Doctor Who – The Rescue Review (or How to Turn a Two Part Filler Story into An Underappreciated Gem Just By Having Fun Acting It Out)

In the last episode of Dr Who, Susan was left behind on 22nd Century Earth, and for those of you who are familiar with the show, that usually means one thing – a new companion will join the show in the near future.

And right enough, that is exactly what happens in the very next story – a two part character driven piece known as The Rescue.

Doctor Who – The Rescue Review: What’s This One About?

Ah 1964 – A Time When You Could Mock the Mentally Infirm Without Repercussion

As you might have guessed, this is the one that introduces the new companion – Vicki (played by Maureen O’Brien)

Having crash landed on the Planet Dido, Vicki is stranded and awaiting an earth shuttle to rescue her along with fellow crew-member, Bennett. The reason there are only two of them is that upon crash-landing, the Didonian people apparently invited everyone to a civic reception and then promptly blew up the venue, killing everyone except for Bennett – who was badly injured but managed to crawl his way back to the wreckage of the shuttle. Vicki, incidentally, did not attend the civic reception as she was ill with a fever at the time and was left back at the ship.

Vicki and Bennett don’t ever stray far from the wreckage though as the are regularly menaced by the evil, dangerous and masked Didonian, Koquillian. He maintains to Vicki that he is protecting them from his people since they don’t realise the two of them survived.

Well anyway, with that in mind, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara turn up. The Doctor seems a bit distracted and out of it – which I suppose is the natural response to leaving your 15 year old granddaughter stranded on earth with a twee Scottish farmer she’s only just met – and decides to stay in the TARDIS and let Ian & Barbara explore. In a wonderfully politically incorrect moment, Ian suggests that the Doctor might be showing signs of mental frailty by using an insensitive “gaga” hand gesture and stoop.

Ian and Barbara emerge from the cave the TARDIS has landed in and are confronted by Koquillian. He sends Ian back into the cave to get the Doctor, then blows up the entrance to the cave and throws Barbara off a cliff. What a cad! As it happens, Barbara is completely unscathed from her massive fall (erm…ok) and is helped into the shuttle by Vicki.

This brings the Doctor into the action. He has been to Dido before and can’t believe what Ian tells him about Koquillian, since the Didonians are a peaceful race. When the pair of them manage to find an alternative route out of the caves and get down to the shuttle, he hears all about Vicki’s ordeal and decides to go and speak to Bennett in an attempt to solve the Koquillian problem.

But the supposedly injured Bennett isn’t in his room. Where could he be? The Doctor finds a secret exit out of the room and finds his way to the venue of the civic reception, where he finds Koquillian. And would you believe it – it turns out

Of course, if you got caught in the act it was still an embarrassing situation

Bennett is Koquillian. After conveniently explaining his quite frankly ridiculous plan, Bennett tries to kill the Doctor, but a couple of Didonians turn up and save him, killing Bennett in the process.

With all that settled, Vicki is invited to join the TARDIS crew, which she accepts.

Oh, and during episode 2, Barbara murders Vicki’s pet – Sandy the Sandmonster – in cold blood. I always knew she was a wrong-un.

Thoughts

Alright, let’s get straight to Bennett’s plan…

It turns out that Bennett had murdered a crew member on board the ship and was awaiting trial before the ship crashed. After it crashed, he seized the opportunity to get away with it by blowing up the venue of the civic reception, killing all his crew-mates and the Didonians into the bargain. But Vicki wasn’t at the reception and so wasn’t killed.

So he two options…

1) Set up an extremely elaborate plan based upon living a double life as the masked Koquillian – complete with funny high pitched voice – regularly terrorising Vicki until the rescue

Koquillian’s Pulling Technique needs a bit of work.

ship turned up to save them both. All the while, he would have to pretend to be badly injured, spending most of his days lying flat on a bed. Then beyond that he would have to create a secret exit to the ship that would allow him to get in and out without Vicki realising and also set up an elaborate (in 1960s terms) system to ensure that she never went into his room when he wasn’t there. Then, when he and Vicki are rescued, he’d have to find some way to bluff his way past the fact he was never injured in the first place or alternatively continue his injury lie indefinitely. All to ensure that Vicki can ‘back up his story’, even though she was unconscious during the whole thing.

or

2) He could have just killed Vicki and got on with his life.

Guess which he chose?

I’m sure I’m not the only person to point out the stupidity of the whole thing, but nevertheless it has to be brought up. OK, I can understand the idea that if he was left alone, people would ask questions, and Vicki being there would back up his innocence, but come on…

Maybe he just did it to relieve the boredom.

