All posts by enemiesofderek

Doctor Who Unloved: ‘The Dominators’

Doctor Who Unloved is a new series of articles, by writer Peter Ravenscroft, that seek to look back at episodes of the show that have picked up a less than stellar reputation over the years; perhaps unfairly. These articles will revisit and perhaps restore the reputation of these stories.

We begin back with the 2nd Doctor and ‘The Dominators’. Over to you Peter.

Ah, ‘The Dominators’.  Poor, unloved ‘The Dominators’.  A story that frequently languishes shamefully towards the very bottom of fan polls, almost the worst Troughton story; for some fans, the very worst; the story that’s so bad even the writers had their names removed from the credit; even Derrick Sherwin, who re-wrote most of it, shaved an episode off and didn’t have a kind word to say about it.

In this episode of Doctor Who Unloved, I take a look at whether ‘The Dominators’ really is the disastrous Dulcian’s dinner that fandom seems to think, or is it worth substantial reappraisal?

Now, I have a confession to make; a confession that the five people who follow me on Twitter already know: I love ‘The Dominators’.  It is one of those stories that every other fan appears to loathe but which I truly enjoy.  In the last Doctor Who Magazine poll, it was noted that ‘The Dominators’ was the only story not to receive a single 10/10 rating from voters.  But that’s because I did not vote in the Poll!

‘The Dominators’ was the first Patrick Troughton serial I ever saw, way back in 1990 when it was shown as part of the Galaxy channel’s Doctor Who weekend in late September.  And immediately, I was impressed with Troughton’s portrayal of the Doctor.  Anyone who can find nothing to like in ‘The Dominators’ must surely be oblivious to the superb chemistry portrayed by Troughton, and Frazer Hines as Jamie, one of the best Doctor/Companion pairings in the history of the series, and they are on sparkling form here.  The scenes set in the Dominator’s ship as the TARDIS team face intelligence tests that the Doctor is trying desperately to fail are superb, as is the scene in which Dominator Rago assesses whether the Doctor and Jamie understand guns.  The Doctor’s improvised solutions to problems, such as piloting the travel capsules, rustling up potent explosives from a medical kit to destroy Quarks, and tunnelling through the bunker wall to catch the deadly seed device are tremendous fun to watch.

One accusation often levelled at ‘The Dominators’ as a serial is that it is dull.  Sorry, but I just don’t see that.  It captivated me as a ten year old, and I will still watch all 5 episodes back-to-back to this day.  A real highlight is the pacy, and often brilliantly absurd Quark hunt in the final episode.

There is nothing dull about the Dominators themselves.  They are nasty, vindictive, cruel villains who are presented as a credible threat.  Surely there is a convincing allegory to be applied to a twenty-first century view of them – they are the unscrupulous businessmen and politicians who would destroy a planet and its people for profit, driven by the greed for fuel.  

Ronald Allen and Kenneth Ives are perfectly cast and deliver suitably menacing performances; Allen brilliantly plays the glowering senior Dominator Rago; one of his best scenes is the callous gunning down of Tensa by a Quark, when the Dulcian refuses to accede to Rago’s demands.  Ives is despicably devious as the rash and impulsive Toba, intent on senseless destruction for the fun of it whenever Rago’s back is turned; his high point is the malicious murder of the harmless Ballan in the penultimate episode.  The fact that neither of the Dominators get on with each other is actually a rather refreshing take on Doctor Who villainy, arguably an example of the banality of evil: Dominators by name; petty but no less dangerous bureaucrats by nature, and I enjoy this facet of their characterisation, a facet that enhances, not detracts, from the Dominators as villains. 

Another accusation of dullness is frequently levelled at the Dulcians themselves.  My interpretation is – that’s the whole point.  The Dulcians are a civilisation which has allowed themselves to become so complacent that they have atrophied into an indolent race with no curiosity, no personality, no ambition, and with their politicians trapped in interminable debates.

