The Doctor Who story “The Rescue” is a relatively short (two-part) but nevertheless powerful episode. With “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” having seen the departure of Susan, “The Rescue” introduces a new young girl to fill the function she did, namely providing a relatively young person’s perspective and involvement in the action. In fact, it was precisely because Susan was growing up and had matured into a woman that she was left behind. The question of whether Doctor Who is a show for children has been asked since its early days. It has always been frightening for young viewers, but it has also always sought to be appealing and somewhat accessible to such viewers as well.
“The Rescue” does well what many early Doctor Who stories do, and which the show has continued to do ever since: challenge the assumption that entities that appear grotesque to humans on the outside must be morally reprehensible on the inside – and, conversely, that those who appear like us can be trusted.
In many respects, this episode could work equally well if it featured Scooby Doo and his friends. It even has the classic Scooby Doo ending!The Doctor had been to the planet Dido before, and when he starts to receive indications that the people, whom he knew as peace-loving and kind, seemed to be acting otherwise, he wondered what had happened in the meantime.
To make a long story short, it turns out that a being calling himself Koquillion, who had claimed to be the only one protecting Vicky and Bennett (the lone survivors of a space ship from Earth that had crashed) from other more hostile members of his race, turns out to be none other than Bennett himself, dressed in ceremonial garb of the people of Dido. He had been arrested for murder and since the ship crashed before it was reported, he killed the others and pretended at times to be an alien, in an effort to cover his tracks so that, when a rescue ship arrived for them, he would not be taken into custody.
The message is not subtle, but it is important and delivered powerfully. Look beneath the surface. That someone is human does not ensure that they are humane and that someone is alien in appearance does not mean that their values are not like or superior to the best of our own.
Having been orphaned, Vicky ends up accompanying the Doctor and his companions when they leave.
The episode that follows this is “The Romans” which I already blogged about previously. “The Rescue” ends with what is very literally a cliffhanger…