Following the epic nature of the previous serial, The Rescue is a much lower-key story. The brief running time (two episodes) is one of the reasons why – a fifty minute slot doesn’t allow time to develop a particularly complex story. But that doesn’t really matter as it mainly exists to introduce the new companion, Vicki (Maureen O’Brien).
The initial shot of the model spaceship is impressive (even if it does look a little too much like a model). We then get our first glimpse of Vicki – a young, eager and somewhat naive girl. O’Brien would tone down this characterisation once she settled into the role, but based on what we see during this episode it does seem strange that the production team had decided to replace Susan with a character who’s so similar.
The moment when the Doctor asks Susan to open the TARDIS doors before remembering that they left her behind on Earth is a touching one, as is the way that Ian and Barbara rally round to subtly support and comfort him. There’s also a lovely comedic feel to this opening TARDIS scene. Barbara, referring to the ship, tells the Doctor that the trembling’s stopped and the Doctor, completely misunderstanding, pats her cheek and tells her he’s glad she’s feeling better!
Vicki and Bennett (Ray Barrett) are the only survivors from a crashed ship. They live in fear from a mysterious creature called Koquillion.
Director Christopher Barry uses a similar inlay shot here to one he used in The Dead Planet. Ian and Barbara look down from the caves and see the crashed ship in the valley below. Although it’s a basic effect, it works very well.
Barbara meets Vicki.
BARBARA: Tell me more about this Koquillion .
VICKI: He just keeps us here, Bennett and me. There’s a rescue ship on the way. He doesn’t know about that. But he’ll find out. I know he will.
BARBARA: But why does he keep you here?
VICKI: They…they killed all the crew. We…when we landed we, we made contact here. Everyone on board was invited to a grand sort of meeting. I couldn’t go, I was ill, a fever or something. I stayed here that night. I remember waking up, a thunderstorm I thought, but is was an explosion. Bennett…Bennett…dragged himself back. I was ill for days, I didn’t know about it ‘til later. I came around and…found Bennett. He can’t walk.
There scenes almost play out as an audition piece for O’Brien. It’s fairly overwrought stuff, but she handles it pretty well.
The Rescue is the first time we see the Doctor land on a planet that he’s visited before. Last time he was here he was struck by the friendliness of the locals, so the bloodthirsty antics of Koquillion baffles him.
There’s a literal cliffhanger as the Doctor and Ian are trapped by some highly unconvincing metal spikes which emerge from the rockface. It’s all good b-movie stuff.