Perhaps ‘The Dominators’ is unpopular because the politics of the Dulcians holds up an unflattering mirror to the issue of lazy liberalism.  Now, I’m not implying for one moment that the way to solve such laziness is to crush the offenders out of existence, but even the Doctor, often portrayed as a liberal supporter of the underdog, realises that the Dulcians need a literal bomb under them to get them to act; in much the same way as the First Doctor has to rouse the pacifist Thals into action to solve their own insidious problems on Skaro.  Maybe such politics has fallen out of fashion in our supposedly more enlightened age, and ‘The Dominators’ suffers as a result.

I think that is a shame.

Of course, one cannot assess ‘The Dominators’ without considering the Quarks.  Now, I have very few issues with the Quarks.  Their design is appealing (they would make great action figures), the soundscape created for them, with all of their burbles, beeps and warbles is distinctive, and they do give the very clear impression of being, as the Doctor puts it ‘appallingly dangerous’: their initial destruction of Cully’s three friends as they run from the capsule is effectively gruesome, and the pyrotechnics team do a convincing job of portraying the Quark’s firepower in the destruction of Cully’s travel craft.  The only thing I would criticise is their voices: they are certainly idiosyncratic but I feel they would have been more effective if they had been more sinister and powerful, rather than sounding like giggling children.

To conclude, I stand by my conviction that ‘The Dominators’ is an unfairly maligned entry into the glorious canon of Classic Doctor Who and deserves far wider appreciation than it receives.

Is that a ‘Dominators’ detractor I see over there?  Quark – Destroy!

Written by Peter Ravenscroft

Michael Bennett Interviewed

The Doctor Who Experience is gone but it’s far from forgotten. It provided fans with an amazing experience and allowed the hard graft that goes into the show to be seen up close and personal. Some time ago Eddie got a chance to talk to Michael Bennett, owner and creative director of physical events and A/V company Sarner, who created the Experience?

Outpost Skaro: Let me start by asking how Sarner became involved?

Michael Bennett: At the very outset, the BBC issued a tender. We applied to get on the tender list so we could bid fro the project, and I was involved putting together the creative concept for the tender bid. I was involved right from the beginning, from that point.

OS: From a creative point of view, what is the Experience? What was the creative journey?

MB: At the very beginning, we wanted to try to create I suppose the ultimate adventure. What we were trying to do in our tender bid was create an experience where visitors would actually be involved in the show, as if you were in the story itself. That was our intention, that you could actually imagine going into the TV screen and you became part of the actual adventure. Obviously, that was a big, broad, brain storming kind of situation. We’d sit round the table at Sarner and start looking at ideas.

OS: So, this is an idea you brought to the BBC then?

MB: I think what we brought was this idea of going into the storyline. I think they were looking for an exhibition – a lot bigger than their current one – principally based around props, all the monsters. And it had to be in two halves, because we wanted the first half to be the adventure, where the visitor would get involved in the storyline and the actual show side of things, and the second half would be the exhibition itself. And of course, we’ve got some fabulous artefacts from the history of the show.

My principal direction was to create this show, and how we would actually do it technically, looking at the storyline and what would actually have to be there. What was absolutely going to wow the visitors, what was going to create that interactive experience.

OS: So, what would you say were the creative challenges with putting this show together, then?

MB: Creatively, the big hurdles… initially, we knew, we had to work with the production department, so obviously, then, we have to keep it on-brand. As well as coming up with the storylines and everything, we had to stay on-brand – and that’s quite a challenge in a live show, a live attraction. It’s quite a discipline to do that when you’re on TV – and we’re doing it in a live show, as well as coming up with how we do all the special effects, that sort of thing. So these are kind of two key challenges that we have to work with.

OS: Let me ask then – because I assume you’re not going to have Matt Smith and Karen Gillan showing up at every event – how did you merge the need for their time with the live aspects of the show?

MB: What we’ve done is, we’ve created this storyline where the Doctor is [XXXXX] in the [XXXXX] as he was in [XXXXX] – we’ve got a new [XXXX}, and he’s [XXXX]! He’s [XXXXX] in a [XXXXX] basically, and the adventure is that the visitors have to [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] with a plunger. So the challenge is to [XXXXX] him! And on the way we encounter lots of monsters, and all sorts of things happen. But that’s the challenge, and we get round the fact that he’s not there live, though of course he is. Inside the [XXXX].

