Monday, 11 March 2013

084 Galaxy 4 Part 3: Airlock (again!)

EPISODE: Galaxy 4 Part 3: Airlock
TRANSMITTED: 25 September 1965
WRITER: William Emms
DIRECTOR: Derek Martinus
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Aztecs (Special Edition) including Galaxy 4 Part 3: Airlock

Hang on didn't we do this before on Valentine's Day 2011 ? Yes we did. But since then there's been a development! To Wit this episode, which only existed on audio at the time, has been found and is now out on DVD! So it's only right I sit down and watch it. Here's the summary from last time:

The Doctor & Vicki are being watched by alien eyes. They are pursued by Chumblies: Vicki is captured and taken to the Rills while the Doctor tries to sabotage the device the Rills use to convert air to ammonia which they need to breathe. The Rills speak with Vicki telling her they offered to take the Drahvins with them and they did not kill the Drahvin warrior as claimed. Maaga killed the injured soldier not them. Vicki flees the spaceship to stop the Doctor's sabotage. Steven attempts escape but finding a Chumblie outside is trapped in the airlock. Vicki convinces the Doctor that the Rills are friendly and he enters the ship to confer with them. They are drilling for power, but all they have found is a gas they are unable to use. The Doctor offers to give them power from the Tardis. Maaga starts pumping the air out of the airlock and gives Steven a choice: Surrender, die in the airlock or be killed by the waiting Chumblie. The Doctor & Vicki rush to the Drahvin spaceship to rescue him but the pressure difference has sealed the outer door preventing his escape.
and what I thought:
Top stuff again. Lovely ominous sound to the disembodied Rills voice coming from the Chumblie. We've also got some other familiar noises as several Dalek effects are used: the Dalek city door noise is the sound of the Drahvin airlock opening & closing while the Dalek control centre noise is heard in the Rill ship. The whistling noise made when the Chumblies communicate with the Rills sounds awfully like the noise made by the UFOs in the eponymous Gerry Anderson series.

There is a crucial error in this episode betraying that it was previously written for a different set of companions: Stephan does not know that he can be harmed in the airlock by pumping the air out. Now given that Steven is a trained astronaut this is unlikely. The original draft of Galaxy Four was written for The Doctor, Ian, Barbara & Vicki where Barbara would be the companion held hostage. Instead Steven takes on the role meant for Barbara but as we see it gives rise to this small but important error.

So how's that changed now I can see it?

It hasn't, I still think it's a really good episode. What it has brought home is how much the audio doesn't tell the entire story. How Maaga's speech is delivered straight to camera, how the Rills' story of how they came to be there and their first encounter with the Drahvins is partially told in flashback and how the astronaut being trapped in the airlock doesn't look half as ridiculous on screen as it sounded. Actually being able to see the Chumblies move, with the lights in them and, in at least one case, an inactive Chumblie just sitting there at the back of a scene. All these details would be lost in an animation though I'll admit if I'd been in charge of animating the episode I'd have shown the encounter between the Drahvin & Rill ships as well as the on planet encounter as a flashback, but would have known they wouldn't have shown all that on screen. In fact.... is this the first time we get a Flashback sequence used in Doctor Who? Some of Derek Martinus' direction really leaps out particularly the shot from above, but I'm not sure about the wall design for the Rill area.... I say area cos I'm not 100% sure if this is meant to be showing the inside of the Rill ship or a base that's been built round .... anyway the wall panels used don't reach the floor. So I'm guessing that it's a deliberate design decision.

We also get to see the Rills, for many years the most obscure Doctor Who monster (quite apt really for a race that spend their time hidden behind walls & glass) No photos were thought to exist of them at all until two old photos were identified as being Rills. The site linked to there says they remind them of the Guild Navigators in Dune but there's something else a lot closer to home that they remind me of: The Face of Boe!

Speaking of the Rills.....

