Doctor Who #52: The Powerful Enemy

"Oh. Very good, yes. Very intelligent reasoning. So good, I might have said the same thing myself!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of The Rescue, available on DVD (packaged with The Romans). First aired Jan.2 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on Dido where Vicki, an orphaned girl is one of a crash's two survivors. All are beset by the machinations of the strange Koquillion.

REVIEW: Handing the script editor's job to Dennis Spooner, David Whitaker nevertheless leaves him with a parting gift by writing the introduction of Doctor Who's first new companion. What strikes me most about this episode is its energy. Perhaps it's Christopher Barry's direction, or Vicki's innate enthusiasm, or the fact the TARDIS crew get along so well, but it really does have a nice vibe. In many ways, it reminds me of An Unearthly Child. As in the very first episode, the first thing we see is the TARDIS (here materializing with the trademark sound over it for the very first time), but we then cut to an entirely different story about an unusual young woman. If An Unearthly Child was really the story of Susan, Ian and Barbara, with the Doctor coming in later, The Powerful Enemy is about Vicki, with the time travelers only showing up later.

I have to say I liked Vicki almost immediately, and this despite the clownish collar. As one of two survivors of a crashed ship apparently beset by the natives, she shows self-reliance and gumption, gets excited at the right moments, tries to cover her distress with bravado, and yet can still play the sympathetic victim. Maureen O'Brien would make an excellent addition to the cast. And of course, half the game of getting a ticket aboard the TARDIS is to be orphaned, so she's got a good chance. The only other survivor is Bennett, a more cynical, apparently bedridden man. And then there's Koquillion who appears to be a menacing native - I really like the crustacean design elements - the representative of a hidden alien people apparently responsible for the massacre of the other survivors, and none too friendly with the TARDIS crew when they make their appearance. I say "apparently" a lot, but that's because the next episode makes a lot of revelations.

Most likable of all is the TARDIS crew's dynamic now that Susan is gone. You'd think the Doctor who be depressed, but aside from a small moment when he calls out to her by mistake and freezes, he's rather jolly. In fact, more sympathetic than he's ever been. His first bond is now to Ian and Barbara, and he even forgives them making fun of him. Sure, he's trying hard to keep himself busy (or in a state of energetic napping!), but the net effect is that of welcoming Vicki to the family, and not regretting that she isn't Susan. Another change is the Doctor is his inching closer to the all-knowing Doctor of later years. He's been to Dido before, knows its people, their tools, etc. He does, I should also note, admit (in a soliloquy) to having little control over the TARDIS and as often as not putting on the act of being more knowledgeable/competent than he actually is. While the Doctor and Ian take the long way round a cave after Koquillion traps them behind a cave-in, complete with well-realized monsters and Indiana Jones-type traps, getting to know Vicki is a task handed over to Barabra, who takes a harrowingly high fall and is found, merely scraped and bruised, by the girl.

VERSIONS: Vicki was very nearly called Tanni.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The episode is mostly set-up, but it never forgets its characters. Therein lies its success.

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