Norman Ashby (pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln)
Directed by Morris Barry
Towards the end of the 1960s there was a movement among young people towards a more pacifist society. There were many reasons for this: fear if what a war involving nuclear weapons could actually do to the world and the US involving itself in wars it had no business in being two biggies. This was something of a shift from the previous century when many young people, men in particular, saw war as something glorious and honorable, probably because war itself had changed from rounding up a bunch of spear chucking natives from a “newly discovered” island and massacring them for no good reason, to being something you might actually get hurt in.
Of course, not everyone was on board with this. There were plenty of people who had fought against legitimate bad guys in the second world war who mistook protests against weapons of mass destruction and the pointless invasion of a foreign country as part of an ongoing witch hunt for an invisible boogieman* as call for abandoning any and all defence against aggressors.
The writers of the Dominators clearly fell into this camp, and the result is a slightly embarrassing pratfall of a story that demonstrates a sad misunderstanding of what was actually going on in the world. To top it all off, their pro-war message is completely undermined, as the “terrifying” aggressors are ultimately defeated by a 450 year old pacifist and a handful of students. If that’s all it takes to fend of an attack from an entire alien race, who needs an army? Plus, the only owners of a nuclear weapon end up getting blown up by it themselves. Bummer.
As for those “terrifying” aggressors, I’m not sure I would be able to come up with anything quite as pathetic as the Quarks if I tried. Jamie destroys a bunch of them by throwing stones at them, for fucks sake. I don’t think any child was behind the sofa when they were on screen. Apparently, Haisman and Lincoln were hoping that they would catch on and become as popular as the Daleks, making them a shit ton of cash in the process. Needless to say, they didn’t. Their even less intimidating that the yeti, and they look like fucking teddy bears.
More ominous are the dominators themselves, though they are little more than large blokes in corpse paint and shoulder pads. Ronald Allen and Kenneth Ives both give great performances, through, which is what you want from a good bad guy.
So far I’ve been a bit down on the Dominators, mostly because its shit, but it does have a few saving graces. The TARDIS crew, as always for this bunch, are all on top form. Patrick Troughton is at his very best here, actively pretending to be dumb in order not to appear a threat. Zoe and Jamie really begin to work well together in this story as well, with the crew feeling more like an actual group than any since the very first TARDIS crew.
Apparently, this story was Patrick Troughton’s favorite remaining story** and was due to be played at the convention he died at, at his request. I can see why, since his performance does stand out as spectacular, even amongst a sea of great Troughton performances in the rest of his run. Just about everything else about this story is a mess though, which is a shame. Luckily, things would start to pick up soon. How soon? find out next time, in The Mind Robber.
*yeah, a mixed metaphor. What fucking of it?
** Tomb of the Cybermen, often considered his best story, was still missing until a few years after he died.