It’s a pleasure to see Troughton and Hines sharing so many scenes in this serial: it’s probably the best story for their double act since The Abominable Snowmen. Here we get their interview with the Council of Dulkis, where the Doctor seems charmed despite himself by the Dulcians’ passivity in the face of alien invasion, and quite enjoys the debate (‘Oh dear, you’ve got me there!’) while Jamie is just bored and irritated. Then on the flight back to the island of death, as the Doctor snacks on sweets, Jamie reminds him of the Quark waiting for them at their destination which results in some great physical comedy as the Doctor rewires and pilots the travel capsule.
Wendy Padbury’s given a bit more to do this week as well: plotting noisily with Cully to destroy the Quarks with the laser gun in the museum. (Why is there a museum on a forbidden, irradiated island? I’ll explain later.) She’s very engaging, but her role is entirely generic. Deborah Watling got loads of nice scenes with Troughton in The Tomb of the Cybermen to establish her character. So far, Padbury’s had nothing to work with so any affection we feel for her is entirely down to her own likeable delivery.
At least Zoe has a bit of fire. The Dulcians are coming out of this looking weak as water. The “rhubarb rhubarb” bits in the council are particularly hilarious: ‘Perhaps we should do something,’ says one background character plaintively. Then, when Brian Cant turns up in a Red Star chiffon evening gown, face softly made up and fair hair gently waved, to boldly declare that the Dulcians have three options, someone incredulously declares, ‘Three?’ The option they go with, of course, is to do nothing.
The problem with the story is that so far it’s consisted of the regulars going back and forth to the capital to chat with the dullest people in the universe, interspersed with the vaguely simian and permanently seething Dominators hissing angrily at each other but, despite their bold claims of mastery over ten galaxies, actually doing almost as little as the Dulcians. I sympathise with Toba’s desperate desire to inject a bit of life into the narrative: the most exciting bit of the episode is when Jamie snatches the laser gun off the prevaricating Cully and shoots a Quark, which explodes quite dramatically. Otherwise, this is the story of two sides avoiding a conflict that the Doctor seems desperate to stir up.
Next episode: The Dominators – Episode 4