Doctor Who: Revisiting THE DOMINATORS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting THE DOMINATORS

Matthew Kresal revisits The Dominators.

The Dominators, the opening story of Patrick Troughton's final season as the Second Doctor, should have been a good one when you consider it was written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln (the team behind the two successful yeti stories The Abominable Snowmen and The Web Of Fear), was directed by Morris Barry (who had directed the Cybermen stories The Moonbase and The Tomb Of The Cybermen) and featured the TARDIS crew of the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. The result though is perhaps the least successful of the surviving intact Troughton era stories.

Certainly, this is not the fault of the TARDIS crew. In fact, the combination of Troughton's Doctor, Fraser Hines' Jamie and Wendy Padbury's Zoe is perhaps the biggest redeeming aspect. This was the first story for them as a team (as Zoe had been introduced in the previous adventure The Wheel In Space) but already there is a strong sense of chemistry amongst them, starting from the moment they arrive with the Doctor getting ready for a beach holiday (they don't appear until nearly ten minutes into the first episode and the story works best when they are on screen), right up until the final scenes of episode five. Unfortunately, they can't make up for the rest of The Dominators faults on their own.

The supporting cast representing the invaded Dulcians are functional at best and weak at worst. On the functional end are Johnson Bayly as Educator Balan, Arthur Cox as Cully and Walter Fitzgerald as Director Senex whose performances are exactly that: functional. The rest of the supporting cast give weak performances, including Felicity Gibson as Kando and Giles Block as Teel who occupy so much of The Dominator's run time. That's not to mention the weakest aspects...

Those would be its villains: the titular Dominators and their robotic minions the Quarks. Both seemed like a good idea on paper but their execution was far from it. The two Dominators, Ronald Allen as Rago and Kenneth Ives as Toba, do little more than march around, argue with one another and issue orders to their minions, though both actors do project a fair amount of menace in doing so. Their robotic minions the Quarks are much less successful. The Quarks were created with the intention of replacing the Daleks as the series' most popular monster, but watching this it isn't hard to see why that didn't happen. The Quarks lack menace, thanks to their short stature, their obvious difficulty in movement and their ridiculous voices which range from comical to nigh on impossible to understand. Put together, they form the weakest aspect of a weak story.

Other aspects of The Dominators are fairly weak too, including the design work in both sets and costumes -  the costumes in particular date this to the late 1960s with even male characters running around in dresses. The special effects are another weak aspect, especially the opening model shots and those of the travel capsule in flight which look like they were stolen from a 1930s Flash Gordon serial or the like. Morris Barry's direction, which had served the two previous Cybermen adventures he directed well, seems far less effective here as the plot moves along at a slow pace, though there is some occasional effective use of close-ups. The result is a weak - even boring - story.

Which brings us to the script. Though written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, The Dominators is credited to Norman Ashby due to the pair's difficulty with the Doctor Who production team over changes to the script. The biggest change was it being turned into a five part story instead of six, which seems to have been a smart decision in the long run. 1960s television tended to be stagey and dialogue-heavy and The Dominators is a perfect example of how this could harm a production. It is dominated (no pun intended) by scenes of characters sitting (standing in the case of the Dominators) around talking. The theme of pacifism versus militarism is highlighted by that fact and that is not a good thing. The Dulcian council sits around throughout the entire adventure and does nothing but debate how to deal with the Dominators' invasion, even after the Dominators arrive in the council's chamber. The dialogue is often cliched, such as Cully spending much of the time talking about "Dulcian this, Dulcian that." The result is the least successful of the duo's scripts and one of the weakest of the whole Troughton era.

On paper, The Dominators must have seemed a good idea yet its execution is lacking in almost every way. Indeed, of the seven surviving intact Troughton stories, this is perhaps the weakest of them. It is successful in domination... by boredom only.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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