The Rescue was the third story of Season 2 of Doctor Who. It was the first story to have a new, regular cast member, being Maureen O’Brien’s first appearance as Vicki Pallister. Its second part, “Desperate Measures”, was the first episode of Doctor Who to break into the top ten most-watched program of the week — something Doctor Who wouldn’t regularly do until re-invented by BBC Wales. It remains one of the program’s highest-charting episodes, even taking into account episodes from the 2005 revival.
The Rescue boasted some narrative firsts. This was the first time the Doctor had arrived on a planet other than Earth and claimed to have been there before. It was also the first story to give us a name for how the TARDIS moves. According to the Doctor in “The Powerful Enemy”, the TARDIS doesn’t land – it materializes.
Episode 1: The Powerful Enemy
On a desolate planet lies a crashed spaceship: the UK-201. A young girl by the name of Vicki bursts excitedly into the room of her friend Bennett to inform him that a rescue ship is coming for them. Bennett says the rescue ship is not due for days yet, but Vicki argues that she has seen it on their radar. Before she leaves, Bennett warns her about Koquillion, saying he will be back today. Vicki leaves to radio the ship, who confirms they are sixty-nine hours away. This confuses Vicki. Some kind of ship has landed on the planet already.
Back at the TARDIS, Barbara and Ian are discussing that the ship seems to have stopped. They are concerned because it happened whilst the Doctor was asleep. They wake him and discover they have landed in a cave on a planet vastly different from Earth, yet still safe for humans. Before they leave the TARDIS, the Doctor goes to talk to Susan, but he remembers she is no longer with them. Barbara comforts him. Ian and Barbara go to explore whilst the Doctor takes a rock sample. Ian and Barbara comment on the changes they are seeing in the Doctor, such as his sleeping through a landing and not wanting to explore the planet with them. Ian puts it down to age but Barbara thinks he misses Susan. As they move, a large, hideous creature approaches the TARDIS.
Ian and Barbara come to a cliff where they can look down on the crashed rocket. As they turn to tell the Doctor, they are met by the creature, who is very hostile. He demands the Doctor be sent for. Ian goes to get him. While he is gone, the creature throws Barbara off the cliff and causes a cave-in with a staff he carries. This cave-in traps Ian in the cave.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor has discovered that he has landed on the planet Dido, which he has visited before. He is eager to get out and visit the inhabitants of the planet. He hears the cave-in and goes out to find Ian half conscious. When Ian tells him of the creature, the Doctor is concerned. The inhabitants of the Dido whom he left were peaceful. Ian says that creatures can change. The Doctor and Ian head off to find a way out.
Back at the crashed ship, Vicki seems to be interrupted by a noise outside. She looks out the window, grabs some rocks and begins to sort through them. The creature, Koquillion, bursts through the door, demanding to know why Vicki left the ship and what she was doing. She insists she was just collecting rocks and shows them to the creature. He knocks them out of her hand, saying it is not safe for her to go more than fifty yards — another ship has landed on Dido and its passengers were killed by his species.
It seems that Koquillion is protecting Vicki and Bennett from a similar fate. When Koquillion is gone, Vicki rushes to her bed and pulls back a blanket to reveal Barbara, whom she has saved from the cliff. Barbara is shocked by the news that her two friends are reported dead, but listens to the story of how Vicki got here and how she and Bennett came under the thrall of Koquillion. When the crew crash landed a meeting was called between Koquillion’s species and them. Vicki was ill and couldn’t go. At the meeting, all the men were slain by Koquillion’s species. When Vicki awoke, she found Bennett nearly crippled and saved him. Ever since, Koquillion has been protecting them. Bennett is introduced to Barbara once Koquillion has left.
Meanwhile the Doctor and Ian go through the network of caves. The Doctor speaks of the species he knew before he left. To them, war was a foreign concept. There were only a hundred of them, so life was worshiped. The two men plough on; as they skirt along a ledge, a deafening noise roars through the cave. They look down to see a creature in the pit waiting for one of them to stumble and fall. They find a hand hold. Ian reaches for it, but it moves away in his hand. It is a booby trap; large, sharp, metal prongs start to come out from the wall, edging him closer and closer to being forced into the pit.
