Empire of Glass
|Dates||Sept. 11, 1965 -
Oct. 2, 1965
With William Hartnell, Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves.
Written by William Emms. Script-edited by Donald Tosh.
Directed by Derek Martinus. Produced by Verity Lambert.
The beautiful Drahvins require the Doctor's help to defeat the
strange and repulsive Rills and to escape an exploding planet.
|Note: Audio recordings of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.|
Part of the Magic by Daniel Callahan 21/9/98
I don't enjoy being in the minority on so many Doctor Who controversies, but somehow I keep finding my way there. I should start a fan club just for the few of us who really get a kick out of The Sensorites and The Web Planet. No, I'm not dabbling in post-modernist irony: I really do enjoy those stories. And if I did start that club, I'd create a place for fans of Galaxy 4 as well.
The often quoted and ridiculed cliche of "indefinable magic" springs to mind at this point: sure, it's any easy way out of a difficult explanation, but it's also true. However, since Galaxy 4 has that magic is significant quantity, I think it's possible to do a little defining in this case.
Galaxy 4 is a simple tale of good vs. evil: a morality tale, in fact, and one that's quite welcome. (Yes, I know that point-of-view is old-fashioned. Stop reading long enough to have a good scoff, if necessary.) But this simple tale works extremely well. The villains are the Dravins, female-supremecist eugenicists who kill anything they don't care for, including men. The villany of their leader is chilling (Doctor Who's version of Lady Macbeth) as is the stupidity of her subserviant servant-clones. The fact that all of this is now politically-incorrect is merely a delicious after-thought: it wouldn't have mattered if the script and cast hadn't performed so well. (Hartnell has one of his best moments when he guiltily confesses his sabotage attempt on the Rills' ship.)
The Rills, amonia-dependent warthogs, couldn't have been farther from that average Doctor Who "good guy" monster. They, of course, are usually human-like in their rubber suits or at least wear stylish BBC costumes. The Rills are physically repulsive, but their generous personas come through solely due to an excellent voice characterization and a well-scripted motivation: they genuinely care about others. (Insert second scoff, if necessary).
This simple premise gives the regulars an excellent scheme to play against: The Doctor, similar to the Rills' in so many ways and standing in stark contrast to the Dravins; Steven, mistrustful of the Rills at first but isn't a fool for long; Vicki, who pegs the Dravins within a few minutes of their first meeting. The fact that the story is playing for small stakes only enforces the morality of the story -- anything larger in scope would have been a dreadful, four-episode sermon.
All Galaxy 4 is about is the value of life. The Dravins despise all life except their own (right down to their female clones), while the Rills respect all life, sometimes even more than their own. And the Doctor, once he discovers the truth, champions the side of right.
That's it. Part of the magic defined.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 26/3/99
Galaxy 4 can best be described as a simplistic yet strong tale which allows the three regulars to play to their strengths. What is immediately noticeable is the message of the story -- beauty is only skin deep. The story delivers a moral message in the same way that earlier tales tried to educate and entertain at the same time. The fact that Galaxy 4 manages to deliver the message and entertain is something to be applauded.
It also tackles the idea of a planet on the brink of destruction cleverly, an idea new to Doctor Who at the time. In all fairness, there were only four real characters in this story (the Drahvins being clones after all), and they all tend to avoid the standard cliches. William Hartnell`s Doctor is shown to be fallible in his initial judgement of the Rills, whilst Vicki is much more mistrusting (of the Drahvins), and to a certain degree more independant (a trait first seen in The Space Museum), particularly in her judgement concerning the Drahvins. Steven is seen as being helpless a helpless captive in the Drahvin craft, a role that would have fallen to a female companion in other tales from this period in the show`s history.
Stephanie Bidmead as Maaga should also get a mention as the cold and imposing Drahvin leader. The Rills, whilst looking like Warthogs, are very convincing, due largely to the fact that they are ammonia dependant( and as such can`t be fully seen), and the excellent voice work by Robert Cartland, which makes them seem more sympathetic. The Chumblies, while nice to look at, are really superflous to the plot; as The Doctor could have done a lot of their tasks, they don`t however spoil the enjoyment of the tale.
Coupled with some excellent model work and fine incidental music, Galaxy 4 just about works within its four episodes, and if it is taken for what it is, a tale of morality, then Galaxy 4 is highly enjoyable.
A Review by Douglas B. Killings 15/8/00
Galaxy Four is one of those reasons I periodically curse the BBC.
