After saying goodbye, the Doctor quickly activates the TARDIS, leaving Susan watching in numb disbelief as the old police box fades from existence, and she has no choice but to leave with David, dropping her key to the Ship forlornly in the rubble.
The very best Doctor Who stories are the tiny ones. The ones that are limited and a little bit claustrophobic, that don’t try to do too much, and are not in any way “epic.” I’m talking about the stories where the Doctor arrives in a place, makes a difference in the lives of just one or two people, then moves on again. The Rescue is an excellent example of this. It has one purpose only, to introduce Maureen O’Brien as Vicki as the newest member of the TARDIS crew, without seeing the Doctor and his friends embroiled in big, dramatic events.
In fact, there’s not much to say about The Rescue, other than it’s one of the most underrated serials over the past fifty years of Doctor Who. For one thing, the story is coherent, it moves at a good pace over the two parts—which is more than can be said of The Sensorites, for example—taking place over the course of a single afternoon and into the early night hours on the planet Dido.
But that’s not all. Maureen O’Brien’s introductory performance as Vicki Pallister is beautifully understated, and it’s clear right away that O’Brien is not replacing Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Vicki is an orphan who is completely alone apart from Bennett, the one other survivor of an apparent massacre of the Earth rocket’s crew by the Dido people, to say nothing of her being bullied by the grotesque Koquillion. Vicki’s experiences have made her unsure of herself in many ways, and this is reflected in O’Brien’s performance. At the same time, she is right to be upset when Ian, Barbara, and the Doctor come into her life from nowhere, and act as if they have all the answers. I would be upset, too.
But while Vicki isn’t Susan, she does fill a similar space almost immediately in the Doctor’s affections, and I was glad that Whitaker didn’t completely gloss over the fact that leaving Susan behind in the previous story affected the Doctor very deeply. The relationship between the Doctor and Vicki is immediately less parental, and more like that of an uncle and niece, and it actually works better, because the role of disciplinarian, and make the Doctor into more of a coconspirator, someone with whom Vicki—and us—can perhaps be more open and honest.
Of course, it’s not really Doctor Who unless there’s some adversary to play off, and the revelation that Bennett and Koquillion are one and the same is a genuine surprise, even if the clues were there all along. Bennett, of course, never expected anyone other than the rescue ship from Earth to arrive on Dido, and he certainly never expected to encounter someone who had visited Dido before, and is familiar with the local customs. The Doctor confronts Bennett as Koquillion, and he comes clean immediately, and his logic for his charade makes a certain kind of sense even. What is less satisfying is the sudden reappearance of the Dido people to save the day, but it’s a minor point.
Having welcomed Vicki onboard, the TARDIS arrives at it’s next destination—teetering precariously on the edge of cliff. After a moment, the Ship falls…
What did you think of The Resuce? Tell me in the comments below, and be sure to check out the image gallery for this story!
An abundance of adventure: DVD trailer for Doctor Who: The Rescue and Doctor Who: The Romans
Daniel is the owner and Managing Editor of Time and The – !. He's been a fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker regenerate into Peter Davison on his local PBS station as a kid. He launched Time and The – ! in 2011 after having the bright (?) idea to watch every Doctor Who story from the beginning and blog about it. (Yeah, he's way behind.)