Galaxy 4

Written by:
William Emms
Directed by: Derek Martinus
Starring: William Hartnell
Year: 1965
Audio Availability: Try Amazon

Of the (to date) 27 Doctor Who stories that no longer exist in their entirety, there are many I'd love to see again, from the extant Lucarotti historicals to practically all of the Troughton ones. Galaxy 4 is the exception, because it's one I really couldn't care less whether it was found or not. I just couldn't give a rat's ass.

A morality tale that informs us that gorgeous blondes in mini skirts can sometimes be evil, and monsters made out of papier mache can sometimes be good, it's all very well meaning as a kind of reversal of The Daleks, but why does it have to take four episodes to tell us about it? Also a one-off here is that no other story on this site has been reviewed after just one sitting. Many of them I've watched loads like a sad little fanboy, but all of them had been seen at least twice for the review. Having just got the Reconstruction of this one, there's no way I'm going to sit through it again to tell you how tedious it is. Worse still, as a fully paid-up member of the "season three is hugely underrated" club, then it doesn't do the cause much good at all, because while it was part of the season two production, it was held over to lead Who's longest-ever season.

For the record, then the amiable Peter Purves records another intro/outro (2'03m/0'44m) and good-humouredly slags the story. With no telesnaps and virtually no publicity photographs, then the Loose Cannon team have their work cut out, though they do okay, even if it does look a lot more static than some of their other efforts. Having said that, it's probably due to the stagy set-ups and two-dimensional direction that makes it so bad. Absolutely astoundingly, it was the magnificent Derek Martinus behind this one - proof that everyone can have an off day.

The story begins with Steven and Vicki joking that the Doctor looks dirty and never takes a bath, which rather makes him come over as an intergalactic Albert Steptoe. I normally like Vicki, but her nicknaming the robots "Chumblies" left me questioning my will to live just five minutes in. Billy even takes the ball and runs with it, inserting many more "Chumbly" anti-jokes into the narrative. "Hey, they're roses! No, they're not. Not quite roses, but almost." Oh, f*** off! I haven't got time for this tot, I can barely concentrate on it. The crew are on a planet with three suns, almost as if Terry Nation wrote the science bits, and are confronted by robots with penile extensions. It's bobbins. I mean, what the f*** is "Galaxy 4" anyway? Why would an alien race name their galaxy the fourth? It's an alien statement, transplanted from our perspective - after all, could you imagine George Bush saying he's going to rename the Milky Way "Galaxy 10", because there are nine other galaxies in the vicinity? Okay, okay, I'm quibbling, but it's just that kind of "take us to your leader" guff that really grates, the dated pulp SF conventions that make it almost unwatchable. (On a similar moan, the Rill in episode four will refer to the Doctor as "from the solar system." Where's he from, then? Not a solar system? Is there only one in the whole universe? Surely every planet is from a solar system?)

Worst of all, this episode is the one to have existing footage, with 6'03m in the archives. Look, BBC, do us a favour - don't look for the rest of it, just chuck this bit away. With Billy pissing himself over the name "Maaga" for no readily apparently reason and blowing a line, along with Stephanie Bidmead's stiff acting, it really is interminable stuff. I haven't even mentioned that Maaga and her companions are that wonderful cutting-edge SF staple: the society of females. Dear God, do I really have to watch three more episodes of this toss?
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A Chumbly sets off some explosions outside the Tardis, which knocks the Doctor and Steven over inside it. They then go back to Maaga's spacecraft, which beggars the question as to why they left it in the first place, unless I missed something amongst the tedium. (Think they went to check the planet's stability in the Tardis actually, but I was nodding off). The anally retentive might like to note that the entrance to the Drahvin's craft makes the same noise as that of the SIDRATs in The War Games.

As much as we might like to think of Doctor Who as being really liberal and radical, before the Sylvester McCoy era it had quite an underhanded reactionary perspective. I'm not saying the McCoy years were a peak, of course, but its politics were notably shifted, whereas even as late as Colin Baker you got a story like Vengeance on Varos criticising the subculture of video nasties. With the Drahvins the archetypal liberated 60s females - and they're evil! - this could be read as the old guard keeping down any shift in traditionalist values. Or am I taking it too seriously? God knows, but I can't focus on the story as it's so boring it's untrue.
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What I really can't stand about Galaxy 4 is that it has such a limited scope, a one-note idea spread over 96 minutes. Everything on screen is two dimensional, from the plot and characterisation to the acting and "planet" backgrounds. Maaga isn't a credible villain because so much is made of her gender and physical dominance, which only serves to remind how vulnerable she is, rather than the intended effect. Famously, this is Peter Purves's main moan about the story, in that by having a part largely written for Barbara, he looks silly when Maaga turns round and gives him a bitch-slap. There's a real "setty" look to the whole thing too, it being clear even with no real pictures that most of it involves the characters walking from one side of the screen to another with no depth of field. It's The Keys of Marinus all over again, only nowhere near as interesting. With the possible exceptions of The Dominators and The Monster of Peladon, there's surely no other story that is as solidly boring as this one.
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Okay, Billy Fluff time. If I included every "errr" and hesitancy, there wouldn't be enough room on this page to include them all, so uncertain/disinterested is Billy for this one. However, he's now mastered it so that it really does sound like the character hesitating and not Billy f***ing up his lines, which further adds to the belief held by a few that season three saw his best performance in the lead role. Yet for clear botch-ups, then we get three from the first episode: "I think we shall we shall get some long deserved… undeserved… peace. For once."; "Madam, you may not, but I'd like… hear it" and "Well they'd have to be… pretty well advanced to break mice… force barrier." Episode three also contains the pleasing "Now, first of all I wust - I must have a conversion, now is that possible?" and a fluff that appears to be inspired by an accidental clatter, namely: "When I've finished wi - with this machine I'm sure it will release you." Finally, of this particular episode then Bill tells Steven to contain himself, but makes a meal of doing so and then gets the decisive "We nee- don't need space!"

There's nothing approaching a subplot in Galaxy 4 - never has a tale been so straightforward - so often it drags with extended scenes and monologues. Take this episode - while Robert Cartland as the voice of the Rill is one of the best things about the story, having a two-handed conversation between him/it and Steven that lasts for over three minutes dilutes any worth that it has built up. Yet as this is the last episode then it's the best of the bunch, with Vicki talking about standing on a planet that will soon cease to be with genuine sorrow. Yet having said that, a soapbox "moral of the week" ending where the Doctor, Steven and Vicki talk about how silly it is to judge people by their appearance is almost the nadir of the show. Not a great, but the minute plus lead-in to Mission to the Unknown at the end (a trailer of a trailer?) is a nice touch, and something rarely discussed...
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In science fiction terms, a story like this is a complete anachronism, a hopelessly dated and deeply dull start to the underrated season three.
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