Galaxy Four

This story is not known to exist in its complete original format (4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes).
Paperback Novelization

CD Audio - 2 discs
(Doctor Who Story No. 18, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by William Emms
  • directed by Derek Martinus
  • produced by Verity Lambert
  • featuring library music tracks
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each:
    1. Four Hundred Dawns
    2. Trap of Steel
    3. Air Lock
    4. The Exploding Planet
Story: Materializing on a desolate alien planet, the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki are soon rescued from enigmatic robots by a race of young female soldiers called Drahvins. The Drahvins have been in a fight for survival against the hideous Rills and their "Chumbley" machines ever since each side crashed here, and the Drahvins are desperate to find a way off the planet before its decaying orbital conditions cause it to explode. Will the Doctor and his friends be able to help the Drahvins without getting caught in the cross-fire? How much are the Drahvins willing to say about what the Rills are really after?

The most substantial amount of video material from this story can be found on "The Aztecs" - Special Edition DVD from March 2013, which includes the newly rediscovered episode three - "Air Lock", and both the 5-minute and 10-second clips from episode one, all presented as part of a 64-minute recreation of the entire story. The recreation is composed mostly of a montage of telesnap and still frames accompanying the original television soundtrack, but it also features many shots of the Chumbley machines achieved with very satisfying full-motion 3D CGI models. More details & buying options for "The Aztecs" Special Edition DVD's

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

As written, this is a very excellent and exceptional story, having all the elements I like to see in a Doctor Who adventure. Its production is a good distance from being perfect, but all things considered, season three can boast opening with a decent sci-fi story that is more interesting, serious, and climactic than anything season two put out. Verity Lambert's last real story as producer is something of a triumph.

The distinctive library music tracks build a light but nevertheless alien atmosphere for the lonely dying planet on which this adventure takes place. The music is okay for the most part, successfully alien and even brilliant in some places, and generally works. Knowing these particular tracks as well as I do, I don't think the team always managed to find the most appropriate sections to back every scene, often selecting bits that were too serene instead of some of the more suspenseful or action oriented sections that were available, but this doesn't detract much from the story.

The TARDIS seems to have made a good materialization on television, although the novelization is unfortunately deprived of that. The rest of its essential features and those of the main characters are well demonstrated in the opening sequence. One couldn't ask for anything better. Fear of the unknown has no power to stop the three regular characters from exploring outside the ship and beyond as well, as they eagerly jump into danger and first contact situations. They'll also tackle heroics in satisfying fashion before they're finished with this place. All the right stuff, in the right order, starting the season off to boot.

The major theme of the story works as an objective observation, but subjectively are all the right things demonstrated by dialogue and performances? In this area, the novel is more polished than the televised version. There is much more to be said about this, but to avoid spoilers, I'll save all that for the in-depth analysis version of this review.

Judging by sound alone, the Drahvins themselves seem to act a little stiffly, which is not altogether out of character for them. The existing 5-minute film clip reveals additional visual nuances that make the performances significantly more believable. However, they are meant to be emotional beings, and the fear and gut-level response to the Rills that motivates them is still not quite all that it should be. That said, getting a complete episode plus many stills from the other episodes unveils much of what wasn't conveyed by voice alone, and the Drahvins actually become much more believable. Stephanie Bidmead, playing the Drahvin leader Maaga, puts in a very compelling performance that outclasses many of the "strong" women seen in later years of the show, including New Millennium Who, and that performance is chiefly responsible for selling many of the story's important moments. Good stuff.

One of the things that really helps sustain this story is the mystery surrounding the Rills and their robots, something that is executed with exceptional levels of audio/visual atmosphere. The sounds you will almost certainly remember long after hearing this story are those of the Chumbleys. Brian Hodgson has assembled one of his most effective montages to date, effectively bringing to life these creations, alien, mysterious, somewhat threatening, somewhat reassuringly ordered and patterned. And even with certain bits of information held back for later, the characters are allowed to present themselves true to form throughout the story, no elaborate manoeuvres required, and there is much gripping conflict all the way through for all concerned. Thus the story seems to be much better written than "The Rescue" (story no. 11) and "The Sensorites" (story no. 7), and drives its own point home better.

Galaxy Four generally has better written action as well, and the Doctor's your man in this one as the central, heroic character. Though Steven and Vicki have excellent contributions to make as well, the Doctor is much more of the habitual, reasonable, lead problem-solver in this one, and it's a vast improvement over his usual season two antics. This story delivers well, keeping the level of drama high, interesting and logical all throughout as the final episode builds to a satisfying climax.

