Timestamp #44: The Dominators

Doctor Who: The Dominators
(5 episodes, s06e01-e05, 1968)

Timestamp 044 The Dominators


With a setting like the Island of Death, how could this not be a Doctor Who tale?

The focus of this simplistic serial are the odd couple called the Dominators. Navigator Rago, who I shall refer to as Felix, wants to drill the planet for an energy source to fuel their fleet and would prefer to use the indigenous people as slave labor. Probationer Toba, who I refer to as Oscar, just wants to blow everything up. A century or so before the Doctor’s arrival on the island, the Dulcian society experimented with atomic weaponry. After seeing how badly it mucked up the works and made perfectly good real estate uninhabitable, they swore of warfare and became a planet of pacifists. By coincidence, a spaceship with two General Zod lookalikes and a handful of spiky-headed Quarks arrived and hoovered up all of the radiation on the island. If it weren’t for the slavery and death aspect, these guys could make killing in picking up after the galaxy. I mean, look at all of the plots so far from the Daleks and the Cybermen alone.

Meanwhile, a pleasure craft is headed to the Island of Death for an unsanctioned extreme vacation. I got distracted by their wardrobe, which is some kind of bath towel/drapery toga motif, and I’m guessing that they did too because they certainly weren’t watching the road. Crash, boom, bang, and now they’re stuck on the island. Moments later, they encounter the Quarks and… oh, well… the vacationers are dead. Mostly.

Putting the final pieces in play, the Doctor and the travelers arrive looking for a holiday. The Island of Death apparently used to be quite the vacation spot. They find a war museum and then encounter the a scientific team that explain the brief flirtation with nuclear weapons, and after splitting Zoe from Jamie and the Doctor, the latter two are captured by Oscar and Felix.

These Dominators are arrogant in their power. The Dulcians end up being well-built as slave workers (two hearts, even) but Jamie is not. The arrogance is in full display as they fail to examine the Doctor and assume that his physiology is identical to weak and frail human’s. Their mistake.

The other big highlight for me in the examination phase was the Doctor’s fantastic way of thinking: Is the point Dominators’ intelligence test to be more clever or stupid? Which is more highly prized in slave labor? They choose to play stupid and be less of a threat to their captors.

I’m still not sure what to make of Zoe. She seems less of a damsel-in-distress and a bit more intellectual than recent companions. She’s also a good community organizer and able to convince at least one of the Dulcans to fight. The Doctor certainly loves to tease her about her intellect.

The Dulcians are intellectually lazy. Ballan, the leader of the expedition, displayed poor reasoning skills in the analysis of the radiation, and acts like a typical person illiterate in the sciences by not asking questions with respect to his observations. If more people continued to ask questions instead of just accepting what their eyes tell them, the world would be a much better place.

The story comes to a climax as Jamie spearheads the resistance against the Dominators, and saves the day with his idea to tunnel through and catch the seed device to prevent the destruction of the planet. The Doctor has a somewhat bloodthirsty but innovative way to get the explosive seed device off the planet, and Oscar and Felix become background radiation.

Final notes: First, the Quarks were a bit difficult to understand with their over-processed voices. Second, the sonic screwdriver acting as a cutting torch continues to display that the new-Who series is not unique in using it as a convenient-to-the-plot multifunction tool. At least it wasn’t a time vector generator.

I liked this one, but not as the drama is was intended to be. Instead, it comes across as quite humorous with the odd couple aliens and the pacifist message that is so heavy-handed, it squashes the serial. All in all, a mediocre start to the sixth series.


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mind Robber


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.





4 thoughts on “Timestamp #44: The Dominators

  1. You’re a bit more kind to this one than I am. This was a deliberate attempt by the writers to create “the next big thing after the Daleks and Cybermen, but the Quarks are so pathetic in comparison that they never had a chance and this was their one outting. The other interesting fact is that this one was originally supposed to be a six-parter, but they realized when they got to making it that it was going to be incredibly boring. They had nothing else to run with, so they cut this down to five episodes and gave an extra episode to The Mind Robber, which is why part one of the Mind Robber feels to disconnected from the rest. It was all filler.

    Also, it’s been ages since I’ve seen this one. Does the Doctor call the device he uses to cut through the door the sonic screwdriver or does it just look like it?

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