Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Rescue

Previous viewings - few

Conceived as a two-part "filler" story to replace Susan, this is the most insubstantial Doctor Who story yet, but at only two episodes it's better to take it easy.

The story opens and we meet Vicki, the new companion. Vicki elevates the story with her presence, and it's weird that she does because it's pretty obvious that she's a replacement for Susan. At least Vicki differs enough from Susan, and most importantly doesn't seem to be much of a screamer, that viewers will wonder in retrospect what there is to miss about Susan.

However, introducing Vicki isn't all there is to The Rescue, the story is intriguing enough to keep viewers engaged in its own right. The simplistic (but worthy) plot centres around the criminal Bennett, who has committed mass murder to prevent authorities on Earth from finding out he committed a single murder. Yeah, it boggles the mind, but it holds together well and unfolds slowly and in the form of a mystery: the mysterious and dangerous Koquillion, who stalks the crash survivors Bennett and Vicki. The fact that Vicki is at the centre of events and not the older Bennett signals that either Vicki is important or that Bennett is up to no good.

The TARDIS scene is well handled, with the Doctor inadvertantly asking Susan to open the doors. However I felt about Susan, she was part of a great TARDIS crew dynamic and will be missed, and her relationship with the Doctor is probably the main thing that the character has the edge in over Vicki. The Doctor's somewhat odd behaviour at the start of the story can be attributed to the loss of Susan too, as he leaves Ian and Barbara to have a look around outside while he stays in the TARDIS. William Hartnell really knows his stuff by this point, and is constantly reminding me why he's my favourite Doctor. The way he handles humour so effortlessly, the grandfatherly charm he gives the Doctor during his chats with Vicki, his attempts to control his anger when he confronts Koquillion, are all excellent. If there's one problem it's that from a marathon perspective it's hard to take this one guy seriously when the Doctor's just thwarted a Dalek invasion of Earth.

The only real misstep in this story is the need for a cliffhanger, resulting in the Doctor and Ian finding some traps in the caves and then getting away from them and on with the plot as soon as the second episode starts. It works, but is unnecessary.

With the regulars on the lookout for Koquillion, they meet up at the crashed spaceship, where Bennett refuses to see anyone and Vicki has already met Barbara. It was quite distasteful to see Barbara shoot Vicki's pet and have Vicki mad at her for the rest of the story, it did add another layer that I would never have expected to Vicki's character, but seems tacked on to make us sympathetic to Vicki in a way we never did with Susan. Indeed, Vicki does come across as quite the victim throughout the story, albeit a victim of circumstances rather than a pathetic victim.

The story has a good ending. The Doctor for once gets to face down the enemy himself with no help, although we the existence of the Dido survivors is a bit of a cheat. Afterwards, Vicki accepts an invitation to join the TARDIS crew, and it was quite cool to watch somebody new react ot eh TARDIS for the first time. Most important, I'm left eager to see the next adventure to see how the new TARDISeers work together as a unit and how Vicki will react to time travel.

The Rescue allows the show to get its feet back on the ground after the epic previous story, and the smaller scale works as a contrast to that story. The fact that the plot holds together well and VVicki makes a positive impression are bonuses.

Horror quotient - Move along, nothing to see here.
Comedy quotient - I just love the humour in the Doctor's character. William Hartnell is hilarious in this story, and in fact probably gives one of his best performances here.
Drama quotient - The fact that Bennett committed mass murder seems quite shocking, but is brushed under the carpet. I feel suitably sorry for Vicki. There's nothing too heavy here though.

It aims to introduce a new companion, but is enjoyable as a story in its own right. There are a couple of holes in the plot and there doesn't seem to be a lot of substance to it, but for what it is, it's a cracking little slice of Who.


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