Sadly, not everything is improved by having new visuals of the story. The biggest letdown by far is the design of the Rill spacecraft, which suggests at every turn that the budget for year 2's recording block had run out. Thankfully though, the Rills themselves work well, and we somehow only manage to see as much of them at any time as the script intends. Opportunities for including modern CGI effects for many of the bigger events of the conclusion are not pursued in the 2013 DVD abridged version, as it sticks more closely with what the original might have been like. The Drahvins' weapons operate on flash-charges which is about as good as you get on Doctor Who before superimposed lasers started much later. The Chumbleys get little puffs of steam for their weapons, but this effect does at least get a more impressive debut in part one. Sound effects for laser blasts are particularly lame this time around, a quiet and dull bit of white noise that is practically inaudible whenever something else is going on. Improvement here could have lifted the excitement level of the drama's conclusion considerably.

In terms of new visuals, what really impresses most is some of the creative work of director Derek Martinus, both in getting really enjoyable performances out of all the actors, and in often showing action that was in no way suggested by the sound alone. And of course, CGI Chumbleys allow a lot of their action to be on screen, and possibly more effective and glitch-free than had been the case in the original footage. In cases where action could not be visually recreated, we get subtitles explaining it for us, as had been done with the 2000 A.D. VHS recreation of "The Tenth Planet" (story no. 29), as opposed to the less enjoyable narration in the VHS abridgement for "The Ice Warriors" (story no. 39).

The presentation on the 2013 DVD does leave something to be desired in lumping the whole story together as a single menu item of 65 minutes in duration. Thankfully, it is split up with 16 chapter points, in which episode three can be seen complete with its own individual titles and credits in chapters 7 - 12. No division between episodes one and two can be easily identified here, but then episode one never did have a great cliffhanger anyway. Episodes two and three have much stronger cliffhangers, which are easy to enjoy in this DVD version.

All things considered, "Galaxy Four" is a top notch season three story, and a great example of the Hartnell era at its best. I'm still secretly hoping that more of this one gets rediscovered on film earlier than many other missing Hartnell episodes. Had this story been a part of season two, it would have easily have come out on top as the best story, no contest. However, as a part of the more turbulent season three, there are a number of other excellent stories ready to give it a good run for its money.....

Galaxy Four

(starring William Hartnell)

This story is not known to exist in its original format (4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes) in its entirety.

Doctor Who: "The Aztecs" Special Edition
2 DVD discs
Coverage on Galaxy Four includes:
  • An abridged recreation of episodes 1 and 2 (28 min.) featuring telesnap and video stills accompanied by the original TV soundtrack,
    plus numerous new 3D CGI shots of the Chumbley machines. This also includes:
    • 8mm off-screen clip from Episode 1 with full sound (TARDIS interior, approx. 10 seconds)
    • 5 minute original full-motion clip from Episode 1 (Four Hundred Dawns) as the Doctor & crew discover the Drahvin spacecraft & meet Maaga.
  • Episode 3: "Air Lock" (24 min. 19 sec.)
  • A 12-minute recreation of episode 4, in the same style as that for episodes 1 & 2.
More details & buying options for "The Aztecs" Special Edition DVD's

This makes the previously available sources of video material from this story less important:

Doctor Who: Lost in Time - Patrick Troughton
2 DVD discs

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on Galaxy Four includes:
  • 5 minute clip from Episode 1 (Four Hundred Dawns) as the Doctor & crew discover the Drahvin spacecraft & meet Maaga. This full clip can be found as part of "The Missing Years" documentary, on the second Patrick Troughton disc.
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's

Doctor Who: Lost in Time - William Hartnell
1 DVD disc

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on Galaxy Four includes:

  • 8mm off-screen clip from Episode 1 with full sound (TARDIS interior, approx. 10 seconds)
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Galaxy Four.
(2 discs)

This CD audio version remains relevant even after the March 2013 DVD release, as
this is still the best source for the complete audio from the whole story.
This 2 CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 4 television episodes of this story:
  • The CD Audio version features narration by actor Peter Purves (who also played Steven Taylor) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version spans both discs and is playable in any normal audio CD player.

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Mission to the Unknown"

Home Page Site Map Star Trek Sliders Doctor Who William Hartnell Era Episode Guide Catalogue