Doctor Who – The Rescue and The Romans

Time for another review. I’m not doing these in the order I got them, just taking them off the pile of things I want to write about…

So, what have we here? Two consecutive stories from January and February 1965, with William Hartnell as the Doctor, with William Russell and Jacqueline Hill as original companions Ian and Barbara, being joined by Maureen O’Brien as Vicki. The bundling of the two stories into one release may well be because The Rescue has only two episodes, and might not have sold that well as a single release. But it shouldn’t be ignored, for reasons I’ll go into.

The Rescue

The story follows on from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which is available on DVD, but came out before I started doing these review thingies, so you won’t find an entry for it here. Susan, the Doctor’s grandaughter[1] has remained on Earth. The Tardis materialises on the planet Dido, where the crew find a crashed ship from Earth. The only remaining survivors of the crash are a young girl called Vicki and an injured man called Bennett. Both are in fear of a creature called Koquillion, who has killed the other crew members. But the Doctor knows this planet, and its occupants, and soon realises that “Koquillion” is actually Bennett in a ritual costume. Bennett has adopted the disguise and killed the other crew to cover up an earlier murder he committed. When confronted by the Doctor, and two of the inhabitants of Dido (he thought he’d killed all of them as well), he loses the plot a bit and falls to his death. Vicki agrees to join the Doctor and his companions.

Now, there’s not a lot to the story. The identity of the villain wouldn’t be too hard to work out if you didn’t already know it, but… There’s a completely beautiful scene where the Doctor confronts Bennett. Rather than a simple accusation, he casually tells him that the costume he’s wearing should only be worn on specific occasions. And it’s such a perfect Doctor moment. You could see David Tennant delivering the same line in almost exactly the same way. Worth watching if only for that one scene.

Extras are quite light on this disc – a “Making of”, production subtitles and some other bits and bobs.

The Romans

The longer story in this set is that rare thng at the time, a comedy. The Doctor and his companions take up residence in a Roman villa for a holiday. It all goes a bit wrong when Barbara and Ian are captured and sold into slavery, and the Doctor is mistaken for a famous musician. Everyone ends up in Rome where much silliness and standard-issue farce follows, including bits where people just miss seeing each other by seconds, the Doctor doing a musical version of the emperor’s new clothes, and managing not to assassinate Nero…

It’s a slight and mostly silly piece, but well worth watching if only for William Hartnell’s performance.

Extras are a little more generous on this one:

  • What has ‘The Romans’ Ever Done For Us? If you’ll excuse the inevitable title, this is a good look at the story, with a little help from some actual historians
  • Roma Parva (Little Rome) Planning camera positions with the aid of a model
  • Dennis Spooner – Wanna Write a Television Series? Looking at the work of Dennis Spooner, who wrote this story
  • Girls! Girls! Girls! – The 1960s – An only moderately naff look at the female companions of the 1960s
  • Production subtitles – the usual bits of background information
  • Etc – TV clips, photo gallery, etc

Overall, this is a nice package , especially if, like me, you’d never seen these stories.

[1] Will we ever learn more about the Doctor’s family? Or will we be left guessing forever? I’m guessing on the latter…