083 – The Steel Trap (Galaxy Four Part 2)

Written by William Emms
Directed by Derek Martinus

With the destruction of the planet immanent, The Doctor is coerced into helping The Drahvins steal The Rill ship.

“I noted, observed, collated, concluded, then I threw the rock.”

We know from music and dialogue cues (and from the few photos that survive) that The Drahvins are supposed to be beautiful.  We also know that Maaga believes The Rills to be ugly.  At this point, we still have not seen a Rill, so we have to take her word for it.  Is this the extent of the story, the subversion of beauty is good and ugly is bad?  We’ve already seen this theme explored a bit in The Sensorites, only instead of beauty/ugly, we have human/alien.  However, The Sensorites is actually more nuanced because it offers the idea that there are good and bad humans just as there are trustworthy and malicious Sensorites.  The story subverts the human versus the alien expectation and gives us a much more accurate view.  With Galaxy Four, we seem to have a heavy-handed view that the beauty of The Drahvins is not indicative of trustworthiness.  Quite the contrary, Maaga is manipulative and self-serving.  The Rills, which we are told are ugly, seem to have made every indication to help The Drahvins.  They told The Drahvins the planet would be destroyed.  They obviously have more advanced technology, and they haven’t destroyed The Drahvins.  The Rills, it would seem are good.  Again, this is heavy-handed and much too obvious.  Is this really all Galaxy Four is saying?  If so, it has already been done, and done better at that.

And yet, there seems to be something more being portrayed in The Drahvins themselves.  We have the single leader with the drones who are unthinking (although Steven is able to make suggestions to one that causes it to question things).  This leader gets special food and special treatment that the others do not.  The Drahvins are supposedly grown in test-tubes.  Are we getting a criticism of genetic engineering creating a clone slave race?  Perhaps we are getting a metaphor for Communism and The Soviet leadership’s treatment of the people?  Either William Emms’ story is quite subtle, or not fully developed.  It is so hard to tell.  All this to say, halfway in, it is interesting, but it doesn’t quite seem to work.  The main characters almost seem less important than the central conflict and The Chumblies.

This episode sees Steven taking Vicki’s place as Drahvin prisoner as Maaga forces The Doctor to try to steal The Rill ship.  The Rill ship is more advanced (as is The Chumblie weaponry) and seems to be drilling for something.  The Doctor also notices equipment for converting oxygen to other forms of gas, which implies The Rills have different atmospheric needs.  And that is pretty much all that happens in this episode.  We switch out prisoners and make our way to the next ship.  Steven sweet talks a Drahvin drone, but that doesn’t last long, and Maaga starts to make some moves on Steven.  Interesting subtext when you consider this story was originally written to include Barbara.  They just gave Steven her lines.  Now THAT would have been quite the controversial story in 1964.

***

I just realized that this was my 100th post!  Quite exciting.

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