085 – The Exploding Planet (Galaxy Four, Part 4)

Written by William Emms
Directed by Derek Martinus

As the final dawn approaches, The Doctor works furiously to re-power The Rill ship.  The Drahvins, however, will do anything to prevent The Rills or The Doctor from escaping the planet.

“Death does not frighten me.  I die a warrior Drahvin!”

Truthfully, the story ends about as you would expect.  The Rills escape the planet, as does The TARDIS and its crew.  The Drahvins are left behind to be killed with the destruction of the planet.  For a moment, however, I once thought we would get a fourth act twist.  Steven, after being rescued from The Drahvin ship, questions The Rills.  Sure, The Doctor trusts them, but Steven has just spent an episode imprisoned by a race that feigned benevolence, so he is suspicious.  He is eventually convinced when The Rills admit that if time ran out, they would allow The TARDIS crew to leave the planet, condemning The Rills to their fate.  It is hard to imagine that this would happen, but it would be a distinct possibility since The Rills need another atmosphere than the planet has.  While it is conceivable that The TARDIS could generate such an atmosphere in one of its rooms, there would be no way to transport The Rills to The TARDIS, and The Doctor, at this stage, is not able to pilot The TARDIS with the necessary accuracy.  In fact, there seems to be some indication that The Doctor, at this point, cannot return to the same place and time more than once.  This will change eventually, but the likelihood of rescuing The Rills if their ship proves useless, is very small.  The Rill resignation to this fate, and refusal to seek vengeance, convinces Steven that they are peaceful.

I’ve been trying to find alternate interpretations of this story beyond the obvious message.  In truth, I think that message truly is the extent.  However, what if this story is really about first contact between humanity and an alien race?  Seen in this light, the story makes a bit of sense.  The Rills would obviously be the aliens, and they would know that we humans are a visual lot, prone to judge by appearances.  Early encounters would probably be violent or distrustful due to nothing more than appearance.  The fact that Steven still doesn’t trust them causes The Rills to conclude that Earth still knows conflict, something The Rills seem to have overcome on their planet.  Maybe Galaxy Four is a parable of contact between humans and aliens, perhaps it is a cautionary tale that warns us to proceed with caution, rejecting preconceived notions about appearance and actions.

Another theme at work is distrust of what you cannot see.  Our characters have some difficulty trusting The Rills at various points based on nothing more than being unable to see The Rills.  It is hard to trust what you cannot see.  In the end we get to see The Rills (well, the original audience would have), and then The Doctor moralizes a bit, which feels more like Star Trek than Doctor Who.

The final moments of this episode are devoted to a cliffhanger that doesn’t involve our characters.  In fact, it isn’t so much a cliffhanger as a preview of what will be the most-unique story the show has done thus far, and hasn’t really done since.  None of our leads will appear.  It will also mark the end of an era as Verity Lambert, producer since episode one, finally leaves the show.  More on that tomorrow.


3 thoughts on “085 – The Exploding Planet (Galaxy Four, Part 4)

  1. I couldn’t help feeling rather sorry for the Drahvins who get left on the exploding planet.

    I am sure the Fifth Doctor would have tried to help them off the planet.

    1. I did think it a bit odd this time that The Doctor seemed to have no problem letting the Drahvins die. You’re right, the Fifth Doctor would have tried to save them. He may have failed, but he would have tried.

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