It seems a shame that this story was destroyed. Galaxy 4, the Season 3 opener, was innovative and entertaining, and even had a bit of an educational moral at the end. There are no surviving episodes and a painfully small number of stills. There are a few minutes of the first episode that somebody recorded off of their television, but of the reconstructions I’ve seen thus far this one was the most lacking in visual accompaniment. That being said, Loose Canon, who did this reconstruction did an admirable job. They re-created stills by pasting together images from other episodes, added some rudimentary animation, even physically acted out some short clips. The sound was of low quality in some places, but as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my ears aren’t the best, so others may find it just fine.
The story was simple enough, but it was a step away from the typical get taken prisoner by bad guys and then outwit them plot line. This had a bit of it, but I got the impression that the Dr. Who storytelling is getting a bit more sophisticated, at least in creation. The story itself is straightforward, but some additional thought went into the planning. The travelers land on an unnamed planet and meet small robots that Vicki (looking rather cute in a sleeveless dress, incidentally) calls Chumblies because of the way they move. I’m not sure what moving chumbley means, Loose Canon just had the rolling smoothly along. Fearing the chumblies, the travelers go with a blonde woman they meet, thinking she is saving them. Turns out she’s a member of the Drahvins, a race of Amazon-like women from a planet in….you’ve guessed it…Galaxy 4. We learn that the planet is about to explode in the coming days. I didn’t really catch why. Natural causes, I suppose. Or maybe the Daleks put a bomb in the core and Ian wasn’t there to stop it with a broom handle. Ha!
The Drahvins were a pretty well-developed race for Dr. Who. Throughout the story we learn a bit about their reproduction practices, the fact that there are soldier clones that can’t think, that they are bent on killing and universe domination…Their leader, Maaga, is a first-class witch. and we get our first look at the Drahvin’s sinister side when she insists that Vicki stay while the Doctor and Steven return to the TARDIS to check the astral projection and learn when the planet will explode (in two days). The Drahvins are incredibly concerned with getting off of the planet, although they admit that the Rills, another race, have offered to take them along when they leave. It was quite obvious to me that the Drahvins were the bad guys, although it was apparently quite the twist at the time. Hot blonde chicks that are villainous murderers? Never!
The Rills on the other hand are peaceful folk that have no reason to kill anyone. In fact, they want to help people. They even make one last request to the Drahvins to join them in leaving the planet. The women don’t comply, of course. No, instead they are busy keeping Steven for ransom while Vicki and the Doctor go to see the Rills. The Rills need an atmosphere of ammonia and they’re really ugly. So, they don’t go out. They send the Chumblies around instead. A note on Steven. Peter Purves introduces the story and reveals that this story was written for Ian and Barbara and that many of his lines were written for Barbara. He was upset that his character didn’t really come out much. Watching the story, I think he was justified in being upset. He actually has very few lines. And, Vicki and the Doctor going off alone harkens back to the Ian and Barbara days. This lends some more credence to my theory that Ian and Barbara’s departure was unexpected and rushed. If anyone knows anything about it, I would love to hear.
Vicki, the Doctor and a Chumbley rescue Steven, who was being suffocated in an air lock, re-charge the Rills’ ship’s battery, and get back to the TARDIS just in time. The Rills also leave, and the Drahvins are left to explode. Now, the Drahvins being the bad guys was supposed to be a twist…a real shocker. But the 21st century in me says it’s not that revolutionary: beautiful women are not to be trusted! In fact, they use men to make babies, they treat their clone-slaves poorly, they’re a threat to the Doctor, Steven, and the Rills (the only one we meet is presumably male), and they’re bent on domination. In the end, they are punished for their evilness and left to be blown up. Sounds like your typical masculine/patriarchal story to me. Not that I was offended or thought it was bad, I just found it ironic that the story that was supposed to have a surprising twist and be shocking was just a reinforcement of classic ideals.
All told, I enjoyed the story. It wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciate the innovation and improved story telling. A lot of the story was just noise. I presume something was happening, but I couldn’t see it. And in the final episode of the version I watched, the text that described the action didn’t appear on the screen. I could see the black text box scroll by along the bottom, but the text itself was just below what was visible. The moral at the end of we shouldn’t judge people just because they look different was well-placed. And 1965 was right in the center of the civil rights movement in the United States and I know that in England at the time there was an influx of immigrants from former colonies, especially the Caribbean. So, the message was timely and a bold move by the producers. It was a good season premier, it’s just too bad it starts a string of two seasons that are mostly missing.