AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
The Dominators

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Audio
RRP: 13.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 7759 2
Available 07 May 2007


When the TARDIS deposits the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe on the planet Dulkis, they find it threatened by two humanoid aliens, Dominators, and their robotic servants, the Quarks. The Dominators intend to turn the whole planet into a radioactive mass, to provide fuel for their space fleet. They set about enslaving the natives as a labour force for their scheme, drilling boreholes towards the planet's core - but the pacifist Dulcians refuse to retaliate. Can the Doctor and his friends save both the planet and its people in time...?

It's a supreme irony that while many great Patrick Troughton adventures, such as The Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep, are wholly or partially missing from the BBC's film and videotape library, this stinker (which puts the "dull" in Dulkis and the "bore" in borehole) exists in its entirety. Nevertheless, BBC Audio has seen fit to release it on CD, with new linking narration by Wendy Padbury (Zoe).

Oh well, at least we are spared the sight of the Dulcians' silly pleated frocks (worn by men and women alike), Zoe's zipper problems, the Dominators' padded shoulders, the patently unthreatening Quarks and a close-up of Troughton's location double Chris Jeffries. As restoration maestro Mark Ayres points out in his interview with Padbury at the end of the second disc, this serial probably works better as an audio book than it does on TV.

It's still pretty weak stuff, though. The downside of pacifism was handled more effectively in The Daleks - the impotent Dulcians and their endless debates come across as pathetically as the indolent Lakertyans in Time and the Rani. Meanwhile, Dominators Rago (Ronald Allen) and Toba (Kenneth Ives) kick off the Season 6 trend for bickering baddies, though unfortunately the actors are unable to liven up the proceedings as well as Kevin Stoney and Peter Halliday in The Invasion or even Edward Brayshaw and James Bree in The War Games. Both species of alien are prone to cringe-making expository dialogue, telling their colleagues things they already know but the audience does not, such as the fact that Cully (Arthur Cox) is the son of the planet's leader (Walter Fitzgerald) and that the Quarks' power levels are low - Rago repeats the latter fact a great number of times.

The medium also highlights some audio cost-cutting. In lieu of incidental music, we hear just a few punctuating sounds for the "dramatic" moments, provided by Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Hodgson also recycles some of his earlier sound effects, such as the Zarbi's twitters from The Web Planet, which here accompany the Quarks' weapons.

Speaking of sound, the Doctor's original sonic screwdriver seems to be able to do something that the newest model cannot. Here he is able to cut through concrete, something he failed to achieve in The Doctor Dances.

And talking of the Quarks, they went on to enjoy a successful career as the Doctor's recurring foes in several TV Comic strips - though curiously without the Dominators in charge of them. It's possible that the robots are a race conquered by, rather than built by, the Dominators, and that their TV Comic exploits take place before the timeframe of this serial. Alternatively, the Quarks could have achieved autonomy after this story. Given that the Dominators seem incapable of tackling any adversary without the aid of the robots to do their fighting for them, the latter interpretation seems the most likely - I can easily envisage the Quarks rising up, Genesis of the Daleks-style, to defy their masters.

Despite its many flaws, The Dominators has its moments, especially where the regular cast are concerned. The Doctor's ploy to act like an imbecile in order to fool the invaders provides some of the serial's best moments, including the following classic line: "An unintelligent enemy is far less dangerous than an intelligent one, Jamie. Just act stupid. Do you think you can manage that?"

In the interview at the end of this double CD, Padbury discusses her recollections of making the serial - which are few, apart from not enjoying working for the rude and inflexible director, Morris Barry - and Doctor Who in general.

Hardly likely to dominate your attention or anyone's list of favourite stories, this release is for completists only.

Richard McGinlay

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