And on the subject of Bennett’s plan, we have to assume that the Doctor manages to work it out immediately, before he’s even met him, otherwise his behaviour when trying to enter

But at least he’s got Menacing down to a fine art

Bennett’s room is completely unacceptable on every level. Picture the scene – you knock on someone’s door who you’ve never met before and ask to speak to them; “You can’t come in” is the response.

So what do you do?

1) Say “Well I’d like to talk to you, so when you’re ready I’ll be through in the other room”

or

2) Smash the door in with a cinder block.

And guess which one the Doctor chose?

The final thing that doesn’t make sense about this story is the Didonian race. It turns out in the end that at least a couple of them have survived, but the Doctor mentions that even before Bennett blew them all up, there were only a couple of hundred of them anyway. A species just couldn’t survive with such low numbers.

Oh well…

Moving on from that, the interesting thing about this story is the subtle move towards conversational humour. In particular, the early scenes in the TARDIS with the three lead characters was done in a very amusing and satisfying way. My personal favourite exchange is the one between Barbara and the Doctor when she was trying to let him know that the TARDIS had materialised while he was asleep.

Barbara: “Oh but Doctor, the trembling has stopped”
The Doctor: “Oh my dear, I’m so glad you’re feeling better
Barbara: “No, not me…”

That always makes me laugh.

Kids, if ever someone doesn’t answer their door to you, feel free to cave it in with any large objects you can find nearby. That’s what the Doctor does.

An honorary mention must go to William Russell going off-script and referring to Koquillian as “Old Cocky-lickin”.

And speaking of Koquillian as a character in his own right rather than as part of Bennett’s plan, I have to nail my colours to the mast and say I think he’s brilliant. It’s a combination of his voice, his menacing nature (doing things like knocking things out of Vicki’s hands for the fun of it, or emerging out of hidden doors like a pantomime villain), the costume, his weapon – a magic spanner – and especially his turn of phrase (which is more to do with Ray Barrett’s over-the-top delivery and seeming inability to read the punctuation in the script rather than the quality of scripting).

Overall he’s probably only got about three speaking scenes, but all of them are class. Some of his better lines include…

“You are strangers here. Answer my question!”  (eh?)
“You have been outside. STAND UP!”
“In future you are to go no further than FIFTY YARDS FROM THIS SHIP”
“I’m going to talk to Bennett; remember you both owe your lives to me”
(Why would anyone say that?)
(In a really dramatic voice) “I am your only protection!!!!”

And of course, the line that manages to be memorable when it has no right to be…

“It is Koquillian!!! Open the door” (he’s saying that just for show since there’s nobody in Bennett’s room. You have to admire the dedication he shows to his plan.)

They might not read as all that great, but the delivery is top notch. A bit like Yartek: Leader of the Alien Voord and The City Administrator.

As I say, he’s like a Panto Villain. All that is missing is the maniacal laugh and the sound of children booing.

Finally, I have to mention the quality incidental music. They’ve reused the same eerily effective music from the Daleks, which adds to the whole thing wonderfully. Sadly this music will only be used in two more stories, but as I’ve said before,

Wait, what?! Bennett was Koquillian? That just doesn’t make sense!!

good incidental music really helps a TV show or film along. In this case, it’s spot on.

Doctor Who – The Rescue Review: Should You Watch The Rescue?

On the surface, the Rescue is a ‘nothing’ story. There isn’t much of a plot to it and there are only 6 speaking roles (one of which is a voice on an intercom). Much like the Edge of Destruction, this is just a two-episode filler – a character driven means to an end (in this case, to introduce Vicki).

In the absence of a substantial plot, it becomes completely character driven, and in this case – unlike the Edge of Destruction – the characterisation is spot on. You’ve got a panto villain, a new companion to introduce (and from what we see of her, Maureen O’Brien has already outshone Carole Ann Ford) and a regular cast who appear to be having a lot of fun acting it out.

You can’t help but like it, and I would highly recommend it if you have 45 minutes to spare, even if just to see Koquillian.

One thing though is that it isn’t really is exciting. And so credit must be given to the BBC for making it seem like a gripping and tense affair in the trailer for the release of the DVD. Take a look at it, and I’m sure you’ll agree they do a great job of making you want to watch it.


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One Response to Doctor Who – The Rescue Review (or How to Turn a Two Part Filler Story into An Underappreciated Gem Just By Having Fun Acting It Out)

  1. […] (unmade) The Fragile Yellow Arc Of Fragrance (unmade) Planet Of Giants The Dalek Invasion Of Earth The Rescue The Romans The Web Planet The Crusade The Space Museum The Chase The Time Meddler Galaxy Four The […]

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