Galaxy Four

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


(hardcover)
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

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


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 production 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 the original television broadcast. Although the novelization unfortunately skips over it, the new recreation on DVD nicely indulges us with it again. The rest of the essential features of the TARDIS and those of the main characters are well demonstrated in the opening sequence, as they encounter their first Chumbley robot, and both parties become curious and investigate each other from either side of the TARDIS interior/exterior barrier. One couldn't ask for anything better in theory, although the recreation is limited in being able to showcase the interior space. 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 appearance stereotypes of sci-fi good guys and bad guys are neatly swapped, of course, and this forms the major theme of the story:

"What difference does it make what your form is?"
"The importance lies in the character....."

This 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. It takes a bit of time for our travellers to sort out who's who in the novel, but it still happens fairly quickly: Half way through the first episode, they know quite well that they don't like the dolled-up Drahvins. On television, it appears to happen even faster, dangerously fast in fact. Not only do the Doctor and Vicki notice the Drahvins' bad qualities early, they seem to realize it before even getting to know them (their tone of voice gives that away)..... Knowing enough not to judge a book by its cover, the Doctor and Vicki settle for the alternative of judging this book by its last page instead, not giving the Drahvins as fair a chance as good first contact etiquette would dictate. Part of this is the script's fault, but writer William Emms, to his credit, did a good job of fixing this in his novel, removing most of the give-away dialogue, and re-inserting the gist of it later when the time for judgment is more ripe, and when the main characters can put it to a less confrontational use by thinking it or discussing it amongst themselves. The altered timing on 2013's DVD recreation might have allowed it to tighten up this aspect and bring it closer in line with the novel, but this doesn't really happen. The version on DVD is about the same as that of the full CD audio in offering corrected judgments a little too quickly and harshly.

Advice on how not to judge someone, like all advice on what not to do, pales in comparison to advice on what to do: Seek first to understand. This the book achieves much better than the TV story. Unfortunately, the Doctor's pointless fib over the timing of the catastrophe is left as is, a black mark against his character in both versions which can do absolutely zero to help his situation. The other half of the blame in not giving the Drahvins a fair chance must go to the cast, who quite possibly over-rehearsed the story until they forgot that they're not supposed to know how bad the Drahvins are at first. Hostility enters their voices a little too easily in many cases. William Hartnell has had better scenes of introduction to guest characters, but he doesn't do too badly here, and still manages some choice lines with excellent delivery.

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 loathing of the Rills that motivates them throughout the story 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 more bone-chilling moments. Good stuff. Musically, the Drahvins are sometimes accompanied by a swinging, blues clarinet sound out of the 1920's, 30's or 40's. This is kind of weird, as it doesn't fit well with their characters, but with visuals, it can work as a counterpoint. Something a little more sinister would be more in line with them. (Now, if Brian Hodgson had slowed that clarinet down and processed it....)

Robert Cartland's performance of the Rill voice sounds a bit on the pompous, high-and-mighty side, and doesn't convey the Rill tranquility so carefully mapped out in the novelization. The regulars and the Rills end up a bit on the smug-and-pleased-with-themselves side of things when all is said and done. However, content matters more than style, especially with a story poised to make that very point, and the Rills' words and actions speak louder than their hasty, makeshift vocal qualities. Getting over their voice is another of the ethical challenges presented.


The Drahvins deserve little sympathy from our regular characters from episode one onwards, but what really sustains "Galaxy Four" is that regulars and Drahvins alike continue to fear the Rills even more up until the middle of episode three. This is largely because they don't see them at all, and their robotic "Chumbley" servants are very enigmatic alien caricatures, unable to communicate effectively during this time, and resembling the very untrustworthy Daleks to boot. 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, successfully bringing to life these creations, alien yet neutral, mysterious and sinister while remaining unknown, yet containing a cute pattern and orderly beauty. Once the communication barrier is broken, the Rills' good nature is plain for everyone to see. Even with additional revelations about the first encounter between these two alien specie from the Rills' point of view left for the major turning point later in the adventure, 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 it seems to be much better written than similar ideas inherent in "The Rescue" (story no. 11) and "The Sensorites" (story no. 7), and drives the 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. Steven's contributions in helping to disable a Chumbley by the pit (novel only) and in matching Maaga toe to toe on a physical level should be noted, as should Vicki's initial first contact negotiations with the Rills. The Doctor is much more of the habitual, reasonable, lead problem-solver in this one though, and it's a vast improvement over his usual season two antics. His heroic contribution to the story's resolution continues slow but steady all throughout the final episode, while also leaving a lot of time for diplomatic niceties to be exchanged, and a high-tech sci-fi guerrilla battle to ensue on the planet's surface, keeping the level of drama high, interesting and logical all throughout as the 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. It ends up looking like some kind of greenhouse with absolutely no ability to be airtight - while the script absolutely demands that it maintain different atmospheres in different compartments. The biggest design mistake here is definitely the transparent nature of most walls, which destroys the viewers' ability to imagine that far more technical wizardry and undiscovered sections might be hiding behind them. We could excuse a small set inside a large spacecraft, but transparent walls suggest the craft's exterior is really too small as well. The Doctor's dialogue works against this bizarrely, as he continually praises the Rills' advanced spacecraft design. 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.

I had half-expected some 3D CGI-shots of launching spacecraft and an exploding planet, but such avenues were not pursued in the recreation. The final battles are also somewhat limited. The Drahvins' weapons, while making a cameo in "Genesis of the Daleks" some ten years later, 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, which seems less advanced, 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 final moments of "Galaxy Four" still work quite well, and the story could end on a high note there. Unfortunately, we also get a prologue to the prologue for "The Dalek Masterplan" (story no. 21), an uninspiring scene of a delirious man in a jungle consumed with murderous thoughts. This is not at all suspenseful, particularly as no confrontation can be anticipated between him and the regular characters, (not to mention the fact that, with the Doctor having just complained that this sort of unrest happens all the time, it all seems so routine for this show), and the poor scene merely detracts from the moral point of "Galaxy Four". It might have been better to video-tape the regulars' comments as the introduction to next week's episode, and not have anything of the jungle of Kembel as a part of this story at all.

The presentation on the 2013 DVD also leaves something to be desired in lumping the whole story together as a single menu item of 64 minutes 41 seconds 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.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Mission to the Unknown"



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