Doctor Who #53: Desperate Measures

"The executioner sounds disappointed."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of The Rescue. First aired Jan.9 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Koquillion is revealed to be a Bennett and he gets what's coming to him. Vicki joins the TARDIS crew.

REVIEW: Perhaps at odds with how genuine Vicki is, the rest of this episode is a play on how nothing else is as it appears to be. Not only does Koquillion turn out to be Bennett, but no one on Dido looks even remotely like a crustacean. That's just a set of ceremonial headdress and claws. The "monster" threatening Ian and the Doctor is really just Vicki's pet, a vegetarian creature she calls "Sandy" (her way with animals will become a staple). When Barbara kills it, Vicki finally breaks down. The strangers - our heroes - have upset the balance with their ignorance and arrogance. If nothing is as it seems, perhaps we should be wary of Vicki's intuition that the Doctor doesn't look like a killer...

Point of fact, the Doctor's never been more kind. He charms an angry Vicki with grandfatherliness, showing a new side to his personality. He wasn't this nice to Susan! He's also a more physical Doctor than before, bashing doors open and fighting with Bennett. In this second season, we're moving towards a more proactive kind of hero, one that is there "to help" instead of one who needs to help so he can get back to the TARDIS and escape. Had I been Vicki, I would have wanted to leave with this TARDIS crew too, even if Barbara had shot my pet monster by mistake. Ian and Barbara are good fun, gently ribbing each other and taking things in their stride.

The characters are good, but the story unfortunately falls apart. It's just too short! Bennett's motivations are chalked up to being quite mad indeed, committing genocide to cover a single murder. And when the natives show up, there's no explanation. Where were they before? Who are they? And Bennett's death at their hands isn't even clear. I wouldn't have inferred it if we hadn't been told by the Doctor. It's all so abrupt. The Dido people smash the ship's communications equipment and we're supposed to believe the rescue ship will turn back? Who knows? The design work was pretty good, so it's too bad the story couldn't be extended a little longer to make use of it.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization (by Ian "Harry Sullivan" Marter) includes scenes aboard the rescue ship, and the Dido natives getting killed by its crew.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Good, even great, character moments can't prevent the episode from looking abortive to say the least.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Its job was to introduce Vicki and it does that very well. She's instantly likable and so is the new crew dynamic. When it comes to telling a complete, satisfying story though, The Rescue misses the mark. It needed to be at least an episode longer for its mysteries to play out.


Christian A. Dumais said...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm loving this DOCTOR WHO feature. I was raised on this show thanks to PBS and some of this stuff is bringing back some great memories, and I'm learning a lot about the episodes I never saw.


-Christian A. Dumais

Siskoid said...

Ça fait plaisir!

Tommy Krasker said...

Last night, "The Woman Who Lived" aired, and I saw lots of folks online saying something to the effect of "I'd rather watch a character study than another monster-of-the-week episode anytime." Yes, well, I enjoy a character study, too: a GOOD character study. "The Rescue" is a good character study; it's one of my favorite Hartnells. As always, Whitaker pioneers something that Who writers are still doing fifty years later.


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