The Dominators

The Dominators
The Dominators.jpg
Season: 6
Episode: 1
Vital statistics
Air date 10 August - 7 September 1968
Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Morris Barry
Episode guide
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The Wheel in Space The Mind Robber
Rago being the dominant, if ya get my drift.

The Dominators is a second Doctor story with Qt Haircut and Scotty and about how violence is bad, but pacifism really sucks.

This story is notable for being the first appearance of jelly babies. Also the first appearance of the Quarks, who never showed up again on TV, but whenever the comics remembered they didn't have the rights to the Daleks and they just used the Trods last week: run, John and Gillian! Here come the Quarks!

Plot

Dominators Rago and Toba land on planet Dulkis. They plan to drill into its core and drop in some red matter so they can turn it into a mass of radioactive slag they can use to refuel their spaceship. Ripping off Abrams' Star Trek and the Slitheen at the same time is all in a day's work, but Rago wants to enslave the locals first, because they're called Dominators, so they have to Dominate. They're bigger and bolder and rougher and tougher. Also, he wants to kiss himself. So he sends forth their massive army of two Quarks to find the thinnest part of the planet's crust, and to find natives to enslave.

As it turns out, the thinnest part of the crust is 20 feet away, and the natives are there too. See, exactly 172 years ago, the people of Dulcis tested a nuclear weapon, and it horrified them so much they became pacifists and put all their weapons in a war museum right next to nuclear test island, and that happens to be where the Dominators land, and the TARDIS, and the President's son is there too, and some scientists.

The Doctor took Jamie and Zoe here for a relaxing beach vacation, and Jamie tosses a beachball around by himself while the Doctor sets up a beach chair, but before Zoe can get into a bikini, she discovers the war museum and they go explore it. They run into President's son Cully, and there's a radiation subplot that gets forgotten by next week but it convinces the scientists that they need to blow up the TARDIS for science, and that's how the TARDIS crew gets split up.

Zoe goes to the capital with Cully. Nobody believes him about the Quarks, or about Zoe being an alien, because The Man is keeping him down, man, so he makes her change from her cute spacegirl jumpsuit into one of those horrible Dulcian dresses so nobody will notice she's an alien, despite the fact that he just tried to convince the Council she was an alien and they laughed at him.

Meanwhile, the Quarks capture Jamie and the Doctor, and the Dominators magnetise them so they can stick them to the fridge. They scan Jamie and laugh at him for only having one heart, but decide not to scan the Doctor because he's probably one of those pathetic one-hearters too. They administer an IQ test, but the Doctor plays dumb and Jamie is dumb, and the Doctor makes up this story where "The Clever Ones" made all the weapons and the rest of the Dulcians are dumb and scared like them. So they let them go. 

Everyone goes back and forth between the two main locations a few times. The Dominators capture a Dulcian and discover that he's smarter than Jamie so The Clever Ones must be a real thing, so now they can enslave everyone after all. The Council accepts that aliens are real, but given a choice between fighting, submitting to slavery, and fleeing, they decide to wait and see what happens. What happens is they all get enslaved. A few more Quarks get built in time for the third episode. Toba keeps ordering the Quarks to blow things up and Rego keeps telling them to stop, which is enough to get a couple extra cliffhangers out of the story.

Zoe comes up with a cunning plan once she recognizes that the museum full of weapons has weapons in it, but Jamie ruins it. And since there are still two episodes to go (it would have been three if script editor Derrick Sherwin hadn't convinced Peter Bryant that five episodes was enough), there are more escapes and recaptures and failed plans and Toba wanting to blow stuff up and Rago saying no and thrilling scenes of drilling.

Eventually, the Quarks start running out of batteries, but it doesn't matter, the hole to the core is ready. The Dominators drop the red matter down the hole and get in their spaceship to go into orbit and soak up the radiation. But the Doctor had one last plan--he went down the hole to catch the red matter when they dropped it, and he TARDISed it onto their spaceship. So when they push the button, they blow up Skaro^H^H^H^H^Htheir own spaceship. The planet is saved, as are all 15 of its citizens.

The Doctor, heartbroken that he was forced to take a life, giggles and dances a jig and asks everyone to confirm how clever he was.

Jamie points out that there's still a hole to the core of the planet. The Doctor says don't worry, that'll just cause a volcano that'll destroy the island, but the rest of the planet will be safe. Jamie points out that they're on that island, and then they all notice the lava is coming toward them. End-of-story cliffhanger!

Costumes

This speaks for itself.

Yes, this is the one where the men wear curtains.

But the women's outfits--seriously, they make Zoe look terrible, which ought to be against the laws of physics. An opaque skirt that starts at mid-chest and falls straight, making every woman look like she has no curves and had her abdomen and waist surgically removed. In the telesnaps, they actually look kinda sexy, mainly because the skirt is transparent and they're basically wearing a leotard with strategic bits cut out, but I guess in black&white standard-def it just didn't come across.

Zoe's into chokers.

Also, all of the outfits, both sexes, are falling apart. Star Trek proves that there's nothing sexier than a dress that looks like it's about to fall off, but The Dominators proves that there's nothing less sexy than a dress that looks like it has fallen off six times and been badly stapled back together each time.

There's also the Dominators. Shoulder pads built up so high they reach the ears, together with the deepest v-neck in history. It might work if it didn't make them waddle.

Anyway, the good news is that in the very next episode , Zoe will be in her sparkly jumpsuit, and you will forget entirely about the Dulcian dress.

Quarks

People call the Quarks boxy, but that's not fair. They're actual boxes. With a ball with spikes in stuck on top, and planks for hands and feet. They can't move on-camera in half the episodes (except for a couple shots, when you see the operator's hand just reaching on-screen and moving an arm or a leg), but they move in odd little dances in the other half. And those cute little high-pitched voices saying "Shall we destroy?" complete the package.

OK, yes, they weren't supposed to be cute, they were supposed to be scary monsters on par with the Daleks, but they're so cute that who cares?

Reception

This is one of Patrick Troughton's two favorite stories ever--he even had it shown at his last birthday party.

Most people disagree with him. There's something comfy about it--you can't watch Troughton having this much fun without enjoying yourself a little. And there's enough good stuff here for two episodes. But the padding means that all the stuff that was kind of dull (like the Dulcians of Dulkis, and the Dominators' boring drill... almost like the writers were trolling us) just gets to be way too much.

Or maybe it's just that I can't get past those costumes.

This used to be the story that right-wing Who fans used to prove that the show was right-wing before lefty RTD took it over and ruined the legacy of people like Verity "everyone should be accepted on their own terms" Lambert, Barry "all wisdom lies in the East" Letts, and David "needs more female role models" Whitaker, or Mac "workers of the world unite" Hulke. Because it's basically a pro-Vietnam War allegory. But now that the right hates neocons as much as the left, even they don't like this one anymore, so they look for anarcho-communist stories they can pretend are right-libertarian instead.

Trivia

  • Shall we destroy?