|Dates||Jan. 2, 1965 -
Jan. 9, 1965
With William Hartnell, William Russell,
Jacqueline Hill, Maureen O'Brien.
Written by David Whitaker. Script-edited by Dennis Spooner.
Directed by Christopher Barry. Produced by Verity Lambert.
|Synopsis: A young girl and crippled man are being held captive by the ruthless Koquillion. But it's not long before the Doctor begins to doubt Koquillion's motivations.|
The Inconsequential Rescue by Matthew Kresal 8/3/21
How do you follow up The Dalek Invasion of Earth? The biggest story in Doctor Who's history up to that point, not to mention one that saw its first companion exit. For the production team in late 1964, there was only one answer to that question: by introducing a new companion in the very next story. That story, lasting a mere two episodes, was to be The Rescue.
On the surface, it was a story that had a lot going for it. It came from the pen of outgoing script editor David Whitaker, who had previously penned the two-part Edge of Destruction. Such a contained and character-driven piece as that story offered a route for this story to take. Raymond Cusick returns to do the sets, not to mention Christopher Barry as director, all of which likewise boded well for it. Add on the trio of William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill, and William Russell and the introduction of Maureen O'Brien as Vicki, and one should have a classic.
Well, to be sure, this isn't a bad story by any means. First and foremost, it's a vehicle for introducing Vicki, and, in that regard, it succeeds beautifully. She's a young lady, practically alone on a planet with the invalid Bennett and terrorized by an alien monster. Meeting up with the TARDIS crew post Susan's departure, they're a perfect fit for each other. It helps that O'Brien has instant chemistry with the main cast, particularly with Hartnell's Doctor, which is definitely in her favor. True, there's a moment of overacting by her in the second episode but, all things considered, it's a solid first go at introducing a new character into an established series.
It's also got some wonderful stuff for Hartnell. It's here, after ten stories, that the First Doctor as we've come to know him is, finally, apparent. He's in high spirits, perhaps surprisingly given the previous story (leaving a gap nicely mined in the spin-off fiction) with all traces of the slightly more sinister early days of the character behind him. It's a chance for Hartnell to show a lighter, even more playful, side to the character he'd been playing for a year at that point, as well as showing a paternal side when it comes to Vicki. What's more, there are shades of the Doctor we've come to know later on, as he takes on the role of investigator into events, even if it means leaving Ian and Barbara behind.
On the other hand, The Rescue isn't without problems. At two episodes, it feels oddly inconsequential. What does happen feels oddly contrived involving the invalid Bennet, the ruthless Koquillion and a seemingly deserted alien world. Whitaker goes for a hail-mary pass of a twist late in episode two, one which just about saves the story but, ultimately, still leaves some glaring plot holes behind. It also effectively sidelines Ian and Barbara as characters, leaving little for them to do except have their chemistry with each other, Vicki and the Doctor. Given how well Whitaker handled the two-parter, character-driven format in The Edge of Destruction, it feels like something of a letdown.
At the end of the day, perhaps, there are worse stories than The Rescue. There are also far better ones. Yet, perhaps more than anything else, it stands out as much for introducing the first new companion as it does for being utterly inconsequential. Indeed, one would have to wait until the Davison era (and the return of two-episode serials) to see such inconsequential tales in televised Who again.
So, could be better, could be worse.