Doctor Who: Galaxy 4 Review

I don’t know, you wait around for an animated reconstruction of a mostly missing Doctor Who serial and two come along… roughly within a month of each other! Although to be fair to Galaxy 4 it’s no Evil of the Daleks, and not just because it starts William Hartnell’s First Doctor instead of the Second. Yes, this is the first animated Who story that I really didn’t enjoy watching the recon/single episode the first time round and while all four episodes flowing together via animation was a far more enjoyable experience it didn’t help what is a pretty poor story… Let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

The Doctor, Vicki and Steven arrive on an arid planet where they meet the beautiful Drahvins and the hideous Rills. Each has crash-landed after a confrontation in space. The Rills are friendly, compassionate explorers. The Drahvins are dull-witted, cloned soldiers, terrorised by the intelligent, warlike matriarch Maaga…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The Doctor, Steven and Vicki get surrounded by “Chumblies”. … Scary?

The basic premise here is perfectly fine. Two ships crash on a planet that’s two days away from imploding, one full of attractive women called Drahvins and the other horrible slug-like aliens called Rills, with the twist being that the women are straight up evil and the slug creatures are kind and benevolent, even offering the Drahvins shelter in their ship to save them even though it was the Drahvins who shot them down first. The planet’s atmosphere is toxic to the Rills so they send out little robots that are later dubbed Chumblies (because they “chumble along” according to Vicki… Since when was chumble a word?) so the Drahvins are fighting the robots though their guns do no good against them, and the Rills refuse to hurt the Drahvins so don’t retaliate. It’s in the middle of this weird stalemate when The Doctor, Steven and Vicki arrive on the planet. Like I said, it’s a good set up really, and for the record I LOVE the little string instrument “deeeee-yup” sound the Chumblies make all the time. Made me smile.

Sadly the rest of the story isn’t up to much, as you’ll find out below. I would like to see how the end originally looked though as it sees The Rills take off and The Doctor, Steven and Vicki escape in the TARDIS, leaving the Drahvin’s flatly-evil leader Maaga (Stephanie Bidmead) stranded on the planet as it falls apart around her. The animation has her look frightened and then fall into a lava-bottomed crack in the Earth that opens underneath her but that would obviously be out of the 60s TV budget range, so it would be interesting to see how they pulled it off!

The animation was once again a treat. While it was no Evil of the Daleks it was far from bad and I loved how they made the colour pallet look like something out of a 50s pulp comic. Very fitting. Only a few CG objects being too obviously CG took me out of it but that only happened now and again. Oh and this story ends on a minute or so’s footage of the next Doctor-less story, “Mission to the Unknown”, and despite it needing a new digital set and a brand new character model they actually animated the one minute cliffhanger. Very happily surprised to see that!

The Bad:

Maaga and two Drahvins open fire on the Rills’ ship from, I THINK, the animated version.

As mentioned I liked the set up and the very end scene but the rest of the story was just The Doctor, Steven and Vicki getting captured by the Drahvins, then The Doctor and Steven head back to the TARDIS, then they come back to Vicki and its then The Doctor and Vicki that leave Steven with the Drahvins while they make contact with the Rills. Soon they rush off to help Steven escape and then head back to the Rills where they eventually help restore their ship then they all get off the planet with minimal fuss. Seeing the Chumblies attack the Drahvin ship to save Steven and one or two incidences of Drahvins being killed towards the end are your only points of action and unlike some great Hartnell serials the core plot isn’t interesting enough to make the rest of it very interesting.

Plus there are some plot points that you assume are going to go somewhere but don’t, particularly with the Drahvins. Maaga establishes that her society only keep a small handful of men around to conceive children and otherwise dispose of them, which made me think Steven would in some way challenge this view point… but nope (in fact he gets overpowered by Maaga at one point!) Then there are the three Drahvin clones under Maaga, they’re constantly mistreated by their leader and at one point Steven convinces one of them to rebel against Maaga’s rules in order to “help her” but she’s caught out and berated, then… that’s that. None of the Drahvins rebel and they all end up dying in the service of Maaga. Now an “evil” matriarchal society and clones rebelling against their creators who don’t treat them as real people are all sci-fi concepts we’ve seen a million times but I still found it odd they didn’t go down at least the latter route. At least it would’ve added a bit more drama and intrigue to the otherwise pretty barren plot…

The Continuity:

As you can see in the original version it was pretty clear the Drahvins weren’t identical clones, but that’s budget for you…

Not a lot, beyond the aforementioned end scene setting up “Mission to the Unknown” and Vicki spraining her ankle at the end of the story being brought up in the next story to feature the main crew, “The Myth Makers”. The Drahvins are namechecked as one of the many enemies that arrive to attack The Doctor in the Eleventh Doctor double-bill “The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”, though you don’t see them.

I’ll also mention two lost stories that have been made into audio dramas, the Second Doctor story “The Prison in Space” and the Sixth Doctor story “Mission to Magnus” both feature the full-on evil matriarchal society cliché and ran with it, complete with male prisoners and the like. Both were pretty dreadful as well, so probably for the best Galaxy 4 didn’t go down that route…

Overall Thoughts:

Look at that colour pallet. A thing of pulpy beauty.

While the animated version of Galaxy 4 made me appreciate the story and once again made it feel like I’ve finally watched the whole thing it has to be said that beyond the fun set up and world building there isn’t actually a lot to enjoy here plot-wise and just when you think it’s going to go in one direction, be it predictable or not, it doesn’t. It just stays as it was at the start of Episode 1 until the very end moments. Odd story, really. I won’t be watching again any time soon, but I’m still glad to have had the option to watch it at all! (Seriously, this score is for the story, not the animation! Don’t stop animating them!)

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