OS: Tell me a little bit about the relationship with the BBC in Cardiff, and the ongoing-series prodiuction team. How did that work, and how closely have you worked with them to develoip this?

MB: It’s worked really well. I did one of the early presentations – to Steven Moffat and Beth Willis and Piers – quite early on, so they understood what we were trying to achieve by creating storyboards and doing the visuals. And they thought, this is really great, going to be a brilliant experience, they loved the idea. And from that point we did a rough script around what we were trying to create,. And then Steven rewrote that in a little bit of his style, adding some humour and these sorts of things. And its been an on-going relationship, with the producers making sure we’re on brand, and not straying too much.

Obviously, our immediate client is BBC Worldwide, but there has been a relationship with the production team in Cardiff. To organise shoots, and that sort of thing. Co-ordination.

OS: Talking about the relationship with Worldwide, I understand one of the goals of the Experience is that it move to Cardiff. What sort of constraints did that put on what you could do?

MB: A lot of thought has to go into doing a de-mountable exhibition, or one that’s travelling. The way it’s designed… because a lot of our shows are permanent shows, they’re quite complex, and you’ve got to think about the de-mountability or the fact that it’s going on the road. You’ve got to think some of it is a bit like opera or theatre, touring theatre. You’ve got to think about scenics, and how they’ll come apart, and you have to design with that in mind. Everything’s got to be done is such a way that it’s easily tourable.

OS: So, did that lead to any things you couldn’t do, that you’d like to have done with it?

MB: Not really – we put everything in we wanted to put it. We’ve probably have gone a bit over the top! It’s a very complex show, but some of the endings we had in mind from the very beginning – it wasn’t going to be a travelling show then – are still there.

OS: This is Doctor Who – there’s no such thing as over the top…

MB:True, yeah!

OS: Let me ask one last question, then. What’s your relationship with Who, and the team from Sarner that worked on it. I mean, this is obviously a professional engagement, but does it go beyond that for you?

MB: I think, like a lot of people, I lived it as a fan. I watched it right from the very beginning, It’s been a family event in our family – after the football results, Doctor Who’s going to start, and it’s a tea-tome thing. I’ve lived with it from 1963. I mean, personally, I was a big fan in those days, and having seen it come through… With this exhibition, we’ve got the Tom Baker Tardis, the interior of the David Tennant Tardis, these are really iconic kind of things for everybody. Although it has to be a fun adventure, but as far as the iconic items that are here, it’s going to be a very exciting exhibition.

It’s a job, but also, being what it is, part of the British culture, it becomes something more as well. It’s very exciting in that respect. A very exciting thing to be involved in. A really great experience.

DWM 560 – 50 years of the master

He is the Master and you will obey him, you young whippersnapper!

Highlights of the new issue include:

  • The results of the World Cup of the Master – a Twitter tournament to decide the renegade Time Lord’s greatest stories.
  • Current Master Sacha Dhawan answers questions from the TARDIS Tin.
  • On set with Russell T Davies and Phil Collinson as they recreate some classic 1980s Doctor Who for the new Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin.
  • Olly Alexander, who stars in It’s a Sin, tells DWM about working with the Daleks.
  • Interviews with three of the actors who appeared in Resurrection of the Daleks: John Adam-Baker, Sneh Gupta and Nigel Tisdall.
  • Patrick Mulkern accompanies Katy Manning and John Levene on a return visit to Aldbourne, nearly 50 years after the filming of The Dæmons.
  • A solution to the mystery surrounding the 1973 episode that marked Roger Delgado’s final appearance as the Master.
  • An exclusive preview of the Season 8 Blu-ray box set.
  • DWM’s review of the New Year’s Day Special, Revolution of the Daleks. 
  • The Fact of Fiction analyses the 1999 Comic Relief Special The Curse of Fatal Death.
  • The DWM Christmas Quiz answers.
  • The second part of The White Dragon, a new comic-strip adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor.
  • Previews and reviews, news, prize-winning competitions, Time and Space Visualiser, The Blogs of Doom and more.

