Written by William Emms
Directed by Derek Martinus
The TARDIS materializes on a dying planet and the crew soon gets involved in a conflict between The Drahvins and Rills.
With this story we return to lost episodes for a while. Hartnell’s third season took a particularly hard hit, and few episodes from the first half exist. So, Galaxy Four will be an experiment in imagination, one that has mixed results.
The story opens with Vicki giving Steven a haircut. Not only is the scene amusing for the sheer normality of it, but it really emphasizes the comfort this crew has with one another. Hartnell is the only original cast member still on the show, and yet, it feels like all these characters have been together longer than they have. Vicki and Steven have a wonderful chemistry, and they both interact well with The Doctor.
The TARDIS arrives on an unnamed planet that seems deserted until a small robot appears. This robot, from the few pictures that exist, was rather the anti-Dalek. It doesn’t seem inherently violent, it can’t see, and it communicates through a series of Radiophonic noises. The story being lost doesn’t really hurt the portrayal of the robots (which Vicki insists on calling “Chumblies” and will continually repeat this word through the rest of the episodes) since they are characterized quite well in sound. Even the sort of innocent, safe vibe sent by The Chumblies is conveyed in their sounds.
The Chumblies are controlled by The Rills, a group that we know very little about at this point other than they are aliens. Instead, we meet the Drahvins and their leader Maaga. The Drahvins, much to Steven’s delight, are a race of genetically engineered, beautiful warrior women. Most of The Drahvins are a type of drone, with certain Drahvins, in this case Maaga, allowed to have free-thought and the finer things in life. Maaga takes The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki prisoner and explains the predicament. It turns out The Drahvins and The Rills are at war, and in a brief skirmish, their ships crashed on this planet. The Rills, according to Maaga, claim the planet will be destroyed through natural processes in 14 dawns time. The Drahvins want to capture The Rill ship. The Doctor agrees to confirm The Rills’ speculation, and makes to return to The TARDIS. Maaga, being distrustful, allows The Doctor and Steven to go, but keeps Vicki at the Drahvin ship under the pretense of protecting her. The Doctor later finds that The Rills’ calculations are wrong and the planet will die the next morning.
This is an odd little story. It is hard to get a read on The Chumblies beyond the fact that they seem cute, which makes them inherently trustworthy. Yes, they have guns, but they don’t seem to use them much, and only in self-defense or as a threat. The Rills remain unseen, but The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki seem to think they might be somewhat trustworthy. The Drahvins, however, show no indication of being trustworthy. The story seems well-paced at the moment, but with a significant limit to the number of players, I wonder how well-it will feel being spread over the next three episodes. One thing seems certain to me, though. This episode feels different. I can’t explain what it is. Maybe it is the lack of visuals to accompany the story, maybe it is the writer or the production team, which is about to be changed in a big way, but this story has a different feel to it. I believe it is the first under a new story editor. This can often account for quite a shift in tone.