The Dominators

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 44, starring Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln, under the name "Norman Ashby"
  • directed by Morris Barry
  • produced by Peter Bryant
  • music tracks by Brian Hodgson
  • 5 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: When galactic conquerors invade the planet Dulkis via a seldom-visited island, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe get caught in the middle. Can they convince the passively peaceful Dulcians to defend their planet against the Dominators and their robotic Quark servants, or will the time-traveling trio have to outwit the aliens all by themselves? And what is so special about the island that the Dominators have concentrated their efforts there?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actors Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Arthur Cox (Cully),
    Giles Block (Teel), and make-up designer Sylvia James. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
  • "Recharge and Equalise" making-of featurette (23 min.) with Hines, Cox, Block, James, script editor Derrick Sherwin,
    co-writer Mervyn Haisman, actress Felicity Gibson (Kando), designer Barry Newbery, and composer / sound designer Brian Hodgson.
  • "Tomorrow's Times" featurette (13 min.) on the second Doctor's media coverage
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • Easter Egg (2 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

There's a fairly wide gulf between the gems and the turkeys in this season of Doctor Who, and some mediocre stories in between both extremes. Perhaps season five is better on the whole, but the series would not have survived had it continued to rely on season five's monster story formula. Season Six ventures into new territory, as the best of explorers must, and despite some expected teething trouble, the year is a good one, and an improvement on much of what Doctor Who had done in its earliest stages.

This alien/monster-threat story attempts several slightly different angles on the usual formula. The monsters are commanded by a pair of fallible humanoid characters, and for the first time since "The Daleks" (story no. 2) we are faced with a race of people extremely reluctant to defend themselves. The production is a bit rough around the edges, and perhaps not as tightly written as it could have been, but it still manages to work fairly well. A fairly average Doctor Who offering. In fact, compared to the season's later padded-with-filler stories "The Seeds of Death" (story no. 48) and "The Space Pirates" (story no. 49), this one is chock full of interesting elements and characters, and moves along at a cracking good pace.

The program was recently so Earth-bound that it is a very welcome change to finally set a story on an alien planet, and it is commendable that such a wide variety of geography is used for the planet Dulkis. The Dominators themselves look interesting and act alright; the handful of odd, harsh synthesizer notes passing themselves off as the music for the first episode leave a lot to be desired however, and in the end I think they cheapen the Dominators' entrance somewhat.

Next, Cully and company make their entrance. Their acting is not too inspiring, but gets the job done. The model work of the "hovercraft" leaves much to be desired - it doesn't look like any decent kind of hovercraft, nor does it look like it's at sea. After it runs aground the beach, the funny dome-shaped thing looks much more at home.

Finally, the TARDIS arrives. We get a full visual materialization of the police box in a very well-composed location shot, and a mix of its engine's whine slowing down in the right direction while the more recognizable wheeze and groan is still played in the wrong direction - virtually the same landing sound as we had in "The War Machines" (story no. 27). The quest for the definitive landing sound continues...... The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe elevate the acting performances as they put in a good showing as usual.

The Quarks are more menacing in their effect on others than in their own appearance. Their flat, squeaky voices are not as easily understandable as would be ideal, but such creations as the Quarks are the jurisdiction of a TV sci-fi program like Doctor Who, and they are not out of place here. I do enjoy them as a matter of personal taste, others may not. The suspense at not seeing them in the first episode is well done; their entrance and subsequent appearances also work well.

Model work for the island-mainland shuttles is more disappointing than impressive, an unfortunate drawback as this mode of transportation is used so often. Like Cully's hovercraft, the shuttles look best after crashing on the beach, where the model work and studio work match up seamlessly.

The Dulcians are not the best or most well-thought-out of creations. On a largely superficial note, their costumes are real eye-sores - every one of them, male or female, looks extremely silly, unattractive, and impractical in them. As if it isn't bad enough for the Dulcians to be wearing them, Zoe decides to trade in her perfectly good costume from "The Wheel in Space" (story no. 43) for Dulcian drag. Very bad move Zoe! Despite her dialogue with Cully, she looks much worse off.

More important is the general character composition of the typical Dulcian: stagnantly passive, for the most part. The science fiction genre allows us here to explore a culture bent on achieving a peaceful existence, which is a noble aim for a story writer. Unfortunately, the Dulcian example here equates peace with passivity, and action with aggressiveness. What really makes these Dulcians less than believable as pacifists is their nearly complete lack of ability to negotiate - a crucial non-aggressive action. Peace was not so much settled upon; rather war and weaponry were outlawed. How do you enforce that, without breaking the law yourself? The Dulcians cannot achieve harmony with other cultures as they are, for harmony requires at least two notes to be playing at the same time, and the Dulcians too habitually quiet their own to let the other be heard.

Whether or not the Dulcians are all that believable, at least the story is offering us an interesting character dynamic to fuel debate and thought. On the plus side, the Doctor and his friends have little trouble convincing the Dulcians of their origins, and in Cully we do get to meet an example of the type of Dulcian that goes against the flow to bring a little balance to their population, even if Cully's type is in the minority. If the costume style is meant to represent the Dulcian attitude of passiveness, all the more reason for Cully to wear something different, and not encourage Zoe to change.

The Dominators represent the aggressive side of things, and do a pretty good job of it, going at everything they encounter including each other. While this threatens to get a little old and predictable, it is believable, and things come to a boil in good time, backed by a significant and wonderful piece of stock music by Brian Hodgson, entitled "Tension Builder (d)" and included as track #56 on the Radiophonic Workshop CD Volume 1 listed at right. It is nicely reminiscent of Tristram Cary's material for "The Daleks" (story no. 2). Morris Barry's use of music is much, much more minimal in this story than in his others, but it is used to good effect in scenes so dramatically tense already that it is common for the audience to not notice it as they wonder what will happen next.
Music & Sound by Brian Hodgson
"TARDIS (New Landing)",
"Galaxy Atmosphere",
"Tension Builders (a), (c), & (d)", and
"Low Sting" are available on:
Audio CD -
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Volume 1: The Early Years 1963-1969

Find out more here.

One Heart or Two?

Adding to the problems of medical examination begun in "The Wheel In Space" (the previous story), the Dominators in this story make a big to-do about the number of hearts in their specimens. Jamie has only one, but they discover that the typical Dulcian has two, and they attribute this to the Doctor's bluff that Dulkis supports a smart race and a stupid one. What will they find if they examine the Doctor, himself an alien? Will the evidence spoil his own bluff?

(Of course, I won't spoil the story for those who haven't seen it yet. If you prefer a more detailed discussion with all the details, try the In-depth Analysis version of this review.)

"The Dominators" offers a lot of action, which is fairly well done and mostly on location. It threatens to be repetitive, but thankfully the Quarks' sense of menace is kept high for as long as possible.

The last few shots during the final episode's climax leave something to be desired, but they are surrounded by a good, dramatic action ending which works. The wrap up is fairly quick, and offers a good original cliffhanger to lead into the next story. Nicely finished.

With all its highs and lows, "The Dominators" is pretty average Doctor Who (less than typical season five, more than typical season four), and since I like Doctor Who, I like "The Dominators". Being totally unfamiliar with the series' past, "The Dominators" was the first novelization that I ever bought, out of a relatively small selection that featured no story that I knew of, picked because it looked the most interesting. Effects and costumes and pacing might not be all that I had originally hoped for, (my imagination was for colour too, mind you), but considering the era, "The Dominators" is okay and interesting.

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A for North America
NTSC B for North America
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Mind Robber"

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