(MERVYN HAISMAN, HENRY LINCOLN & DERRICK SHERWIN)
THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
DVD (BBCDVD2807) RELEASED IN JULY 2010.
OF HARMONY AND
ENLIGHTENMENT. AN OASIS OF CALM IN THE COSMOS - AND UTTERLY DEFENCELESS.
THE DOCTOR, JAMIE AND ZOE ARRIVE TO FIND THE PLANET ENSLAVED BY THE CRUEL DOMINATORS AND THEIR SERVANTS, THE DEADLY QUARKS. THE PACIFIST DULCIANS OFFER NO RESISTANCE.
CAN EVEN THE DOCTOR SAVE A PEOPLE WHO ARE COLLABORATORS IN THEIR DESTRUCTION?
10TH AUGUST 1968 - 7TH SEPTEMBER 1968
As random as 2|entertain’s release schedule claims to be, it does feel like we’ve been wading through the dross of late. Whilst there are still a handful of incredibly popular Doctor Who serials patiently awaiting release, most of the stories yet to be represented on DVD are those that even the series’ most faithful followers will struggle to get excited about. Emerging from amidst calamities such as The Creature from the Pit, Revenge of the Cybermen and Underworld comes The Dominators – without a doubt the least meritorious surviving serial of Patrick Troughton’s tenure.
With the five episodes of the serial itself eating up most of the DVD’s disc space, most of The Dominators’ bonus material is contained within just two featurettes – Recharge and Equalise, a twenty-three minute look at the making of this serial; and Tomorrow’s Times, which looks at contemporaneous press reaction to the series during the Troughton era. The disc also comes complete with production subtitles, a photo gallery, PDF materials and all the customary accoutrements, as well as a lively commentary featuring stars Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury and a number of supporting artists, all kept in check by range regular Toby Hadoke.
Above: Mervyn Haisman laments his lost Yeti and his surviving Dominators in Recharge and Equalise
Recharge and Equalise is the disc’s clear highlight. As is so often the way with these things, the more troubled a production was, then the more scandalous material there is for the documentary’s makers to take advantage of, and they don’t get much more troubled than this one. Originally written as a six-part adventure by lauded Yeti creators Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, The Dominators didn’t meet with script editor Derrick Sherwin’s approval and so, for better or worse, he took the decision to truncate the serial into five episodes and pen its final instalment himself. The five episodes eventually saw broadcast as the work of ‘Norman Ashby’ (a compound pseudonym formed from the names of Haisman and Lincoln’s respective father-in-laws), and thereafter a bitter legal battle ensued concerning the merchandising rights to the Quarks, which at the time were – somewhat incredibly, with hindsight – viewed as a long-term successor to the Daleks, who were now off limits in readiness for Terry Nation’s planned spin-off series. Regrettably the consequent antipathy prevented Haisman and Lincoln writing their third Yeti story for the series, The Laird of McCrimmon, which had originally been slated to close Season 6.
Tomorrow’s Times also makes fascinating viewing. It’s quite fitting that the second Doctor’s chapter is included on a disc that houses one of his least inspiring outings as, much to my astonishment, the reaction of the press to his reign was overwhelmingly negative. Though the odd reviewer bestows a morsel of half-praise here and there, this featurette is largely comprised of Caroline John relaying the gripes of cantankerous critics in a Points of View-style programme. It will be interesting to see what the newspaper columnists make of other Doctors’ eras – if this is the kind of treatment that Patrick Troughton gets, I shudder to think what awaits Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy!
Above: Have I got news for you... Caroline John dips into Tomorrow’s Times
The serial itself is immaculately presented, but it’s no more convincing for its remastering than it was when I first watched it on VHS. The idea behind the story is an interesting one, Haisman and Lincoln taking the 1960s’ peace movement reductio ad absurdum and presenting us with a planet of pacifist hippies utterly incapable of defending themselves against aggression. It certainly makes a change from Doctor Who’s usual anti-war themes, and if handled with more poise could have proved most provocative. Unfortunately though, the premise quickly descends into a few subversive Dulcian youths slowly rising up to take on their oppressors, and even this is executed ineffectually.
The Dulcians’ outfits have to be some of the most ridiculous garbs ever seen in the series, and poor old Wendy Padbury spends her first proper story as a companion stuck in one of them. Even the Quarks, which tend to be remembered fondly in fan circles, pose no plausible threat; indeed, with their modulated female voices and their pointy little noses they’re almost cute. Worse still, the absence of incidental music causes every single cut and dent to catch the light, The Dominators’ peculiar radiophonic soundscape forgiving absolutely nothing.
Matters are salvaged somewhat by the two eponymous Dominators, who despite their humorous attire manage to appear moderately daunting. Their constant bickering incessantly entertains, the clash between the subordinate’s blood lust and his commander’s more rational, focused attitude making for some decent drama, particularly in the final episode.
Furthermore, Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines are both able to inject the static storyline with a little bit a life. Troughton’s Doctor is given the opportunity to use his sonic screwdriver as a flamethrower, while the young Scot is allowed to single-handedly save the day, only to be ridiculed for doing so by his disbelieving companions.
“Jamie! It’s a brilliant plan! I just can’t see how you could have come up with it!”
In the end, The Dominators is a below par serial that has been given a digital makeover far more generous than it deserves. I always have high regard for bonus material that doesn’t try to gloss over fundamental flaws or pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, and The Dominators DVD certainly couldn’t be accused of such things. This little shiny disc is packed to bursting with “middle of the roads”, “not one of the bests” and even the odd “rubbish”, its contributors’ candour doing little to bolster this story’s tarnished repute, but providing precious fodder for the DVD’s remarkable retrospectives.
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