Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Doctor Who: Galaxy Four

Yer Drahvin me insane...
'No, it's spelled "Maaga," with an extra A. I may be evil but I'm certainly not one of THEM.'

Season Three, Series T

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor
With Maureen O'Brien (Vicki) and Peter Purves (Steven)
Written by William Emms
Directed by Derek Martinus
Produced by Verity Lambert
Script Editor: Donald Tosh

Mervyn Pinfield was initially commissioned to direct but fell ill during the 35mm pre-filming sessions, Derek Martinus replaced him for the studio sessions. Pinfield passed away in May 1966.

Although Verity Lambert was nominally the producer, she was in the process of handing the reins of the program over to John Wiles, who did the bulk of the producing work.

Episode Titles and Production Dates
  • Four Hundred Dawns (11 Sept 1965) a lengthy clip survives, but otherwise **MISSING**
  • Trap Of Steel (18 Sept 1965) **MISSING**
  • Air Lock (25 Sept 1965)
  • The Exploding Planet (2 Oct 1965) **MISSING**

How To Watch
  • The four episodes were animated, using the original audio, for a 2021 DVD release.
  • Loose Cannon's reconstructions of episodes one and two available here. Episode four available here. Episode three's recon has been largely scrubbed from the internet due to the episode's 2011 rediscovery.
  • No Telesnaps were made for this story. The Loose Cannon team used the surviving 6-minute clip from episode one and a handful of fan-recorded 8mm film segments, combined with promotional photos, images from other stories, and specially created material to create the video content for the reconstructions.
  • The recently re-discovered and restored episode three was included in the Special Edition DVD release of "The Aztecs" in 2013.

Plot Summary

The TARDIS arrives on a desolate, unnamed planet, and encounter a crashed spaceship crewed by a small team of Drahvins, humanoid female clone soldiers from Galaxy 4 led by the domineering Maaga. They ask for our heroes' assistance in escaping from the planet, as it is unstable and due to explode within 14 days. Also on the planet is the crashed spaceship of the Rills; both ships were damaged in battle against each other, and Maaga claims the Rills attacked first and had murdered a Drahvin since. The Rills, gruesomely ugly non-humanoid creatures, survive in large tanks full of ammonia gas and rely on small service robots, who Vicki nicknames "Chumblies," to carry out repairs and communicate with the Drahvins. Maaga warns that the Rills and the largely benign Chumblies cannot be trusted. The Doctor concludes that the planet will actually explode the next day. The Doctor and Vicki go to the Rill ship while Steven stays as a hostage. They encounter a Rill, who explains that the Drahvins attacked first, not them. The Rills found a wounded Drahvin soldier and explained that they would assist the Drahvins to escape, but Maaga then killed her and blamed the Rills. Ultimately the Doctor assists the Rills and powers their spaceship with the help of the TARDIS. They are still willing to assist the Drahvins, but Maaga refuses. Her attempt to hijack the TARDIS is unsuccessful, the Rills escape, and the Drahvins are left to their fate on the dying planet.

A Detour To Discuss Missing Episodes

All of Doctor Who's 1960's original broadcast videotapes are gone. Videotape was expensive, so once a show was broadcast and occasionally repeated, the tapes would be erased to be re-used for another program. To be fair, this was the common practice at the BBC for years. Even the Jon Pertwee era lacks a great deal of original broadcast video.

Any surviving black & white episodes today are 16mm (sometimes 35mm) film transfers that were made from these original videotapes, which were then sent to overseas BBC affiliates for local broadcast. Once these were aired, they would be sent to another country, returned to the BBC, placed in film archives, or destroyed (if they didn't disappear somewhere along the way). Some of these film copies were broadcast into the early 1970's.

Once interest in the early years of the program began to resurface and the BBC became aware that there was still a market for old Doctor Who episodes, particularly in America, they audited their archives to determine just which episodes they had. Initial results were very unpromising. Communications to overseas TV stations led to more episodes being returned, occasionally collectors would pop up with lost episodes, and there are a number of archivists who scour Africa and Asia for any BBC material, including Doctor Who.

