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8 August 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 220: The Dominators, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Will Brooks has ventured out today down to his local newsagents, where he's surprised to find Dr. Who running into those fearsome robots, THE QUARKS…!

Such was the BBC's belief that the Quarks would be the next big thing in Doctor Who, they actually make their first appearance in the TV Comic stories on the same day that Episode Four of The Dominators was broadcast. It's a pretty staggering turnaround (even today, for example, Doctor Who magazine has to play catch-up with the comic, companions not turning up until sometime after they first appear on TV), and serves to really show how much faith the BBC had in these little robots.

Invasion of the Quarks is a pretty significant story, as it sees the departure of the Doctor's grandchildren, John and Gillian, from the comic - the Doctor dumps them at Zebedee university in this instalment, once he's told by a fortune teller that he'll soon have a 'rendezvous with deadly robots'. It's a pretty unceremonious departure for the pair, considering that they'd been the regular companions in the comic for almost five years. They're dispensed with in the fifth panel, and the Doctor heads off to his fate.

The TARDIS arrives in a Scottish castle at night, when the Doctor is surprised by the arrival of a flying saucer, from which come a group of the Quarks. The Doctor claims to have never encountered the creatures before (placing this somewhere before Season Six for him, apparently) but adds that 'their reputation for destruction is unparalleled throughout the galaxies!'

I'm not sure, then, if these are quite the same Quarks that we're watching in The Dominators, since they're slaves in that story, as opposed to the great galactic conquerers that they're made out to be here. Still they look absolutely brilliant in comic form - even better than they do on TV (no, I still don't know why I love them so much. Yes, I know they're really rubbish).

As the story goes on, the Doctor finds himself chased through the castle by his new-found enemies, and ends up tumbling down a flight of stairs in the darkness. As a Quark looms at the top of the steps ('THE INTRUDER IS UNCONSCIOUS.. A RAY WILL FINISH HIM!'), a suit of armour swings its axe down and cuts off the Quark's gun. Somewhat improbably, the suit of armour is the hiding place for Jamie McCrimmon, who the Doctor is 'pleased to see again'. Don't ask me what this would do to their timelines - the Jamie of this story has been living in an apparently contemporary Scotland, and got caught up in the events of this story while visiting his friend at the local tracking station.

Together, the Doctor and Jamie steal one of the Quark's spaceships and fly right into the centre of their invasion fleet before firing ray guns at the other ships. After this, the Doctor claims that there's only one remaining task… and he blows up the castle to dispose of the remaining Quarks. Hm.

As you can tell, it's all a bit silly, and it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense… but it's brilliant! Hah! It's quaint and fun, and perfectly in-keeping with the version of the Doctor that'd been traveling through TV comic since I last dipped into them during The Highlanders. My plan today had been to take a look at this one comic story, and then move on, but it ends on a cliffhanger - as the Doctor invites Jamie back aboard the TARDIS, and are tracked by the Quarks, who declare revenge against their enemies.

I ended up reading through several of the following stories. Most do contain the Quarks in some form (occasionally with their genetically engineered giant wasps in tow. Obviously), and they're great fun. I've been enjoying them on TV, but they really do suit the comic strips. I'll admit that the thought of the Quarks as some kind of galactic powerhouse isn't one that comes naturally, but it's great fun.

I'm not going to rate all the Quark comics, but I'll be giving their first appearance a solid 8/10.

(As for The Dominators Episode Four… I watched it with the commentary on. There were some brilliant discussions of the way that Doctor Who was made in this period, and Arthur Cox sadly admits that he's only ever done the one Doctor Who story, before discussion turns to the recent casting of Matt Smith. Hang in there, Arthur, you'll be turning up in The Eleventh Hour before you know it.

I did go back and flick through the episode afterwards for some edited highlights, but to be honest - it's really not for me…)

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