Friday, 21 September 2012

Story 18 - Galaxy 4

In which the TARDIS materialises on a bleak, windswept planet which appears devoid of animal life. The Doctor wants to explore, but a strange domed robot appears and starts to feel its way round the ship. Because of its wobbling motion, Vicki christens it a "Chumbley". After it has gone, they venture outside. The Chumbley reappears and threatens them, indicating it wants them to follow it. To reinforce its intentions, it produces a flame-throwing weapon.
As they walk along, a group of female soldiers throw a magnetic metal mesh over the robot - disabling it long enough for them to escape. They go with the soldiers to their ship where they meet the commander, Maaga. She is a Drahvin. They are a female-dominated, war-like race. Only Maaga is a true Drahvin - her troops are test-tube creations. She explains that her ship crashed here after a fight with an unknown craft above this planet, which is in Galaxy 4. The other ship fired upon them in an unprovoked attack, but they were able to fight back and it also crashed. This other vessel belongs to the Rills, and they have told Maaga that this world has only 14 more days before it is destroyed. Steven is suspicious of her story. The Doctor offers to check out what the Rills have claimed. He and Steven return to the TARDIS, leaving Vicki with the Drahvins. The Doctor confirms this planet is indeed doomed - but in only two days time.

Back at the Drahvin ship, the Doctor hides his discovery from Maaga. He is curious as to why the Chumblies haven't destroyed her ship. He proposes the two stranded crews co-operate with each other to escape. Maaga treats her troops like slaves, and Steven tries to stir up trouble between them. The Doctor and Vicki agree to go and negotiate with the Rills. They find that the creatures are ammonia-breathers. The Doctor almost destroys their environmental controls, but he is stopped by Vicki, who has realised that they and their robots are benevolent. The Rills appear to be huge, reptilian, walrus-like creatures. They reveal that it was the Drahvins who attacked them. They have been attempting to offer help to Maaga, but she has refused to listen so far.

Maaga cannot repair her ship - and now plans to steal theirs. The Rill ship only needs power to take off. The Doctor agrees to provide some from the TARDIS. The Drahvins attack but are unsuccessful. Steven is rescued and the power transfer begins as the planet begins to disintegrate. The Rills depart, and the Doctor and his companions rush back to the TARDIS. They leave, whilst Maaga and her soldiers are destroyed as the planet blows apart.

This four part story was written by William Emms (his sole contribution to the programme), and was broadcast between 11th September and 2nd October, 1965. It is the first story of season 3, shown after a 6 week break. Until late last year, it was missing from the archives, apart from a 6 minute clip from the first episode. Then, in December 2011, it was announced that the third episode had been found. It has yet to be released on DVD, so we are still waiting for our first glimpse of the Rills - who had only been seen in a couple of photographs. We have the audio soundtrack, but there aren't any telesnaps.
Sadly, this story marks the start of a long run of incomplete stories which, apart from four stories, continues all the way to The Dominators in the latter Patrick Troughton era.

 The main theme of the story is "don't judge by appearances". The beautiful, female Drahvins are actually murderous warriors, and the hideous, apparently monstrous, Rills are an intelligent, benevolent species who want to explore and gain knowledge. Maaga thinks nothing of shooting down one of her own warriors when she becomes injured. Men in her society are killed (useless mouths to feed) apart from a few retained for reproductive purposes. It is surprising they so readily accept the Doctor's seniority of his group. It might have been interesting (and good for Maureen O'Brien) if they had only taken what she had to say seriously. O'Brien did quite enjoy this story - she is reportedly very pleased at the rediscovery of part 3.
Not so happy with Galaxy 4 is Peter Purves. Steven spends a sizeable chunk of the story prisoner on the Drahvin ship. It transpires that the initial storyline was intended for Ian and Barbara - and he gets some of her role to play.

The guest artist is Stephanie Bidmead, who plays Maaga. She makes the best out of what she has to work with.
The Rills are quite effective, voiced by Robert Cartland. Keeping them hidden in darkness and shrouded in  mist certainly helps. The Chumblies were operated by small performers, including the marvellously named Pepi Poupee. When attacked, their dome sections collapse down on each other for protection.
Episode endings for this tale are:

  1. Four Hundred Dawns - In the TARDIS, the Doctor confirms that this planet is doomed. However, it will not be in fourteen days - but in two.
  2. Trap of Steel - The Doctor and Vicki have been pursued into the Rill Centre by a Chumbley. Vicki sees a ghastly face staring at her from a smoke shrouded chamber.
  3. Airlock - Steven is trapped in the airlock of the Drahvin ship, as Maaga slowly removes the air.
  4. The Exploding Planet - Vicki observes a planet on the TARDIS scanner and ponders what might be going on there. We see a man named Garvey lying on the ground in dense jungle. He repeats over and over to himself that he must kill...

"I'm the only true Drahvin - so I get the comfy chair..."
Overall, a reasonably good but somewhat inconsequential story.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Drahvins were actually written as men. It was producer Verity Lambert who decided to make them women. As such, the BBC has co-rights on them.
  • The "four hundred dawns" of the episode one title refers to the distance between Drahva and this unnamed planet.
  • Some people propose this planet isn't necessarily in Galaxy 4. Only Drahva is definitely placed in that galaxy. I think it's ludicrous that a story would be named only after where the protagonists come from. It would be like calling The Dalek Invasion of Earth "Skaro".
  • For some reason, the Drahvins have become synonymous with ideas from the old series that should never be brought back - along with the Krotons and the Kandyman.
  • Steven Moffat brought them back in 2010 - sort of. They're an unseen part of the Pandorica Alliance.

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