Part 2: Desperate Measures
Ian skirts the bars holding him in before the razor-sharp points push him to the creature below. The Doctor and Ian figure out how to retract the spikes and continue towards light.
Bennett, after meeting Barbara, fainted from the effort of rising from his bed. Barbara shares an idea with Bennett and Vicki. They will use Barbara as bait and shoot Koquillion with a gun that Vicki and Bennett have. Bennett reacts angrily to this, saying that if that happens they will be wide open to an attack from the Dido people.
As Barbara goes to return Bennett to bed, Vicki goes outside. The creature in the pit has found a way out of the cave. When Barbara returns, she sees Vicki is in danger and rushes out with the gun to shoot the creature dead. To her confusion, Vicki is distraught about this. She explains the creature was Sandy, her pet, and she has trained it to be tame and come out for food at certain hours.
Vicki’s outburst is brought to an abrupt end when they are interrupted by the Doctor and Ian. After an introduction, the Doctor is also on the receiving end of Vicki’s ire when he suggests a way of catching Koquillion and bringing an end to his rule over them. Vicki resents being told what to do by strangers and shouts at him. Barbara and Ian leave the Doctor to talk to Vicki. They decide that if Bennett agrees, they will go ahead with the plan.
Vicki shows the Doctor where Bennett sleeps and leaves them to talk. The Doctor hears Bennett say, “You can’t come in! Go away!” The Doctor tries to talk with him, but there is no answer. He forces his way into the room and finds it empty. He finds a tape recorder linked to the door so it automatically plays the message of Bennett asking to be left alone. He also finds an intercom system. Over it, he hears Barbara and Vicki, who have made up, saying how, for all his eccentricities, the Doctor seems to exude trust. Ian tells Vicki that the Doctor’s spacecraft travels not only through space but also time. Vicki struggles to get her head around the idea that this makes Ian and Barbara five hundred years old.
Back in Bennett’s room, the Doctor discovers a trap door and goes down to explore where it may lead. He finds himself in some sort of a temple, where he finds sacerdotal clothes in a chest. A figure walks up behind him. It is Koquillion, but the Doctor greets him by the name of Bennett. He explains it is blasphemy for someone who is not from Dido to wear their religious garb and he should take it off. Koquillion removes his mask to reveal himself as Bennett. He explains that before the ship crashed, he was put under arrest for murdering another crew member, and would have been tried on his return to Earth. When the ship crashed, he arranged a meeting between the crew and the Dido people, then killed everyone in an explosion he had engineered beforehand — human and Dido alike. He planned to take Vicki (who was unaware of his crime) with him back to Earth to testify to his innocence.
The Doctor is outraged. When Bennett threatens the Doctor’s life, the Doctor turns on him with Koquillion’s staff. The men scuffle and Bennett pins the Doctor to the ground, strangling him — until two Dido people appear. Bennett backs away, astounded, to the cliff where he falls to his death.
The Doctor wakes to find himself back in his TARDIS. Ian and Barbara explain they found him outside the cave unconscious and used his TARDIS key to let themselves back in. He tells the whole story to the pair. He asks where Vicki is and learns she is waiting outside.
The Doctor goes out and explains the whole situation to her. She is shocked that Bennett could have killed the whole crew like that. The Doctor asks if she would like to travel with him rather than stay with the Dido people. He leaves her to make her decision. When he re-enters the TARDIS, Ian and Barbara have had the same idea. Vicki comes in and takes the Doctor up on his offer.
As the TARDIS leaves, the Dido people enter the ship and destroy the radio communications system. The approaching rescue ship will now never find the planet.
The TARDIS has arrived at a new location, but materializes on the edge of a cliff. The Doctor shouts a warning to his companions and the travelers grab hold of the console as the ship slowly topples and falls over the edge…