Friday, 13 January 2012

44: The Dominators - The Odd Couple In Space.

Written by: Norman Ashby.
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot.
Monsters/Villains: Dominators, Quarks.
Brief Synopsis: The Aptly named Dominators, use their robot Quarks to threaten the pacifist planet, Dulkis.
Rating: 4/10.

Hello, and a very happy new year to you all. I'm kicking off this year with a bit of a throwback to the last. I actually watched The Dominators last month, but with Christmas at home, a wonderful new years in Dublin with my sweetheart, and THREE auditions in the first week of this year I haven't had any time to write it up. Until now. The really good news is, that as we launch in to season 6 of Doctor Who there is only one more story to go that was effected by the BBC wipe-fest. Yes, we are finally nearly out of the wilderness! The bad news is The Dominators really isn't the best story to get 2012 underway. So we'll say that it was the last of 2011 and then we can get excited next time about the truly brilliant and unique story that follows. I hope you like the redesign of the blog, I'm still ironing out a few kinks, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. As always I greatly appreciate your feedback so let me know if there is anyway you think I can improve the site, by e-mailing me or leaving a comment.

The story starts promisingly with a massive fleet of ships in space apparently enroute to the planet Epsilon 4. We follow one ship that breaks off and lands on the pacifist planet Dulkis. With foresight I can't help but think, why couldn't we have followed a different ship to another planet? Perhaps that would have been less... well..... incredibly dull. 

Navigator Rago and Probationer Toba.
The ship lands and we meet Navigator Rago and his wife... uh, I mean subordinate, Probationer Toba. Right from the get go they discuss that their ship is absorbing the local radiation and transferring it to the fuel reserves. Which is all well and good, but the other characters will frustratingly spend most of the five episodes trying to work out where all the radiation has gone.

The Short lived, Wahed, Tolata and Etnin with Tour Guide Cully.
Simultaneously a small ship carrying three would-be-adventurers and their tour guide, Cully, visit a popular Dulcian tourist attraction. A test site riddled with radiation and aptly named the Island of Death. This is the location where the majority of this story is set and I promise by the end you'll be wishing the radiation was still there to kill everyone. Their ship crashes and at the order of Toba, they are barbarously executed by the Dominator's trendy looking, yet totally non-functionally designed robots, the Quarks. At this moment the TARDIS arrives.

The Quarks.
I have to take a moment here to talk about costume. I don't normally talk much about this element, but here one cannot avoid it. The Dominators are wearing these odd oversized, padded, life-preserver-like smocks, over flappy black leather jumpsuits. Like the design of the Quarks, I do find them oddly aesthetically pleasing, but I just can't imagine any reason why anyone would ever wear something like this. Maybe it's just a sort of artistic collage demonstrating their dominant nature? But never mind that, the Dulcian's inherent pacifism is clearly mirrored in their wholly skimpy, and at times inappropriately revealing garments. The most unfortunate example going to Cully, who is basically wearing curtains that look like a dress. Unfortunately we frequently get flashes of his black pants. Yuck!!

The three different Dulcian fashion styles:
Female, Male and umm, Older Male.
172 years prior, the island was the scene of a radioactive test site, and is frequently visited by students on Dulkis to see the dangers of such weaponry. Jamie, Zoe and the Doctor, who has been to Dulkis before, emerge from the TARDIS, explore the remains of a war museum and find a laser gun. Zoe says the place reminds her of the old test islands on earth and the trio realise that they may have wandered into a highly radioactive area. Just then they are rescued and taken to safety by the Survey expedition team from the University.

The Laser gun.
They are screened, but have no trace of radiation, and we know well why not. Here we meet Educator Balan and two of his students Teel and Kando. Cully, who managed to escape the Quarks, warns the Doctor that the Dominators were considering destroying the TARDIS. So the Doctor and Jamie head off to investigate, happen upon the Dominator's ship and are captured by the not so lovely couple.

