There was great excitement amongst Whovians at the news that two previously lost episodes, one from the Hartnell’s era and one from the Troughton’s, had been recovered last year. Unfortunately, the episodes recovered were not the ones that fans most want to see (although, let’s face it, it was still exciting). The Hartnell episode, which received its North American premiere at Gallifrey One, was the missing third episode of “Galaxy 4.” Up to this point, there was, of course, the audio, but there were no complete episodes, only a six-minute clip from the first episode.
Basically, the TARDIS materializes on a planet which is capable of supporting life, yet appears deserted. The Doctor and his companions, Vicki and Steven, emerge from the TARDIS (apparently Steven really wants to go swimming) and are captured by a small robot, which Vicki names a chumbley. The travelers are rescued by some blond women in uniforms, who take them back to their spaceship. They are Drahvins, who were exploring this area to look for a planet to colonize. The Drahvins are a race consisting primarily of women. They keep enough men to perpetuate the species, apparently, but they kill the rest, because they serve no purpose. Their leader, Maaga, explains that the chumbleys belong to the Rills. The Drahvins have been in a conflict with the Rills ever since the Rills shot down their ship and killed a member of their crew. The Rills have told them that the planet will be destroyed in 14 dawns, so she wants the Doctor’s help in stealing the Rill spaceship so that they can leave the planet.
The Doctor returns to the TARDIS with Steven (Vicki has to stay behind with the Drahvins) and uses his instruments to check the Rills’ information. He discovers that the Rills were correct about the destruction of the planet, but they were wrong about the timeline; it will actually occur in only two dawns. He tries to hide this fact from the Drahvins (he does not believe that they can be trusted), but Maaga forces him to reveal his information. He and Vicki are then sent to steal the Rill spaceship, while Steven is kept hostage.
When the Doctor meets the Rills, he learns that his suspicions were correct, the Drahvins have been lying to him. The Rills (who are non humanoid creatures, so they hide their appearance from the Doctor and Vicki) explain that it was the Drahvins who were the aggressors, shooting down their ship in an unprovoked attack. Despite this attack, they still try to help the Drahvins leave the planet, only to be met with aggression. In fact, the Rills were trying to offer help to the wounded member of the Drahvin crew, when Maaga murdered her. She then told the others that the Rills had done it, turning them against the Rills. The Doctor then has to help the Rills get off the planet before the planet’s destruction.
It is difficult to judge the merits of a story when you can only watch one complete episode and six minutes of another, especially with the scarcity of images from the missing episodes. However, after watching the reconstructions of the three missing episodes, I feel pretty comfortable in stating that this story is a weak one. One of the problems is that it is lacking an engaging conflict. The Doctor and his companions never really seem in any danger. Even before you learned that the Rills and their chumbleys were harmless, the chumbleys are not menacing in the least (although they can apparently protect themselves from all weapons except being hit with a pipe). I know they have weapons, but it’s a bit hard to take them seriously as a threat when you see them. And the Drahvins are vicious, but yet not terribly intelligent, so there’s never any doubt the Doctor will end up with the upper hand.
This brings me to my second point. The Drahvins are not an interesting villain. I never felt like I understood them. They are obviously inspired by the Amazons, but very little information is given about their home planet, so you have no context in which to place them. They seem to be a very military based race, who has bred a race of slave labor to fight for them. However, the reason behind their evilness is always a bit vague. Do they always want to kill everybody they come across? If they are constantly attacking people, how can they survive when they don’t appear to be terribly intelligent or strong? Why did Maaga want to start a conflict between her crew and the Rills? Apparently having any sort of philosophy and/or logic behind their actions was deemed unimportant by the writer, so they simply remain a strange and unintelligent enemy, the type who would cut off their nose to spite their face. If the rest of their race is like Maaga, it’s a miracle that they’ve survived. They reminded me a bit of the Dominators, but with a murkier goal. At least it was clear what the Dominators were doing on Dulkis and what they hoped to achieve (although I have plenty to say about that story, when I get to it). Maaga just seems to like to pick fights for no reason.
I know this is a story for which Peter Purves has expressed a dislike. He says that the original story was written for Barbara and Ian, so he ended up with most of Barbara’s lines, “feminizing” his character. I don’t really see any trace of Barbara in Steven’s character, so I’m not sure how many of her lines he actually received. Of course I think having some of Barbara’s characteristics wouldn’t be a bad thing, but Steven seems to be very much himself in this story; he’s as stubborn and argumentative with the Doctor as ever. Although I do feel that Purves’ comments do go along with the general undercurrent of misogyny that I felt ran through the story. His pride appeared to be wounded by the fact that Steven was held captive by a group of women.
This leads me to my final point: I found the portrayal of the women to be a bit troublesome, even though it’s difficult for me to explain exactly why this is so (I know that’s not a promising start to a paragraph, but stick with me). I think part of it is that it is so unusual to have this many supporting female characters in an episode. There is rarely a women seen among the different alien races the travelers meet, let alone a whole race of only women. I feel like if they were a typical Doctor Who alien race (consisting of men), they might not have been so easy to defeat. It’s almost as if the writer couldn’t take the idea of a race of warrior women any more seriously than Peter Purves could. The slave Drahvins are unintelligent and completely incapable of thinking for themselves, so the Steven’s attempt to sow seeds of discord between Maaga and her crew fails. However, it doesn’t really take much for Steven to overpower his guard; you’d think a warrior race would be tougher than that. I know that the crew is a genetically inferior warrior/slave class, so I get the lack of intelligence, but they don’t seem to be effective at any physical tasks either, so what purpose do they serve? The Doctor didn’t even need to outsmart the Drahvins to defeat them, he simply decides to help the Rills and not the Drahvins. Even the cavemen in “An Unearthly Child” posed more of a threat to the Doctor than the Drahvins. I’m still sorting out my feelings about this, but overall, it seems at least partially due to the fact that they were women.
Despite all the negative aspects that I have listed, there is at least one positive aspect to the story: the fact that Vicki is the Doctor’s companion in this story. I always enjoy seeing William Hartnell and Maureen O’Brien interact. I felt like the Doctor’s relationship with Vicki really brings out his caring, more grandfatherly side. He always seems to be having great fun with Vicki, which is not always the case with his other companions.
Overall, I was glad that I was able to see the newly recovered episode, I just wish it had been from another story. On my wish list of episodes to be recovered, this story is pretty far down (yes, I do actually have a list, but I’ll write more about that at another time). However, I’m always happy to see more of Vicki, my second favorite Hartnell companion (after Barbara and Ian, of course). Also, I’m never going to be too disappointed with more Doctor Who to watch, even if the story is mediocre to poor. It’s probably my least favorite Hartnell so far, but I guess it could have been worse: the Doctor could have had this adventure while traveling with Dodo!