5/09/10 “The Rescue”
Barbara: The trembling has stopped.
The Doctor: Oh my dear, I’m so glad you’re feeling better.
This is an admittedly strange story that, at two parts, is a rarity. I found myself surprisingly fond of it despite the simplicity of all the elements. I would venture to say it’s almost like a sideways story that was tried out in the Hartnell era, more often than it would be subsequently. First of all, the Doctor is simply bonkers in this story. I can’t remember any other story in which Hartnell seemed about ready to fluff his lines in such an obvious fashion. Nevertheless, the silly Doctor seemed to be enjoying himself and, despite his obvious sadness about the departure of Susan, he was on much better terms with Ian and Barbara than previously. His character took a rather abrupt change of mood in the second part when he began beating down Bennett’s door with a chair. I was really perplexed as to what had inspired such venom in the Doctor. If he’d had a short aside about why he had suspicions, that would have made more sense. Instead, it rather suggested that he was losing his mind!
Dido would, of course, have benefited from today’s budget in terms of depicting a weird and deserted place, but then again, the advantage of black and white is its slightly eerie cast on the whole adventure (and its ability to disguise the limits of the sets). The whole story is just a little preposterous and only barely believable, but as a simple set piece, I think it does okay. The psychological repercussions, however, are staggering. But I’ll come back to that. Ian and the Doctor crossing through booby-trapped caves certainly presaged Indiana Jones (what a notion, to imagine that “The Rescue” could have inspired Indiana Jones!) and gave an exciting cliffhanger, but what was that all about? The Doctor established, and would appear to be more or less proved right by default, that the Dido-ians were peaceful and would seem to have no apparent use for booby trapped caves!
Speaking of strange connections, from the first when I saw Koquillion, I did think of “the beasts” in the M. Night Shaymalan film The Village with their long, sharp claws. I don’t want to spoil that film too much for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but the beasts also turn out to be frauds, objects for enforcing dominant societal power. Bennett and Vicki are this on a much smaller scale, but this is because she’s the victim of one very sick man’s subjugation; in The Village, at least, the fraudsters were performing their cheat for what they saw as humanitarian ideals. I thought the performance of Koquillion, especially at the beginning, was quite convincing; I was a bit dubious about why Doctor Who would fall into the old chestnut of evil beings looking ugly and bizarre, whereas the “good” look “like us.” Fortunately by the end of this, that notion is rejected.
I’ve been a fan of Vicki from pretty much the first story I saw her in, “The Time Meddler” (though I suppose I saw “The Chase” first, but I didn’t remember her much from that). I really enjoyed writing her as one of the main characters in my First Doctor novella (?) fan fiction, as one of the reasons I like her is that I identify with her, from the youthful looks to the wry sense of humor. However, if I had seen her debut story, I would have written her a little differently. I knew that she was an orphan but I hadn’t realized her youth had been so tragic! First, she loses her mother, then she and her father crash-land on Dido, then she falls ill, loses her father and all the other crew members to what she thinks are brutal alien killers, lives in a constant vicious cycle of hope and fear, has her only companion killed (accidentally) by Barbara, and eventually finds out that it’s all been instigated by a murderer who is only keeping her alive to corroborate his story! The psychological ramifications of that are just . . . well, it’s something that fan fic could fill in the blanks for, and since there’s no prequel or sequel to “The Rescue” that I know of, I guess I’ll have to be the one to do it. I also like Vicki’s determination and strength and her not wanting anyone to pity her.
As for Barbara, she had an unsurprisingly companion-like moment of falling down the cliff (though she did manage to stay alive). I thought her motivation for killing Vicki’s pet—she thought it was about to attack Vicki—was believable, and it was quite cool-headed and brave of her to do that. Ian had surprisingly little to do in this story!
One thing I wasn’t happy with was how the Doctor got out of Bennett killing him in the deserted old ceremonial hall. It was clever and entirely fitting that the Doctor figured out his deception but not too bright of him to be alone with the murderer! I thought that the Doctor and/or Bennett were imagining the Dido-ians coming back to life, and their specters (or manifestations of guilt) killed Bennett in the end (rather like Macbeth or Richard III). As written, it seems to have actually been something a lot more mundane yet still inexplicable. I really wish, too, the Dido-ians (such as they were) didn’t come by and destroy radio contact with the rescue ship. I liked to think of the rescuers coming to a deserted planet—or else Benny Summerfield investigating the ruins of the ship in the future . . .