I first heard the audio track of this story back in the late 80's, when audios of the missing stories first started surfacing in fan circles. The Galaxy Four copy I managed to get was rather hard to listen to and prone to distortion, as much due to the poor general quality of the recording as the fact that it was an nth generation copy from the original. The story was difficult to follow; there were large spaces devoid of conversation (with only the odd sound and the even odder strange electronic noise to punctuate it), and even with conversations there was only so much one could understand without having to resort to visual representation of some kind. Yet, somehow, through all the hissing, static, and ambiguity, it became obvious that a fairly interesting and quick-paced story was there lurking frustratingly just out of reach. Listening to the soundtrack alone was giving it inadequate justice.
Now, more than ten years later and some thirty-five years since its initial broadcast (and twenty-three years after it was wiped from the Archives), the BBC Radio Collection has issued a two CD set of the audio portion of this story, complete with linking material by Peter Purves (who played Steven Taylor in the original). Aside from the tantalizing snippet from episode one that has come down to us, this is likely to be the closest any of us will ever come to the original story in all its glory.
Galaxy Four is one of those tales that is actually pretty simple and straight-forward, unfettered with needless subplots and complications. So much so, as a matter of fact, that I suspect in a later era it would have been a three- or even two-parter. The Doctor and company (in this case, Steven Taylor and Vicki) land on a planet that is evidently about to explode. On the planet are two crashed spaceships, one manned by the humanoid Drahvins, the other by the mysterious Rills. Neither ship can leave due to the damage each has inflicted on the other. The Doctor must try to navigate a treacherous path between the two, and hopefully find a way to get each side to help the other to escape.
This is a story of appearances and first impressions. The Drahvin, a race of beautiful women (evidently cloned, which means that this is one of the earliest SF stories of any kind to deal with this concept), may not be as peaceable and helpless as they seem, nor the Rill as malevolent and evil as the Dravhins claim. Appearances can be deceptive, and just because someone carries a pretty face does not mean they are your friend, nor does repulsive alieness automatically denote an enemy. It is a person's actions, not their mien, that count. What is on the inside is much more important than the out.
William Hartnell is as cantankerous as ever as the Doctor; you can't help but like him, even when he's being condescending towards you. Maureen O'Brien's Vicki is adequate as the traditional female companion in semi-distress; no great character revelations here, but at least she only has to scream once. Peter Purves' Steven Taylor, on the other hand, plays a major role in the events of the story, at one point acting almost as the decisive man of action. Steven Taylor is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked companions ever (exacerbated by the fact that large swathes of his tenure no longer survive), and it is nice to see that he is at last starting to get some of his due. Stephanie Bidmead is good as the ambiguous Maaga, leader of the Drahvin; one does wish that this character or her cloned sister had made another appearance in the series, but alas that was not to be the case. William Emms script is crisp and fast-paced and keeps the listener wanting to hear more, although there are one or two minor points that I thought ill-conceived or not thought- out properly (why is Maaga still obsessed with using the Rill spaceship to escape, when she finds that the Doctor and friends have a spaceship of their own? I can think of a few reasons, but none are adequately explained in the story). The acting itself is all around decent and only slightly campy.
As for the linking material provided in Peter Purves' narration, it does serve to hold the story together, much more satisfying than the unnarrated cassette tape I remember listening to in my car. But make no mistake, this is not a Big Finish production; this story was originally produced as a visual presentation, and this fact is constantly apparent as you listen. There are a couple of points that probably could have used additional narration, and when we finally do get to the Rills practically no description of any kind is provided for them -- their robotic Chumley servants actually get more description than their masters -- and in my opinion, this is probably the single greatest problem with this edition. But these are minor complaints at best. Overall, the story is presented well, and is a fun if nostalgic trip back to the early years of the series.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Easily Forgettable by Tim Roll-Pickering 16/8/01
(Based on the Loose Canon reconstruction.)
For many years Galaxy 4 was one of the most overlooked stories of all. No episodes survived, no soundtracks were in circulation (though they have since been discovered), no telesnaps survived and the novelisation was just one of many Hartnell and Troughton stories that finally made it onto the shelves. There was a 30 second clip in existence in the BBC Archives (and much speculation about a longer version in private hands), but that was all. In a season containing numerous missing stories, this was just one more, rarely speculated about or dreamt of. In more recent years the situation has improved. First a poor audio copy of the second episode, Trap of Steel, turned up, then Titan published the story's script. And then good quality audio recordings surfaced and the telesnap reconstructions began. Now Galaxy 4 has received the attention of the Loose Cannon team and it is possible to sit down and watch the story once more.
