Dr. Moo opens the door to Koquillian.
The preceding story, The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, ended with Susan vacating the TARDIS to live out her life on Earth so that can only mean one thing: There’s a new companion on the way! Those familiar with the show’s methods today will be expecting this of course, but The Rescue marked the first time it ever happened.
This story doesn’t feel like it’s going to take that approach at first though. Vicki is introduced just as any other supporting one-off character might be, but even from her first scenes Maureen O’Brien wins over the audience. She’s one of only two survivors aboard a crashed spaceship on the planet Dido, along with a man named Bennett. Vicki was ill with fever after the crash so she wasn’t present when the Didonians hosted the crew for a reception only to blow them all up, with only a critically injured Bennett escaping this. Vicki and Bennett never go far away though because they are being watched over by a lone Didonian named Koquillian. He tells Vicki that he’s only doing this to protect them both, as the other Didonians don’t know they survived.
This is the scenario awaiting the Doctor, Ian and Barbara upon their arrival. The Doctor is out of sorts at this point, presumably after leaving his granddaughter to marry some guy she barely knows, so he sends Ian and Barbara off outside to explore – cue incredibly un-PC hand gesture from Ian that would get him fired if he tried it today – only for them to run into Koquillian after walking just a short distance down the cave they’re in.
He sends Ian to fetch the Doctor but then blows up the cave and throws Barbara off a cliff. She is apparently totally uninjured by this tremendous fall, and she is taken in by Vicki. As thanks she later brutally murders Vicki’s beloved pet in cold blood, as you do.
The Doctor refuses to believe Ian’s claims about Koqullian being an evil git so sets off to investigate. After finding Vicki and Barbara he learns about Vicki’s plight and goes to speak to Bennett. When he doesn’t find Bennett what he does find is a secret passageway out of the ship from Bennett’s room leading to some chamber somewhere on Dido where Bennett is revealed to be not only uninjured but also the perpetrator behind killing the crew. And now he’s dressing up, pretending to be a Didonian named Koquillian, to keep Vicki in check so she will back up his story and help him evade justice. Then two other Didionians appear from nowhere and kill him, the Doctor invites Vicki to travel in the TARDIS and they all go off on a trip to ancient Rome.
So that’s the simply ridiculous plot – Let’s talk about Bennett’s plan. It turns out that he was awaiting trial for murdering a fellow crewmember before the ship crashed. When the crash occurred he saw his chance to off his crewmates at the Didonians’ civic reception. However there’s one small flaw: Vicki’s not there.
So he now has two choices.
1- Kill Vicki.
2- Come up with an extremely elaborate plan involving a mask, a silly voice and a complicated system of voice recordings to keep her out of his room, all while maintaining a charade of being injured. One that he’ll presumably have to stick with for the rest of his life.
And which one does he choose?
Not only does he do that but also the Doctor apparently manages to figure it out before he even has the chance to go meet Bennett. Otherwise how else do you explain him bashing in Bennett’s bedroom door with a cinderblock?
But these are all issues that I can overlook and that’s because of the story’s humerous tone. It’s all in the dialogue from 60s Who regular David Whitaker – the Robert Holmes of his day – with the scenes between Ian and the Doctor being particular highlights. The way the script switches from the darker themes to the comedy and back again seems effortless and the actors all pitch it perfectly. It’s easy to forget that William Hartnell has his roots in comic roles but here he gets to show it once again. Special mention must be given to William Russell going off-script at one point when he calls Koquillian by the nickname “Old Cocky-lickin” for no reason except that he can.
But the star of the show is guest actor Ray Barrett as Koquillian. It’s everything about him that all comes together to make him a fantastic villain, daft as the character’s storyline may be. It’s the costume, the high-pitched voice, knocking things out of Vicki’s hands just for fun, emerging from behind hidden doors like a panto villain and best of all the turn of phrase as he PutS EMPHasIS on the wrONG SYLlabLEs for no discernible reason.
So while it may seem that The Rescue is just a story of pure filler existing only to give us a replacement for Susan it is so much more than that. In the absence of a proper plot it’s all about the characters and how they interact and, with what little we see of her, Vicki fits in with the Doctor, Ian and Barbara so much better than Susan ever did.
So is it worth a watch? Yes, definitely. If you can only find a spare fifty minutes today then you should give it a try. I think you’ll have a great time.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.