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Recap / Doctor Who S6 E1 "The Dominators"

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The Dominators
Behold: The first failed attempt at replacing the Daleks. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
Written by "Norman Ashby"note 
Directed by Morris Barry
Production code: TT
Air dates: 10 August - 7 September 1968
Number of episodes: 5

"An unintelligent enemy is far less dangerous than an intelligent one, Jamie. Just act stupid. Do you think you can manage that?"
The Doctor, either appealing to Obfuscating Stupidity or damning Jamie by faint praise

The one where the Doctor eats some jelly babies. Bet you weren't thinking those wouldn't be showing up again either!

The TARDIS arrives on a peaceful planet of beings named Dulkis. The Doctor has visited the planet before, but didn't expect to accidentally land on an island that once served as a nuclear test site—especially considering that the last time he was here, the planet was uniformly peaceful. He's also puzzled by the fact that there seems to be no radioactivity present on this nuclear test site. Two alien invaders called Dominators also land on the island and promptly use their box-shaped robots (Quarks) to turn the pacifist Dulcians into slaves.

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe make friends with Cully, the son of one of the Dulcian councillors. They convince him to fight back despite his people's pacifism and love for drawn-out ethical debates. The Dominators' ultimate plan is to drop an "Atomic Seed" into a volcano, converting the planet into a lump of radioactive fuel for the Dominator fleet. Zoe is forced to wear a dress.

The Doctor intercepts the atomic seed and plants it aboard the Dominators' ship as it leaves, destroying it and killing its pilots, while the volcano erupts harmlessly. (Well, nearly harmlessly, as the TARDIS is right in the path of the lava flow. This cliffhanger leads directly into the following story.)

