The Rescue (TV story)

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The Rescue was the third serial of season 2 of Doctor Who. Its second episode, "Desperate Measures", was the first episode of Doctor Who to break into the top ten most-watched programmes of the week — something Doctor Who wouldn't regularly do until re-invented by BBC Wales. It remains one of the programme's highest-charting episodes, even taking into account episodes from the 2005 and 2023 revivals.

This was the first in a new production block of Doctor Who; the first production block lasted for 52 weeks with one episode filmed per week, though the final two stories, Planet of Giants and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, were held back and the first season ended early. As such, there was a six-week break for the regular cast before work on The Rescue began.

It was also the first story under Dennis Spooner as script editor, though he is not listed in the credits because he had little to do since much of the job was given to his predecessor David Whitaker and thus he is not credited. The story was commissioned on 1 November 1964, the day after his contract with the BBC for his position as script editor had expired.

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.


The Doctor, Ian and Barbara arrive on the planet Dido. They find a crashed spaceship, the only two survivors of which are terrorised by the monster Koquillion. But who is Koquillion?


The Powerful Enemy (1)[[edit]]

On a desolate planet lies a crashed spaceship: the UK-201. A young girl named 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, and will make contact again in seventeen hours' time. 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 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 stones 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 has gone to talk to Bennett, 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. However, Vicki was ill with a fever and stayed behind. 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 worshipped. 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.

Desperate Measures (2)[[edit]]

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 the 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 apparently in danger and rushes out with the gun — shooting the creature dead. To Barbara's 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!" The Doctor tries to talk to him, but there is no further answer. He forces his way into the room and finds it empty. The Doctor 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 plus a stack of tapes — Bennett's supposed conversations with Koquillion. 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, who explains that before the ship crashed on Dido, he was put under arrest for murdering another crew member and would have been tried on his return to Earth, but the crime was not reported to Earth before the crash. After the ship crashed, Bennett had arranged a meeting between the crew and the Dido people, then killed everyone — humans and Dido people alike — in an explosion he had engineered beforehand to cover up the murder he committed. He was planning to take Vicki, who was unaware of his crime, back to Earth with him 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 Didoans appear. Bennett backs away, terrified, as the Didoans advance — and in doing so, steps through a secret door and fails to see he is too close to the edge of the cliff. With a scream, he falls to his death.

The Doctor wakes to find himself back in the TARDIS. Ian and Barbara explain they found him outside the cave unconscious and used his key to let themselves back in. He tells the whole story to the pair, then asks where Vicki is and learns she is waiting outside.

The Doctor goes out and explains the whole situation to Vicki. She is shocked that Bennett could have killed the whole crew and her father like that. As Vicki is now orphaned, the Doctor asks if she would like to travel with him rather than stay with the remaining Didoans; he leaves her to make her decision. When the Doctor 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 Dido, the captain makes contact with the UK-201 again, requesting the homing beacon so he may find the planet. However, the Dido people have now entered the ship and they destroy the radio communications system. The approaching rescue ship will now never arrive.

The TARDIS has arrived at a new location, but materialises on the edge of a cliff. The Doctor shouts a warning to his companions, and the travellers grab hold of the console as the ship slowly topples and falls over the edge...


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


Uncredited crew[[edit]]




  • Ian mentions he would rather face the Daleks than Koquillion any day.


