Before this: The Time Meddler
Season 3, Episode 1: Galaxy 4
Galaxy 4 is the first serial of the third season of Doctor Who, and comes in four parts. Only one episode is still there, while the other three have been reconstructed.
The missing episodes are a struggle to get through, so for those who are just after a bit of light Doctor Who experience I encourage to skip the missing stories. They require your concentration, as the audio is not always very clear, and the action is explained in fast moving captions down the bottom of the screen. Galaxy 4 regardless is one of the more enjoyable missing stories that we have experienced in this classic Who marathon. Perhaps because unlike the other missing episodes, it has been a sci-fi story, and so there were more explosions and action than in most of the historical stories. The story bore resemblances to The Daleks, in regards to two aliens fighting each other with mistrust and power plays happening all over the place.
The story, without giving away too many spoilers, the Doctor and co arrive on an eerily silent planet in the middle of a skirmish between the female clone Drahvins and the reptilian Rills, the latter who use robots (called ‘Chumblies’ by Vicki) to do their bidding outside the spaceship. All the aliens are survivors of a massive crash landing, and have been fighting since, whilst in the background the unnamed planet in Galaxy 4 is about to disintegrate. The Drahvins are run by a tyrannical Maaga, who treats her own soldiers with utter contempt, and who relies on fear to maintain control ñ she paints the Rills as the instigators of the conflict, and claims that their spaceship is preparing to abandon the Drahvins. Without going into too much detail, the story is much deeper than a simple “aliens/robots evil, humanoids good except for bad leader” – and there is a pretty harsh ending as well.
Because of the missing episodes, the photo reconstructions are not that fantastic. The version we watched at least had some attempts at creating movement – the Chumblies roaming across the screen, and the odd explosion scene (with some stock footage of what appears to be a volcanic eruption). Nevertheless, it was a bit of a slog getting through the serial ñ I am not looking forward to the rest of the stories (until the Third Doctor really), because so much has been lost. If you are reading this and you have some ancient tapes from the 1960ís, please consider sending it in to the BBC – you would be doing a fantastic service to the sci-fi community.
The story itself, perhaps because it was missing, wasn’t as engaging as it possibly could have been, but at least the acting (voice, obviously) was able to convey the tension and drive of the story. In fact, the voices were able to convey the sentiment of the characters very well, from the bullying contempt of Maaga to the stubborn defiance of Steven, and the optimistic naivety of Vicki. Galaxy 4 is really an anti-racism story, with oddly enough no strong anti-feminist elements, despite there being a wealth of female villains – in fact, I think there were more female than male characters. It didn’t fall into the trap of labelling the women as being independent and therefore evil: there were tensions in the Drahvin camp as well as between the Rills and themselves.
In summary, although the story was enjoyable, Galaxy 4 is probably something that really should be left to watch if you are very keen on Doctor Who and watching it in its entirety. Onwards, to Mission to the Unknown!
Here comes the hard part of watching classic Doctor Who – you have to be prepared for an awful lot of down time with a lot of talking and very few visuals. Galaxy 4 is a bit of a drag due to the lack of moving images, but is surprisingly easy to follow thanks to the reconstruction.
Galaxy 4 starts off a little like the first Dalek story. There’s two warring alien races – one humanoid and one robot-looking – on a seemingly empty planet, and of course, the Doctor and companions stumble right into it all. This unnamed planet is part of Galaxy 4: the robots, who Vicki very sweetly nicknames ‘Chumblies’, are actually the servants of the Rill, one of the alien races. The Rill stay unseen for most of this story, while the Drahvins, a race of warrior women, “rescue” (but actually capture) the time travellers. The clone warrior Drahvins are led by Maaga, who seems at first simply cold and abrupt, but who is actually using the travellers to infiltrate and steal the Rill ship so they can escape the planet before it explodes.
It’s got all the elements of a classic Doctor Who story: a time limit, multiple alien races and splitting up the team. Of course, it turns out that the Drahvin are lying about the Rill attacking them, or there even being a war. They’re a pretty nasty alien race that seems to enjoy attacking others. There were a lot of moving parts in this story, which I think would have made it a particularly engaging story if all the parts were still there! Still, it’s better than a lot of the stories with missing episodes, perhaps because they made some attempt at matching pictures and small bits of footage with dialogue and action.
While it’s definitely not going up in the Doctor Who hall of fame any time soon, it’s an excellent midlevel story that does provide us with a bit more insight into Steven’s character (who for the record, I didn’t think much of in the last two episodes – he seems much too confrontational and argumentative for my liking, perhaps to contrast with Vicki’s adoration of the Doctor). On top of that, Peter Purves makes an appearance at the start of our copy of the serial to tell us that he didn’t like being overpowered by women. Boo hoo, right?