The cast for Galaxy Four features fewer recognisable names and faces than most Doctor Who stories and very few cast members that appear in multiple Doctor Who stories. The most famous person in the cast is Angelo Muscat, who's hidden in a Chumblie here. He later finds fame and recognition as the Butler in the Prisoner. I looked Stephanie Bidmead, who played Maaga leader of the Drahvins, up to see what else she'd been in and discovered she died in 1974 at the age of 45.
I missed some details on the cast first time out. Robert Cartland who provides their superb voice returns as Malpha in the next story Mission to the Unknown. Malpha in turn is thought to return in the Dalek Masterplan but is played by a different actor there (Brian Mosely later famous as Coronation Street's grocer Alf Roberts. Inside the Rill we see is Bill Lodge later to return as a UNIT Soldier in The Silurians Episode 3 and a Villager in The Dæmons Episode 3. I mentioned Chumblie Angelo Muscat's role as the butler in The Prisoner (Is Commander Straxx now a homage to the Butler?) but I didn't know he's been an Oompa Loompa in Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as had fellow Chumblie Pepe Poupee. When the modern Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was made all the Oompa Loompa's were played by just one may - Talons of Weng Chiang's Mr Sin actor Deep Roy. One of the other Chumblies does return to Doctor Who: Tommy Reynolds was (uncredited) in Terror of the Autons: Episode Two as the Auton Troll Doll. Finally the actress playing one of the Drahvins Lyn Ashley went onto marry Monty Python member (and the voice of Wreck Gar in Transformers the Movie) Eric Idle!

During the afternoon of Sunday 11th December 2011 rumours began spreading on the internet that some Doctor Who episodes may have been returned to the BBC. Then fans looked at their diary and spotted that it was the second day of Missing believed Wiped at the BFI. And then we looked at the program and saw: 15.45 NFT1 Session 1: Miscellany .... BBC Sci-fi footage (Title TBC) (BBC 1960s). Finally a little after 4pm the announcement was made that two episode of Doctor Who had been recovered: Galaxy 4 episode 3 and The Underwater Menace episode 2, bring the missing episodes count down to 106 with 90 Hartnell episodes and 57 Troughton episodes known to survive.

So where had they been? The Radio Times has a decent account of how they had been found:

“Through me,” says Ralph Montagu, Radio Times’s head of heritage and a lifelong Doctor Who fan. “I occasionally meet up with a group of film collectors and retired TV engineers at a café in Hampshire.

“A few months ago I spoke to Terry Burnett, who used to be an engineer at TVS [the former ITV franchise based in Southampton]. Somehow Doctor Who was mentioned in passing, and Terry said, ‘Oh, actually I think I’ve got an old episode.’

“I thought it was bound to be something we’ve got already,” says Ralph. “I tried not to get too excited, but he came back the next day and brought this spool with him. It had no label, so I had a look at the film leader and it said ‘Air Lock’. I thought, ‘What’s that?’ I checked online and saw that Air Lock was an episode of Galaxy 4 - a missing Hartnell serial. So then I got very excited.”

Ralph met Terry again a couple of weeks later, “And he said, ‘Guess what I’ve got.’ It was another episode of Doctor Who! Again not labelled on the can, but it turned out to be The Underwater Menace part two.”

We know for certain that the Underwater Menace 2 print was a returned one from the Australia because it has cuts to the start which precisely match material retrieved from the Australian Censor some years ago. It thus seems likely that Galaxy Four came from the same source. According to the film print appendix in my copy of Wiped the ABC in Australia confirm they no longer held their Galaxy 4 prints... Meanwhile there's a misprint on the entry for the Underwater Menace that duplicates the purchase date so we don't know what the ABC think happened to their print - hopefully the error is fixed in the new edition of Wiped due now!

Galaxy 4 episode 3 also has some material missing (again quoting from The Radio Times with Paul Venzies of the restoration team commenting)

"Even more of a challenge is a film break right at the cliffhanger, where companion Steven (Peter Purves) is suffocating in the eponymous air lock. “We’re missing 27 seconds of action completely, as well as the closing credits,” says Paul. “It’s a few shots and one line of dialogue from Maaga. But luckily we have the soundtrack and by using other visual material within the episode, we can re-create it.”"
How they've done it is quite clever: Lots of shots of the pressure gauge falling interspersed with brief sequences from the last few moments as Steven is in the airlock repeated. Work well, if you didn't know something was wrong with the print then you wouldn't spot it.

