It's 1964 and Doctor Who has just featured a major change in it's status quo. The Doctor's granddaughter and companion, Susan had left at the end of the previous adventure, The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Nowadays we know that when a companion leaves, the new one usually joins in the next adventure but in 1964, the British public weren't certain. Would the Doctor only be joined by Ian and Barbara? They had to wait for the next adventure to find out...
But I'm sure you've guessed, that this adventure, The Rescue, did feature a new companion, Vicki, played wonderfully by actress, Maureen O'Brien.
Having crash landed on the planet Dido, Vicki is stranded on the planet with the only other survivor, Bennett who is restricted to his quarters due to an injury he sustained in the crash. But Vicki and Bennett aren't alone, there is the deadly Koquillion that they have to deal with on a daily basis. All the other members of the Didonian race were killed in a mysterious secondary explosion after the survivors were invited to a feast. But who set up the explosion and why were they trying to make Didonian race look like the villains in the whole affair?
The Doctor, Ian and Barbara turn up with the Doctor being a bit out of it for the first part of the story. This was due to the shock of Susan leaving them I suspect but he quickly gets over it and gets involved in the current adventure. With the Doctor heading back to the TARDIS for a little nap, Ian and Barbara leave the cave that the ship had arrived in and are quickly confronted by Koquillion. Koquillion sends Ian back to get the Doctor and then throws Barbara off the side of a cliff. In a big stretch of the imagination, the next time we see Barbara, she is lying at the bottom of the cliff without a mark on her but she meets Vicki who helps her take shelter from the evil character in her spaceship.
This then brings the Doctor neatly into the action who has been on the planet Dido before. But he doesn't believe Ian about Koquillion, all the Didonians he had met before were peaceful he explains. The pair manage to find a different way through the caves and into the spaceship where they listen to Vicki telling them about the baddie and what he is like. When the Doctor has finished listening to Vicki's story, he decides to go and talk to Bennett in his room. But Bennett isn't there. The Doctor miraculously finds an escape route from Bennetts' room and he follows the route which takes him to the chamber where the feast had been held. There he finds Koquillion but the Doctor has worked it all out. Bennett is Koquillion. After he explains his mysterious escape which requires another leap of imagination, Bennett proceeds to try and kill the Doctor before some surviving Didonians turn about and accidently kill Bennett in the process.
With all that settled, Vicki realises that she will be completely alone on the planet while she waits for the rescue ship to get her. But the Doctor invites her on board the TARDIS to join Ian, Barbara and himself on their adventures.
But to me he had two options. He could have blown everyone up at the feast and created his double life in an attempt to terrorise Vicki until the rescue ship turned up. He would spend all the time on board the crashed ship in his room while periodically making trips to the cave to dress up and then go back to the ship. But to do this he had to create an equally elaborate plan to explain why Vicki could never enter his room. Then he would have to create another lie to explain why he was never actually injured to make sure Vicki backed up his story as to the nature of the people who lived on the planet.
Or, he could just have murdered Vicki too and gotten on with his life!
But guess which one he chose. He went the hard way and it makes the whole story feel quite stupid. I do understand that if he was alone then people would begin to ask questions and Vicki would be there as his innocence but maybe he was bored and decided to dress up and terrorise the girl out of some sick game.
And then there is the whole thing with Bennett's room. No one can ever enter without him being in there if he wishes it so, if you knock and he tells you to go away, you can either do what Vicki does and complies or do what the Doctor does and knock the door down with a cinder block!
And there is one final thing that doesn't feel right about this adventure. That is the fate of the Didonian race. The Doctor tells everyone that there would be at least a hundred survivors from the explosion but surely he knows that any species would have no hope of surviving with that many low numbers.
But what makes this story worth your while is the subtle change to induce some humour into the series. And some of the lines here are actually quite amusing and work really well. And there has to be an award to go to William Russell who portrayed Ian for going off script and calling Koquillion "Old Cocky-Licking!" You couldn't call anyone that now!
Taking as a character on his own, Koquillion completely works. In fact, he works better on his own than when we learn that it is Bennett. It feels like a bit of a Scooby Doo moment. I think the reason Koquillion works is the mixture of his menacing voice, his strange manner, his whole costume, weapon and his turn of phrase thanks to actor Ray Barret and his seemingly inability to read the punctuation in the script. While Koquillion might only get three major scenes in the whole thing, he really dominates those scenes and makes the story worth watching. While Koquillion isn't a monster that anyone really remembers he is certainly up there with the most forgotten creatures which has earned him a bit of a reputation with creatures like the Voord and the Sensorites.
One final thing to really mention about this story is the incidental music. It was nice to hear the same music that they had used previously for The Daleks and it is a shame that it was only heard twice after this. Good incidental music often helps the slower Doctor Who stories to move along and this a excellent story to prove that point. It is just spot on.
But is The Rescue worth watching? In my opinion it is. While there is nothing to write home about in it, it is an interesting little character piece which feels a lot like The Edge of Destruction. And it introduces us to the great companion Vicki who was a worthy successor to Susan. Maureen O'Brien pitches her perfectly as the scared survivor of a crash who is being menaced by an alien threat. And the decent direction from Christopher Barry helps to make this story a lot better than the reputation it unfortunately has.
In fact, you just can't help but like this story and if you have 45 minutes to spare, I would highly recommend checking this story out, even if it just to see the monster...