Episode 18: Galaxy 4
Companions: Vicki, Steven
Written by William Emms
Directed by Derek Martinus and Mervyn Pinfield
Four Hundred Dawns
Trap of Steel
The Exploding Planet
(Missing #1, #2, and #4)
The Doctor and his companions are caught in a fight between two races as a planet quickly marches to its destruction.
I’m not really sure what to think about this episode. I feel lucky in that the episode was reconstructed for the Special Edition of The Aztecs. The thing that amuses me is that it’s a reconstruction that doesn’t even try to match the level of reconstruction that the other Doctor Who reconstructions attempted. Granted there’s only one actually part of the serial that is intact, meaning that an animation reconstruction would be extensive. Instead we have a simple reconstruction of the Chumblies machines and some horrifying Photoshop in place of photos.
The thing that is interesting about this episode would be the story itself. The base of the story is simple enough: the Doctor encounters two races who have animosity against each other. Thrown in a little planet doom and you have plot and tension. But there’s an added element that throws me off when I consider the larger implications to the story. It’s the use of the more aggressive race that I find strange and potentially offensive. The baddies in this serial is a race called the Drahvins, a female group bent on the destroying the race of the Rills, an advanced race who use machines as a means of hiding their appearances.
The reason why I’m feeling conflicted is that the Drahvins are written with a slight sexist tone. The leader, Maaga, is a single-minded individual who doesn’t accept any other thought than her own. The rest of the Drahvins are lesser replica, breeder to only follow the directions of Maaga. The race has rejected the concept of men, keeping a limited amount of males to assist with breeding and killing the rest as they are considered a burden on their society. They fear the Rills because of their appearances and refuse to accept anything but the Rills’s destruction. Even at the end when the only option would be to work together to survive, Maaga refuses because of her one-track mind towards the Rills annihilation.
I can’t help but consider this episode to be almost a parody of feminist thought. The single-mindedness of female superiority and the killings of the male gender allows for only the female to be in total control. Maaga considers humans to be weak because they are willing to die for each other if needed. It’s frustrating because the companions in this serial feel like parodies of themselves in relations to the Drahvin character. Steven is kind of a dick in this episode, which is emphasized in the book adaptation. It’s as if he was put there just to balance out the feminist parody. Hey look, female villains! Here’s what a real male looks and acts like and it isn’t as bad as your hormones think it is!
I can see why the Drahvins could be used as a lesson about fearing the unknown. I get it and I think it would have been an even better serial if the feminist parody wasn’t pushed as much as it was during these episodes.
Outside of the annoying Drahvins, I actually was entertained by parts of this serial. I really liked the Rills and I adored the use of the Chumblies. I wish that Nu Who would use these aliens in later episodes.
As annoyed as I was about the feminist parody issue with the reconstructed serial, it’s nothing compared to the book adaptation. Throughout the book Steven is dealing with his “feelings” that it was such a shame that such attractive females could be so cold and unfeeling. The book consistently discusses how angry he is about the Drahvins lack of warmth. It’s almost to the point where I feel that Steven is feeling threatened and acting out but not in the manner that is acceptable of a Doctor Who companion. He’s whiny, annoying, and I constantly groaned anytime that he was part of the plot/action.
It doesn’t help that the book adaptation is more philosophical in nature than a mere adaptation.
We do gain more information about Maaga’s perspective. She comes from affluence and has been taught to exhibit this manner of arrogance. While this perspective helps lessen the animosity that I feel for her character and the feminist parody storyline, she was still an annoying character and clearly wasn’t written to showcase character growth. It does still highlight their menacing behavior towards the Rills, allowing the reader to gain the understanding that appearances are not an indicator of character.
One thing that I haven’t mentioned in my readings of these adaptations is how much is foresight instead of a straight adaptation of a script. For example, in this adaptation there is mention of regeneration and the screwdriver. Regeneration wouldn’t be an issue for another year into the series. And so far, the First Doctor has yet to pull out any form of a sonic screwdriver. While it’s great to have this context within the story, it’s not really necessary has it was never really part of the First Doctor’s existence, at least from what was presented in the serials.
Book Historical Note
When the Doctor mentions how silent the planet is, Vicki asks if they have time-jumped again, which happened to the Doctor and his companions in The Space Museum. This is not mentioned in the scripts or transcripts that I was able to find.