A five-parter. With new girl Zoe now in tow, the Tardis arrives on a peaceful alien planet, with the Doctor fully intending to have a nice relaxing break. He’s been here before, an island on the planet Dulkis, whose inhabitants are total pacifists.
But they hadn’t always been. Unknown by the Doctor, the island was a testing ground for the planet’s only ever atomic weapon, nearly two centuries prior, and became an irradiated deathtrap that must never be visited. Luckily for the Doctor and co, an alien spaceship from a fleet of warlike Dominators happens to land minutes before the Tardis does and absorbs all of the island’s dangerous radiation into its energy cells. Not so lucky for the Doctor and co is the fact that the Dominators intend to enslave the people of Dulkis and use the planet’s natural energy for their own fleet of ships.
Given the era this was made, I suspect it was intended to play into the atomic war fears of the 1960s (Star Trek did similar things back then). The Dulcians have very silly costumes, even by Doctor Who standards. Really not very flattering at all, for either gender. The Dominators do have pretty cool costumes, however, with big arching shoulder mount things around their heads, and lots of funky tassels.
It’s lucky that it’s only a scout party of two Dominators that lands on the planet, as the Doctor is able to defeat them. Their main weapons are little robots called ‘quarks’ that waddle around on stumpy legs and fire deadly lasers. As they are defeated one-by-one, it sparks arguments between the two Dominators, who disagree about whether or not to hunt down the slaves or concentrate the quarks’ dwindling power reserves on drilling through the earth. Employing delay tactics, the Doctor is eventually able to capture the Dominators’ explosive device and hide it aboard their ship, moments before lift-off, destroying them as they try to leave. Nevertheless, the island is evacuated and the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie run back to the Tardis as a volcanic erruption starts.
This wasn’t a particularly interesting story, although it was well-produced. A lot of miniatures were used (for the flying saucers and transport capsules, etc.) and there was an usually high number of explosions. The Dulcians’ technology was also quite utopian futuristic-y, with transport tubes, automated navigation capsules, and all the control panels in their city seemed to use non-touch motion gestures, pre-empting Minority Report by forty years.
There was one other curious reference. When the Dominators scan one of the captured Dulcians, they mention that they have two hearts. Earlier in the story, when Jamie and the Doctor are captured, Jamie is also scanned, but they don’t bother to scan the Doctor because they assume his physiology is the same as Jamie’s. I wonder if this was just a coincidence at this point, or if this was when the writers started thinking about the Doctor’s alien physiology. It’s never really been brought up yet, aside from his extraordinary age and the fact that he can regenerate. In the previous story (The Wheel in Space), the Doctor is given a medical exam, including listening to his heart, and nothing unusual is mentioned. Not that it necessarily would be.
Anyway, enough rambling. Verdict: meh, average.