Doctor Who Story Number 44 – The Dominators

Written by Norman Ashby
Directed by Morris Barry

The TARDIS crew isn’t the only new arrival to the pacifist planet Dulkis.  Also arriving are The Dominators and their robotic minions The Quarks.

“This girl has an inquiring mind.  This proves she can’t be from Dulkis.”

Time has not been kind to The Dominators.  The costumes of the Dulcians are rather ridiculous.  The costumes of The Dominators seem a bit impractical for a warrior race, even if they rely upon The Quarks to do the majority of the fighting.  The Quarks themselves seem a bit impractical and unstable, even though I do like the look of the headpieces.  And while the beginning of the story had me a bit concerned and apprehensive, in the end I found myself enjoying the The Dominators more with each passing episode.

To me, the strength of the story is the interaction of the two Dominators, Navigator Rago and Probationer Toba.  Rago is the leader of the fuel-finding mission.  The Dominator warfleet is running low on energy and it needs large amounts of radiation.  By detonating an atomic device in the core of Dulkis, they hope to create a radioactive volcanic explosion.  The radiation would then been gathered by Dominator ships.  Unfortunately, they seem to only have just enough energy for this operation and Toba insists on going around and blowing up Dulcian buildings and killing the natives.  This leads to a bit of friction between the two Dominators.  I was never quite sure how their relationship would play out.  At times I feared Toba would completely turn on Rago and decide to follow his sadistic impulses, foregoing the mission entirely.  The Dominators were interesting and I would love to see their society fleshed out a bit more rather than the caricatures we got here.

Ultimately, the plot boils down to a simple premise: what happens when a pacifistic society finds itself targeted by unrelenting bullies.  The concept was inspired by the growing hippy movement of the 1960s.  Honestly, this is the continuing problem with pacifism.  There are some who would genuinely not be moved by peaceful resistance.  Sure, such resistance my inspire others, but in the face of an unstoppable military machine, do you hold to your pacifism or do you fight?  The answer given here is the latter, much like it was way back in season one when Ian had to inspire the Thals.  But keeping in mind that the writers of both The Daleks and The Dominators lived through World War Two, the call to resistance seems understandable.  It is unlikely that Hitler would have been dissuaded by peaceful resistance.  Since the writers had a definite agenda here (“writers” since “Norman Ashby was a pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln), there isn’t much debate given to the issue.

"Hug me!"

This was a very slow story.  As mentioned earlier, the production values seemed on the cheaper side (although there were some excellent explosions).  It probably should have been shorter (as with many Troughton stories).  It certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it has some good moments (The Doctor and Jamie playing dumb during their interrogation) and it is quite a bit of fun to watch The Quarks explode.

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5 thoughts on “Doctor Who Story Number 44 – The Dominators

  1. Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln wrote two superb Troughton serials in the previous season,’The Abominable Snowmen’ and ‘The Web of Fear’. We can tell from those serials just how good they were as a writing team.

    But script editor Derrick Sherwin decided to meddle with their 6-part serial ‘The Dominators’, amongst other changes scrapping episode 6 entirely, and writing episode 5 – which now became the concluding installment – himself.

    The result was a mess, made worse by a cheap budget, awful costumes, dreadful special effects, and a weak guest cast – except for Brian Cant and Ronald Allen. None of these additional problems were the fault of – nor within the control of – the scriptwriters.

    This was tragic, because the production team blamed the writers, for what were largely not faults of the scripts, leading to Haisman and Lincoln refusing to write for the show, and cancelling a potentially excellent concluding serial for season 6, ‘The Laird of McCrimmon’.

    1. I’ve read a little about the ideas for ‘The Laird of McCrimmon’. I’m sorry it didn’t get made because it would have been a great conclusion for Jamie, and it would have resolved The Great Intelligence story. I really enjoyed the concept of The Great Intelligence.

  2. You commented in the blog ‘it should have been shorter’. Script editor Derrick Sherwin agreed with you, reducing It to 5 episodes. The decision had a knock-on effect, because it left the season an episode short, and he thus had to add an extra – opening – episode to the next serial in the production order, ‘Mind Robber’, thereby turning it, too, into a 5-parter; and he had to do so with no guest cast, and no studio sets, except the standing set for the Tardis.

    The result was amazingly successful, But that extra episode was entirely a result of the problems with ‘The Dominators’.

    ‘Mind Robber’ had been intended to start with what is now episode 2, and it’s interesting to reflect on how that serial would have come across to the viewer if it had been made without what is now episode 1, which gives it an atmospheric – even spooky – beginning.

    And if ‘The Laird of McCrimmon’ had indeed been made in place of ‘The War Games’, the history of Dr Who might have been very, very different. If the Time Lords had never existed, who were created in Episode 10 of ‘The War Games’ in order to resolve plotting problems in that serial, much of the underpinning of the Pertwee years would have been lost – and probably the Master too, who was a renegade Time Lord.

    This would have had far reaching consequences. The Time Lords were responsible for many, many later developments, as far down the line as the Tom Baker years, in shows such as ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘Deadly Assassin’, ‘Ribos Operation’ [introducing Romana and the Key to Time], and ‘The Invasion of Time’ – among many others.

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