Episodes 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90 & 91: Four Hundred Dawns, Trap of Steel, Air Lock, The Exploding, Planet, Mission to the Unknown, Temple of Secrets, Small Prophet, Quick Return, Death of a Spy, Horse of Destruction

Galaxy 4  written by William Emms
Mission to the Unknown written by Terry Nation
The Mythmakers written by Donald Cotton

Galaxy 4 directed by Derek Martinus & Mervyn Pinfield
Mission to the Unknown directed by Derek Martinus
The Mythmakers directed by Donald Cotton

Don’t you just hate cunts who exaggerate? There are billions of them. so many in fact, that that previous intentional bit of hyperbole is, in fact, probably true, what with there being 7 billion people on earth right now, and I’d be surprised if a third of them did not embellish the truth a little on a semi-regular basis. Bastards.

So far anyone reading this blog would probably think that someone talking about the missing episodes of Doctor Who was overstating the issue to an extent, and therefore guilty of the exaggerating bug. Out of the first two years of the show only one story is completely missing, and only a further four episodes are lost. Out of over 80 episodes, that is really not all that many.

Sadly, in the context of the 60s era of the show as a whole, that would appear to be a run of exceptional good luck. From here on in the vast majority of the next three years of Who is lost in the void somewhere. Happily, Mark Ayres, a man of many talents has, with the aid of many fans of the show who made off air recordings of the show, reconstructed the audio for these episodes, and with the addition of a little linking narration, usually from one of the companion actors, they make perfectly good audiobooks.

One advantage of this is that I can listen to them while working, something difficult to do with a tv show, meaning that in the last two days I’ve sped through three full stories.

The first of these, Galaxy 4 was an interesting artifact. For some reason that I’m not quite sure about I never really fancied it, and so this was actually the first time I’ve heard it. It also marks the first existing episode of Who that I’ve not been able to get video for and so I had to listen to the audio version, though I should be to remedy that in a few weeks when its released as a special feature on the Aztecs special edition DVD. On listening, however, I found that I was quite fond of it. It has far more the feel of one of Patrick Troughton’s stories, although the Doctor is very much his old Hartnell self.

This story revisits a popular theme in Doctor Who canon. The initial apparent  villains, the Rills, a race of beings very alien in appearance, turn out to be benevolent, gentle and selfless, while the human looking Drahvins are greedy, violent, self centered and extraordinarily stupid. Once again, the Doctor shows a complete disinterest in the appearance of any other creature, only concerning himself with their actions. A valuable message in a world in which Martin Luther King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only nine months earlier.

gang-and-chumbleys

Look out guys, mechanical dog turds!

It’s a good thing that the Rills turned out to be good guys, because their robots, the Chumblies, were the least aggressive looking thing you could imagine*. The Daleks may rely on the vocal talent of the actor portraying them to some extent, but no amount of  scary voice could have  rendered the Chumblies anything other than hilarious. The Drahvins are not much of a threat either, since they’re all so fuckign stupid that my cat could outwit them.

I had heard that actor Peter Purvis, playing Steven, was unhappy about this story. The part had originally been written for Barbara and was re-written hastily after her departure. Apparently, Purvis felt that his part in this story was altogether a bit wimpy, and not the character he signed up to play. When I first heard this I reckoned it was probably a legitimate complaint, but I’m now rather inclined to think of him as a whiny wee bitch. The main difference between Steven in this story and his later roles is that in this one he’s less of a prick.

It was not uncommon at this point in Who history for one of the core cast, sometimes even the Doctor himself, to be absent for the duration of an episode. Mission to the unknown, however, is rather unusual in that it has none of the core cast at all. Mission to the unknown is really just an introduction to the epic Dalek story that Terry Nation was working on at the time, letting the audience know that something really big was on the horizon involving their favorite murderous pepper pots. As such, I think I’ll save talking about it until I get to that 12 part spectacular.

So we know the Daleks are causing havoc over on Kembel. Meanwhile, four and a half thousand years earlier, the Doctor and his companions have gotten themselves embroiled in the Trojan war. I’ve not studied Classics in a while, but at some point I really should ask my sister, who reads it at Edinburgh and is a bit of a Whovian herself, about this story. In the meantime, my conjectures about this story may be wildly inaccurate.

It is interesting the way that writer Donald Cotton plays with the commonly held beliefs about the heros of the siege of Troy. Here Achilles, generally thought of as a bastion of strength, is a bit of a wimp, only capable of defeating Hector, Prince of Troy, because Hector was distracted by the Doctor. Odysseus, often seen as a dashing heroic type, is nothing more than an averous pirate.

Despite the fact that this story falls into the regular and dull scenario of the party getting separated and captured etc etc common in early Who, particularly the historical episodes, the fact that Vicki and the Doctor have their wits pitted against each other. Poor Vicki, and Troy with her, never stood a chance.

Purvis, I’m guessing, would have been a bit happier with this role, as he gets to run around and hit stuff with pointy metal sticks, and other manly shit. He does get to show a bit of brain as well though, which is nice.

One thing, though. What is it with the Doctor leaving fifteen year old girls behind on war torn planets, in the company of an older man who has every intention of marrying them at the first opportunity? Vicki, at least, he left on her own planet, although a good few millennia prior to her birth.

But enough of this Greek guff. What about the Daleks? Any chance that they’ll be able to redeem themselves after the debacle that was The Chase? I hope so, but lets find out next time, in The Dalek’s Master Plan.

*Less threatening robots would, however, appear some time later. Just you wait.
**I’ve read the Odyssey, or at least parts of it, and I’m with Cotton on this one.

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