  • The Doctor instructs Barbara to use Number 4 Switch to open the doors.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • The Doctor asked Vicki to come with him and the others, making her the first companion that the Doctor was seen to willingly invite to travel in the TARDIS. Being invited to travel with him would later become an important hallmark of the Doctor's companions.
  • Both episodes exist in 16mm telerecordings.
  • Negative film prints of both episodes exist and were recovered by the BBC in 1978.
  • Telesnaps of this story are held by private collectors.
  • In David Whitaker's original draft, entitled Doctor Who and Tanni after one of Vicki's original names, there are a few differences from the broadcast version. Bennett was more unkind to Vicki. Notably, Koquillion had a "torch" device, which he used to paralyse Ian upon meeting and interrogating him and Barbara in the first episode. He hypnotised Ian and Barbara and tried to get them to encourage the Doctor to come out of the TARDIS, but the Doctor could see this on the TARDIS's scanner and demands the teachers be released. In a scuffle, Ian's trance was broken when he was shoved against the TARDIS and Barbara's was broken when she was thrown to the ground.[1] The beginning of the first episode also had Ian confide to Barbara that he was afraid of a time where the Doctor would close the TARDIS on them and leave, like he did with Susan, to which the Doctor, overhearing, replied that there would be a warning if they were to part.
  • The producers wanted Maureen O'Brien to dye her hair black to make her resemble Susan more. Maureen refused, and instead suggested the alternative of getting Carole Ann Ford back.
  • During production, Carole Ann Ford visited the set to offer encouragement to her successor, Maureen O'Brien.
  • Ian Chesterton is seen wearing a wide tie with a triangle bottom, this marks the first time he doesn't wear his trademark skinny tie with a square bottom.
  • Director Christopher Barry originally wanted Bernard Archard for the role of Bennett/Koquillion, but the actor turned out to be unavailable. Barry would later cast Archard in The Power of the Daleks.
  • Ray Barrett played Bennett as a "normal, straight human being" so as not to give the ending away.
  • The story was originally known as Doctor Who and Tanni. It was originally intended that the new companion would be named Tanni. Other names considered for Vicki were Valerie, Millie and Lukki. The name Tanni was still in use when the following story, The Romans, was written. Ultimately, this was worked into the narrative of Doctor Who universe. In the novel Byzantium!, it's revealed that Vicki's mother had considered naming her Tanni, before settling on Vicki.
  • Tom Sheridan provided the voice of the space captain, and also played the Sand Beast. He was originally scheduled to play one of the Didoans at the end, but for unknown reasons they were played by two uncredited extras, John Stuart and Colin Hughes.
  • Vicki's last name is not revealed in this story, nor is it ever mentioned on-screen in any future stories. This places Vicki in the select company of Polly (whose last name, Wright, was only used in an audition piece for the character), Mel and Ace as Earth companions whose last names are never revealed on screen. Spin-off media have given Vicki the last name Pallister.
  • Koquillion was originally credited as being played by Sydney Wilson (a combination of the first name of Sydney Newman and the surname of Donald Wilson respectively) to preserve the "whodunnit" aspect of the story. This was the first instance of a pseudonym being used in a story to avoid giving away a plot surprise.
  • The design of Koquillion was based on a close-up of a fly.
  • The Dido temple was a large set that was lit in such a way to create a dark atmosphere; dark drapes and smoke were also used.
  • The sound the Sand Beast makes while dying was modelled after the "horrible noise" a dying Dalek made in The Daleks.
  • To save money, the score is reused from The Daleks, which Christopher Barry had partially directed. He selected pieces from the first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh episodes of that serial — titled "The Dead Planet", "The Ambush", The Expedition", "The Ordeal" and "The Rescue" respectively.
  • Radio Times credits Sydney Wilson as "Koquillion" for both episodes and Ray Barrett only as "Bennett". On-screen, "The Powerful Enemy" credits Ray Barrett as "Bennett" and Sydney Wilson as "Koquillion"; while "Desperate Measures" credits Ray Barrett as "Bennett & Koquillion".
  • This story leads directly into The Romans.
  • "Desperate Measures" was the first episode of Doctor Who to make the UK's top 10 most watched programmes list.
  • The 1973 Radio Times tenth-anniversary special called the story "The Powerful Enemy" as it titled all the early stories by the title of the first episode. Some later listings repeated this, as did the story's broadcast on some American PBS stations.
  • During the scene in which Jacqueline Hill fired a flare gun at Vicki's pet, she was injured, suffering shock and a sore face. This occurred when the explosive connected to the wooden prop gun went off with more force than expected.
  • "The Rescue" is also the original broadcast title of the seventh episode of The Daleks.
  • Tom Sheridan, who played the Space Captain heard but not seen in this story, was also inside the Sandy costume. (DWM 325)
  • "The Powerful Enemy" boasts the first occasion on which a sound effect is laid over footage of the TARDIS re-materialising. Before this, exterior shots of the TARDIS landing had implied that the ship appeared soundlessly in a new environment. Although the precise sound of "re-materialisation" — with its distinctive, final "thud" — would not be finalised until The Three Doctors, this was the start of an important convention of the TARDIS. People on the outside can hear it coming and going. Without this innovation, the teaser from The Christmas Invasion, for example — in which Jackie and Mickey respond solely to the sound of the TARDIS — wouldn't have been possible.
  • The appearance of the two Dido people in "Desperate Measures" is never explained.
  • Christopher Barry saw Ray Barrett on television and noted his name due to his rugged face, and "dug him out of the book" when the time came.
  • The model spaceships were designed by Raymond Cusick — both in flight and wrecked — and created by Shawcraft Models in ten days. Cusick had found a cheap material he called "reeded hardboard", which was spray-painted silver and used for the outside of the craft prop.
  • There was a happy atmosphere among the cast, including a picnic in William Hartnell's dressing room. After Ray Barrett fell asleep in the studio, the cast and crew left and switched off the lights to make him believe that he had slept all night.


  • "The Powerful Enemy" - 12.0 million viewers
  • "Desperate Measures" - 13.0 million viewers


  • The inhabitants of Dido are known as Didonians. (There is no evidence provided in the episode to support this. In fact, the Doctor calls them "Dido people".)
  • Vicki is from the planet Dido. (This error has been mentioned in numerous places, but the story establishes that she is from Earth.)
  • This story was originally a four-parter. (It wasn't, the original script was still two parts.)
  • This story only exists as the introduction of Vicki. (This is true and false. This story was pushed into schedule to introduce Vicki, but David Whitaker did want to write a story with an alien creature who was actually a murderer, and a crashed spaceship awaiting rescue on a desolate planet.)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In "Desperate Measures", a stagehand can be seen behind Vicki's pet.
  • When Barbara fires at Vicki's pet, the firework can be seen to fall off the gun.
  • During "The Powerful Enemy", one of the TARDIS windows on the front falls inwards and is leaning in for the rest of the episode and "Desperate Measures".


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

This story was released on DVD alongside The Romans in February 2009 (UK) and July 2009 (North America). For the release, the episodes have been reprocessed via computer to restore the original videotaped look of the production. The "Next Episode" caption has been restored to "Desperate Measures".


For additional extras on this DVD set, see The Romans.

Rear credits:


Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

The story was released on Blu-ray in the UK on 5 December 2022, as part of the box set The Collection: Season Two.

Digital releases[[edit]]

This story is available:

  • for streaming through BritBox (US) as part of Season 2 of Classic Doctor Who.

Video releases[[edit]]

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Rescue/The Romans.

Both the "Next Episode" caption and the lead-in to The Romans have been removed from "Desperate Measures".
It was released as a double-video pack with The Romans.
UK Release: September 1994 / US Release: March 1996
PAL - BBC Video BBCV5378 (2 tapes)
NTSC - Warner Video E1313 (2 tapes)
NTSC - CBS/FOX Video 8338 (2 tapes)


External links[[edit]]