the Robot Yeti or the Great Intelligence.

Cast Notes

  • Ronald Allen would go on to play Professor Ralph Cornish in The Ambassadors of Death.
  • Arthur Cox would go on to appear as Mr Henderson in The Eleventh Hour.
  • Philip Voss had previously appeared in Marco Polo and would go on to voice a Robot and Under-Sergeant in the audio adaptation of Original Sin.
  • Malcolm Terris appeared in the Fourth Doctor serial The Horns of Nimon.
  • John Hicks would appear in the Third Doctor serial The Claws of Axos as Axon Boy.
  • Sheila Grant would go onto appear in Colony in Space.
  • Brian Cant had previously appeared in The Daleks’ Master Plan.

Best Moment

I hate saying this, but when it was over and I didn’t have another episode of The Dominators to watch.

Best Quote

Oh no, you’re not thinking of what I think you’re thinking of, are you?

That, I think, Jamie, depends upon what you think I am thinking!

Jamie McCrimmon and the Second Doctor

Previous Second Doctor review: The Wheel in Space

One thought on “The Dominators

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