Doctor Who: The Dominators (part one)

Ready for some more adventures with Doctor Who, this morning we began the show’s sixth season with “The Dominators.” It’s not a particularly highly-regarded serial, but the first episode is not at all bad. The story takes place on the peaceful planet Dulkis, and the natives are about to be besieged by a pair of sadistic, energy-obsessed villains called Dominators who have landed on a remote island. They’re played by Ronald Allen, who would later be made immortal as Uncle Quentin in The Comic Strip Presents, and by Kenneth Ives, who’d later become a prolific TV director.

I believe that Allen and Ives’ bickering will get a little wearisome as this story progresses, but I really like the almost anti-chemistry the two actors have. They’re not intergalactic conquerors. They’re grouchy and hostile and don’t like each other but they have a boring job that has to be done. Allen just wants to finish his survey as efficiently as possible, and Ives can only find some pleasure in his work by blowing some things up along the way.

The actors playing the Dulcians are hampered by some absurd curtain-like togas, but they all have the complication of playing a very boring and placid culture. They exist, but they don’t live, as Arthur Cox’s character, a teenage rebel in his mid-thirties with a receding hairline, grumbles. Cox appeared as a guest star in everything in a fifty-year career. I loved him as the journalist Salcombe Hardy in the 1987 Lord Peter Wimsey stories. There are, at least, two very pretty girls among the Dulcians, played by Nicolette Pendrell and Felicity Gibson, but Pendrell’s character gets melted by the villains very early in the story.

New to the regular cast: Wendy Padbury as Zoe, a computer expert from Earth’s future. She’d been introduced at the end of the previous season, in a story that is mostly missing. We had a quick recap of the shows that our son had to miss, and we chose to pause midway through to make sure that he understood what was going on with the characters’ talk of radiation. He really enjoyed it, and was mildly scared when one of the Dominators uses a laser gun that he found in a museum to set a wall on fire, and by the reveal of their robot assistants, the Quarks, at the conclusion. Let’s hope that our enthusiasm continues through the next few episodes.

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