The Rescue was the first story of Doctor Who‘s second production block, but it was touch and go for a while as to whether the series would continue after The Dalek Invasion of Earth. During the last twenty years or so a considerable amount of information has come to light concerning the lengthy birth pains of the series – most of which flatly contradicts the accepted view of Doctor Who‘s history which had formed during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Back then it was generally believed that the success of the second serial, featuring the Daleks, had secured the series’ future, but the truth was rather more complicated. To begin with, Verity Lambert was only offered a four week extension after DIOE. She countered that if that was all that was on offer they might as well just go ahead and cancel the series. Lambert wanted a firm commitment for thirteen weeks with an option for another thirteen. This was eventually agreed and Doctor Who‘s future was further strengthened when Hartnell’s agent insisted on a confirmed twenty six weeks before his client would re-sign. The BBC agreed again and so planning for series two could begin in earnest.
The most pressing requirement was for a story to introduce the new companion and that was The Rescue‘s main function. There was also a minor mystery to be solved (Bennett = Koquillion and it’s revealed that he’d murdered all the inhabitants of the spaceship – including Vicki’s father – in order to escape justice) but Maureen O’Brien is the focus of the story.
In episode two we see some further examples of Vicki’s hysterics – especially when Barbara kills Sandy the Sand Beast. Vicki’s penchant for giving things pet names was retained, although it’s just as well that her hysterical outbursts weren’t (Vicki certainly spends less time collapsing at the drop of a hat than Susan did). Her anger with Barbara for killing Sandy allows her character to be developed a little further – Vicki’s extreme emotions demonstrate that she’s been isolated from human contact (apart from the surly Bennett) for too long. It takes the gentle words of the Doctor (a lovely scene from Hartnell) to start to break down these self imposed barriers.
Although the focus of the story is on Vicki, the Doctor has a key scene as he confronts the mass-murderer Bennett. It’s another opportunity to see an aggressive Doctor – although his fight with Bennett is naturally brief (and could be said to be motivated by self-defence, as it seems obvious that Bennett intends to murder the Doctor in order to preserve his secret).
Given the short running time, The Rescue is obviously not the most complex of stories, but the fact that there’s only five speaking parts means that each character has a decent amount of screen time. Vicki and the Doctor come off best, although Ian and Barbara also enjoy some entertaining scenes (Ian gets to tussle with the unconvincing spikes of death whilst Barbara gets a little gung-ho with Sandy) and Ray Barrett is imposing in his duel role.