The Doctor and his companions get in the middle of a conflict between the beautiful Drahvins and the ugly Rills.
Episode 1: Four Hundred Dawns
The TARDIS materializes on a desolate planet occupied by two ships belonging to two alien species: the Drahvins (beautiful women) and the Rills (lizard creatures).
A couple Drahvins rescue the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki from one of the robots used by the Rills, nicknamed “Chumblies” by Vicki for whatever reason. The Drahvin leader, Maaga, introduces herself and says the planet they’re on is going to be destroyed in 2 days! Their ship is heavily damaged, so they’re planning to steal the Rill ship to escape.
Episode 2: Trap of Steel
Steven chills with the Drahvins, while the Doctor and Vicki follow a Chumbley to the Rill ship.
Episode 3: Air Lock
The Doctor and Vicki learn that the Rills, despite their ugly appearance, are actually pretty swell. It’s the Drahvins who are the real menace – they’re the ones who picked a fight with the Rills and caused both their ships to crash land on the planet.
Episode 4: The Exploding Planet
Vicki and the Doctor pick up Steven from the Drahvin ship and use the TARDIS to jump start the Rill ship; Maaga and her cohorts are left behind as the planet explodes.
This one was pretty simple, straightforward, and just okay. It’s a story we’ve all heard before: don’t judge a book by its cover, and just because someone is beautiful doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good (and same goes for ugly and evil). It’s an entertaining enough serial, especially with Steven and Vicki as the companions, since I prefer them to Ian and Barbara, but there’s nothing groundbreaking here. And it does suffer a bit from a lack of interesting guest characters and locations.
What we saw of the Rills was pretty impressive, given the time and budget. The Chumblies, less so. It seemed like they were made to imitate the success of the Daleks (like the Quarks later on in The Dominators), but they obviously weren’t highly regarded because we never saw them again. They also kept making annoying noises – what is it about this era of Doctor Who and annoying noises?
Most of this serial is missing, though an abridged version with all surviving footage and a telesnap reconstruction of the missing bits was released as an extra on the special edition DVD of The Aztecs. I have to say, the 20-30 minutes they cut really helped with the pacing, but my favorite scene ended up on the chopping block! Fortunately, a fan animated it: