Hello everyone, the Historian here to wrap up both the first Doctor Who story of 1965 and the first TARDIS Project story of 2010. And it’s a great way to start out the new year: a well written, well acted, well directed and well designed piece of work. Not only that, but a new and promising addition to the cast in Maureen O’Brien’s Vicki.
Let’s talk a bit more about Vicki. Developed by ex-story editor and “Rescue” scripter David Whitaker, she could have been a carbon copy of Susan. Instead, Whitaker brings us a subtly different, seemingly younger character. It’s still early days for her, of course, but Vicki is presented, due to the necessity of her circumstances, as somewhat more self-reliant than her predecessor. She also feels things very keenly; her pain at the death of her pet, and her slightly misplaced anger at Barbara, felt very natural and real. Her interactions with the Doctor and her obvious need for some kind of comforting parental figure also rang true for me. Still, as I said, it’s early days yet and we have to remember that Susan’s character also slipped back and forth from well-drawn to “screaming girl.” But I have a good feeling and Maureen O’Brien’s acting in this story certainly helped.
What else to say that we didn’t cover in the individual episode posts? Well, I suppose I should mention a few firsts. The first core cast addition is covered above, but this story brought us the show’s first major production change as Dennis Spooner (writer of “The Reign of Terror” and the story that begins with our next episode) took over as story editor. This story, being written by Whitaker, doesn’t yet seem to have Spooner’s stamp yet, but I’m sure we’ll notice some subtle differences in tone as the year continues.
This story is also the first time the show fakes out its audience by using pseudonyms in the credits. Sure, we know now that both Bennett and Koquillion were played by Ray Barrett, but if you only looked at the end credits of “The Powerful Enemy,” you would be forgiven for believing that Koquillion was played by an actor named “Sydney Wilson.” (“Sydney,” from Head of Drama and show sort-of creator Sydney Newman and “Wilson” from BBC Head of Serials Donald Wilson.) This would be a trick the show would return to many times (especially in regards to a certain Masterful villain), but it was first used here.
And then there’s the “show mythology” first: In the first episode of this story, the Doctor corrects Barbara, after she tells him that the ship has landed, by telling her the proper word would be “materialised.” This is, as far as I can tell, the first time the word has been used to describe the TARDIS’ arrival somewhere. Does anyone know if I’m right? At any rate, soon “materialise” and “dematerialise” will become the standard description of the ship’s travel.
To sum things up, I thought this story, though short, was a great success. Its plot was fun, with a great little mystery. Simple, ultimately, but satisfying, with some great character moments for everyone, especially the Doctor who gets several wonderful scenes as he deals with the loss of Susan. (His interactions with Vicki should certainly be viewed with that in mind.) Hartnell, as usual, shines. Everyone else has their moments (not to mention Jacqueline Hill nearly burning her face in the line of duty) as well. Just a fine short story.
If you’re interested in more production information (like the details of Jackie Hill’s accident alluded to above), check out “The Rescue” page at A Brief History of Time (Travel). And here is a link to the official BBC episode guide for the story.
Tomorrow night, as I type this, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara take their new friend Vicki back into Earth’s past for an adventure that has a radically different tone…See you then! I remain