In a way, Doctor Who getting it right out of the gate with the Daleks — a monster design so instantly iconic it sparked a wave of hysteria that helped catapult the show to radical success — means that any attempt at recapturing that is always going to stumble out of the gate. But hoo boy did the “‘stars” of the series’ latest animated reconstruction stumble.
The latest animated restoration is another of Doctor Who’s myriad missing serials — stories from the earliest era of the show lost to time thanks to archives being regularly destroyed throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, an ongoing blight on the project of historical media preservation. Today, the BBC announced the latest will be the First Doctor story “Galaxy 4,” a four-part tale from 1965 featuring William Hartnell’s Doctor alongside companions Vicki and Steven. The release will feature all four episodes re-animated (available in both full colour and black and white), as well as remastered versions of the surviving original footage, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and audio commentaries.
Set on a planet being thrown into an apocalyptic fight for survival as it is pulled apart by three orbiting stars, “Galaxy 4” sees the Doctor and his friends stuck in a conflict between two alien races that also find themselves trapped on the planet: an all-female warrior species called the Drahvin and a race of reptiles known as the Rills. As the Doctor finds his friends held hostage, and with time running out before the planet’s destruction dooms them all, he’s in a race to stop the Dravin and Rills from destroying each other first.
Most of “Galaxy 4” was lost in the BBC’s archival junking efforts, with just audio recordings, its third episode, and five minutes of its fourth having been recovered in the years since. But that main tale was not all this particular story had. It also introduced us to Who’s latest trundling pepperpot robot monster: the Chumbleys, a squad of translation robots used by the Rills in their attempts to negotiate with the Drahvin. While the Chumbleys weren’t quite meant to be as menacing as the Daleks, the design inspiration is definitely there, and… I mean, come on:
Chumbleys weren’t even their actual name, it’s just what Vicki coined for them after hearing their incredibly silly chirruping noises as they hobbled about the place. There’s a reason the UK didn’t go through a wave of Chumbleymania in the mid-’60s, frankly. But maybe you will, when Galaxy 4 hits DVD and Blu-ray on November 15.
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