Galaxy 4 has never been regarded as one of Doctor Who‘s great tales, something which was made plain when Air Lock was recovered. The news was met with polite interest, but there was an undeniable feeling that many were wishing something from a “classic” story (like Power of the Daleks) had been found instead.
Hopefully some minds were changed after the episode was released on DVD, as the return of any missing DW episode (even from an obscure and unloved story like this one) should be celebrated. It’s wonderful to have the audios and recons, but they can only tell half the story – the previously unknown visual moments from Air Lock were a real revelation for me.
For example, we finally got to see a Rill in all its glory. One of the series’ more mysterious monsters (for a long time even photographic evidence was sparse) it’s fair to say that the visuals didn’t do it many favours.
It does rather look like a piece of cardboard slowly moving behind a screen (so this was one of those occasions where the static image was preferable). The voice acting from Robert Carland was powerful though – he certainly put everything he could into the role.
But if the visual representation of the Rill was a little disappointing, then the joy of watching Hartnell in full flow more than made up for it. I love Hartnell’s Doctor (I may have mentioned this a few times before) and he’s in cracking form in this episode.
One of my favourite moments (another of those visual touches that we hadn’t previously known about) occurs when the Doctor orders the Chumblies about. Lovely stuff! The scene when he tangles with a Drahvin, using his stick as a weapon (and calling her madam!) is another little gem.
This was Derek Martinus’ directorial debut on the series. He wasn’t the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last, to find Hartnell rather difficult, but whilst Martinus may have been inexperienced he was still able to produce some interesting moments.
Most notable is Maaga’s monologue which Stephanie Bidmead delivers direct to camera. The flashback scene showing the moment when the Drahvins and Rills both crashed on the planet was another impressive visual touch – shot from the Rill’s POV.
The Doctor’s in a very reckless mood. He decides to sabotage the Rill’s machine which produces ammonia for them. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn’t realise it was vital to their survival. At least he has the good grace to look a little bashful afterwards!
Peter Purves doesn’t have a great deal to do today. Trapped in the air lock for most of the episode, he might as well have sat this one out. This passive role no doubt helps to reinforce his belief that Galaxy 4 was a story that did Steven few favours, but had one of the earlier episodes been recovered then it’s possible that he may have looked a little more kindly on the story (as Steven certainly has a more active role in the first two episodes).