Doctor Who #212: The Dominators Part 1

"Vegetables, the lot of you. You don't live, you exist."TECHNICAL SPECS: The Dominators is available on DVD. First aired Aug.10 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on Dulkis at the same time as an invasion force of Dominators and their Quarks.

REVIEW: Though I know the story will not turn out to be a classic, as a season premiere, Part 1 starts with a bang, putting a lot of the effects right up front. The first shot is of an armada of flying saucers, one of them splits from the group to land on an island, going from glowing overlay to model. A great start. A huge explosion when they destroy Cully's ship. Innovative effect for the weapons when they kill a person. Nice alveola design on the bombed out museum. And they even find a way to marry the Dominator craft into the location shooting convincingly. The production team gets a lot of things right - including a quick editing pace that keeps the story moving, possibly due to its 6 parts being compressed into 5 - which makes up for the weaker designs: The Dulcians wear a terrible cross between a toga and a curtain, for example, and their ships look like unpainted, unfinished model work. The Dominators and their great big turtle shells are acceptable, but the Quarks are better when director Morris Barry plays coy and refuses to show them. They've got a fierce, spiky head, but their box-like body with the fold-out arms, their childish voices, and their small size makes the endearing instead of fearsome.

Dulkis seems a planet where inquiring minds aren't too popular, and is perhaps a satire of Western society at the time. The establishment teaches that facts must be disproved, not proven, and so should initially be taken at face value (like the Doctor being a time traveler, for example). Cully and his doomed, hedonistic friends, are meant to be a budding youth movement (though most of the actors don't look particularly youthful) that asks questions, visits forbidden islands, etc. as much out of boredom as rebellion. Unlike the youth movement of 1968, it may be these who hold the key to fighting off a Dominator invasion, since the old guard is all about pacifism (not for the first time in Who, this is not a desirable philosophy). Consider how childish the pretty student Kando is characterized, as a young person who does not think for herself as Cully does. There's a split in the Dominator camp as well, with the leader, Rago, being the voice of reason and logic to the bloodthirsty Toba's shoot-first knee-jerk reactions. Rago is motivated by paranoia and doubt, the need to make a proper study of the environment, managing resources, while Toba uses the Quarks to shoot down hippies running insouciantly towards them. I don't know what writers Haisman and Lincoln (the credited Norman Ashby is a pseudonym) had in mind exactly, and if the rewrites that made them take their name off the story changed their intent, but there seems to be an echo of world events here, a muddled one.

It's perhaps amusing that the Doctor considers Dulkis a holiday planet and hopes to catch some rays at the start of the episode. No doubt this mirrors the August audience's state of mind. But like the people at home, world events are bound to cast a shadow over one's holidays no matter how brightly the sun in shining. This is Zoe's first full story as a companion, and she appears to be more responsible and quick than the Doctor! She's draws many conclusions about the environment before he does, including the crucial point about radiation. The Doctor is an absent-minded professor which she can hopefully keep sharp. I've no doubt that in response, we'll start to see a dumber and dumber Jamie. Here, he's treated like a child when he fiddles with a working laser rifle. Since my primary experience of Jamie was always this season (it has most of the 2nd Doctor's completely surviving stories), my image of him is as a complete dumbass. My theory is that the character is deeply affected by whatever companion he's paired with. From the guy who gets a lot of Ben's bits, to Victoria's protective boyfriend, now to Zoe's kid brother. We'll see how kind (or not) this re-evaluation is to him.

VERSIONS: The Quarks became as important (and self-willed) as the Daleks in the comic strips of the era. These Quarks were independent creatures who at some point rebelled against the Dominators, and were as war-like and dangerous as the other machine races so frequently used in the program. For a while, they were the Doctor's primary enemy in TV Comic, returning again and again. This is why references to Quarks keep cropping up in later books, comics, audios and even televised episodes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A big effects spectacular to start off the new season and at least an attempt at creating a new iconic monster. That these fail utterly is only a problem for the last few seconds.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

One thing I've noticed: this may be the first time in the series that the Doctor can control where the TARDIS goes. He certainly gives the impression that they've landed on Dulkis by design, rather than chance.

Siskoid said...

I'm not so sure about that. Replace Dulkis with 1960s Earth, for example, and it's the same opening. "Oh, Brighton! I've been here before and I know all about it, get the deck chairs out!"

It only appears more specific because it's an alien worlds and those rarely show up more than once.

 

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