The Rescue

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS comes to rest on the planet Dido, where its arrival is detected by the sensors of a crashed ship from Earth. The shipwreck’s only two survivors, a girl named Vicki and a man named Bennett, disagree on whether or not rescue is coming or is even possible. Vicki insists that the sensor reading should be investigated, but Bennett insists that any exploration won’t be looked kindly upon by a spiny creature called Koquillion, who has already killed the rest of the surviving crew. After attacking Ian and Barbara the moment they emerge from the TARDIS, Koquillion does indeed put in an appearance at the crashed ship, unaware that Vicki has rescued Barbara and nursed her back to health. As soon as Koquillion leaves, Vicki reveals Barbara to Bennett and seems puzzled by his reaction – he seems displeased that they will have another set of hands and eyes to use in their struggle against Koquillion. The Doctor, who has taken to an uncharacteristic bout of sulking in the wake of Susan’s departure, is energized by the mystery and goes with Ian to search for Barbara, braving Dido’s treacherous landscape and local life forms until they reach the crashed ship. The Doctor demands to speak to Bennett, but finds him curiously absent – od, since Bennett has been described as nearly bedridden. The Doctor discovers and explores a trap door, concealing evidence of the horrible truth: Bennett and Koquillion share a link that nobody expected, and Vicki will be in terrible danger if she doesn’t leave Dido with the TARDIS.

written by David Whitaker
directed by Christopher Barry
music by Tristram Cary

Guest Cast: Ray Barrett (Bennett/Koquillion), Tom Sheridan (Space Captain)

Broadcast from January 2 through 9, 1965

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: One of the things I was on the lookout for in The Rescue was what I call New Companion Syndrome, or an instance where a guest character is so well developed in their initial story that you can spot them as the new TARDIS crew member from a mile off. Indeed, The Rescue does suffer from this somewhat, though at the time it aired – right after the somewhat shockingly quick departure of Susan, the first member of the original TARDIS team – I’m sure it didn’t stick out that much. It does, however, accomplish what the New Companion Syndrome usually sets out to do: it’s there to make sure we’re sympathetic to the new character and see why they would make a good addition to the show. In the case of Vicki, it’s interesting – but in the end almost inconsequential – that she’s from the future, making it a bit more plausible than just going and picking up another girl in 1963 or 1964. That’s inconsequential largely because very little use was made of the plot point of Vicki hailing from the 25th century, especially given that, for all the grief she gave Ian and Barbara for their “primitive” ways, she eventually left the TARDIS in an era that was even further into the past.

One absolutely astounding thing about The Rescue is that we see here, for the first time, the Doctor lash out violently at an enemy. He isn’t provoked, he isn’t defending himself – he’s simply reached a breaking point where Koquillion’s murderous intent is concerned and can no longer bear to let the murderer go free. This may seem like an odd place for it to happen, but this is a massive shift in the character of the Doctor, or perhaps a massive revelation of a part of his character that simply hadn’t been seen by us yet. People normally associate this kind of lashing-out with Colin Baker or Jon Pertwee, but here’s William Hartnell, having a go at clubbing someone over the head – not a behavior one expects of the first Doctor at all. That element has always been there for the character of the Doctor; there are some injustices for which he simply cannot contain his fury.

The production design, for a “mere” two-part story, is exceptionally good, with the interior of Vicki’s crashed ship and the opening exterior model shot that pans across the wrecked hulk of that ship. Koquillion’s mask is a bit menacing too, and the monster’s first appearance as it lurks near the TARDIS is truly unnerving, taking place as it does in a flash of lightning. A few elements fall a bit short – the native critters of Dido are unintentionally cuddly, and then there’s that ray gun that Barbara uses to shoot one of these creatures – but for the most part, The Rescue is a visual treat married to a marvelously compact piece of storytelling. Both halves of the story together take about as long to watch as any given episode of the new series, and it all just works quite nicely. The Rescue is an oft-overlooked gem from the Hartnell era which helped to ease viewers into a casting change that, with respect to even more major casting changes that would take place in a couple of years, seem almost minor in retrospect.