3.1 – “Galaxy 4”
The Doctor, Steven and Vicki land on a barren planet where two ships have crashed. One is piloted by the beautiful Drahvin, the other by the hideous Rill and their robot servants the Chumblies. It’s not long before the TARDIS crew discover that looks can be very deceiving…
So, another season opener then, one that is different from the previous two in that only a single episode of the four that make up the story still exists. As such, this review will be based on the audio book released in 1999 and the surviving episode with a cut down story that was on “The Aztecs” DVD. Will this combination help or hinder my review? Buggered if I know!
The Doctor, Steven and Vicki land on an unknown planet, where they observe via the TARDIS scanner a robotic Chumbley (as Vicki names them). While exploring the planet they meet the Chumbley in person, which is soon deactivated by the team of Drahvin who have been hiding in the bushes. Taken to their ship, they are informed that they are now prisoners of the Drahvin and the planet will explode in 14 dawns time. The Doctor is told of how the Rill shot down the Drahvin and that he can help them repair the ship to escape from the doomed world. Letting The Doctor and Steven go to the TARDIS, and avoiding a group of awaiting Chumblies trying to break into the ship, The Doctor enters the TARDIS to find out that they do not have 14 dawns but only 2. The Chumblies return with explosives, which shake the TARDIS but does not damage it. The Doctor and Steven return to the Drahvin ship but note that they do not appear to be what they seem. With the information of only 2 dawns left till the end of the world, The Doctor and Vicki are sent to the Rills ship to broker a deal, but in reality the Drahvin are plotting to break into the ship and destroy the Rill.
At the Rill’s ship, The Doctor and Vicki finally meet the unseen Rill’s, creatures of shocking appearance yet clearly intelligent and capable of kindness towards Vicki, explaining the true reason for the situation that both the Rill and Drahvin are in; the Drahvin attacked first. With the true story of the crash known to Vicki and The Doctor, they vow to help the Rill to escape from the doomed planet, giving them power from the TARDIS. The Drahvin try to take the Rill ship but fail and the Rill ship takes off. The Doctor, Steven and Vicki get to the TARDIS just in time to escape the planet, leaving the Drahvin on the surface to die in the planet’s destruction.
So after all that, what can I say about the story? “Oh dear,” is my first reaction to be honest. As many Doctor Who fans know, during the late 1960’s and 1970’s the BBC junked a lot of their series, considering them to be of no value. “Galaxy 4” only survives as one episode (episode 3 – Airlock, incomplete & found in 2011) and one 6 minute clip that exists from episode 1 (Four Hundred Dawns) that was used for another show in the 1970’s. Baring this in mind, it makes it hard to give a true indication of how the story really feels with the rest of it being audio only. Now I have listened to many audios and enjoyed them a lot (“Web of Fear” and “Power Of The Daleks” being two prime examples), but with “Galaxy 4” the lack of visuals makes what already feels like a slow and boring story into a bit of a struggle to sit through. The script is heavily padded, which spells instant death for a story made up of only four episodes.
By now, William Hartnell had made The Doctor his own and was in his element in the role. Hartnell had become the main star of the show and could do no wrong with the way that The Doctor would react to situations. Maureen O’Brian as Vicki had by this point become the substitute for Susan, right down to the scientific knowledge and getting into trouble part. The newer addition to the crew comes with Peter Purves as Steven Taylor. Purves has gone on record as saying that “Galaxy 4” was not his favourite story to film, due in part to his lines being taken from those originally written for Barbara before it was known that both she and Ian would be leaving. It is obvious in the delivery of the dialogue that it was written with a female perspective in mind which, instead of aiding the characterisation of Steven, only further hinders Purves’ performance as he tries his best with an already weak script.
The other players in the story, both the Drahvin and Rill, have their own weaknesses to contend with. The first you see of the Drahvin, you have the picture of a race of women who would not look out of place in a James Bond film (well, maybe with slightly more clothing on them than you’d expect in a Bond film). However the trouble with the idea of a race of militarist females is that while you can write some great lines for them, you also need the actresses to deliver those lines. Sadly the lines given to the Drahvin’s and the actresses used to play them both detract from the story itself. The lead Drahvin, Maaga, played by Stephanie Bidmead, sadly feels clichéd in the way she performs to camera, with almost pantomime delivery at times. The other three are not developed over the four episodes and appear to be just background dressing instead of a military fighting machine. The voice of the Rill’s does an adequate job, but being just a voice over role it does not add much to the story in the way that the voices of the Cybermen and Daleks do in the 1960’s. The Chumblies may look silly in their design, but they do what is intended of them in regards to being the robot servants of the Rill.
Written by William Emms, this story is rather poor in how it comes across on screen and in audio form. This was Emms’ first and only story for Doctor Who and, while it may not have been solely his fault, he does shoulder the blame for the poor characterisation of Steven. Instead of a total rewrite in order to develop the character, he opted instead for transplanting the original dialogue belonging to Ian and Barbara. While as this has worked at times in the show (such as “The Underwater Menace”), here it fails miserable as Steven’s lines are so blatantly written for a female character that it’s hard to miss it.
“Galaxy 4” does a lot better as a season opener when compared to “Planet Of Giants”, but it still suffers from the same padding issues as well as having been left over from the previous season block. The following stories in both cases make better openers by comparison! “Galaxy 4” therefore gets 1 mark better than “Planet Of Giants”, earning it a disappointing 5/10.
Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson