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Doctor Who: The Rescue


Season 2, Series L

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor
With William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) and introducing Maureen O'Brien (Vicki)
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Christopher Barry
Produced by Verity Lambert

Episodes and Broadcast Dates
  • The Powerful Enemy - 2 January 1965
  • Desperate Measures - 9 January 1965

How To Watch:

"The Rescue" is available for streaming on Britbox (subscription required).

Plot Summary

The TARDIS lands on the planet Dido, where our crew encounter a crashed spaceship with two survivors: a teenage girl named Vicki and a paralyzed man named Bennett who are awaiting the arrival of a rescue ship from Earth. They are met with hostility by a fearsome native named Koquillion, who has menaced the two since their arrival. The Doctor is puzzled, he had visited Dido in the past and found the native culture to be very friendly. Bennett claims that upon arrival, the Didoans murdered all the other passengers by luring them into a meeting where they were massacred in an explosion, and Koquillion is keeping the other Didoans at bay from doing the same to them.

Barbara attempts to bond with Vicki, but gets off to a very poor start when she kills what looks like a fearsome creature but was actually her beloved pet. The Doctor eventually confronts and exposes Bennett. He's been faking his paralysis and posing as Koquillion all along. He had murdered a fellow passenger prior to the crash, and to conceal his crime he caused the explosion that killed both Didoans and his fellow passengers. He's been manipulating Vicki so she would testify to his innocence upon their return. Bennett is about to kill the Doctor when two surviving Didoans emerge and eventually drive him off a cliff to his death.

Vicki is distraught to learn the extent of Bennett's deception. Having no family – her father died in the crash, her mother died years before – and nowhere to go, she is welcomed on board the TARDIS. The ship later materializes on a cliff on a hillside and after wobbling back and forth, much to the consternation of the crew, pitches off the edge...

Analysis and Notes and Stuff

This was a hastily written two-parter written solely to introduce the replacement for Susan, and as such, gets frequently overlooked. Apart from the alien setting and the two silent Didoans who appear deus ex machina at the end, there's very little sci-fi. Instead, it's a study in psychological manipulation, and not a bad one really. And it had the benefit of coming directly after a Big Epic Dalek story; indeed, viewership continued to climb. "Desperate Measures" drew thirteen million viewers, which was a figure almost never seen again, even in the new series.

I gave away the spoiler because for one, I'm a controlling bastard myself, and two, knowing from the get-go that BENNETT IS KOQUILLION allows us to focus on how ruthless Bennett is in his manipulation of poor Vicki. (And thirdly this episode is, as of 2022 when I write this, fifty-eight years old; come on.)

And if she wasn't suffering enough, the first thing our well-meaning heroes do is traumatize poor Vicki further by zapping her pet alien. This story though allows us to see a tender side of the Doctor, indeed he would have a closer and more tender bond with Vicki than he ever did with Susan, his own granddaughter! Though perhaps it is a mark of how the Doctor's character had evolved since Ian and Barbara forced their way into the TARDIS.

I won't go so far as to call this an "overlooked gem," but it's certainly a low-key psychological drama that does exactly what it's intended to do: introduce a new companion.

A brief sidebar on new companions...

It seems that in order to be the Doctor's traveling companion during the classic series, there were certain givens. Single, that was a must. No dependents, no sick mum upstairs, no kids. No careers (Sarah Jane notwithstanding). Orphan girls, space rangers, sailors, servants, students... these were ideal. And it's amazing how as soon as one walks out, another walks in.

"The Rescue" was virtually unique in that it existed solely to introduce a companion. Rarely if ever would the series take such time to sideline its usual allotment of sci-fi or historical plotlines to devote itself so exclusively to a new companion. And after her? Steven stumbles in after being introduced at the end of "The Chase." Dodo literally walks in off the street. Polly's job seems rather redundant after the end of "War Machines," and Ben is on shore leave. Jamie's joining was hastily tacked onto "Highlanders." Liz and Jo are assigned via UNIT. And so forth.

And there were a few cases where characters were initially conceived to be future companions but either the production team changed their minds or the actor turned them down. Thus, here's to the companions that weren't; Jenny two weeks earlier, Samantha in "The Faceless Ones," Ray in "Delta and the Bannermen"... I'm sure there were others.

Eventually we'll have to address the question: What Is (and isn't) A Companion? It's hard to create a definition that covers all the bases. Some characters who served brief turns in the TARDIS may face being demoted, like Pluto, to Minor Companion status. Companion-oid. Companion-Lite. (Looking at you, Katarina.)


Vicki's last name is never mentioned on screen during the entirety of her travels in the TARDIS. Subsequent Whovian apocrypha granted her the surname Pallister.

To conceal the revelation that BENNETT IS KOQUILLION, the closing credits of episode one show Koquillion being played by "Sydney Wilson," taken from the names of series creators Sydney Newman and Donald Wilson.

The Target novelization was written by Ian Marter, but he died shortly before publication. Nigel Robinson edited the manuscript, allegedly removing a reference to fellatio. (The mind boggles as to who the giver and recipient may be, and I'd prefer not to dwell upon it.)

Rating: Two and three-quarter BENNETT IS KOQULLIONS out of four.
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv


  1. Ian, in the process of asserting his role of manly protector of the ladies in his charge against the possible threat of Koquillion assured them that he'd take care of 'old Cocky-lickin' if he came back again.

    That is without question the most important thing about the story.

    I'd forgotten that it was edited out of the novelization. Still less startling of a necessary edit than The Celestial Toymaker.

  2. This one didn't thrill me, but I really like Vicki. She's great in how she influences the Doctor with her charming and disarming personality, especially in stories like the Chase. Her and Steven were a great double act in The Time Meddler too, my favorite 1st Doctor story.


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