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The Dominators; The Invasion

I watched these two stories from Patrick Troughton's last season as Doctor Who partly because they fit into my Speshul Prodjekt but, in the case of The Invasion, also because of the new DVD release.

As a season opener, The Dominators really isn't very special. Lots of plot elements and themes which could have been used better, and indeed had been used better in other stories. The citizens of Dulkis themselves are so crap that one almost feels they had the invasion coming to them; but the Dominators are also so useless at maintaining security on a vital military operation, and the robot Quarks so ludicrous, that one doesn't feel they deserve it.

It's difficult to believe that this is from the same authors who brought us the Yeti (and in the case of one of them, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail). The list of missed opportunities is huge, including the failure to convince of the chemistry between the two Dominators themselves. According to the documentary on the Invasion DVD there were huge problems with the scripting process, and one does sense it as the characters run pointlessly from place to place.

There are a couple of interesting points none the less. Arthur Cox is good as Cully the dissident Dulkian. The shapeless Dulkian costumes are not at all flattering to the figure but none the less rather fascinating (also interesting that the writers had little hesitation about killing off the bit-part female characters as ruthlessly as the men). Troughton excels as always despite the thin material. And Wendy Padbury as Zoe - cor!

The Invasion, from later in that season, leading up to The War Games, is quite a different matter. I've commented already on the brilliant idea of using animations for the two episodes (of the right in total) which are missing. I can bear to listen to an entire series in audio, but to mix audio and video is a different matter. I've tried the fan "reconstructions", but don't find them satisfactory; likewise watching the BBC photonovel combined with listening to the audio. But this format works, although of course once you get back to the live action episodes you realise what you are missing.

Kevin Stoney, as Tobias Vaughn, is a fantastic villain, and every scene with him is great to watch. He is a totally convincing invulnerable sinister scientist oligarch conspiring with the enemies of mankind, and yet achieves a certain measure of redemption at the end. He was, of course, also great as the super-villain Mavic Chen in The Dalek Master Plan, though Chen is quite a different character. (And he popped up in I CLAVDIVS as Tiberius' court astrologer, Thrasyllus - who is indeed a historical character.) The story is really about Vaughn's journey as much as about anything else.

Poor Jamie doesn't get to do a lot, apart from canoeing and climbing up the liftshaft, but the other main characters are all great - Troughton as ever brilliant, but also Wendy Padbury as Zoe sparking a very very watchable rapport with Sally Faulkner's Isobel Watkins - and incidentally saving the day and blowing up the Cybermen's fleet with her Mental Powers of Calculation. And of course this is the first UNIT story, with the return of Lethbridge-Stewart (now a Brigadier) and the first appearance of Benton. Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier in particular gets some really good material to work with, a far cry from the cartoonish character of the Pertwee years. Again, the DVD reveals just how much fun the cast were having, especially thanks to the hospitality provided by the Guinness brewery where a lot of the action scenes were filmed.

Some reviewers have expressed bitter disappointment with the Cybermen, either that they don't have enough screen time, or that they don't look good, or (inconsistently) both. I don't completely share those feelings. The Cybermen aren't seen until the end of episode 4, but that's really because we have not been told who is behind the invasion of the story's title. It is a bit unfortunate that much of the action of blowing up spaceships, etc, happens off screen - but of course mediated through that new-fangled radar stuff. I also have the controversial view that the Cybermen redesign is better than the original version - I think supporting evidence is that the new version has survived through to this year.

The only other thing that really annoyed me was the cheery music accompanying the arrival of the soldiers for the final battle (apparently real soldiers from the real army). But the rest of the music is very good, and the whole thing is a jolly good package.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:58 am (UTC)
I don't think that it is inconsistent to both say that the Cybermen don't look good and they don't have enough screen time. The appearance of the Cybermen was a huge disappointment. The original costumes feature cloth masks and bare hands, yet were more convincing as cyborg creatures than this version, which was so obviously a silver-painted wetsuit. I also didn't like the teardrops (annoying to see them persist into the most recent version) and the ear-muffs, but those are minor things.

That doesn't mean that we didn't want to see the Cybermen on screen more, being the dangerous enemies we knew they could be. (For comparison: I always thought the Daleks looked crap in the Seventies... never was unhappy to see them, though.) The thing is, this isn't really a Cyberman story. As you note, it is really about Tobias Vaughn. Approach it like that, and the disappointment fades. But we had been expecting a Cyberman story...

The Dominators was an odd story, a real curate's egg, but it is worth noting that the Quarks made quite an impression on us at the time. It seemed wholly appropriate that they should feature in the evidence at the end of The War Games.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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