And it is immediately apparent why this story never generated much enthusiasm amongst fans. It is one of the dullest adventures of all, held up only be a few good ideas. It was a certainly a good idea to go against expectations and make the 'monsters' good whilst the 'beauties' are bad, but the execution of this doesn't come across too well since the Drahvins are not portrayed sympathetically at all, whilst the Rills don't appear until half-way through the story. The Rills themselves are extremely unusual amongst Doctor Who monsters in that they can't survive in a 'normal' atmosphere, but this means that they are incredibly limited and have a generally indirect role in the story. However their telepathy and ability to communicate externally only through the Chumblies is a nice touch that could so easily have been forgotten and helps to make their alieness more convincing. The Chumblies are another interesting idea but don't really come off too well and like the Mechanoids in The Chase they look like another attempt to produce easily merchandised monsters.
The characters in this story are limited, with only Maaga having any particular individuality, supported by a good performance from Stephanie Bidmead. The other Drahvins are truly clones and little is made of them beyond Steven's attempt to reason with the one holding him prisoner. The three regulars give reasonable performances but it is clear that there is little enthusiasm. In terms of the wider picture the series started to briefly lag as it sought a purpose for the Doctor's aimless wanderings now that Ian and Barbara had left. This story follows the early format of the TARDIS arriving in a strange new place, the regulars exploring and then trying to get everyone back to the Ship so they can leave, getting caught up in local events en route. Whilst there are signs of the Doctor increasingly taking the side of right over wrong, the crusader of the later years isn't fully in evidence yet.
Overall Galaxy 4 is a story with a good simple message but one that doesn't really go anywhere and it could easily have been shorter (perhaps even filling the extra episode slot that Mission to the Unknown got...). Even if the soundtracks had been found earlier, I doubt there would have been a much higher regard for the story. 3/10
The reconstruction is one of Loose Cannon's most adventurous, given the scarcity of material for the story. The surviving six minute clip is used, with various shots repeated throughout the story to convey action, as are shots from other episodes. Otherwise there is a good mixture of photos and some new shots of the Chumblies, the TARDIS and even the backs and hands of some of the characters. The whole thing is topped and tailed by an introduction featuring Peter Purves and some of his memories of the story. All in all this makes the story easy to follow without compromising the integrity of the original. 10/10.
Galaxy Bore by Peter Niemeyer 28/8/01
What a disappointing way for Doctor Who to start its third season. You could possibly have done this serial in one episode. Maybe even two with a little padding. But four? I'm sorry, Verity, but no.
The only really bad thing about it was that there was just very little going on. The Drahvins were an interesting alien race. A fair amount of time was spent painting the picture of Drahvin society, and it was more interesting than that of the Sensorites or the Moroks. The Rills were reasonably alien enough, and therefore interesting enough. The Chumblies were certainly not destined to rival the Daleks, but they were worth at least one serial.
But virtually nothing happened. For three minutes, we watch a Chumbly probe the TARDIS. For five minutes, the Doctor explores the Rills' drilling room. And the endless walking back and forth between the ships... it was like a time travel episode where time stood still.
The other thing I have to mention is the whole morality aspect that other reviewers have mentioned about how appearances can be deceiving, with the "beautiful" Drahvins being evil and the "ugly" Rills being good. I could see how a person might get this impression if they read a synopsis of the story, but I saw very little of this in the story itself. The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki are very suspicious of the Drahvins from early on, and we the viewers are lead to be suspicious of them too. The Rills are on screen for a very short period of time before their good intentions are made clear. And nobody seemed to dwell on either races' appearance. If Galaxy Four was trying to be a morality tale, I might be more forgiving of it. But, I just didn't see any real evidence of that in the story itself.
One Thing I'd Do Differently: I'd change the name. Okay, it's a minor quibble, but Galaxy Four was the galaxy from which the Drahvins came. It had nothing to do with the setting or the plot of the story, and is arguably the worst (or most misleading) title in the Hartnell era.
One Thing I Wouldn't Touch: Maaga. She was the one delicious morsel in this barren famine. Her mistrust and manipulation was reminiscent of The Aztec's Tlotoxl, which is meant to be a very high compliment. I also liked how she was given time to go head-to-head with both Vicki and Steven individually.
Would I Like To Watch This Serial Again?: No
A Review by Michael Hickerson 4/2/04
A long time ago, my grandmother gave me some Target Dr. Who novelizations as a Christmas present. Among them was the novelization of Galaxy Four, feauturing two rather Amazon looking blonde women with guns on the cover. Being a young, hormonally imbalanced teenager, it's not hard to predict which story I read first.
