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Galaxy Four

by William Emms

Book review by Murray Jackson

I'm probably going to alienate myself from a lot of fellow fans of the series by saying I don't really enjoy the Hartnell adventures all that much. Having a number of the stories on videotape I find them fairly primitive so I'm always somewhat sceptical that writers can translate what was rather tedious on screen into something interesting in book form.

However, that said, I must admit to finding Galaxy Four an enjoyable book and here are the reasons why.

First and foremost, this story is one of the 'lost stories' i.e. it does not exist in film or videotape form as far as we know. Any story like that is always of interest to aficionados of the programme as it's likely to be the only tangible form of the story that they'll own.

Secondly, the very man who did the original screenplay for the filmed version pens this novel. This is always a good move as the original author knows better than anyone else does exactly how he wanted to portray the characters and events.

Thirdly, for all the limitations a television version may have, there are no limits to a novel. The author can expand on almost anything he/she likes as long as the basic plotline is not affected. Television budgets do not apply to books! William Emms realised this and capitalised on it.

Galaxy Four opens with the TARDIS landing on a planet somewhere in the vicinity of (surprise, surprise) Galaxy Four. Little does the TARDIS crew know but this planet has only a few dawns to live before its suns go nova and destroy it. However, it doesn't take them long to meet the other visitors to this inhospitable sphere. These are the Drahvins and the Rills. At first we are led to believe the Rills are evil creatures who, according to the Drahvins, shot down the Drahvin ship and then copped it themselves. Before long we realise that the Drahvins aren't all they seem to be and neither are the Rills.

Emms created two very interesting characters in his book. Maaga the Drahvin leader is drawn as a totally ruthless, somewhat manic person. Something of an egomaniac she is convinced that her way is right and she loathes anyone else and their opinions, even her fellow Drahvins. She refuses advice right to the end and her self-centredness is her undoing. She is a wonderful villain having the one vice that is exploited and used against her.

The Rills on the other hand are some of the most 'alien' aliens to have appeared on the show. Firstly, they can exist only in their atmosphere, carrying around a portable atmosphere in their ships. Their dependence on this atmosphere means they are limited in their movements. They are sluggish creatures who live on a different time scale, seeing our movements as blinding activity and a waste of energy. They are multi-armed purple creatures and because of their inability to move outside their habitat they use robots to do their tasks. You can't get much more alien than that!

Altogether the ingredients in this story make it a must for your collection and it makes up for a lot of weaker efforts at novelising Hartnell stories.

This item appeared in TSV 9 (October 1988).

Index nodes: Galaxy 4