Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Rescue

By Sophie Iles

This week it’s time to look at The Rescue, it’s a really sweet two parter, with some wonderful character moments and an introduction to a new companion. Not only that, but this was the first for a lot of people. Dennis Spooner starts his role as script editor (though he isn’t credited and didn’t do as much on this one as he does the rest.) It’s the first time the Doctor suggests the TARDIS materialises, the first time the Doctor suggests having been to this planet before, before snatching Ian and Barbara from 1963, which obviously opens avenues of questions of what his stories with Susan were before they come along.

As well as this, during its initial release, the second part Desperate Measures was one of the top ten programs to be watched that week, which is something that isn’t a regular occurrence until the show come back in 2005.

Lastly, but certainly not least, it’s the first time that a main companion has been replaced by another. We’ll talk more about Vicki later, but let’s get to the bones of the story and take it from there.

Our first time meeting Vicki Pallister, future Doctor Who companion.

What happens exactly?:

The Doctor, Ian and Barbara arrive on the Planet Dido, where the Doctor has fallen asleep through the landing of. When they wake him, he decides Ian and Barbara should go explore, whilst he has a nap. They’ve arrived in some sort of cave, which leads them to meet Koquillion, a creature that looks hideous. After sending Ian away to get the Doctor, Barbara is thrown off the cliff, but when she does, she is found by Vicki, a lone orphaned girl, marooned to this planet when their ship UK-201 crashed with her fellow crew member Bennet who can’t walk. Her father and the rest of the crew were killed she says, by the people of this planet, and it is Koquillion who is protecting them, but also forcing them to stay hidden. Whilst Barbara and Vicki bond in the ship, the Doctor and Ian have to travel through traps and tight ledges to find their way to safety, Ian is almost pushed by a trap into a monster’s lair but the Doctor saves him just in time, trying to find their way out of the mountain. The Doctor is claiming he’s been to this planet before, and that the people of Dido are kind loving, and wouldn’t dare hurt anyone, which is why he is confused at Koquillion’s actions against Barbara.

Meanwhile, Barbara meets Bennett, who doesn’t want their help and would prefer to wait until their rescue ship arrived in three days time, hoping that Koquillion wouldn’t find out so he wouldn’t let them leave.

Barbara then kills a pet monster that Vicki’s made, thinking it was violent, just as the Doctor and Ian turn up with a thought to save Vicki and Bennet from Koquillion so they could get on with the rescue. Vicki’s still so angry with Barbara she doesn’t want them to be there, but after a soft gentle word from the Doctor, she agrees to let him help and shows him where Bennett’s room is, but when he gets inside the door, Bennett isn’t there.

There’s a trap door in the room, which the Doctor follows to discover that Bennett is actually Koquillion, having used the religious garb to disguise himself. He explains that before the ship crashed, he was put under arrest for murdering another crew member and would have been tried on his return to Earth He had engineered the explosion that had killed all the people and the crew members and was planning on using Vicki to be his alibi.

The Doctor faces down Bennett.

The Doctor, horrified uses Koquillion’s staff to turn on him, and though in the scuffle the Doctor looks certain to lose, Bennett is terrified by what he believes are ghosts of the People of Dido and plunges to his death.

When it’s all over, the Doctor tells Vicki the truth. Devastated, she believes now she is really alone in the universe, but he offers her a place on the TARDIS. After a consideration, and seeing that the TARDIS is really amazing inside, and not just some old box Vicki becomes the newest member of the TARDIS team. They take off, but on arriving at their new destination together we are left on a cliffhanger where the TARDIS lands rather literally on the edge of the cliff and tumbles into a fade to black.

What didn’t work:

I think because it’s so rare that Doctor Who creates a two parter, there was all the meat you could want in the episode, but I did feel sad that we didn’t get to see more of Dido.

I was also not a particularly big fan of the acting from Bennett, but perhaps that was sort of the point, that he was playing two characters.

I also really don’t know how to feel about Barbara killing the monster Sandy whilst spending time with Vicki in the UK-201. As a story point it doesn’t feel warranted but to add unnecessary danger, but perhaps, where I am looking at from a Barbara perspective where I feel she would struggle to kill a monster like that, I feel it was more in character for Ian to do such a thing. At least, it does give the Doctor a chance to comfort Vicki and make her trust him and want to spend time with them in the TARDIS afterwards.

The conclusion of the main story is rather odd, At first I thought that Bennett being killed by ghosts of the People of Dido? The Doctor doesn’t really make this clear, but perhaps it is left to our own thoughts and conclusions instead of an actual answer. As it is an alien world, perhaps they were leaving it open to the idea that this world has ghosts that could do this, or that their alien life structure meant that they had been alive all this time waiting for a reason to strike? Either way, It was a little sketchy for me, which is a shame considering the story itself, as insular and focused as it is works really well.

What worked:

The Doctor, Ian and Barbara trying to find out where they’ve landed.