I must explain this was during the infancy of my Dr. Who fandom, when the concept that large chunks of the early days were lost was still becoming a reality to me. And after reading Galaxy Four, I have to admit part of me was eager to see it on screen. Unfortunately, these days, all we can see are a few meager clips from the show and the telesnap reconstructions. So, this was why, for many years, I went around with the contention that Galaxy Four might be one of the more underrated lost Who stories still just waiting to be found.
Years later, thanks to the BBC Audio releases and the hard work of a small minority of fans, I can return to Galaxy Four again and, if not experience the thrill of watching it, I can at least have some better exposure to it than the novelization. And while the years have made me older and bit more cynical, I have to admit that a part of me still finds the concept of what Galaxy Four is trying to do an intriguing one. The basic premise of don't judge a book by it's cover is not a new one by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still handled very well here. The script lets the viewer think the Rills are the villains of the story, when in reality, it's the more visually athestically pleasing (at least to our way of thinking) Drahvins. There are some fairly obvious twists to the story -- the fact that Maarva is lying about how her ship was downed is fairly obvious from the first time it's brought up -- but overall, it's a pretty good Hartnell story.
Not that I'm saying it's a classic by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it necessarily the forgotten classic I once thought it was. The story itself is a fairly simple morality play and it seems to be making some kind of comments about events going on in the 60s. And I think the thing that got me this time was how intrigued I was to see the world of the Drahvins explored a bit more -- the idea of a female ruling class with men kept around for procreation purposes only was an intriguing one and it was a shame we didn't see this explored a bit more. Galaxy Four also has a lot of the standard Who cliches of robots running about, a race against time to defeat an enemy and running about -- although in this case, it's not up and down corridors, but across the surface of the planet. Also, in the final analysis, it's a bit too convient that the planet begins to self-destruct exactly at sun-rise (though from a script standpoint, you can see why it's so tempting to have that as a natural deadline).
Galaxy Four also has a very small cast -- pretty much the three regulars and the leader of the respective parties. And while it could feel like it would lag a bit in the middle episodes with just five main cast members, it rarely does. Yes, there are some slow spots -- probably because I was hearing only the audio and seeing telesnaps -- but they are over relatively quicky for Hartnell years' slow spots (unlike say, for example, The Web Planet). Everyone does a good job with the material given and really helps keep the story going forward.
So, Galaxy Four may not be the classic I'd hoped for. But it's still a good Who story with an interesting message. As an experimental bit of Who history, it certainly works well and that may just be good enough. And I have to admit, that part of me would still be interested in seeing this one resurface someday soon.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 13/7/04
This is one of those stories that tends to be bypassed due to lack of material. Thanks to dedicated fans this is not so, and all can enjoy it or despise it at their leisure.
Loose Cannon have reconstructed this story. They've done just about as well as they could have done with the material on offer. There are no telesnaps, in fact very few photos at all relating to the production of Galaxy Four. What they have done is marvelous, they've taken the relatively few photos of sets and people, presenting them every possible way you can think of. They also have filmed their own bits and pieces. They've made a Chumbley for example, and put it whirring around the TARDIS. There is also the 5 minute segment of Episode 1 that remains, and they have used this to full effect too. All sources at their disposal have been used to their absolute best effect. But does the story merit the attention given to it?
Due to the shortsighted BBC policy relating to older stories, and their mass junking - this is as good as we are going to get. The audio soundtrack is totally intact, the pictures are just a nice bonus. All the reconstructions and soundtracks are important because they are all that are left. The question has to be therefore, "Does this evoke the atmosphere of the original story?". Only those who saw the original, and have an amazing memory, could tell us this - but what we have is pretty authentic I would think.
The problem with Galaxy Four is not in this Reconstruction, which is excellent. The problem with Galaxy Four is the same as when it was first shown on TV. It's not really that great a story. It is typical sci-fi B-material. A good-looking race that turns out bad. An ugly-looking race that turns out good. It was probably not a great shock to its original viewers to discover the Drahvins were making things up - this sort of thing happens in sci-fi all the time after all.
The Drahvins are the visual focus in this story, which is just as well when the Chumblies are included as main foes. These four blonde stunners (who really aren't that spectacular) spend great deal of time talking to each other in their hideaway. Maybe the reconstruction, with its limited photos, shows this up more than it actually was, but characters standing around is often dull. When the story isn't up to much it's quite boring.
