Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Galaxy 4" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. Doctor Who's third season (can you believe we've made it that far?) began with a story taking place in some other place than Galaxy 4, as I've been joking for a month now. And, as I said last week, I'd been waiting for somewhere between twenty-five and thirty years to see the Drahvins, the Chumblies and the Rills. And, thanks to Loose Cannon Productions, I've now seen something...that approximates the original story. Personally, I wasn't disappointed, but the same can't be said for most of the rest of the Project members. Admittedly, I was the only one who'd been exposed to the story in one form or another previous to watching, which might have helped--memories of the Target novelisation surely filled in some of the gaps that the recon was forced to leave out.

The story itself, while fairly simple, is solid: the beautiful, but treacherous Maaga vs. the hideous, but noble Rill, with the Chumblies as a bit of (somewhat silly) robot fun. So why did Spoo and Schmallturm dislike it so much? Well, it does move a bit slowly, thanks especially to almost no video or stills surviving. There are significant parts of the story where people are walking around or looking at things, all of which can only be conveyed by a still, sound and a running caption. Which, I hasten to say, isn't the fault of the reconstruction, which did a tremendous job with almost no material. I particularly loved the new Chumblies! Which brings up another problem some Project members had: they refused to take the Chumblies even semi-seriously. (See all the "Roomba" comments.) This, I think, is more of an "either it works for you or it doesn't." It worked for me, it obviously didn't for others.

All of that being said, it's hard for me to properly assess "Galaxy 4" while still being fair to other Project members. I do think this is a story that's easier to enjoy if you can try to approach it without being informed by forty years of, to quote Schmallturm, "preachy Star Trek episodes" and the like.

Even still, if you can get past what seems to be the obvious moral (although even that's questionable, given that the Drahvins weren't originally scripted as women), there's still a lot of meat here: questions about genetic engineering and free will, about militaristic exploitation vs. pure exploration...there's a lot more to read into this story than the obvious "you can't judge a book by its cover." On the other hand, the Chumblies are kind of silly and the story does move a bit more slowly than it has to. Then, of course, there's the fact that it was infamously written for the pre-"Time Meddler" TARDIS crew, with Steven having to fill in for Barbara and Ian's role split between the Doctor and Vicki, all of which made the story feel a bit off. (And, as others have pointed out, Steven is an astronaut from the future; how could he not know how an airlock works?) Apparently, this led to problems behind the scenes as well, with the cast members objecting to parts of the script. (I seem to remember Peter Purves in particular being unhappy with this story.) And, of course, this story began the battle between incoming producer John Wiles and an increasingly irascible William Hartnell. For more behind the scenes info see this story's "Brief History of Time (Travel)" page. And, while I'm at it, here's the official BBC episode guide.

All right, enough of my rambling. Here are the individual episode posts:

Four Hundred Dawns"
"Trap of Steel"
"Air Lock"
"The Exploding Planet"

Coming up next is an unusual episode, unique for the series. And, if things go right, our blog post covering it might be unique for the Project as well. No promises, but hopefully all will go well. Until then, I remain both mysterious and


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