Tag Archives: The Rescue

The Peculiar Case of Vicki’s Quick Exit

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I have to admit I really liked Vicki. Young, perhaps no more than 17, she had a vibrancy that had been missing in her predecessor, the Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan.  As a former secondary school teacher I envied the way she was schooled. In The Web Planet Vicki incorrectly assumed that Barbara had taught at a nursery school because they “worked upwards from the three Rs.”  The curriculum of Coal Hill School in 1963 seemed like child’s play to her.  At the age of 10 she took a certificate of education in medicine,  physics and chemistry.  When asked by Barbara how long she spent in the classroom Vicki was totally perplexed.  She’d spent almost an hour a week with a machine.  Life in 2493 must have been a child’s dream existence!

A rare photo of  Maureen O'Brien as Vicki in colour

A rare photo of Maureen O’Brien as Vicki in colour

Vicki was a member of the Tardis Crew  in episodes which screened from 2 January 1965 until 6th November 1965.  In just under 12 months Vicki had gone from an orphaned girl stranded on the planet Dido to the love interest of Troilus, son of the King of Troy. During that time, however, there was little in the way of character development. Save for when we met Vicki in The Rescue and she was clearly suffering from the effects of Bennett/Koquillion’s abuse, she remains a vibrant and forthright young woman throughout. As I have previously lamented, it was a shame that the opportunity wasn’t taken to examine the long term effects of this abuse on Vicki, however my concern for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder plainly comes from a 21st century perspective.

Koquillion and Vicki

Koquillion and Vicki

This absence of character evolution says much about the 1960’s perception of women, particularly young ones.  In the 1960s the median age of first marriage for women was around 20 years of age.  Career opportunities  were limited and pay was not equal.  Although unable to locate figures for the United Kingdom, Australia as a Commonwealth country would have been reasonably similar. Until 1966 the Australian Public Service required single women  to resign from their positions on the eve of their marriage. Equal pay was not granted until 1972. Is it any surprise, therefore, that women were portrayed as either children or mothers?  With women having perhaps only five years between leaving school and marriage, this period between childhood and motherhood was marginalized and frequently forgotten.

Maureen O'Brien

Maureen O’Brien

When we first meet Vicki she is in a stereotypical role as carer for Bennett.  As Bennett is supposedly crippled and unable to work, Vicki is compelled to undertake all the chores including collecting water, cooking and cleaning.  She isn’t seen to complain about this notwithstanding the absence of any thanks from Bennett.   Once a member of the Tardis Crew, Vicki  is somewhat of a companion for the Doctor – a faux grand-daughter, if you like.   The Doctor has someone to fuss around, care about and instruct.  She provides him with moral support  and most probably a sense of identity.  She is close by his side in The Romans and The Crusade and does not distance herself in any great manner until The Space Museum, where she becomes involved with the young Xeron rebels and seems to start a revolution for fun.  A potential love interest comes to nothing. Although coupled with Steven for much of The Time Meddler, Vicki is back at the Doctor’s side during Galaxy 4.  In her final serial, The Myth Makers, Vicki  is again separated from the Doctor but only because he’s compelled her to remain in the Tardis because of a sprained ankle.  As was the case with both Susan and Barbara, female companions in Doctor Who are overly susceptible to wrenching their ankles.  They require time to recuperate from such injuries, unlike Ian who was frequently knocked unconscious and seemed able to get up, and shake it off, each time.

Vicki, Steven and the Doctor in The Time Meddler

Vicki, Steven and the Doctor in The Time Meddler

Quite phenomenally Vicki is capable of falling in love with Troilus in less than 24 hours, most of which time she was a prisoner in a dungeon.  This love affair was even quicker than Susan and David’s in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Having pleaded with the Doctor in The Crusade not to leave her as the Tardis was her only home, Vicki was extraordinarily quick to leave its confines in The Myth Makers. The television audience is not even privy to Vicki’s farewells to the Doctor as they take place out of camera shot inside the Tardis. The Doctor, nonetheless, appears satisfied with her explanation which seems to have been that she didn’t want Troilus to think she had betrayed him.

Vicki with the Doctor in The Crusade

Vicki with the Doctor in The Crusade

Although spending one’s life travelling in a blue wooden box through time and space may appear somewhat aimless, it’s certainly more secure than with a bloke you’ve only known for a day; in a time several thousand years before your own; and in a land where your love’s home City has been destroyed.  Ever quick to point out logical flaws in a witty manner, Wood and Miles in About Time 1 couldn’t help but extrapolate on a grave problem that Vicki and Troilus would be confronted by.  As the Tardis translates languages for the benefit of the Crew and persons they meet along the way, once it had left then the two lovers would be unable to communicate with each other.  Unless, of course, Vicki had learnt Ancient Greek, the language that Homer attributes to the Trojans in Iliad, in school!

Vicki - I hope that tasted nice!

Vicki – I hope that tasted nice!

Aside from the characterization failures in Doctor Who, the reality of Maureen O’Brien’s hasty exit from the role of Vicki appears to lay in programme’s change of producer.  According to Howe, Walker and Stammers in The Handbook, O’Brien had been cast by Verity Truman having been suggested by one of her former drama teachers who then was in the employ of the BBC. The new producer, John Wiles, replaced Truman beginning with the production of The Myth Makers, although he had shadowed Truman during the making of Galaxy 4. Wood and Miles argue that “Wiles had noticed her tendency to pick holes in the dialogue during rehearsals for Galaxy Four, and made arrangements to have her removed while the cast were on holiday”.  It was on her return from a week’s break given to the regular cast whilst Mission to the Unknown was filmed  that O’Brien heard of her dismissal. Although the new character of Katarina was going to replace Vicki it soon became evident to Wiles and story editor, Donald Tosh, that Katarina’s Trojan naivety would make her an unsuitable companion.  It’s for that reason that Katarina was just as hastily written out of Doctor Who in the fourth episode of The Daleks’ Master Plan.

A recent photo of Maureen O'Brien

A recent photo of Maureen O’Brien

So ends the less than a year long tenure of Maureen O’Brien as Vicki.  This was but the beginning of a revolving door of companions which would grace the screens of Doctor Who over the next several years.

Vicki as we first meet her

Vicki as we first meet her

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

References

David J Howe, Stephen James Walker & Mark Stammers, The Handbook. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Production of Doctor Who. Telos Publishing Ltd, Surrey, 2005.

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time 1. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2009.

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The Rescue

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Perhaps more than any other, The Rescue is a serial that is more profoundly disturbing on the second viewing than on the first. Should you wish to watch this story without forewarning of its contents, then beware.  Spoilers are contained within.

Taken at face value, The Rescue is a somewhat innocuous story.  One of the few two part serials in classic Who, The Rescue was originally broadcast between the Dalekmania inducing Invasion of Earth, and the Carry On style slapstick comedy of The Romans. The Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan, had left Doctor Who at the conclusion of The Dalek Invasion of Earth to commence a new life with the urban guerrilla, David Campbell. The purpose of this story was to introduce the new companion, Vicki, an orphan survivor of a spaceship crash on the planet Dido.

Vicki radios the Dido bound rescue craft

Vicki radios the Dido bound rescue craft

Only two crew members of the ship remain at the serial’s commencement, Vicki and Bennett, an apparently disabled man in his 30s or 40s who was played by Australian actor, Ray Barrett.  The other crew members who had survived the crash, it was believed, had perished in an explosion when they had attended a “meet and greet” with the residents of the planet, Dido. It was in this explosion that Bennett is said to have sustained an injury to his legs that left him all but bedridden.  Vicki was the only crew member who didn’t attend the function as she was suffering from a fever at the time.

Vicki and Bennett are the sole survivors of a spaceship crash on the planet Dido

Vicki and Bennett are the sole survivors of a spaceship crash on the planet Dido

Barbara, Bennett and Vicki

Barbara, Bennett and Vicki

As the only able bodied survivor, Vicki takes on the role of caring for Bennett, who remains in his cabin most of the time.  Menacing the survivors is a grotesque monster called Koquillion. Although humanoid in body form, Koquillion’s head and hands are a jumble of large and pointed spikes. Vicki, however, is only ever alone when sees the monster. Bennett has not witnessed the beast in the presence of Vicki, however appears more than knowledgeable about its threat.  He is quick to remind Vicki to watch out for Koquillion.  He’ll be around somewhere, advises Bennett, and he will kill both of them if he learns about the rescue mission which is due to shortly arrive.