Educator Balan.
Zoe and Cully are sent to the capitol via travel capsule (Just dial where you want to go and in eight minutes or less you're there) to explain what is happening, but when they arrive Director of the Council, Senex doesn't believe them. For some reason Zoe changes into some Dulcian attire or lack there of.

The Quarks, rather hilariously use a 'molecular force' to bind Jamie and the Doctor to the wall, while they are interrogated. Rago scans Jamie to investigate his physiognomy, but he is dismissed. They don't scan the Doctor but instead decide to test his intelligence. The Doctor is then attached to a kind of Jig-Saw puzzle from hell. The pair are tested but fail on purpose. After various tests, Rago lets them go, as they are deemed useless.

Balan, Teel and and Kando go to see if Cully was telling the truth. They enter the ship and are captured by the Dominators. Rago scans Teel and discovers that he has two hearts, having dismissed Jamie and the Doctor (whom they didn't scan) as useless, weak beings with one heart. Rago affirms that they may be able to use them as a labour force yet. Of course it won't be revealed until Spearhead From Space but the Doctor also has two hearts. Meanwhile Zoe and Cully have returned to the Survey Base just as Toba orders the Quarks to destroy it. 

Rago scanning Jamie and Teel or
possibly some sort of evil dentist.
Rago arrives at the last minute, scolds Toba and orders the Quarks to stop, capture and not kill. The Doctor and Jamie arrive at the capitol to see Senex and warn the council about the Dominators, but they elect to do nothing, declaring, "better do nothing, than do the wrong thing." 

The Council.
Zoe, Cully, Balan, Teel and Kando and taken to the war museum to test their manual labour skills for enslavement. Rago orders them to be worked until they collapse and then returned to him. Zoe leads Cully and Teel in trying to overcome the Quarks, but the attempt fails.

Teel and Kando with A Quark.
At the capitol it is decided that Chairman Tensa will deal with counteracting the current problem. Tensa says they have three options: fight, submit or flee. They don't want to submit, they have nowhere to flee, and they won't fight so they'll choose mystery option number four and continue to do nothing.

The Doctor and Jamie go back to the war museum and split up to try to free the others. Cully sneaks off and is about to fire on a Quark with the laser gun but Jamie distracts him. The Doctor is captured by Toba, and he and the others are taken back to the Dominator's ship, while Toba and a Quark go to find Cully. Jamie uses the laser gun in the museum to destroy the Quark, but many more arrive and Toba orders them to destroy the museum with Jamie and Cully inside.

Another lovers spat.
Rago scolds Toba once more saying their power levels are low and they must preserve the Quarks. Rago also says he is beginning to wonder if Toba has the qualities of intelligence and detachment necessary to be a Dominator. Ohhh it just got real! Toba, who seems to just want to destroy everything he comes across, throws down and says that Rago is soft and that it is he who doesn't have what it takes to be a Dominator. Rago orders a Quark to place Toba under restraint causing him to submit and take the Dulcians to the drilling site as ordered. The Doctor and Zoe remain under Quark guard as Rago goes to the Capitol via travel capsule.

Fortunately Jamie and Cully managed to survive by climbing down a hatch in to an underground shelter. They get out and play ten pin bowling with a Quark as the pin and a bolder as the ball. The Quark left guarding the Doctor and Zoe leaves to investigate Jamie and Cully's handiwork leaving the Doctor and Zoe to finally deduce that the Dominator's ship is powered by... that's right you guessed it 'radiation' and that that must be where all the radiation went. Didn't see that one coming... Oh no wait, I did.

Toba goes off on another kill-jolly when he learns that a Quark was destroyed and orders the Quarks to search out and destroy any unaccounted aliens. Rago breaks into the council meeting, saying that he only respects superior force, and orders a Quark to kill Tensa. He informs the Dulcians that he will enslave them and take them to his home planet to replace the Quarks as slaves.

