Often summarised as a short story in two episodes to introduce a new companion (I paraphrase), I think there’s a bit more to The Rescue than the simple description does justice. Yes it’s about the first (ever) companion change from Susan to Vicki, and yes there’s not much story, but it still has its moments. I’ve chosen it for my January 2019 First Doctor story for two reasons: first I get to watch an episode I’ve not seen in a very long time and second I was curious to compare it to the recent Early Adventures: The Crash of the UK-201 by Jonathan Morris.
The story starts on the wreck of the spaceship UK-201 on Dido (OK a Flash Gordon like rocketship) with Vicki, and already something noticeable about this episode (I need to compare to others) in that we get lots of close-ups of Maureen o’Brien. The scenario of the crash survivors Vicki and Bennett is set up and we switch then to a TARDIS interior. The Doctor is asleep, Ian looks very smart in his suit and Susan is missed though I get sense it has been a short while since she was locked out the TARDIS. It feels like some short time has passed, perhaps a day or so, perhaps even (!) a short sojourn somewhere else.
The TARDIS lands, and what looks like a simple setup is complicated by the strange creature Koquillion.
As the crew leave the TARDIS, they get separated, there’s an attempt to kill Barbara and lots of Indiana Jones like temple trap surviving for Ian and the Doctor. For a change it’s Ian who is trapped and the Doctor taking the lead in his rescue. Meanwhile Vicki helps Barbara, we realise Bennett is a trifle mad (at least) and Barbara kills a creature she thought was attacking Vicki. It wasn’t. This is really all Barbara does in this story but it does let Vicki be angry with her and lead to some tension. Ian has even less to do and it’s to the Doctor to find out Bennett is really Koquillion, and also reach out to Vicki and bond with her. It’s easy to say he wants a substitute for Susan, but that doesn’t mean the scenes aren’t well played and quite touching.
There’s a secret underground temple, a good confrontation scene then a rushed almost deus ex machina ending when two Dido natives turn up, Bennett dies and the Doctor is left to tell Vicki how her father and the rest of the crew died.
Bennett if mad is also quite evil in the lengths he is prepared to go to, Vicki comes across as the young adult she is meant to be but in a lot of ways it’s the Doctor’s programme and The Rescue puts him firmly centre stage. In the end it’s a rather charming story, if an odd choice of introduction to a new companion. Remember Ian and Barbara joined (not in the same way) the TARDIS after one episode; The Rescue may be rather obvious, but it’s a no less enjoyable for being clear in its intent.