The Doctor: First Doctor (William Hartnell)
The Companions: Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), Ian (William Russell)
The plot: On the planet, Dido, future human Vicki waits for rescue
Written By: David Whitaker
First aired: 02/01/1965-09/01/1965
Continuity: First appearance of new companion, Vicki
Theme Song: Delia Derbyshire’s 1963 Radiophonic workshop, including the beautiful and haunting middle eight.
Season 2, episodes 10-11 review
As far as two parters go, The Rescue is somewhat unremarkable. And after the epic mess that was The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it’s difficult to know what to say about it. It does stand apart for two reasons, however. This is the first serial where the Doctor lands on a planet he has been to before (apart from Earth). And it’s the first appearance of a new companion since the Doctor essentially kidnapped Ian and Barbara nearly two years before.
With his granddaughter gone, The Doctor finds a new child genius to drag around the universe. Vicki – a future human from the year 2493 – is essentially the same character as Susan but without the overly taut familial bonds. Maureen O’Brien is a much more engaging and nuanced actor than Carole Ann Ford although The Rescue does nothing either to endear her to the audience or to canvass any depth in her character.
As Star Trek: TNG learned thirty years later, people hate precocious child geniuses. Yet the Doctor Who production team was so wedded to this infantilised girl-child character that they created her clone, albeit the slightly superior version. Vicki is just as annoying as Susan but at least she’s better acted.
The Rescue starts on the planet Dido, where 25th century teen, Vicki, waits for a rescue ship with crewmate Bennett. The crew were apparently murdered by the locals and the two survivors are being terrorised by a Didoan named Koquillion who claims to have saved them.
In many ways, The Rescue is somewhat of a psychological thriller. Mistaking foe for friend and vice versa is a recurring theme of the short piece: Barbara at one point kills a friendly local animal believing it is about to attack Vicki.
And if you look at the serial at the right angle, it is an examination of domestic violence. The brilliant but petulant Vicki is kept trapped at home by the threat of violence from strangers outside but the real danger is by her side. Bennett has her living quarters bugged and controls every part of her life through fear and manipulation. And all to convince her that her enemy is outside the front door rather than within her own home.
Remember, I am the only one who can save you from my people. You should be grateful. I am your only protection!Koquillion (Bennett in disguise), The Rescue
It is domestic issues that concern our TARDIS crew as well. The Doctor sleeps through their landing, which concerns them greatly. But is it his age or the loss of his granddaughter? Probably both. And it’s a rare nod from the show to the Doctor losing the last connection he has to his home planet. It’s noticeable that from this point on he very rarely makes any reference to going home. It was a dream he no doubt held for his granddaughter’s sake more than his own.
The TARDIS lands in some caves and Ian and Barbara go exploring while the Doctor stays in the ship to find his notes on Dido. The two find the planet abandoned, the city destroyed, and the wreck of the Earth ship below. And just when they’re convinced there’s nothing left alive, they encounter Koquillion.
Ian returns to the TARDIS to find the Doctor and Koquillion unceremoniously throws Barbara off a cliff. She miraculously survives this and is found by Vicki who hides her in the ship. Koquillion then blasts the tunnels to trap the Doctor and Ian inside. The Doctor is somewhat bemused as to what could have changed the friendly Didoans into being so violent and aggressive.
The Doctor and Ian make their way out of the cave system and to the space ship where the Doctor quickly works out that Bennett is Koquillion. When he killed a crewmember on the ship, he was arrested but the ship crashed before his crime could be radioed to Earth. When the friendly locals invited them all to a celebration, he blew them all up to cover his crime. Pretending to be the evil Koquillion to a very young Vicki would enable her to bolster his story about the unfriendly natives.
The Doctor confronts Bennett in a Didoan ceremonial chamber known as the People’s Hall of Judgement. And judgement is what Bennett is about to get.
You destroyed a whole planet to save your own skin. You’re insane.The Doctor, The Rescue
As it transpires, not all of the Didoans died in the explosion. Hiding all this time, they appear to chase a terrified Bennett to his death. The Doctor exposits later that he doubts they’ll let a rescue ship – or anyone else – land on their planet again.
The Doctor wakes up in the TARDIS having been carried there by the two survivors. It doesn’t take him long to ask an orphaned Vicki to join them. And with nothing waiting for her either on Astra or back home on Earth, she quickly agrees. The little TARDIS family has found its new fourth member.
As the TARDIS grinds into eternity, the crew hopes that the next destination will afford them some time and space to rest. Unfortunately for them, they’re in a television show and that would make a boring episode.