The most recent discovery was in 2013, when nine episodes from the Troughton era were returned from a storage facility in Nigeria. Since then, despite a lot of speculation, rumors, conspiracy theories, etc., there have been no new discoveries. The number of lost episodes stands at 97. Depending on the number of film copies made and where they went, it's still possible, although increasingly unlikely, that some further discoveries can be made. It is generally believed that some lost episodes are held by private collectors, and perhaps they may eventually be returned, but there are some episodes of Doctor Who that are, sadly, permanently lost, some because film copies were never made.

There is still a great deal of material from many of the missing episodes. Thanks to a handful of home audiotapers, complete audio for every episode exists. An Australian fan took off-air recordings with a hand-held 8mm film camera, giving us some short segments of video material. Some clips were frequently borrowed to use in other programs like Blue Peter, and some of those copies have survived. In Australia, some violent or scary material was excised from episodes prior to broadcast, and ironically these 'censor clips' have survived when the rest of the episodes are lost. John Cura had a business relationship with the BBC where he set up a camera on a timer in front of his television and took dozens of still photos which he marketed as Telesnaps, which in some cases are the only visual record of many BBC programs of the era.

From all of this extant material, an unofficial team called Loose Cannon Productions created reconstructions of all the missing episodes with the seemingly tacit approval of the BBC. In the VCR age you would have to send them blank tapes, and they'd send back copies. In the era of streaming video, they have since moved to Dailymotion. When lost episodes were rediscovered and released commercially, the recons would then be scrubbed from the internet. Some of their recon work was since utilized by the BBC; their reconstruction of the Cyberman story "The Wheel In Space" is available on BritBox, and the initial DVD release of "The Web of Fear" utilizes their recon version of the still-missing episode three.

All this to say that we are very fortunate to have any of these episodes at all, and Doctor Who is much better represented than most programs from this era. Of the six black and white seasons, seasons one, two, five and six are majority complete. Unfortunately, seasons three and four are mostly missing.

Notes and Observations

"Galaxy Four" was initially one of the more missing Doctor Who stories of its era. None of the episodes existed, no Telesnaps, no Target novelization until the mid 1980's, very few promo photos (and only one that included a Rill), even the audio seemed to be one of the latter to appear. The six minute segment from episode one and a few short 35mm home-recorded segments were the only visual record until the 2011 rediscovery of "Air Lock."

It seems that until that rediscovery, and even with its recent animated release, "Galaxy Four" tends to get overlooked. If it is remembered, it's the recollection of the sexist marketing of the story, and consequently for a mis-remembering of the plot as a variation on "beauty is only skin deep." But this isn't really what the story is about. But we'll get to that.

Season three was a period of a great deal of upheaval and instability behind the scenes, as Verity Lambert handed over the program to John Wiles. His tenure would be brief and turbulent, having to deal with difficult relations with the principal cast, including an increasingly unreliable lead actor, and differing opinions of the direction the show should take, and frequent shifts of direction from story to story. Wiles would not last to the end of the season, but this season would feature a number of radical approaches and topics, grand space epics to historical farce to historical horror, the end of the world, an entire episode without the principal cast, and the first attempt at a contemporary Earth-based action adventure.

All that lengthy prologue to say: season three has a lot of great stories. Alas, "Galaxy Four" is not one of them.

So, two spaceships have crashed on a planet after having shot each other down. One is willing to help the other, but the other is led by such a militant xenophobe that the help is refused, and when the TARDIS arrives, they attempt to force our heroes to rescue them and destroy the others. The Doctor seems willing to help both parties, but the Drahvins, or at least Maaga, are so uncooperative that they effectively seal their own demise. It's an argument for collectivism over individualism; there's no room for rugged individualism on a sinking ship.

