Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Rescue

The Powerful Enemy

"But Doctor, the trembling's stopped!"

Oh, my dear, I'm so glad you're feeling better."

At last we hear the TARDIS dematerialisation sound from outside as the TARDIS lands. It's fitting that this should happen for the first time in this story, which seems to signal that the series has come to a few definite conclusions about its format.

It's very noticeable that the aesthetics of spacecraft in this story are very Gerry Anderson- a nice bit of Sixtiesness. The first person we meet inside it is Vicki, and she's immediately likeable.

This story is so much more comfortable with the basic tropes of futuristic science fiction than, say, The Sensorites. The basic situation surrounding the ship and its situation is dealt with so much more casually, with an absence of clumsy phrasings.

The Doctor states that "We haven't had much luck with these caves during our travels" as he heads back into the TARDIS for a nap. Surely the most postmodern and self-referential line so far. The early scenes between the Doctor and Ian and Barbara are as well written and performed as we've come to expect for such scenes by now. It's a nice touch when the Doctor half asks Susan to open the doors and Barbara gently offers to take her place. Hartnell plays the Doctor's grieving for Susan brilliantly.

Koquillion looks either fantastic or risible. I can't quite decide which.

So, the Doctor's been on this world before: "It'll be rather nice to meet these people again after all these years". "Years"? He's been travelling for quite a while then. With Susan? How old was she when they started? There's another interesting comment he makes to Ian in relation to medicine: It's a pity I didn't get that degree".

Koquillion is quite horrible to poor Vicki. I like her a lot; bolshie yet vulnerable, and looking very sixties with a hint of Scouse to match.

Everything about this story- the confident writing, acting and design, the Stockhausenesque incidental music-evokes freshness and confidence, the sense of a new start. There's not even a single mispronunciation of "Chesterton" throughout, but then again throughout all the stories so far there have been far fewer than received wisdom might suggest.

This Bennett seems a bit of a dodgy chap, and doesn't seem too pleased to see Barbara. I wonder why that should be?

It's most amusing how the Doctor refers to a "great chasm" which is just out of shot. The cliffhanger- the most obvious man in a costume yet- is less than great, but so far this story has been very good indeed.

Desperate Measures

"You destroyed a whole planet to save your own skin. You're insane."

Ian grabs a blade tightly with his hand before telling the Doctor they're "razor sharp"!

Barbara continues to be great, hardly having been around five minutes before she suggests overpowering Koquillion. Bennett's not keen, oddly...

Maureen O'Brien does a good job with the Sandy sequence; it would have been so easy for Vicki to seem wet and annoying here, but the balance is just right. And instantly the chemistry between O'Brien and Hartnell is there. A nice Billy-fluff here: "You must believe what Barbara did. try and understand, my dear. And why she did it." The Doctor is now firmly established as a kindly old buffer; a little curmudgeonly, perhaps, but fundamentally a nice old man.

The reactions to Vicki's line "1963? but that means you're about 500 years old!" are priceless. Ian cracks up, and Barbara's face is a sight to behold. It's often said that characterisation was dwelled upon less in the old series than the new, but scenes like this show that in the early stories that wasn't the case at all.

As the Doctor discovers the clues to Bennett's villainy we hear the music from the Daleks' city. Bennett's plan is full of plot holes but they don't matter; this is pacey and entertaining enough to mean they only reveal themselves on multiple viewings. it's sleight of hand, but the plot holes are glossed over successfully enough.

The confrontation scene at the end, with Bennett facing the Doctor alone, shows the Doctor unmistakably cast as hero, a statement of intent from the pen of the script editor. Once again there's a sense that some thought has been given to the programme's format after the experiments of the first year, and certain things are being more firmly defined. This is the fully-formed First Doctor; a kindly, sometimes irascible old scientist who roams the cosmos righting wrongs.

Grr! BBC video have edited out the cliffhanger and the "next episode" caption. It's enough to make me go all nostalgic for the DWM letters pages of the early 90s.

Overall, a very nice little character piece which I enjoyed a lot. An awful lot, in fact. It may not be the biggest or most epic story, but it's been one of my favourites so far, and so it gets a full 5/5. I notice I'm the only one to rank it so highly at the moment though- anybody care to join me?

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