Doctor Who (Classic): S02E03 “The Rescue”

Season 2
Directed by Christopher Barry
Written by David Whitaker

“The Dalek Invasion of Earth” saw the biggest change to the series when it saw the departure of an original companion and granddaughter of the lead at that. After plans changed in writing of that serial which would have seen an earlier version of Jenny step right in and replace Susan instead had Jenny stay behind as well, a spot was left opened and a character was needed to step in. While the series very well could have stuck with just Ian and Barbara as companions, that was not to be. Instead, “The Rescue” was created for the purpose of introducing a new companion for the first time since “An Unearthly Child” and getting her on to the TARDIS accounting for its short two episode length. While clearly “The Rescue” was merely filler episodes, the serial was written by David Whitaker who served as both the first script editor up through the previous serial and the Season 1 highlight “The Edge of Destruction” which also a two episode filler serial, and a more hastily filmed bottle episode/serial at that.

We will have time to talk more about Vicki later, but on the surface she shares much in common with Susan. She’s a younger woman from the future (though unlike Susan she is from Earth) with a fairly high voice. She was originally supposed to look even more like Susan since the producers wanted her to die her hair black, but thankfully she turned them down because the last thing we needed was for it to just be a straight replacement of Susan. I’ve discussed before how important change is to keeping the series fresh and going, but that doesn’t mean they embraced the idea out of the gate. At least in this case it can be excused since the addition of Vicki acts as a replacement Susan not just for the show, but also for The Doctor who just lost both the closest person to him and his granddaughter at that. It makes sense that The Doctor would see Susan in Vicki and have her spring him out of the state he is in at the beginning of the episode where is age is showing and he is more interested in napping than exploring.

In accordance with its purpose the serial starts off with Vicki and generally keeps her as the main focus. While it isn’t nearly as small of a cast as “The Edge of Destruction” which featured a grand total of 4 characters, it isn’t much bigger with basically 5 characters, another appearing by voice only, another two in two brief non speaking scenes, and a creature who lasts mere seconds before being killed. Outside of our three leads and now Vicki, all that leaves us with are Koquillion and Bennett with the former doing nothing but being slightly menacing while the latter mostly just spends the time feigning illness.

The twist that Koquillion is really Bennett had murdered everyone else is one I admittedly didn’t see coming the first time around but it didn’t quite make an impact. All of those events happened offscreen and before the events of the episode even happened so we are never really given much of a reason to care. It’s a nice twist in theory with the rather generic looking Koquillion merely being the religious garb of the locals and it ties in well with an earlier incident involving a threatening looking creature which turns out merely to be Vicki’s pet, but in practice it just kind of falls flat. The Doctor’s confrontation of Bennett is remarkably casual until a brief struggle and it all comes to an end with a deus ex machina as two locals appear out of nowhere and slowly pursue Bennett until he falls to his death untouched.

There really isn’t all that much to the serial. I recognize that it is about as long as a modern day Doctor Who, but the modern day episodes are much quicker paced to make up for that. “The Rescue” is about equally paced to a typical Doctor Who serial of the time, but at only two episodes we are left without much of substance. Ian and The Doctor spend much of the episode doing bugger all (especially since the latter can and does easily figure out the plot as soon as he sees Koquillion) and even Barbara is only a supporting character to the main plot. The serial served its basic purpose to introduce Vicki but never rose above that simple goal.

Grade: C

Stray Observations

– “The Rescue” was unexpectedly one of the most successful and watched serials in Doctor Who’s run
– It is also the first time which depicts the TARDIS as generating a sound when it materializes/dematerializes.
– While Vicki mentions she left the Earth in 2493, I’m not sure if we are supposed to take that for the current year (considering her age it probably isn’t far off). I do appreciate whenever shows pick an odd year instead of having it happen to be on a multiple of 10 or 25 since it just looks more realistic.
– When Barbara murders a friendly creature thinking it was a threat I know she was trying to do it in defense of Vicki, but it still feel off seeing a companion use a gun and the Doctor not only being okay with it, but also okay with using one himself later (well a staff that shoots).
– Why did The Doctor confront Bennett alone? He had plenty of a chance to get Barbara and Ian’s help and instead decided to take on a larger, younger man and needed to be saved by the aforementioned deus ex machina.
– Being a time traveler The Doctor should know full well how to dispose of a Bennett

– I do appreciate the touch though of The Doctor figuring out Bennett’s ruse because he had already been to the planet Dido and was familiar with the inhabitants.
– Thankfully Vicki joins the TARDIS crew willingly instead of just being kidnapped the way Barbara and Ian were. Right off the bat she is an eager traveler and actually wanted there by the other three preventing a rehash of the Season 1 conflicts.
– This Week in Cliffhangers: In the first version I viewed there was nothing much to speak of as The Doctor just merely wishes for a rest as their next stop, but after looking it up and finding an alternate copy, instead I found that there was a proper one. The TARDIS materializes on a cliff and falls over before rolling the credits which is a heck of an upgrade in cliffhangers. Shame on you first internet source.

Next Up: “The Romans” on Friday as we return to historicals for the first time since Season 1 and hard to believe it is a coincidence that it is a follow-up to a serial set on a planet called Dido.