This is a fairly solid concept for a story, if not particularly planet-shattering. Apparently it was Verity Lambert who came up with the most noteworthy aspect of this story, that the militant race should be all female. It was quite a startling concept for the time, then that ended up becoming a distraction from that core storyline, as it became a more memorable aspect than the plot itself. The story received a lot of promotional press, embarrassingly sexist in retrospect, focusing exclusively on the Drahvins (all variations on a theme of "oooh, Doctor Who faces some hot space crumpet!") that for better or worse resulted in impressively high ratings; "Air Lock" would be the last time the show gained 10+ million viewers for several years.

"Doctor Who vs Space Crumpet!"

That focus on the sexiness of the Drahvins ends up being misleading, as somehow the received cultural memory decades later was that their sexiness served to conceal their devious nature. But it's plainly evident from the beginning that Maaga is a nasty piece of work. The surviving Drahvin clones are clearly terrified of her. So it's not really much of a twist that the pretty humanoids are evil, nor eventually that the ugly aliens are benevolent. It's more about a race in peril that is so loathsome and uncooperative that they alienate everyone trying to help them.

The Rill basically sums up the ethos of the story: "It is easy to help others who are so willing to help you." Which is a fine, if somewhat ableist, sentiment; some people are so traumatized by past experiences that they push away – sometimes violently – any proffered help to avoid making themselves vulnerable, would rather steal than accept assistance, and it's usually those people who need help the most. There's a certain sense of tragedy in the Rills' demise, especially the clone Drahvins, since the most culpable person here is their boss.

I wonder if it would've been a better story had the Drahvin clones overthrew Maaga and then worked with the Rills to escape. Indeed, episode two tends to point in that direction, with Vicki asking about the fairness that Maaga gets better food and armaments than they do. But this road is not taken, and thus we're left with a very "meh" stretch of four episodes. The production values don't help, the Chumblies' electronic noises are very well achieved – hail to the Radiophonic Workshop – but the Rill ship looks like PVC pipes and plastic tarps.

Perhaps if the other three episodes are found, time will prove kinder.


This is the first story with missing episodes that isn't a historical.

Peter Purves claims this is his least favorite story, because Emms' script was written before he joined the cast and most of his lines were apparently originally Barbara's. He is largely sidelined from the principal action, and is the companion in distress at the end of "Air Lock."

Maureen O'Brien had a falling-out with incoming producer John Wiles during the production of this story, which directly contributed to her character being written out shortly after. Indeed, there will be five different female companions (or companion-lites) this season as the production team re-works concepts and characters on the fly. We'll meet one such character shortly.

Stephanie Bidmead (Maaga) is not related to future Doctor Who writer/script editor Christopher Bidmead as best as I can tell. Sadly, she passed away in 1974 at the young age of 45 from a motor neuron disease.

Didn't I See You Somewhere In The Future?
  • Robert Cartland (Rill Voice) would stay on for the following week's episode "Mission to the Unknown."
  • Tommy Reynolds (Chumblie) would appear (uncredited) as the killer troll doll in "Terror of the Autons."
  • Two other Chumblie performers, Pepe PoupĂ©e and Angelo Muscat, also appeared as Oompa-Loompas in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Sausage Factor: 50% (5 credited female performers, including one Chumblie, out of ten credited roles – if you don't count Barry Jackson, who appears in the teaser for the following episode).

Rating: Two out of Four Lovely Bits of Space Crumpet
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv

1 comment:

  1. I still need to watch my animated DVD but I did watch this as the entire story appears as an extra on my region 1 DVD of the Aztecs.

    Can't really disagree with you on any of this John. I was unaware of the marketing as I wasn't born till '69 and never saw this one till a couple years ago. I readily forgive classic Who for the dodgy special effects, and as usual, B&W actually helps the show out some times.

    It's largely ok, not bad but not great. I love Vicki and Steven but I knew about how Peter Purves essentially had Barbara's part here and he wasn't a fan of that.

    I also 100% agree that it would have been great had they overthrown Maaga and escaped. I'm a huge fan of seeing tyrants getting some come-uppence!


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.