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03 March 2015 @ 10:00 pm
The Randomizer: The Dominators  
The Dominators is, famously among Doctor Who fans at any rate, the Doctor Who story which focuses on the perils of pacifism. It must be said, I don't think it really makes this point, even though it was the writers' stated intention. In part this is because it seems to be a tale of one terribly stupidly complacent culture invading another terribly stupidly complacent culture and the prevailing stupid complacency rather overshadows any other point the story may be trying to make.

The Dominators

The story opens with the appearance of the Dominators, the bad guys of the piece who really struggle with the concept of not applying the doctrine of "seek, locate, destroy" to pretty much anything that moves and a number of things that don't, just for good measure.

"Those are really rather good costumes," Tame Layman remarked.

We then meet the Dulcians, whose concept of science appears to be "well if it is so, it must be a fact and a fact is a fact so there is no point in looking into it any further." One has a certain sympathy with the whole "seek, locate, destroy" impulse, at this point - or at least I did. The Dulcians are also run by basically a nightmare of a committee whose default response to anything is apparently to talk lots and do nothing.

The also have rubbish costumes

In case you were wondering the Dulcians are also pacifists, with the exception of Cully who appears to have been cast in the "young hothead" role in spite of his incipient bald patch.

The problem with viewing the story as a fable about the dangers of pacifism is that the Dulcians pacifism isn't half as annoying as their complacency and procrastination. Towards the end the point is made that, even if they had decided to stand up to the Dominators, they have no army and no weapons and so would be unable to do so (It must be said I'm not sure I believed this. There are only two Dominators and the Dulcians are supposed to be an advanced civilisation. If they'd had any imagination (which they clearly don't) something could probably have been repurposed). However they never do decide to stand up to the Dominators. This is not a story in which the Doctor attempts to persuade the pacifists to take arms against their oppressors, its a story in which the Doctor outwits the rather stupid Dominators with a little help from some reluctant Dulcians. Admitedly he does blow the Dominators up at the end, but one feels this is hardly a ringing endorsement for the concept that some things have to be fought.

All that said, its quite a fun story and rattles along at a fair old pace (for 1960s Doctor Who). Jamie gets to run about dropping rocks on robot "quark"s, the Doctor gets to pretend to be stupid in elaborate ways, and Zoe gets to be mildly exasperated with all sorts of people. They are, in short, running rings around both the Dominators and the Dulcians in a charming fashion. The quarks, bless them, are strangely endearing in a slightly psychopathic way. Even the cutting between what I assume is a studio set (where sound could be recorded) and outside broadcasts of people running around a quarry (where presumably it couldn't) are remarkably seamless.

I think there is potentially a really interesting story to be told examining the problem of pacifism in the face of an aggressive enemy with no interest in what anyone thinks. Sadly, this isn't it. It is tempting to suppose that its failings arise from being written by two men who had lived through the second World War being confronted by hippie culture and conflating all its aspects into the idea of pacifism - except that the Dulcians appear to be, primarily, a culture of old men and at least part of their problem is an extreme unwillingness to deviate from the status quo. However once you set aside the fact that both the Dominators and the Dulcians are mostly just rather stupid, its a fun and charming romp which show cases its regular cast well.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/145209.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 3rd, 2015 09:48 pm (UTC)
The Dominators isn’t great by any means, but I think a lot of the flak it gets from fandom comes from the political views of the authors in interviews rather than anything on screen. The Doctor kills two baddies as a last resort to stop the whole planet being nuked, which is a pretty low and understandable death toll by his usual standards (and strictly speaking the Dominators detonate the bomb themselves, the Doctor just sneaks it into their ship). For a supposed assault on pacifism, it’s actually pretty non-violent.

It does, however, have its plot holes, contrivances and longeurs, as you note. But I would watch Troughton, Hines and Padbury in just about anything and I think season six is grossly under-rated, so perhaps that's why I like it anyway.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 4th, 2015 12:54 pm (UTC)
I recalled the story as being cast as significantly more anti-pacificist than I felt it was, I wonder if that was Haisman and Lincoln failing to make their point, or fans over-emphasing their motivation through outrage.

I'd been going to note that I think season six is possibly the best Troughton season, but held back rather on the grounds that there is so little fully extant that isn't season 6. I was fond of Victoria as a child, but I find her clinginess rather tiresome these days and prefer Zoe's independence.