on January 18, 2004
I've never been partial with two-parters, and The Rescue is no exception. They only serve to fill in the two episodes needed to fill in the season, and as a result, the plots aren't much. The TARDIS crew land on the planet Dido, where two survivors from an Earth ship, Vicki and Bennett, are awaiting a rescue ship that'll arrive in 69 hours. The two are under the thrall of the menacing betusked, and clawed Koquillion, a native Didonian who's protecting them from his savage race. Apparently, the Didonians massacred the remainder of Bennett's crew at a gathering. Koquillion also seems intent on keeping them hostage. If he finds out about the rescue ship, he'll kill both Bennett and Vicki.
Yet this doesn't square with the Doctor's earlier [and untelevised] appearance on Dido, where violence was alien to the natives. So what made the Didonians warlike? While the leads are good, the story isn't much, serving only to introduce Vicki into the TARDIS crew, and Maureen O'Brien (Vicki) does well in her debut story. (Rating: 3)
We get a more comedic story in The Romans. Set in July 64 AD, the Doctor and Vicki, having rested up in a villa, decide to walk to Rome, while Ian and Barbara decide to live up the leisure life drinking wine and eating grapes. However, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by two vicious slave traders, the former rowing aboard a slave galley, Barbara sold at a slave auction. They have a lot to worry about. "Have you any idea how the Romans treated their slaves or how many escaped?" she asks Ian.
The Doctor and Vicki have their share of adventures. The Doctor is mistaken for a murdered lyre player from Corinth, Maximus Pettulian, who was en route to play before emperor Nero (Derek Francis). The scene where the Doctor trounces an assassin, engaging in some martial arts is a highlight, with the Doctor putting up quite a fight. All the fun is at the court of Nero, where the emperor is quite an artistic ham who can be menacing and vindictive one moment, all charms if he's being flattered. But how does the Doctor get out of performing a concert, especially as he does not know how to play the lyre? However, Nero has fun chasing after the slave for his wife Poppeia, newly procured by Tavius, his court buyer. It's none other than Barbara, and he goes after her laughing like a schoolboy. He even has a pratfall which causes Vicki to cover her face as she laughs. However, his petulance is actually funny: "I'll have you both killed over and over again! I'll stick you two in an arena on an island with water all around, and in the water will be alligators, and the water level will be raised and the alligators will get you!"
Tavius (Michael Peake) is a key character here. He's the kindly man who buys Barbara because of her kind treatment to an ill fellow slave. "Most people under such circumstances would've looked after themselves." However, Tavius and the real Pettulian are clearly involved in some sort of intrigue, which the Doctor, mistaken for Pettulian, becomes caught up in. Tavius also has his comedic moment, as he hisses loudly for the Doctor when he wants a word. "Oh, it's our hissing friend again," says the Doctor.
Another interesting aspect is the ethics involving the role of the court poisoner. Vicki learns that such things are accepted, part of tradition. And she is lectured by the Doctor when she wants to wander around the court: "We must not interfere with the course of progress or try to accelerate man's achievements or progress."
Trivia: Episode 3 of this show aired later than the scheduled time due to coverage of Winston Churchill's funeral.
This is a spoof of a spoof, as writer Dennis Spooner based it on Carry On Cleo, which was itself a spoof of Quo Vadis?. The Romans is a fun episode clearly based on laughs rather than historical accuracy. Nero here is a portly middle-aged man, while the historical Nero was twenty-seven and at Actium, not Rome, when the fire started. And since when did Roman coins look like metal washers? (Rating: 5) Rating for this set: 4.
on January 20, 2003
I have always been baffled what is so bad about the Rescue. For years I have had people telling me it is one of the worst. I don't see it. Yeah, the alien guy's costume is pretty weak, but it turns out to be justa costume. Plus it is a good enough introduction to Susan's replacement Vicki. Is it sadistic that I still get a laugh when Barbara character blows away that sand monster... hahahahaha. Basically, what I'm saying is this episode doesn't live up to the negative expectation. Is it filler? Yes, but it's a good enough watch for this era of the show.
