I cannot tell whether this post will please or sadden fans of the Second Doctor – undoubtedly they will be pleased that until this point I have not had a bad word to say about any of his stories, but I have noticed that Troughton fans in particular have a reverence for his era that makes all other eras pale in comparison – so I may well bring down their judgement upon myself by daring to imply some of the blessed Pat’s stories were less than good!
So let me begin with a brief acknowledgement – we can only judge the Troughton era on the material that has survived – and sadly most of it has not. It says a lot that none of the surviving material is outside of the top 100, but it does not necessarily mean that Seasons 4 to 6 were a golden era for Doctor Who with not a single poor story to disgrace it – the fact is, we simply do not know how good or bad many of the lost stories are. The Enemy of the World is a perfect example of this – it would not have featured highly on stories fans wanted to see returned, but when re-discovered became an instant fan favourite.
That said, I still think it reflects well on Troughton that the story I have least enjoyed featuring him (not counting the travesty of The Two Doctors) is so high on our countdown. I think it is fair to say that this serial, the first in Season 6, is judged rather harshly precisely because the standard of surviving Troughton stories is so high. By any acceptable Doctor Who standards The Dominators is a good entertaining tale. The titular Dominators are nasty pieces of work, if somewhat incompetent in their nastiness, and despite poor reviews I rather enjoyed their box-like servants the Quarks. Their attempts to destroy the planet of the pacifist Dulicans for use as fuel make for a story that could have been faster paced, but does not suffer unduly for it. Indeed the bigger distraction is taht both male and female Dulcians wear rather short skirts …
As with all Troughton adventures, it is his performance that stands out as exceptional – although he is somewhat subdued in this serial – it is easy to presume that he already knew that this would be his last season, and that the two years’ of grueling schedule had caught up with him. For all that, he remains the wonderful spontaneous enigma he ever was, and the chemistry between he and his companions Jamie and Zoe is thoroughly enjoyable. While Jamie’s reputation stands for itself, and easily makes him one of the best loved companions to feature on the show, Zoe is much harder to deal with. One suspects she suffers from a similar problem to Liz Shaw, Romana and Nyssa – being too near to the Doctor on an intellectual level to help the viewer to emphasise with her. For all that, she does demonstrate traces of initiative and independence that would later be taken on by the likes of Jo and Sarah-Jane – so perhaps we should embrace the change for the better!
I can think of no better way to summarise The Dominators than this – if this is an example of a poor Troughton, it says a lot for the quality of his other stories!