A Dominator ship arrives on the planet Dulkis, landing on the Island of Death, which boasts an anti-war museum built on the irradiated scene of long-past battles. The ship is attracted by radiation and absorbs it, rending the barren landscape safe. Robots called Quarks sink boreholes into the planet’s crust in search of fuel. Toba (Kenneth Ives) orders the robots to fire on three natives found there and one, named Cully (Arthur Cox) survives.
The TARDIS lands elsewhere on the island and the time-travellers hear the explosion. They hide in the museum and meet the Dulcian Educator Balan (Johnson Bayly) and his young students Teel (Giles Block) and Kando (Felicity Gibson). They are there, in radiation suits, to be educated about the planet’s warlike distant past. Cully appears too and warns about the Dominators and the Quarks. Cully takes Zoe to the Council Chamber in the Capital City, but the Council ignores their pleas for action, and they return to the museum. The Doctor and Jamie, angry that the others have been sent back into danger, convince the authorities to, at least, debate the threat.
The Dominators capture Balan, Teel, and Kando. They and Zoe and Cully are taken to the Dominator ship with a captured slave force to help in the digging. Cully destroys a Quark, the Dominators destroy the museum, more Quarks are destroyed with guerrilla tactics. Balan is killed and the Doctor is next. It is decided that all the Dulcians will be left to die when the planet is destroyed, as the pacifist locals are useless as slaves. The Doctor has figured out what is happening: A nuclear fission seed will be dropped down the borehole, turning the entire planet into a radioactive fuel mass. The Doctor gets hold of the seed and smuggles it aboard the Dominators’ ship, which blows up in the sky, meeting the same fate as Ra’s ship in the Stargate movie.
The intent was to create in the Quarks a merchandisable monster to replace the Daleks. Writer Terry Nation owned the rights to the Daleks and intended to write an American Dalek series, which never happened. Arguments immediately began over who owned the Quarks, but in fact the Quarks were nowhere near as scary as the Daleks or the Cybermen. Actors in the Quark costumes could barely see and hardly move and kept falling over, and their voices sounded like the Singing Chipmunks.
The Dominators, however, were sufficiently callous and cruel, and the actors were well chosen—tall, with penetrating eyes and craggy faces. But their costumes were on the silly side. In fashion, shoulder pads are a sign of power—think of the Romulans or the women of Dynasty—but the Dominators’ shoulder pads went up to ear-level and made them resemble Frankenstein’s monster lurching about. However, their costumes were not as silly as those of the Dulcians. I believe they were supposed to look like philosophers in a long Roman Toga Virilis, with the youngsters in shorter togas, but it just seemed like they were all wearing dresses which didn’t even look good on the women. Zoe was talked into wearing one, though she looked much better in her cat-suit, in my considered opinion.