Koquillion menaces Vicki

Koquillion menaces Vicki

Koquillion plays a sinister game of mind control and psychological abuse on Vicki.  He arrives at the ship intermittently and tells her that she is not to wander within 50 yards of the vessel.  Koquillion claims that the local people are warlike and that he alone can save Vicki and Bennett from his own people.  “I am your only protection!” exclaims Koquillion,  “You should be grateful”.  This psychological warfare has left Vicki confused and contradictory.  One moment she is scared that Koquillion could keep her on Dido forever, yet when Barbara looks at her in a concerned manner she immediately snaps “You’re sorry for me, aren’t you?  I’m perfectly all right, you know.  I don’t care if nobody ever comes.  I’m fine.  I’m perfectly fine”.  Clearly Vicki is anything but fine.

Ian, Barbara and Koquillion

Ian, Barbara and Koquillion

Ordinarily left with no company other than the abrupt and irascible Bennett, Vicki takes solace in her friendship with a Didonian, a reptilian like native of the planet.  Whilst collecting water in jerry-cans her legless companion, whom Vicki has named Sandy, approaches.  Fearful that it is about to pounce on Vicki, Barbara shoots it, not withstanding Vicki’s protestations.   It subsequently takes the Doctor’s intervention to heal the rift that necessarily emerges between Vicki and Barbara.

Barbara shows that even the inexperienced can shoot to kill

Barbara shows that even the inexperienced can shoot to kill

Vicki has been living on tenterhooks, waiting always for the unexpected arrival of Koquillion.  His psychological control of her is immense, notwithstanding that there has been no apparent physical violence. Vicki’s predicament is not dissimilar to that of a victim of domestic violence, particularly someone subject to verbal abuse and controlling behaviour.  The perpetrator may appear the perfect partner to outsiders as he or she is cautious to ensure that there are no witnesses to their behaviour.  The effect of this psychological violence is therefore all that much greater on the victim, who can unfortunately underplay the effects on them for the shame of revelation, or fear of not being believed.

Koquillion and Vicki

Koquillion and Vicki

It is only near the story’s end that the Doctor reveals that Koquillion and Bennett are one of the same.  Bennett has been leaving the ship through a hidden escape hatch in the floor of his cabin, donning the Koquillion gear, and terrorising Vicki.  It is this fact that makes The Rescue all that more unsettling.  Bennett had killed a crew member on the spaceship and had been arrested.  Prior to his crime being radioed to Earth, the ship crashed.  To conceal his crime he reasoned that he must kill all of the crew members, save for Vicki who was unaware of his crime. It was Bennett who arranged the explosion using the ship’s armaments, which killed the crew (including Vicki’s father) and the people of Dido who were attending the “meet and greet”. “You destroyed a whole planet to save your own skin”, said the Doctor, “You’re insane”.  The masquerade as Koquillion was to scare Vicki into believing that the Didonians were a terrible people.  She could therefore be assured to support his story that the blast that had killed the crew was caused by the Dido people.  Bennett met his end, however, at the hands of two of the Didonians who unbeknownst to him, had survived the blast.

The wrecked spaceship in which Vicki's father was killed

The wrecked spaceship in which Vicki’s father was killed

The Doctor, meanwhile, is suffering from the psychological effects of Susan’s departure.  For the first time ever he sleeps during the materialization of the Tardis.  In fact, it is during this serial that the word “materialize” is used for the first time to indicate the landing of the Tardis.  We also learn that the Tardis can travel through solid matter in flight.  Barbara wonders whether they will see a new side to the Doctor, to which Ian responds by saying he’s not getting any younger.  He then gesticulates in a manner so as to suggest that the Doctor is going senile. The Doctor also admits for the first time that he never obtained a medical degree, and even compliments Ian’s intelligence.

Barbara, Vicki, Ian and the Doctor safely in the Tardis at "The Rescue's" end

Barbara, Vicki, Ian and the Doctor safely in the Tardis at “The Rescue’s” end

The Doctor comforts Vicki upon telling her that Bennett murdered her father and offers to take her with them.  Ian and Barbara had simultaneously, but separately from the Doctor, also come to the conclusion that Vicki should depart Dido in the Tardis.  Promising her an abundance of adventure, Vicki accepts the Doctor’s invitation to travel in the “old box” which is bigger on the inside.  What scars, if any, she bears from her ordeal remain to be seen.  The orphaned girl from 2493 begins her exploits in time and space.

"The Rescue" was originally broadcast in the UK between 2nd and 9th January 1965

“The Rescue” was originally broadcast in the UK between 2nd and 9th January 1965

"The Rescue" DVD was released in a Box Set with "The Romans" entitled (unsurprisingly) "The Rescue The Romans"

“The Rescue” DVD was released in a Box Set with “The Romans” entitled (unsurprisingly) “The Rescue The Romans”

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.