The lovely character moments between the Doctor, Ian and Barbara at the beginning of this episode were wonderful, with the loss of Susan, everything really did feel different. The teachers were comforting him, and instead of being frustrated about where they had arrived, they were concerned at his behavior. Something that you can certainly say when this first started never seemed like a possibility. Here, we see them helping him into his coat, and even gently allowing him time to get over losing Susan (which was his own choice, but as it works with these things, the Doctor always misses ones he’s lost and this won’t be the first time.)

IAN: Doctor, we appear to have landed while you were asleep.
DOCTOR: What? Oh, I say, I must never allow this sort of thing again now, must we? No. Well, all we have to do is to turn the power off.
BARBARA: Then we have landed.
DOCTOR: Yes, er, excuse me, materialised, I think, is a better word. Well now, let’s have a look and see what’s doing.

Speaking of the Doctor, there’s some great moments where he is clearly just talking to himself, which makes it all the more fun to actually hear his inner thoughts and in particularly, how he delights in teasing the teachers. Particularly this little moment:

DOCTOR: Oh, my writing gets worse and worse. Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear. Well, undoubtedly we’ve landed on the planet Dido. How remarkable. Well, I must say. it’ll be rather nice to meet these friendly people again after all these years. Fancy landing back here again. I wonder if I were to tell Ian that it was deliberate, whether he’d believe me or not? Oh no, of course, I was asleep. Oh, pity, pity, pity.

Also, Vicki. Where do I even start? Where the writing with Susan from the off was always slightly unstable, here they seemed to know exactly what they wanted with her. A young, friendly human girl from the future. Cares about animals, but also stubborn and wants be seen as self-sufficient, but also is vulnerable and wonderful. A great look at a companion that would certainly work as time went on too. As much as I love Susan, the introduction to Vicki works much better for an audience, particularly when meeting her for the first time, seeing her strength and resolve to tell Bennet that the rescue ship has arrived. Considering she had rather big shoes to fill, I felt she was positively brilliant!

Vicki’s quiet thank you to be allowed onto the TARDIS.

I particularly love how the TARDIS team are reunited with Barbara and truly meet Vicki, upset at the loss of her pet monster she used to feed outside the spaceship, courtesy of Barbara’s trigger happy worry, and how the Doctor tends to her. Perhaps, this is a sign of just how, as the show does progress he really is pursuing the idea of helping others, and in particular in Vicki’s case, an orphan, in a dreadful situation, he can’t stand by. Something that he would have been happy to do so long ago.

DOCTOR: Vicki, my dear…? (Whispers gently.) Sit down.
DOCTOR: You don’t mean that do you? Well? Do you? Mmm?
VICKI: (She shakes her head and he laughs.)
DOCTOR: Good, good! Now, I’ve listened to all you’ve said and I’ve thoroughly understood. We’re here to help you. This is all we’re going to try to do. You know, we’re not going to ruin things for you.

And speaking of the Doctor, Whilst Vicki and Barbara meet, most of the first part of The Rescue includes many fun and playful interaction with Ian and the Doctor that’s not always as easily visible in other serials as they travel to escape the mountain.

DOCTOR: Yes, exactly. All the more reason for holding onto life. Peace, friendship, happiness. This means everything to the people here.
IAN: Yes. Yes, I see what you mean. Well, you ready to carry on?
DOCTOR: Me? Carry on? My dear fellow, it was you that stopped.

It’s so obvious to me that this feels more like a family unit now, even with Susan gone, Vicki’s introduction and further joining them in the TARDIS makes them a sort of family. The Doctor is clearly the crotchety granddad, Vicki the excitable, stubborn teenager, with Ian and Barbara playing mum and dad. It’s with this analogy where Ian and the Doctor by this point in the series always have the same playful quality I tend to see in British culture between a father and his son in law. Biting, playful and claiming to have to endure each other’s company but actually enjoying it. Something I think Dennis Spooner does a lot in his serials, and his influence is seen through the rest of his script editor run.

And speaking of Ian and Barbara, their closeness and supportiveness towards each other only seems to grow with every episode, as far as chemistry goes, they have bundles of it. Favourite moment being is when they explain to Vicki that they are not just from Earth like her but from 1963, and for Vicki to suggest their actual ages. Barbara’s astounded obviously, and Ian just laughs so hard she elbows him in retaliation. Something we haven’t seen much a lot of by this point, though if you’ve seen The Romans, Dennis Spooner clearly sets a path to show just how strong their relationship is, but that’ll come into its own next week.

Last thing, but not the least important in the slightest,  the alien threat was actually non existent, despite the fact they were on a foreign alien planet from the future. The aliens that were there were kind creatures, and it was Bennett, a human criminal masquerading as Koquillion that became the villain of the piece, something that I personally would love the New Who writers to explore more of as time goes on, as it is certainly something that has felt lost in recent years. In summary, a really sweet episode, meaty due to it being a two parter, Vicki is fantastic along with the rest of the cast, and really sets up the sort of humor and tales that Dennis Spooner will be taking on for the rest of his script editorial run!

Sadly, I don’t have an up to date drawing for you this week, but hopefully once my new job has settled, I’ll be able to do these doodles for you more regularly again!