The Rescue ****

Maureen O'Brien joins the Tardis as space orphan Vicki in this neglected gem...

Comments
Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
The Rescue ****

Season 2 – Story 11

"Oh yes, I like the Doctor. It's funny but as soon as he walked in I felt that you could trust him. But why does he wear those funny clothes and that long white hair?" - Vicki

Storyline
An Earth spaceship en route to Astra in 2493 has crash-landed on the planet Dido. Most of the survivors were murdered by the inhabitants, but teenage orphan Vicki and a badly wounded man called Bennett have been spared. Now, as they await the arrival of a rescue ship, an intimidating reptilian creature, Koquillion, watches over them. Still adjusting to Susan's departure, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara land in a cave near the crash site. The old man has visited Dido before and insists that the locals are friendly. He confronts the real villain then invites Vicki to join them on their travels …

First transmissions
1. The Powerful Enemy - Saturday 2 January 1965
2. Desperate Measures - Saturday 9 January 1965

Production
Model filming: November 1964 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: December 1964 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who - William Hartnell
Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton - William Russell
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien
Bennett - Ray Barrett
Koquillion - Sydney Wilson (Ray Barrett)
Space captain - Tom Sheridan

Crew
Writer - David Whitaker
Incidental music - Tristram Cary
Story editor - Dennis Spooner
Designer - Raymond P Cusick
Producer - Verity Lambert
Director - Christopher Barry

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
Much like the teenage castaway in its focus, this fleeting two-parter looks somewhat forlorn - marooned among such big-hitters as The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Romans (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Tardis) and The Web Planet (the story that put the ant into panto). But I have to throw The Rescue a lifeline. It's the very first Hartnell story I watched so I've long had a soft spot for it, and I'd even go so far as to call it a neglected gem.

As well as introducing new companion Vicki - a job it does effectively - The Rescue gives the whole series a subtle reboot. For original viewers this was a new year (January 1965), and for the cast and crew it marked the start of the second production run. "Maybe we're going to see a new side to the Doctor," says Barbara. Indeed. The tone is lighter, the regulars look refreshed and there's a palpable air of confidence. With David Whitaker writing as a freelancer and Dennis Spooner filling his shoes as story editor (uncredited on screen), you sense they know exactly where they're going with the characters.

In one of the loveliest Tardis scenes ever, Ian and Barbara are amazed to find the Doctor snoozing, having slept through a landing. "Oh, but Doctor the trembling's stopped," says Barbara. "Oh, my dear, I'm so glad you're feeling better," says the old man, patting her hands. "No, not me! The Ship." All manner of bumbling and funny business ensues, before he absent-mindedly asks Susan to open the doors. Abruptly, the mood turns as it hits home - for him and the viewer - that his granddaughter has left for good.

Her replacement shows promise. Maureen O'Brien, then 21, gives an accomplished performance as Vicki (we'd never learn her surname), and you can believe that the Doctor would take to her instantly. Sadly, exactly like Susan, her character begins well, but would be short-changed by subsequent writers, often becoming (in O'Brien's own words years later) "an amoeba".

The recent transfer from antediluvian Lime Grove to the better-equipped Riverside Studios is a boon. Christopher Barry's direction approaches an epic quality in certain sequences, especially the denouement between the Doctor and Bennett in the eerily lit, colonnaded Hall of Judgment. (The eagle-eyed may spot this is a clever redressing of the cave-ledge set.) Barry's reuse of Tristram Cary's unsettling musique concrete from the first Dalek story also pays off - most startlingly when Koquillion first appears beside the Tardis.

One has to wonder how convincing Bennett's masquerade as Koquillion was in 1965. Now, after decades of Scooby-Doo "shock reveals", it all seems a tad obvious. Even so, the Doctor's deductions are a pleasure to watch and the tusked, stalk-eyed mask is a triumph. More than can be said for Vicki's pet sand beast "Sandy". One of the dodgier monsters of the period - a lumbering alligator-cum-eiderdown - it still manages somehow to be endearing, and you almost buy Vicki's tragedienne wails after Barbara blasts it dead.

In their own quiet ways, Vicki and The Rescue are both little charmers. Topping things off, there's a clever cliffhanger (well, more of a "cliff-tumbler" as we see the police box toppling off a ledge) which, for me, makes literal the shake-up dealt upon the cast and the programme.

Fresh faces. Ambitious experiments. A more active Doctor. Shifty villains. Gravity one minute, levity the next . . . Welcome to 1965 Who!

- - -

Radio Times archive material

New series regular Maureen O'Brien was profiled in the introductory feature.

The first RT letter published in 1965 commented on the recent Dalek serial.

RT billings 
1. The Powerful Enemy
2. Desperate Measures

- - - 

[Available on BBC DVD]