The TARDIS lands on a barren world where the travellers encounter the Drahvins, a race determined to eliminate the monstrous-looking but peaceful Rills.
Galaxy 4 is the first William Hartnell story to receive the animation treatment since The Tenth Planet in 2013, and kicks off the show’s third season. In its closing moments, it also sets up the build-up to this season’s big event, The Daleks’ Masterplan.
This is the first and only script contributed to the programme by William Emms, and it is a solid if not exceptional opener. The story focuses on not judging a book by its cover, with the humanoid female Drahvins claiming that the Rills, who look distinctly unpleasant by comparison. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has a lot more to say than that, and the story does drag at points. Pacing is a problem that often blights Doctor Who, but it certainly is one that seems to dog the Hartnell era more than any other, and Galaxy 4 is certainly no exception. I was surprised at how slow the first episode felt, and then amazed at how quickly it ended – at 22 minutes long, it suddenly and fairly abruptly ends. The story does do a good job of conveying a spooky atmosphere of a planet that is totally deserted but suitable for human habitation and those opening shots feel really quite eery. The Chumblies are a little bit too cute to be taken as anything other than harmless, meaning that any time the characters are ‘threatened’ by them, it feels ultimately underwhelming.
One of the other major problems that this story faces is that the twist doesn’t really land the way that I think the production think that it does. We are led to believe that the Rills are the aggressors against the Drahvins, having attacked them whilst in orbit of this doomed planet, and killing one of the Drahvins when they landed. However, the character of Maaga never strikes as anything other than a villain, so when it is revealed that this slight is entirely of the Drahvin’s own making, it doesn’t really work. Through the animation, it is difficult to analyse Stephanie Bidmead’s acting perforamnce, but vocally, she doesn’t sound like the hero of the piece. I do like the Rills, and the fact that they acknowledge that their appearance is likely to frighten people – and they certainly do look quite creepy. The fact that the monsters’ values actually align with those of the Doctor and his companions is a nice twist and the fact that there is little or no threat towards our leads is an interesting take on an alien race. The stakes of the planet being destroyed never really feel pressing on any of the characters and there’s no level of peril. Once the Rills and the Doctor agree that he will provide the means for them to get off the planet, there is no peril. The Drahvin do not seek to disrupt the power supply between the TARDIS and the compound or something similar. It all feels a bit too easy.
The animation allows the story to really breathe. It certainly looks much more impressive than I would imagine that the set would have looked in the original episode, and the animators are given the ability and flexibility to play around with the end product. There are some panoramic shots of the planet that you imagine would have been an impossibility in the 1960s and I think certainly help to keep the audience interesting.
I think that the central cast are solid here if not exceptional. It’s possibly the most together sounding William Hartnell has been for a while, and it’s interesting to see how his relationship with Vicki continues to grow. Steven seems to be sidelined, acting as the Drahvin’s insurance against the Doctor and Vicki scheming against them, which is a nice twist – usually you’d expect it to be Vicki. I think this is probably the element that Peter Purves doesn’t like about this story – he has labelled that it feminised the character of Steven – but I didn’t find it too jarring really. He gets a moment that feels like it’s out Ian’s playbook, wrestling with Maaga.
Verdict: Galaxy 4 almost feels as though it’s one of those stories that you could just watch on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. It is quite soft and gentle, which does cause some problems with pacing and the plot twist does not really work. 5/10
Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Stephanie Bidmead (Maaga), Marina Martin (Drahvin One), Susanna Carroll (Drahvin Two), Lyn Ashley (Drahvin Three), Jimmy Kaye, William Shearer, Angelo Muscat, Pepe Poupee and Tommy Reynolds (Chumblies), Robert Cartland (Rill Voice) & Barry Jackson (Garvey).
Writer: William Emms
Director: Derek Martinus
Parts: 4 (Four Hundred Dawns, Trap of Steel, Air Lock, The Exploding Planet)
Original Broadcast Dates: 11 September – 2 October 1965
Behind the Scenes
- The working title of this story was The Chumblies.
- The three leads disliked the scripts for this story. Things got so heated that John Wiles, the producer who succeeded Verity Lambert after Mission to the Unknown, threatened to fire William Hartnell. It also led to Maureen O’Brien’s contract not being renewed beyond The Myth Makers. Peter Purves does not like this story, as the script was originally written for the team of Ian, Barbara and Vicki, and the hurried rewrite meant that a lot of Barbara’s lines were transferred to him, which he believes did his character no favours.
- Only the third episode, Air Lock, exists in the BBC Archives, and is an incomplete film, missing the last 27 seconds of action and the closing credits. This part was recovered in 2011.
- Mervyn Pinfield was originally intended to direct this story, but had to step down due to ill health, to be replaced by Derek Martinus. It would be Pinfield’s last involvement in Doctor Who, as he passed away on 20 May 1966.
- This is the first story to be directed by Derek Martinus, who had not seen the show previously, and when he watched some old stories, wanted higher standards. This is the only story he directed not to feature any of the Doctor’s iconic foes, and the release of the animated version means that he is the first director who has directed multiple lost stories to have had them all animated.
- This is only the third William Hartnell lost story to be animated, after The Reign of Terror and The Tenth Planet.
- Part 3, Air Lock, achieved the highest ratings of Doctor Who between the final episode of The Web Planet and the final episode of The Three Doctors and is a rare example of a story in the original run being in the top fifteen shows in its original broadcast week.
- It is the first non-historical lost story.
- Robert Cartland would go on to appear as Malpha in Mission to the Unknown.
- Barry Jackson had previously played Ascaris in The Romans and would play the Second Drax in The Armageddon Factor.
The cliffhanger to the end of Episode 3, which sees Steven trapped in the airlock of the Drahvin’s ship, trapped between Maaga and a Chumbley.
Hey, you know, there might be a lake or a river around, Doctor. Do you fancy a swim?
My dear young man, this isn’t a joy ride! This is a scientific expedition!
Oh, come off it, Doctor! You can’t be scientific all the time. Anyway, uh, you look as if you could do with a good wash-down.Steven Taylor and the First Doctor
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