Airlock doesn't appear by itself it forms part of a larger Hour+ long reconstruction of the entire story. I won't look to closely at the episodes in the recon here because they are cut down and, like the recent animations, are someone's interpretation of what's going on rather than actual Doctor Who. Should you with to know what I think of the rest of the story then look at:

082 Galaxy 4 Part 1: Four Hundred Dawns

083 Galaxy 4 Part 2: Trap of Steel

084 Galaxy 4 Part 3: Airlock

085 Galaxy 4 Part 4: The Exploding Planet

Originally intended for The Time Meddler DVD, the story that precedes Galaxy 4, the recon is a triumph especially considering that no telesnaps exist for the story. In all probability none were ever taken because by this point John Wiles was effectively producer and he didn't have any taken for any of his stories - none exist for Mission to the Unknown, The Myth makers, The Dalek Masterplan, The Massacre or The Celestial Toyroom, all missing or partially missing from the archives. (see the Nothing at the End of the Lane Omnibus for more details on what telesnaps were taken when) There's an off air clip from episode one, and a long six minute sequence from the same episode integrated into the recon. The six minute sequence has a bad record on DVD: It was missed off the clip package in the Lost in Time DVD only appearing in the Missing years documentary. This time round it's still impossible to access the clip directly and indeed the recovered episode as well! I'd have made both accessible separately from the menu, instead they can only be found by fast forwarding through the disc. At least the episode starts at a chapter point (7), I'd have stuck chapter points at the start and end of the clip, but no: chapter 2 starts right in the middle. I'd have also had chapter points at the start of episodes 2 & 4 - both have points positioned too early. It isn't as if the chapters are at regular intervals:

Chapter Time
2 00:05:53
3 00:09:14
4 00:15:31
5 00:21:13
6 00:25:55
7 00:28:12
8 00:31:39
9 00:39:15
10 00:43:18
11 00:48:22
12 00:51:52
13 00:52:34
14 00:57:42
15 01:02:42
16 01:03:46

Now episode 1 ends as 15:47... Episode 2 Starts at 28:12 and Episode 3 ends at 52:32..... Just off the chapter points. But having a quick listen to the Galaxy Four CD it seems the chapter points have been positioned at the start of the material repeated in the next episode. An odd decision: I'd associate the repeated scenes with the episode they were first broadcast in and especially given the positioning of the chapter just inside the end of episode 3.

I don't know.... I just don't think enough fuss has been made about the Galaxy 4 stuff on this release. Barely a mention on the packaging, just a line in the special features, for something that for me was THE major selling point for this release. The recovered episode is stuck in the middle of the recon with no way of getting to it directly. There's no production subtitles for it. No commentary. No documentary of any sort, nothing even to explain how the episode came back. For me any missing episode of Doctor Who that's recovered is special. Dalek Masterplan 2 & Tomb of the Cybermen hugely so but I can specifically remember the recoveries of Abominable Snowman (read about in Doctor Who Magazine), The Ice Warriors, Evil of the Daleks 2 & Faceless Ones 3 (in Celestial Toyroom the DWAS magazine), Tomb of the Cybermen (newspaper while a guest at the University health centre) and Dalek Masterplan 2 (via the much missed Restoration Team forum). As the material is presented here the feeling is amongst many fans that it was bunged on just to make people buy the Aztecs Special Edition DVD. Hopefully at some point in the future they'll be the opportunity to "go again" on this release, maybe with a full recon of the other three episode and the features I've mentioned above. I hope that Underwater Menace 2 gets better treatment than this: rumours abound that it will be paired with episode 3 and animated. I'd have been happy with the two Underwater Menace episodes and Airlock stuck in a Lost in Time 2 package with new commentaries, production subtitles and associated clips.

Doctor Who: The Aztecs (Special Edition) including Galaxy 4 Part 3: Airlock was released Monday 11th March 2013 (Today as I write this).

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