The Rescue
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - The Rescue

Author Ian Marter Cover image
Published 1988
ISBN 0 426 20308 9
First Edition Cover Tony Clark

Back cover blurb: From his one previous visit the Doctor remembers the inhabitants of the planet Dido as a gentle, peace-loving people. But when he returns, things have changed dramatically. It seems that the Didoi have brutally massacred the crew of the crashed spaceliner Astra. Even now they are threatening the lives of the sole survivors, Bennett and the orphan girl Vicki. Why have the Didoi apparently turned against their peaceful natures? Can Bennett and Vicki survive until the rescue ship from Earth arrives? And who is the mysterious Koquillion?


Farewell Ian Marter! by Andrew Feryok 4/9/07

Vicki stared at the two strangers, unsure whether she was being sent up or whether they were really attempting to deceive her. "You're playing games with me," she eventually accused them. "I don't believe you at all. The Doctor a time-traveller? It's too silly for words. I don't believe he's even a doctor. He took hardly any notice of Barbara's injuries, you know."
The Rescue page 81, Chapter 8
According to the inside cover, this was the last story to be adapted by Ian Marter before his death and was completed with the help of "NR" whom I assume is Nigel Robinson. While Marter has been known for making his adaptations of Doctor Who episodes a bit more graphic than other authors, this is surprisingly subdued. Then again, there isn't much death in the story. Only the death of "Sandy," Vicki's monster, is gruesome.

As to the story itself, The Rescue has to be one of Doctor Who's most forgotten little adventures. It has always held a special place for me since it was the first William Hartnell episode I ever owned on VHS (along with The Romans in the same set). The two parter has a unique feel to it due it coming right after the epic Dalek Invasion of Earth and the traumatic experience of Susan leaving the TARDIS crew. Thus, this story has the feeling of both an epilogue to those adventures and an interlude before the more dangerous The Romans and The Web Planet to come. Dido is a very lonely planet and is captured well by Marter's excellent descriptions. You get the sense that this planet is a desert island in the middle of space which was once home to a great civilization now nothing more than spectral ghosts. I especially love the new additions which Ian Marter has made in which Ian, Barbara and Vicki, in trying to find their way back to the TARDIS in the cave, stumble across the lost underground city of the Didoi which is truly impressive and helps to expand their culture and give them a sense of ancient awe which was only glimpsed in the original episode through the magnificent sets of the Didoi Hall of Judgement.

There have been many additions to the story making it much more of a "special edition" version of the story like Doctor Who and the Daleks. Unfortunately, not many of the additions are necessary and are only there for the purposes of padding the two part story out to further length so that it can cover the minimum 100 page requirement. The ones that do work include, which I mentioned above, the addition of the sequence in the Didoi city which helps to explain how Ian, Barbara, Vicki, and the Doctor got back to the ship when it was clearly located in a not-so-easy to reach place. Some other cool sequences include a new alternate death for Bennett in which he is overwhelmed by a crowd of ghostly Didoi rather than two. And instead of falling off a random cliff edge, Bennett is instead led to an ancient ceremonial pit where he falls in and is devoured by a giant worm creature! This worm creature comes back to haunt Ian, Barbara and Vicki as well when they are having their adventures trying to reach the TARDIS. The Didoi themselves are also different. Rather than being human-looking creatures in silly costumes, they now have long faces with large bulbous eyes which make them resemble the Cantina players in Star Wars.

While these additions are welcome, most of the others are not. In particular, there are some really bad sequences aboard the rescue ship which is trying to be like the "regular crew" seen in Warrior's Gate. Unfortunately, their sequences really slow down the book (especially in the prologue) and the sequence of the TARDIS nearly colliding with the ship twice just stretches believability. Bennett's guilt as the true murderer in the story is broadcast much more obviously in the book than by the performances in the original episode and it is clear almost from the moment we meet him that he is up to no good and hiding something. There are also numerous new gratuitous scenes in which Ian, Barbara or Vicki wonder off into the wreckage, are followed by one of their concerned friends, and end up jumping them by accident out of fear. The sequence is tedious at first, but is repeated several times and gets really tiresome. Also, the addition of new sequences fails to answer many of the questions left by the original episode. Just what is that trap on the cliff with the swords doing in the cave? What was its purpose? Was it guarding the cave the TARDIS landed in? That can't be since it leads to a dead end cliff. Is it guarding the Hall of Judgement? That can't be it either since you would have to be starting from the dead end cliff. And with its narrow ledges, it seems a little too inaccessible for regular ceremonial use. So why is it there? Also, are the Didoi ghosts or survivors? The original episode implied that they might be ghosts, while the end of the book implies that they might be survivors. Which are they?

I hate to add more negatives, but I must also point out the relationship between the Doctor, Ian and Barbara seems to have regressed in the book. While the original episode seemed to show the TARDIS crew growing even more close with Susan's absence, the book seems to portray them nearly at each other's throats again! Perhaps when researching the era, Marter was only familiar with An Unearthly Child and The Daleks when such a relationship was in place? The Doctor in particular, while acting heroic and sharp witted (particularly in his wonderful confrontation with Bennett at the end) seems to be much more cranky and humorless than I remember. And Ian lacks none of the confidence and charisma that Russell had injected into the character by this point in the series. On the good side, Barbara is competently recreated and Vicki's character is completely spot on and captures O'Brien's tortured and angry performance perfectly!

Overall, this wasn't a bad story. Aside from some gratutious padding and some trouble with a few characters, the book is very well written, expands the two part story very well, and explores the Didoi even more. This is not the type of story you would think of Ian Marter ending his reign as a Target author on, but it works very well and will definitely satisfy. If you are a fan of the television episode, definitely check this out. If not, check it out anyway. 8/10