Aired 11 September – 2 October 1965
Doctor Who’s third series opens with ‘Galaxy 4,’ an odd story with only one episode remaining in the video archives. The still-new TARDIS trio of the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki lands on a strange alien planet, observing a robotic creature that Vicki nicknames a Chumbley. Deciding to explore their newfound surroundings, they come upon the Chumbley in person, seeing it quickly deactivated by a group of hiding Drahvin before themselves being captured by the same group. The Drahvins tell them that another group called the Rill shot them down, imploring their help in repairing their ship before the planet explodes in just fourteen days.
After the Doctor is allowed to return to the TARDIS with Steven, avoiding a group of Chumbleys along the way, he discovers that the planet will meet its fate in just two days rather than fourteen. As the Chumblies intensify their efforts of breaking into and destroying the TARDIS, the Doctor and Steven return to the Drahvins, stating that something seems off about them. Presenting the new knowledge of the planet’s impending doom, the Drahvins soon send the Doctor and Vicki to reach an agreement with the Rill on their behalf, all the while planning to use this as a distraction while they break into the Rill ship to destroy it.
Although the Rill visually present quite a contrast to the Drahvin, they tell the Doctor a different version of events, namely that the Drahvin attacked them first. Determining that this version of events is the truth, the Doctor decides to help repair the Rill ship and to give it power from the TARDIS. After the Drahvin fail to take the Rill ship, the Rill take off and, as the Doctor and his companions make it to the TARDIS just in time, they leave the Drahvin to perish as the planet meets its end.
As far as plotlines go, ‘Galaxy 4’ is fairly straightforward, but the subversion of expectations based on visual appearance is certainly a welcome twist. Unfortunately, with only one full episode surviving, a hugely substantial portion of the visual aspect of this story is missing. As such, this otherwise straightforward plot suffers in the audio medium because of the padding and rather slow pacing in several areas. While it’s impossible to fully recapture the full experience of the original broadcast, this is a story that certainly seems to suffer more than most with the loss of the visual component. However, even if some of Steven’s lines were clearly written for Barbara before knowledge of her departure and thus hinder his development a bit, both the Doctor and Vicki return to their roles effortlessly after the brief interlude between series. The alien roles are somewhat more hit-or-miss, however. The militaristic female Drahvins sometimes come off as rather wooden and clichéd, and the voiceover of the Rill simply doesn’t hold as much impact as some of the other more famous races in Doctor Who lore that require voiceover work.
Ultimately, ‘Galaxy 4’ is not a classic story by any means, and the unfortunate dialogue for Steven is undeniably glaring. While this is a story that certainly suffers from the loss of three visual episodes, the padding and often slow pacing are simply too much for the other intriguing aspects of the story to fully overcome.