“The Rescue” gives the audience a chance to breathe after the expansive, Earth-encompassing storyline of the previous Dalek serial. And Susan is replaced by new traveling companion Vicki, an orphan from five centuries in the future. Apart from occasional glimpses of her future and technical knowledge, she’s essentially contemporary in attitude and appearance, making her century of origin a minor part of her character.
The story is essentially a murder mystery set on an alien planet. I have to admit that on first viewing it wasn’t all that apparent that Bennet was Koquillion, the alien who supposedly slaughtered the human crew of the spacecraft that Vicki had been traveling on with her father. In hindsight it’s fairly obvious at least in the second episode, but the ruse of having Bennet injured and barely able to walk is sufficient to initially hide his identity. Still, Bennet is hardly a sympathetic character, given the way he bullies Vicki emotionally.
The opening scenes with the Doctor, Ian and Barbara are charming and fun. The loss of Susan is still very much on the Doctor’s mind, as it should be. It’s good to see Ian and Barbara support him without pitying him, which would certainly have offended the Doctor. The three have a great rapport by this time, and a story or two with just the three of them would have been something I’d like to have seen. But I suppose the roles of the TARDIS crew were pretty well established as formula by this point, and the production team didn’t want to shake the boat too much.
The plot wraps up fairly quickly once the Doctor deduces just what’s going on with Bennet, though he just about gets himself killed. The Doctor’s reckless streak and penchant for acting alone certainly go way back. In the end, Vicki is invited aboard the TARDIS of course, and the surviving natives take out their frustration on the wrecked ship.
The brevity of the plot and running time remind me of the new series episodes. The story is fairly lightweight, but that’s hardly a flaw. “The Rescue” is first and foremost a vehicle for replacing Susan with Vicki, but in addition to the new character it offers some good characterization for the Doctor, Ian and Barbara, as well as a reasonable story. And since it’s a short story, I’ll conclude my short review on that note.