The Chumblies are the great robot creation in this story. Looking like a poor man's Robot Wars creation they are an incredibly bad creation. They get bigger with a concertina effect, they fire pea-shooter guns - big deal. You can't believe this was as good as it got for design imagination. The reconstruction builds its own Chumblie to pretty good effect, but this can't hide the fact that they are dull robots. What Loose Cannon have done is the same as the original director and designer did. It's an impressive way of reconstructing these stories, but the simplicity of the Chumbley creation helped. Calling it such a stupid name didn't help matters either.
The regulars are not as smart in this story as usual, due to the weak script. The Doctor meddles with machinery when he should be talking to the Rills. Steven gets Barbara's dialogue (as Peter Purves is so fond of reminding us), and this is not Steven's best story at all. Vicki gets the best material, showing she's not as whingy as I first thought - but she still hides behind the Doctor too much.
Galaxy Four is a simple story. Perhaps two parts would have been better, certainly there is only enough interesting material to fit 45 minutes maximum. Would I rather that Galaxy Four had stayed forgotten and unreconstructed? No, all DW TV stories have something to like in them. It is one of the poorer stories from the early years though. 4/10
A Review by Brian May 21/11/09
Galaxy 4 has always had a reputation as being "sweet" and "charming". Beautiful Amazonian villains, cute robots and simplistic moralism all look good on paper, and this story certainly projects a feel of niceness. On the downside, these endearing qualities are offset by the length: it can't sustain four episodes. Episode one has a good set-up that offers an interesting tale. The second is okay, the plot unfolds and develops at a reasonable pace, but the final two instalments are pretty mundane and could have been merged into one. It's here that I can include two of the Doctor Who reviewer's handiest cliches: padded and runaround. Episode four is surprisingly action-oriented, remarkably so for the Hartnell era, but it's just a case of racing against the clock to repair the Rills' spaceship before the planet explodes. There isn't much else, and there's a glaring lack of tension and a too simple climax.
We get the lesson that beauty is only skin deep: the attractive Drahvins are the villains while the monstrous looking Rills are the nice guys. Simple enough, but there's a strong didacticism present that's out of place in Doctor Who, reinforced with lines like the Doctor's "Importance lies in the character" and the Rill's "It is easy to help others when they are so willing to help you". (You can tell William Emms used to be a teacher!) Even the educationally focused historicals of the time were never like this. The story looks quite good; that at least we can determine from the six minutes that survives from the first episode. The exteriors of the unnamed planet and the interior of the Drahvins' spaceship are pretty good, and we can only assume the Rills' craft was similar. The Chumblies are well designed, and from the single photograph that exists of them, the Rills certainly look impressive. The story doesn't sound as half as good though - the Chumblies might be memorable robots, but the noises they make are awful. They're discordant, irritating and very repetitive. On matters aural, the stock music is similarly invasive, with that woodwind tune relentlessly hurting the listeners' ears with its persistent atonal wail.
From the actors, Peter Purves stands out. He lends Steven a great presence and has settled in well as the first replacement male companion. William Hartnell is okay, albeit unspectacular, while Maureen O'Brien is forgettable. Stephanie Bidmead puts in a decent guest performance, although she struggles to play against a lot of poor lines.
Galaxy 4 is not the most exciting of stories; it's one episode too long but nevertheless it exudes a nice charm. However, like The Highlanders, these are four missing episodes not at the top of my recovery wish list. 5.5/10
A Review by Paul Williams 17/12/19
Galaxy 4 subverts stereotypes by transforming beautiful women into murderous psychopaths and hideous creatures into allies. This is not a surprise in the context of a rather pedestrian narrative, where the true nature of the Drahvins is apparent in the first episode. Any lingering doubts about the Rills are dispelled when Steven challenges them at the start of the fourth episode. Thereafter, the imminent death of the planet takes centre stage, without fully conveying the urgency of the situation. By then it has become a story about general intolerance. When the Doctor talks to the Rills about differences, he could have been talking about racial, gender or any other type of discrimination.
The Rills are one of the more interesting aliens so far seen in the show and are well voiced, which makes a bigger impression with three of the episodes no longer extant. Maaga also comes across well. She shows contempt for her servants, nameless automations performing the same functions as the Chumblies. Obsessed with capturing the Rills ship, she misses the more obvious method of escape in the TARDIS. Having twice held companions hostage, she could have forced the Doctor to save her. The scene where she taunts Steven in the airlock is a chilling cliffhanger. Overall though, Steven isn't well served by the script, as there isn't enough to do.
The script works as a morality tale. It needed more ambiguity to succeed across ninety minutes. A Drahvin opposed to Maaga. The Rills putting conditions on their assistance. One of the companions siding with the Drahvins. Something, anything, to raise the stakes.