Tropes included

  • Actual Pacifist: The Dulcians.
  • Apocalypse How: Nuking the core of the planet to make radioactive fuel would make this a Planetary/Physical Annihilation.
  • BBC Quarry: Justified, as most of the action is set on an island used as a nuclear testing site, which had been too radioactive to clean up until recently.
  • Big Bad: Navigator Rago, the senior Dominator.
  • Blood Knight: Toba the junior Dominator is like this, frequently disobeying and risking their plan in order to kill and destroy.
  • Broken Aesop: Two, which contrive to make the story simultaneously far more left-wing than intended and far more right-wing than intended:
    • First, invoked Word of God is that the aim was an allegory about how the hippie movement was bad because they would have got their arses kicked if they'd been in control when the Nazis had invaded. However, the oppressed, pacifistic Dulcians don't work as a hippie allegory, as they're characterised either as elderly politicians or as attractive young people who unthinkingly repeat the elders' lessons by rote until the Doctor and companions turn them against their racist, fascist oppressors, while the old Dulcians get slaughtered through trying to negotiate with Always Chaotic Evil aliens. The result comes off as an allegory about how student activism is the future because the apathetic old politicians are only concerned with keeping superficial comforts and not with fixing big societal problems, and have engineered their own destruction.
    • The second is in the B-plot: The villains have an internal conflict, between Rago, who favours caution and condemns meaningless destruction, and Toba, a Psycho for Hire who just loves destroying things. The problem is that everything Toba says is right — if he had just blown everyone up on sight (including the Doctor and Jamie) the Dominators would have succeeded in their plan.
  • Busman's Holiday: The Doctor takes Jamie and Zoe to the peaceful planet Dulkis for "a nice holiday", only for the three of them to become caught up in the Dominators' attempts to exploit the planet for their own ends.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Albeit not quite as destructive as the villains planned.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Both Dominators.
  • Cliffhanger: The ending is the last "routine" example of a story's final episode having a cliffhanger leading into the next story, something which had been common in the show's first two seasons but had gradually been phased out since. From now on, inter-story cliffhangers would be reserved almost exclusively for regeneration scenes, apart from a few examples during the Fifth Doctor era.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Dulcians have both.
  • Cute Machines: The Quarks look like they just want a hug. The high pitched voices don't help.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Dominators' plan.
  • Easily Conquered World: The Dulcians are Perfect Pacifist People, so they don't even know how to defend themselves.
  • Establishing Series Moment:
    • The story begins with a little Plot Parallel that does some Foreshadowing for the eventual direction of the season. Instead of the Doctor, we follow an anarchic adventurer and traveller named Cully (a Rebellious Spirit at odds with his repressive but highly advanced Crystal Spires and Togas society - something that hadn't been revealed about the Doctor at this point) is piloting his craft to a holiday destination that he hopes will yield things to explore and terrifying scientific thrills. His gaggle of adorable, bantering teen companions test the radiation levels, tease him about his bad driving, step out onto the beach to find out where they are and are suddenly shot dead. Season 6 concludes with a Bolivian Army Ending.
    • It's also the first story where the Doctor seems to have some level of control over where the TARDIS lands — his dialogue on arrival implies that he was deliberately aiming for somewhere to take a holiday, rather than their destination being random as in previous stories.
  • Everything in Space Is a Galaxy: The Dominators are said to rule the ten galaxies.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Doctor clearly points out that the newly formed volcano is erupting, but doesn't notice that the volcano is erupting.
    Jamie: C'mon! The whole place is going to blow up!
    Second Doctor No, it's quite all right, Jamie. The planet is quite safe. There's only going to be a localized volcanic eruption. It'll only affect the island.
    Jamie: Maybe so, but we happen to be on the island.
    Second Doctor: Oh, my word!
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: the introduction of the island.
    Cully: Well, here we are everyone, the Island of Death! Uninhabited for one hundred and seventy years. Nothing can live on this poisonous plot of soil.
    Wahed: You're being melodramatic again, Cully, as usual. You know perfectly well there's a permanent survey unit there to monitor the radiation.
    Etnin: And there's a weekly visit by parties of students to show them the horror of atomic radiation.
    Cully: All right, all right, I know.
  • Fake Shemp: Patrick Troughton wasn't present for location filming; a body double, Chris Jeffries, filled in for a few scenes. His face is briefly visible in the final episode.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The rather gruesome disintegration effect used when a Quark kills Tensa, which was cut in several foreign markets and toned down by the BBC themselves in later episodes of the story.
  • Glass Cannon: The Quarks have firepower capable of destroying an entire building at long range, but are helpless against the terrible threat of a Scotsman tripping them up, throwing a blanket over them, and sitting on them.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The Dulcians have golden hair to indicate their innocence and naiveté, with Kando being the most obvious example.invoked Although it shows up almost not at all in black and white, according to the production subtitles on the DVD the Dulcian characters were given gold makeup to emphasize this as well.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Or blown up by their nuclear seed, in case of the Dominators.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Island of Death.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The first episode introduces us to Cully, an ageing Manchild from an alien species with two hearts, whose disgruntlement with his people makes him crave adventure and go travelling in his ship with a bunch of awkward teenagers. He lands and his entire crew gets murdered. This is an innocuous opening for a filler story at the time, but takes on a new meaning when you compare it to the last episode of "The War Games", in which the Doctor is confirmed to be a Time Lord on the run from his boring civilisation and his crew get sent back to where they were from by the other Time Lords (including the implicit death of Jamie).
  • Insult Backfire: Of a fashion.
    Doctor: But Jamie, it's a brilliant idea! It's so simple, only you could have thought of it!
    Jamie: Ohh! *clearly pleased, then cottons on* ... Hey!
