The Doctor, Ian and Barbara arrive on the planet Dido. They find a crashed spaceship, the only two survivors of which are terrorised by the monster Koquillion. But who is Koquillion?
The Rescue gives us our the debut of the show’s first new companion in the shape of Vicki. Whilst the story doesn’t really have a plot, I was rather taken with the way that the story focused in on character and showing the audience just how far the trio of the Doctor, Ian and Barbara have come since An Unearthly Child and the impact of Susan’s departure on these characters.
Whilst I’m not denying that it is difficult to tell a good story in an hour, especially at this early stage of the show, The Rescue’s plot left me wanting a bit more. It is probably described at best as simplistic, at worst non-existent, with a pretty poor conclusion to the story. The whole plot solely comprises of Bennett trying to get away with murder and essentially imprisoning the only other survivor, Vicki, to ensure that she can testify as to his innocence when they return to Earth. In a story with such a small cast, the eventual reveal that Bennett and Koquillion are one and the same is somewhat underwhelming. The conclusion is particularly underwhelming, which is a shame as I think both Hartnell and Ray Barrett as Bennett put good performances in the final scene, but the sudden appearance of the two surviving inhabitants of Dido is not set up or explained in any way, and it is equally baffling when they destroy the radio equipment aboard the UK-201. It is a shame that Koquillion is beaten so easily, as he is a visually striking villain. There are some nice visual moments, such as the opening shot of the crashed ship shot by Christopher Barry which do help this story.
Where The Rescue‘s strength lies though is in showing how the development of the three leads has progressed in the season and a half we have had them on our screens. Ian and Barbara have gone from wanting the Doctor to be taken back to their own time to actively enjoying their time with the Doctor and appreciating how important they are as a support network to help the Doctor get through the departure of his granddaughter. The moment that Barbara asks the Doctor to show her how to do the landing checks is a really lovely moment. Equally, the loss of Susan has accelerated the progression that we’ve seen in the Doctor towards a softer and more kindly figure. Here, the departure has really affected him, as Ian and Barbara note that they have never known him to sleep through the TARDIS landing before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Susan’s departure from the show had a longer lasting impact than the conclusion of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, as I was perhaps expecting the show to just move forwards straight away. This is probably thanks to departures of other companions, like Liz who doesn’t get her own exit story or Leela, whose departure seems abrupt and is not lingered on for long.
Vicki’s arrival in the show is the first recast in the show’s history, and although it’s in a truncated appearance, she does seem to be the typical early Who companion, complete with screaming. What is evident is that Maureen O’Brien is a better actress than Carol Ann Ford and her chemistry with Hartnell feels much more convincing than his with Susan. Despite her difficult start to her relationship with Barbara after the latter misreads the situation with the sandbeast, there are positive signs here for the future relationship between the two. The simplicity of the plot doesn’t do her any favours, however, as her inability to detect that Barrett is the murderer despite some pretty obvious clues that the Doctor is able to find pretty quickly on investigating his quarters makes her look pretty foolish. Having not seen much of Vicki previously, I’m looking forward to getting to know her character better over the next couple of First Doctor reviews – this is certainly a promising start for her. The moment where she tells Barbara about her father is really moving and whilst her reaction to the death of her pet might seem overblown, if this was the only thing that made her happy whilst waiting for the rescue ship, it does make more sense.
Verdict: The Rescue does a lot right with it’s characters, but suffers from a lack of plot. 6/10
Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Ray Barrett (Bennett/Koquillion) & Tom Sheridon (Voice of Space Captain).
Writer: David Whitaker
Director: Christopher Barry
Parts: 2 (The Powerful Enemy & Desperate Measures)
Behind the Scenes
- This was the first story under the new script editor Dennis Spooner, although much of the job was done by his predecessor, David Whitaker.
- This story marked the start of the second production block. The first production block lasted 52 weeks, with one episode filmed per week.
- When Maureen O’Brien met with Sydney Newman, he wanted her to cut and dye her hair black to resemble Susan. O’Brien refused, asking “Why don’t you just get Carol Ann Ford back?”
- Tom Sheridan also played the Sand Beast, but was originally intended to play one of the robed figures as well.
My favourite moment from The Rescue comes quite early on, when Barbara sees that the Doctor is missing Susan and asks how to carry out the landing checks.
We can travel anywhere and everywhere in that old box as you call it. Regardless of space and time.
Then it is a time machine?
And if you like adventure, my dear, I can promise you an abundance of it.The First Doctor and Vicki
Previous First Doctor Review: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
3 thoughts on “The Rescue”
Vicki is my favourite companion of the first Doctor’s era, I love her chemistry William Hartnell and the rest of the TARDIS crew for that matter.
I’ll agree with you that the plot is the weakest element of this story, but that moment when the Doctor confronts Bennett is one of my favourites in this era, it’s just such a ‘heroic’ moment, standing up to the bad guy and posturing like, well, like I’d expect his later incarnations to. For me this whole story is a significant point in the first Doctor’s character arc.
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I absolutely agree with you about the importance of this episode for Hartnell’s Doctor – he is a much warmer character here than we have seen before. He’s great when he realises that he’s been to Dido before, and when he berates Ian and Barbara when they are talking about him outside the TARDIS. I loved that scene with him and Bennett, but the conclusion of it let the story down – it really comes from nowhere. It reminded me of Capaldi and the Fisher King in ‘Before the Flood’ at times.
I’m looking forward to more Vicki. I don’t think I’ve seen any of her stories – I’m more familiar with Ian, Barbara & Susan and Ben and Polly, so she was a pleasant surprise.
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