Chapter 86. Doctor Who – The Dominators (1984)

Synopsis: An island in an ocean on the planet Dulkis. Survivors of war, the Dulcians are now complete pacifists. They have no concept of aggression, no understanding of what it takes to defend themselves. They are ill equipped to deal with the Dominators. Accompanied by their murderous robot servants the Quarks, the invaders see Dulkis merely as a resource to be exploited. And the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe must stop them.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Island of Death
  • 2. The Radiation Mystery
  • 3. The Assessment
  • 4. Heads in the Sand
  • 5. Slavery
  • 6. Fighting Back
  • 7. Buried Alive
  • 8. Clues
  • 9. Last Chances
  • 10. Desperate Remedies

Background: Ian Marter adapts the 1968 scripts credited to Norman Ashby (a pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln).

Notes: Dulkis is immediately diminished in importance; it’s  ‘pale, ochre-coloured’, and ‘an insignificant little planet which orbited an isolated minor star’. In contrast, everything about the Dominators is heightened to make them appear impressive:

They were human in form but towered more than two and a half metres in height. Their leathery features were starkly chiselled, with thin bloodless lips and deeply set red-rimmed eyes which burned with a cold green light beneath heavy brows. Their short hair was black and sleeked back, like a skullcap, from their shallow foreheads.The creatures were clad in protective suits consisting of black quilted material like rubber, armoured with small overlapping plates and built up around the shoulders so that they appeared to have no necks.

The Quarks too are much taller than the schoolboy-sized ones we see on telly, about two metres tall. The surface of their ball-shaped heads is covered with ‘a network of eyes and sensors’, while their arms have hand-like endings ‘bristling with sensors, sockets and implements’. They’re also a little bit more talkative.

Inside the War Museum, Jamie inspects a laser gun and it accidentally discharges, punching a hole into a door . There are four figures sat around a circular table (not two at a desk as on screen):

… their bodies frozen into grotesquely contorted positions. Their clothing was charred and rotten, here and there fused into a glassy lump with their roasted and flayed flesh. The eyeless faces were burned beyond recognition.

The Dulcians measure years in ‘annos’ and months in ‘lunars’. ‘Cully’ becomes ‘Kully’; at one point, he attempts to impersonate Jamie’s accent.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter gives us a Dominator and a Quark operating drilling equipment, while a huge oversized Quark fills the skyline. The 1991 reprint cover reuses Alister Pearson’s VHS artwork, with the Doctor flanked by pairs of Dominators and Quarks.

Final Analysis: It’s surprising that one of the most unsettling visual effects of its time – the fiery bubbling of Tolata’s skin as she’s blasted by a Quark – is reduced to an energy burst and a bloodless murder. I’d have expected Ian Marter to go all out on this, considering the gruesome description he gives to the dummies in the war room in a later scene. But this is a subtle work: Marter’s introduction places the impressive Dominator battleships soaring across space in formation near to quite the most boring-looking planet ever. In Chapter 4, we finally reach the Dulcian Capitol, where its citizens enjoy warmth from the planet’s ‘modest yellow sun’, there are galleries filled with ‘lush green vegetation’, small fountains that cast ‘fine shimmering sprays of purified water in myriad colours’. The Council Chambers are pastel shades, the elderly Councillors lounge in ‘padded reclining chairs’ with cushions, everything is soft, soothing and entirely non-threatening. In the space of a couple of paragraphs, we’re shown that Dukis has absolutely no defence against the trigger-happy invaders. It’s so much better than the story deserves, being a little one-note and thin on TV.

Chapter 10. Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (1974)

Synopsis: Landing the Tardis in Tibet near the Det-sen monastery, the Doctor decides to return a holy relic, which he took receipt of three hundred years before. He’s quickly accused of murder by a zealous explorer called Travers, who’s hunting the legendary Yeti. But the Yeti that are roaming these hills are the real killers – and they’re robots controlled by someone within the monastery. 

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Secret of the Snows
  • 2. The Creature in the Cave
  • 3. Live Bait to Catch a Monster
  • 4. Jamie Traps a Yeti
  • 5. The Secret of the Inner Sanctum
  • 6. A Yeti Comes to Life!
  • 7. A Plan to Conquer Earth
  • 8. Revolt in the Monastery
  • 9. Attack of the Yeti
  • 10. Peril on the Mountain
  • 11. The Final Battle
  • 12. The Abominable Snowman

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts the first Second Doctor novelisation based on the scripts by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln.

Notes: Terrance Dicks gets his first go at the Second Doctor, who has ‘a gentle, rather comical face, and a shock of untidy black hair’, while Jamie is ‘a brawny youth in highland dress, complete with kilt’ and Victoria is ‘a small, dark girl dressed in the style of Earth’s Victorian age’. There’s also harkbacks to the origin stories for the companions. He tweaks the Yeti here to make them more like the ferocious ones seen in The Web of Fear, with glowing red eyes and a terrifying roar. He also adjusts a few of the character names, in deference to his Buddhist producer on the TV show, Barry Letts, to avoid using the names of real historical figures, and he expands the backstory of Travers: His nemesis is a Professor Walters); and Travers’ fated friend who’s killed early on (called simply ‘John’ onscreen) is here identified as his best / only friend, known as ‘Mackay’.

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos’s original cover showed a lovely Second Doctor head-shot (taken for The Three Doctors) with a small Jamie and Victoria cowering from a roaring Yeti and the Earth creating a lovely circular frame in the background. I had the 1983 edition with a roaring Yeti in the moonlight up a mountain and both covers used the same photo reference. The illustrations are again by Allan Willow and the standout one is where Jamie and Thomni smash the glowing spheres in the control room; there’s a lovely depth to it with the Doctor and Victoria just visible through the doorway. And that’s the only (tiny) illustration of the Doctor in the entire book.

Final Analysis: This is much more fun than the TV series. It’s largely helped by Dicks choosing to make the Yeti more like they were in the sequel, so they roar and claw and attack, rather than amble about and wiggle a bit. Padmasambvha is a less terrifying creation than on TV, we never forget that he is still a human struggling against the possession of the Great Intelligence, described here as having been ‘exiled’ from ‘another dimension’ (so who kicked him out?!). His final end is rather heartbreaking.