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Cully says this when he gets hit by a Quark's blast. But No One Gets Left Behind.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Toba always goes for the more violent option and repeatedly urges Rago to kill the natives (which they both think includes the Doctor). Rago says they need the natives for manual labour. It's easy to agree with Rago, since he doesn't want to kill our heroes and Toba is such a malicious bastard, but Toba is ultimately proved correct; if they'd killed the Doctor early on they would have succeeded in everything they were trying to do.
  • Made a Slave: The Dominators enslave the Doctor and Jamie and intend to do the same to everyone else.
  • Magic Tool: This is where the sonic screwdriver ceases to be just a screwdriver, and gains the power to burn through concrete.
  • Meaningful Name: All over the place.
    • From the Latin we have "Dulkis" (dulcis, "sweet, pleasant, agreeable"), "Senex" (senex, "old man") and "Bovem" (bos / bovis, "cow")."
    • "Cully" is an old English word for "dupe" or "simpleton".
    • Numerical Theme Naming: The first three Dulcians to be killed by the Quarks are called Wahed, Etnin and Tolata — Arabic for "One", "Two" and "Three".
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Quarks for the planet-conquering Dominators.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The Quarks were conceived with an eye to the merchandising opportunities. In the event legal disputes about their ownership prevented the creation of the proposed range of Quark toys.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: See I Will Only Slow You Down.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The only thing they can agree to do is wait.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Doctor realises the Dominators need at least semi-intelligent slaves, so he pretends to be really dumb.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: At one point in the final episode, the face of Patrick Troughton's double is visible.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Doctor manages to get two of these. The first is when Jamie points out that he's just set the Dulcians' travel capsule to take them to the survey base, where there's a Quark waiting for them. The second is at the climax of the serial, when the Doctor casually observes that he's saved the planet and only the island will be devastated and Jamie reminds him that that's where they are.
    • The Doctor is demonstrating to Jamie how to set off the chemical bomb he and Zoe have created by dropping a number 9 pill inside, which he demonstrates.
    Doctor: But whatever you do, and this is important, you must throw it before ten seconds have elapsed, otherwise you're liable to blow up with—
    Zoe: (alarmed) Seven, eight...Doctor!
    Doctor: What?! (The Doctor tosses the vial away and everyone ducks as it goes bang!) It works!
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The Doctor trying to get a peaceful civilisation to take up guns against alien invaders without even considering any diplomacy or Science Hero methods — partly why Patrick Troughton decides to play his part with lots of invoked Ham and Cheese. He even hangs a lampshade on it in an obvious adlib: The Doctor tells a Dulcian that the Dominators are aliens and therefore don't understand the meaning of pacifism, the Dulcian retorts that the Doctor is also an alien, and the Doctor quickly adds "You got me there!" just before the edit cuts into it.
  • People of Hair Colour: See Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Dulcians. It’s not portrayed in a complimentary way.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Toba and Rago, respectively.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Most of the Quarks are taken out by fairly low-tech means, including dropping rocks on them.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The Dulcians' outfits have to be seen to be believed. Lampshaded by Zoe, when she has to wear one: "They're not very efficient garments, are they? ... They feel impractical!" Though Cully tries to invoke She Cleans Up Nicely, saying she looks "more like a girl now".
    • To be fair, Zoe and Kando's (the only Dulcian girl we see) floaty little see-through dresses do actually look relatively good on them, but the heavy, pleated dresses made from miles of cloth that are worn by the men are not flattering...
    • For that matter, everyone on Dulkis also seems to wear flimsy open leather sandals, in spite of all the outdoor areas shown on camera consisting entirely of rough rocky rubbly quarry-type terrain, which could easily be painful on such barely-protected feet.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: The intended Aesop is about the naivety of pacifism. Except that, because of the particular story choices, the story can more easily be read as an invoked Accidental Aesop supporting activist students, encouraging them to reject rote learning and the irrational laws of the older generation, and take direct action against injustice.
  • Similar Squad: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe encounter two-hearted thrill-seeking Manchild explorer Cully, his protective but little-bit-thick young male student and his young female student with perfect fact recall.
  • Smouldering Shoes: What's left when a Quark gets blown up.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: The Doctor places the armed atomic seed device on board the Dominators' spaceship as it leaves.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: All over the place.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: The Dulcians were intended as a satire on hippie anti-war protesters, in their high-minded refusal to accept that the people invading their planet actually were aggressive militarists who had to be fought.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cully goes from being a spoiled rich kid with foolish thrillseeker tendencies to helping overthrow an alien invasion and saving his planet, and even gets wounded in the process.
  • Tin-Can Robot: The Quarks.
  • Toilet Humour: Patrick Troughton ad-libs that his improvised bombs are made with "number nine pills" — the British Army quartermasters' code for laxatives.
  • Unwillingly Girly Tomboy: Zoe complains that the Dulcian dress she has to wear is impractical.
  • Verbal Tic: Rago really enjoys yelling "SILENCE!"
  • Villainous Breakdown: After talking in a Creepy Monotone for the rest of the story, Rago suddenly loses it on discovering the bomb he intended to destroy the planet is just a few feet away and is told the countdown can't be stopped.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: Because otherwise the Dominators will destroy the whole planet.
  • We Will Use Manual Labour in the Future: But only because the Quarks are low on power.
  • With Due Respect: Toba's fractious and violent nature leads to frequent insubordination, once prefixed with this.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: Sure, go on a trip to the radioactive island. And when the radioactivity turns out to be gone, go wandering about and attract the attention of the aliens that have just landed.