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.

Doctor who Story Number 41 – The Web of Fear

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Lured back to Earth by an unknown force, The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria find themselves in the London Underground with a squad of soldiers who are fighting against The Yeti.

“Yeti?  Did he say ‘Yeti’?”

If the first episode is anything to go by, this story looked great.  The underground sets look amazing, so much so that lore has it that London Underground accused the BBC of filming there without permission.  Douglas Camfield proves once more that he is one of the best directors of the classic era as he creates a fast-paced introductory episode, while building massive amounts of atmosphere and tension.  The TARDIS hanging in space and being consumed by webs is quite creepy.  The scene where the three explorers find a dead man in the underground is chilling.  A wonderfully eerie opening that brings images of Day of the Triffids, scenes of post-apocalyptic society.  Sadly, the opening episode is the only one that exists.

“It’s turning into a proper holiday camp, this place.”

While I enjoyed The Abominable Snowmen, I felt that it went on a bit too long.  With The Web of Fear, I felt the pace was better handled.  The first episode sets up the mystery of Yeti in the subway tunnels, a strange, web-like fungus being spread by the robots, and access to the surface is cut off.  Soldiers are placing explosives at various points in the tunnels.  The second episode brings our heroes back into the life of Professor Travers, only 40 years from when they last met him.  We get a bit of exposition and find out that London has been abandoned due to a strange mist.  Yes, it seems The Great Intelligence is trying to manifest in our realm once more.  If possible, the invisible creature seems more menacing than before as his plan has already conquered a city and he is able to take control of some people for a brief period, including Professor Travers at one point.  To make matters worse, one of the people at the army post is in league with The Intelligence.  This mystery is played quite well with plenty of red herrings.  Is it the cowardly Welsh soldier Evans?  Is it Anna Travers, who seems to suspect The Doctor?  Is it The Doctor himself?  Or is it the newly-arrived Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart who assumes command after the death of the previous commanding officer is killed?

Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart!  I’m quite excited to finally see (well, hear) his introduction to the show.  Yes, he meets The Doctor off-screen, but the crew didn’t know at the time that he would become a recurring, then regular, character.  However, after his performance in this story, you can really see why he would be brought back.  Nicholas Courtney brought an amazing performance to this role.  If you didn’t have hindsight in place, it would be easy to suspect this new character, yet he remains believable when it is revealed that he is not under The Great Intelligence’s control.  Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is a great character who even takes The TARDIS in stride.  He is yet another foreshadowing of things to come, as is Anne Travers working as a scientific advisor, and competent assistant, to The Doctor.  It is almost a direct foreshadowing of Liz Shaw.

“Revenge is a petty human emotion.  My purpose for you is far more interesting.”

This was a great story.  I really wish it wasn’t incomplete.  It encapsulates just about everything The Second Doctor era did well, as well as being a strong entry in the base-under-siege format that is starting to wear thin at this point.  It is atmospheric.  It is well-paced.  It improves on the strengths of The Abominable Snowmen.  I think it was wonderful.

Doctor Who Story Number 38 – The Abominable Snowmen

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Gerald Blake

The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive in the Himalayas and discover a monastery under siege by Yeti and a being from another plane of existence who is attempting to gain access to the Earth.

“Whatever it is, it’s nice to see it again.”
Professor Travers, an anthropologist from England, is in the Himalayas looking for the Yeti.  It seems he was ridiculed for this expedition, so he definitely has something to prove.  Matters are not helped when his traveling companion is killed.  Travers doesn’t get a good look at the creature, but he gets enough of a glimpse to determine that it is furry.  Thus, when The Doctor turns up in a fur coat, suspicion is quickly placed on the time traveler.

The Doctor had warned Jamie and Victoria to stay in the TARDIS after his preliminary scouting revealed gigantic footprints near the landing site.  These footprints were not made by Tegana and his warriors, but by the Yeti.  The Doctor knew they had just arrived in a dangerous place, and presumably he tried to make the two humans stay in the TARDIS to keep them out of danger having so recently escaped The Cybermen.  Victoria, it would seem, is a bad influence on Jamie.  They eventually discover a cave with wooden beams, leading Jamie to become more self-assured.  Our young Highlander is more afraid of wild beasts than men, it would seem.  But Jamie and Victoria are quickly trapped in the cave by a Yeti, and Jamie discovers a pyramid of stacked, metallic orbs.  Quite the eerie image.

The monks at the nearby Det-sen monastery provide some convenient exposition.  It seems that The Yeti, having once been timid and elusive, have grown more savage of late.  The creatures have killed some of the warrior monks, and Khrisong, the leader of the warriors, is itching for vengeance.  He believes that The Yetis change in behavior could be due to The Doctor.

“Victoria, I think this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valor.  Jamie has an idea.  Come along!”
I will admit, now that I’ve seen the Yeti in this story in action, I would have to agree that they are not the most intimidating of beasts.  They aren’t horrible, however.  And so far, this story is immensely compelling.  I love the isolated location, Travers’ expedition, the mysterious orbs, the abbot and his plans with Padmasambhava.  The mood of this story is ominous, and it is helped by both the lighting and the stark set design.

The Doctor spends much of this story attempting to win over both Travers and Khrisong.  Honestly, allies are important in this story because as we come to understand the threat, we realize that this power is unlike anything else The Doctor has faced, with the possible exception of The Animus.  Both The Animus and this story’s Great Intelligence are creatures that use mind-control as a means to devour the plane into which they manifest.  The Great Intelligence made contact with Padmasambhava while the llama was traveling the astral plane.  It invaded the human’s mind and has been using him to create both The Yeti and the control spheres.  It has kept the llama alive for over two hundred years.  Fortunately for all of humanity, The Great Intelligence has not yet encountered The Doctor and as a result, it has underestimated him.

“Bung a rock at it.”
I can see why, as Doctor Who developed in the 90s, fans began to view The Great Intelligence as a Lovecraftian alien.  Travers even comes close to having a breakdown into madness, a staple in Lovecraft’s protagonists.  As the story progresses, Padmasambhava comes to realize that The Great Intelligence will destroy the world.  As he tries to convince the monks, The Doctor, and his companions to leave, The Great Intelligence is being born into our world on the side of the mountain, originating from the control sphere pyramid in the cave.  In the end, The Doctor must pit his mind and will against The Great Intelligence while Jamie and the monk Thonmi break everything in the secret control room.  The destruction of a second sphere pyramid makes short work of the astral creature.

I love the imagination of this story. In a much darker way, it captured that feeling I loved in The Hartnell era where you had no idea what you would see from week to week.  The Great Intelligence was genuinely frightening, and The Doctor has possibly been at his most concerned and serious.  While being a bit slow in the middle, the story was interesting, had a great tone, and was a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to the rematch in a few episode’s time.