The Romans is just good. For historical episodes, I prefer the Aztecs personally, but the Romans is light and playful comedy and has some genuinely funny scenes (funny for comedy, not for a sci fi show) and the scene where the Doctor plays for the court of Nero (he polays no notes) and where he evades an assasination attempt by a mute assasin are some of the most fun Hartnell was given. I don't know if I'd recommend Hartnell to the uninitiated, but his years in the show are highly underrated these days and Hartnell himself is magical... pure magical!
on January 15, 2003
This is the first of three double cassette packages to contain two separate adventures for Doctor Who. Now, The Rescue, is little more than a filler adventure used for introducing a new companion to the series, now that Susan is long gone. The character of Vicki, a plucky, emotional, curious, strong-minded, kind-hearted young woman, who would basically become an adoptive granddaughter for the Doctor. The Romans is an enjoyable historical adventure as the TARDIS crew land in the final days of Rome, during the reign of Caesar Nero. The crew spend about a month in relative ease and relaxation before deciding to split up and travel to Rome. what follows in an extraordinary comedic adventure, as the Doctor and Vicki travel to Rome and become embroiled in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero, with the good Doctor mistakenly taken to be Maximus Petullian, while Ian and Barbara are sold as slaves. it's a fabulous adventure as the character of Nero is made up to be a fat, perverted, blustering, cowardly, power driven, and ultimately insane. and the scene in which Nero is given the notion to burn all of Rome is both funny & frightening. definitely a must to have for Doctor Who afficianados.
on March 4, 2001
A period of transition for Doctor Who as the first story not featuring granddaughter Susan is unveiled. In The Rescue, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara land on a planet where a young girl named Vicki is held captive by an alien menace named Quoquilion. After rescuing her, the four travel to the time of The Romans where the Doctor inadvertantly gives Nero the idea to burn Rome. Both stories are well written, the later, The Romans, being played mostly for laughs that work well. This is a welcome addition to a Doctor Who collection and an important piece of its history.
on January 11, 2001
"The Rescue" The TARDIS crew lands on a planet where they find a wrecked spaceship with only two survivors. Terrorized by a mysterious alien, the Doctor and his friends attempt to discover the truth and attempt a daring rescue. Collector's Note: This story features the first appearance of Vicki, the first "new" companion in the show's history.
"The Romans" After an extended vacation in ancient Rome, the TARDIS crew is separated into two adventures: The Doctor and Vicki become involved with the court of the notorious Emperor Nero, while Ian and Barbara are captured and sold as slaves!
William Hartnell's time as the Doctor is as entertaining today as it was over 35 years ago. In the title role, Hartnell is superbly cast, portraying an elderly man with a keen desire for exploration. Despite his occasional fluffs (See The Romans), he delivers the lines with all of the wit and urgency necessary. It is easy to see why each of the actors who followed him owe much to his portrayal. As Ian, Willam Russell is wonderful. In many ways, he is as influential as Hartnell, performing the stunts and action that would become so important to the series' success. Jackie Hill's Barbara is also fondly remembered. Along with Russell, Hill portrayed a humanity that opposed Hartnell's gruff and heartless Doctor. By the time these episodes aired, Ian and Barbara had mellowed the Doctor somewhat, bringing out his "humanity," another hallmark of the series. Maureen O'Brien, introduced here as Vicki, is given the thankless job of being the screaming young woman who gets captured, falls into traps, etc. She portrays it well, and has a great many amusing scenes with Hartnell's Doctor.
These stories are drastically different, but represent the dual nature of early Doctor Who. "The Rescue" is a sci-fi romp, complete with aliens and spacecraft. While not the greatest example from this series, today's viewers may still find it interesting. Of more general interest may be the set's dual opposite "The Romans," which is one of the "historical" dramas where the TARDIS lands at a crucial place in our history, often converging with historical figures. Though not completely accurate, it does show a fair sampling of what life was like in Roman Times without skimping on the trademark adventure. I personally prefer "The Romans," mostly for Hartnell's performance. This was in the show's second season, during it's first wave of popularity. Hartnell is obviously enjoying being a children's hero and his enthusiasm is infectious. This tape provides many hours of fun and adventure, suitable for the whole family.