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 560 is on sale from Thursday 7 January

£5.99 (UK)

Masterful

Masterful is many things – a celebration of a classic character, the WHO version of an Avengers movie, a showcase for superb actors and a hysterical comedy.

The best way to describe the plot of Masterful is simple:  The Master.  That’s it.  This is a showcase for each of the surviving actors who have played The Master to step up, have their turn and provide three hours of glorious, riotous entertainment.   This isn’t high brow WHO, this is a broad comedy, a balls out bawdy celebration of the Doctor’s greatest nemesis.  James Goss has crafted a tribute that manages to succinctly capture the tone, mannerisms and essence of each of the Masters.

I would be remiss not to highlight a few of my favourite performances:

Michelle Gomez – she is simply stunning, a genuine tour de force from a performer who dominates each and every scene she is in. Missy is at her most wild, unhinged and gloriously funny.  Goss provides Gomes with dialogue that she chews on, and then spits out with such force and sheer vigour that it is impossible to ignore.  This lady is in the same scene as Derek Jacobi, and I can only remember her performance.  Stunning, legendary and a blue print of how a gender swapped Time Lord should be portrayed.

Eric Roberts – an utter joy.  Roberts captures not only his Master, but fully embraces the camp excesses of the part.  He is imply wonderful to listen to here, and a Television reprise is a must after this.  Roberts is worth the price of admission alone – he is fun, menacing and absolutely sensational.  A superb actor, who is cruelly and sadly overlooked these days.  A proper legend.

John Simm.  Simm goes full Frankie Howerd here, and his performance is all the better for it.  I was in tears of laughter at how he approached the part – absolutely wonderful – he plays this a bit more broad and camp then his last televised appearance – but no matter, this is Simm at his most entertaining.

Derek Jacobi – trust an old pro to find a bit of humanity and a bit of subtlety in his latest performance.  He is a unmitigated joy here. Savour him – a proper acting legend.

This is not to say that Mark Gattis, Geoffrey Beevers, Alex McQueen, Milo Parker are bad – they aren’t, each would be a star turn on their own, however the above performers are SO assured, their parts approached with such gusto that it is hard to look past their sterling work.

I must, in closing give a massive shout out to the legend that is Katy Manning, her Jo Grant, ably assisted by a Jon Culshaw powered Third Doctor.  She provides a tangible and welcome link back to The Masters first appearance.

I cannot end, without giving a much needed tip of the hat to Messer’s Delgado and Ainley.  Two superb actors who provided the platform for all those who followed to explore.  The world of Doctor Who is sadly smaller, and less fun without them.

The Master, we have attended, and we have enjoyed!  Here’s to another 50 years of crazy schemes, high collars, “Drezzing for the occasion” and shrinking rays, disguises, and beards (of all descriptions)

Revolution of the daleks pin set

Hero Collector Eaglemoss will be launching the very first merchandise tie-in to the Doctor Who Festive Special, Revolution of the Daleks, with a brand new Chibi Pin Badge Box Set, available to pre-order now.

The Chibi Pin Badge Box Set includes seven high-quality metal pin badges, depicting the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in her prison uniform, the new Revolution Dalek, and five other mystery characters from the special, all in an adorable chibi-style!

These badges make the perfect addition to any outfit, and a great gift for the coming festive season.

A new Festive Special figurine box set is also on the horizon, joining Hero Collector’s range of hand-painted Doctor Who figurines at 1:21 scale (approx. 3.5 inches tall), with more details announced following the episode’s transmission.

The Doctor Who Festive Special will see The Doctor locked away in a high-security alien prison, while her friends Yaz, Ryan, and Graham are left stranded on Earth. It’s not easy for the trio to return to normal life, especially when they discover a disturbing plan afoot – but how can you fight a Dalek, without the Doctor?

The Revolution of the Daleks Chibi Pin Badge Set will launch on New Year’s Day, and is available to pre-order now on the Hero Collector website.