The rather gorgeous Felicity Gibson as Tando.
Meanwhile Toba threatens and tortures Teel until Kando tells him that it was Jamie who destroyed the Quark. Toba threatens, "You will die, one by one, until you tell me [where Jamie is]" and orders a Quark to kill Balan with the Doctor next in line.

Fortunately Rago interrupts. At this point I noticed that Rago practically never looks at Toba. Perhaps it's a power play or perhaps it's because he can't look at him the same way after last night.... After another lovers tiff Rago orders Toba to return to overseeing some drilling. 

Rago not looking at Toba.
Jamie and Cully return to their Underground hideout where Jamie uses a periscope to spy on the Quarks. At this point my sweetheart chimes in with, "How does Jamie know what a periscope is, or how to use it?" This prompted me to look into this and I discovered that a form of periscope was invented in 1430 which does predate Jamie by some 300 years. However this kind of periscope wasn't pioneered until 1854 or used on submarines until as late as 1902. I also challenge the likelihood that Jamie would have come across one, know what it was called and how to use it. As an historical companion it wouldn't be reasonable for Jamie to constantly question every new thing around him, but I feel sometimes the writers miss some great moment for Jamie to discover the wonders of technology/conveniently forget that he is from circa 1746.

Nearly at the very end of the story all of the Dominator's plans are finally revealed. Their fleet commander has decided that the Dulcians are not fit for slave labour and they will be destroyed along with their planet. They plan to fire rockets into the centre of the planet at a weak point in the planet's crust, to cause a volcano and then to launch a radioactive seed device in to the core of the planet to create mass amounts of fuel and power for their empire.

Reunited, with the Doctor and Zoe, Jamie suggests that they dig a tunnel from where they are to the centre bore and catch the Dominator's seed device before it makes it to the planets core. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to cut through the wall to start the tunnel, and Zoe mixes up some explosives from the medical supply kit which Jamie and Cully use to take out the remaining Quarks. At this point I realise that Jamie and Cully make a perfect team or look like two members of men-in-skirts-anonymous.

The Skirt Parade.
Toba finally has good reason to order the Quarks to search and destroy, but remembers what Rago said and orders them to continue drilling. The drilling is finished just as the last Quark bites the dust. Then Rago gives us the immortal line, "I will insert the seed device," and does so. The Doctor and co finish their tunnel just in time for the Doctor to catch the device and evert disaster.

The Doctor warns that as the rockets are still in the ground there will be a minor volcanic eruption. Cully, Teel and Kando go back to capitol, and Zoe and Jamie return to the TARDIS while the Doctor plants the seed device on the Dominator Ship. The Rockets fire causing a volcanic eruption. The Dominators are destroyed and the TARDIS departs as the volcano erupts.

As I said, not the best story. It's basically 125 minutes of The Odd Couple In Space with Rago & Toba and nothing really happens. I also don't think the Dominators really much deserve their name, it seems rather odd that they get the Quarks to do all their dirty work, that doesn't seem very Dominant. And I still can't help but wonder, are all of the Dominators like this? Or were we following a particularly retarded pair? Regardless of all this I did still enjoy this story on some odd level. The design elements of the Quarks are great and there are, as always with Troughton, some brilliant moments.

Join me next time for an exciting and experimental story worthy of kicking off 2012, The Mind Robber.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We often hear that “The Dominators” was written by Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman as an attack on the 1960s Flower Power movement, which is strange when you consider this was primarily a youth organisation that embrace “free love”, whereas, the entire male population of Dalkis are middle-aged, balding and impotent.

As for the Dominators, they appear to be a group of frustrated sadomasochists, who's get off by drilling holes in other people's planets, down which the then release a “seed device” (the subtext just writes itself).

The Doctor, in return, drills a back passage with his sonic screwdriver, intercepts the seed device and sticking it back aboard the Dominator's ship, ensuring that they end up fucking themselves.

Finally, the planet Dulkis explodes with some suspicious looking foam that drowns the Tardis.

What the hell this is all supposed to mean, I have no idea.