“I have a ship capable of crossing the barriers of space and time. Surely this would be invaluable to you?” – The Doctor
Finally, we reach the end of the first Dalek story of Doctor Who! “The Rescue” is a fitting title for the end of the serial as the Thals, Ian, and Barbara break into the Dalek city to rescue the captured Doctor and Susan. But this is also a particularly bloody episode, as Antodus sacrifices himself and several other Thals die in the resulting battle. In the end, the Daleks fall, seemingly forever, the Thals have peace, and the Doctor and his companions prepare to depart.
There is so much to say, both about how the serial wraps up and on the direction of the show as a whole, but more on that after the recap.
Time Space Visualizer – The Recap
For the second time in as many weeks, we begin in a dark place: Antodus has fallen into a chasm and dangles at the end of his safety line. Ian holds on for dear life, but he too is slipping in. Ganatus joins Ian to try to save his brother, but it is no use. Antodus struggles at the end of the rope to find purchase on the steep walls, but it is too smooth. As Ian and Ganatus call to the others for help, Antodus cuts the safety rope with his knife and falls, presumably to his death in the water far below. Ian and Ganatus stare helplessly at the frayed rope, but they have to keep going.
Far above them, in the Dalek city, the Doctor and Susan are prisoners in the Dalek control room, their hands and feet fastened to the walls. The Doctor tries once again to reason with the Daleks, but their minds are made up: it will be the Daleks alone who will rebuild Skaro, and they will do it by irradiating the whole planet so that only the Daleks can live there. The Thals will die, as will many of the other plants and animals on the surface.
“Only one race can survive.” – A Dalek
Ian and Barbara, down below, are close to despair. Despite Anotdus’s death, they seem to be no nearer to their goal. The way ahead is blocked and they will soon have to turn back, even as they know that the cave in from the last episode will prevent their escape. Worse, their lamps are dimming as they run out of power; they will be trapped in the dark soon. When the lights are turned off to conserve energy, Ian spots a hint of light coming from some nearby rocks. He pulls them side to reveal a Dalek service tunnel for the water pipes– they are through!
And finally, back in the Thal base camp, Dyoni and Alydon decide that they can no longer wait for the Doctor and Susan. They must have been captured, but they have no choice: they must fight. They begin the attack on the Dalek city.
“We may be farmers, but have we forgotten how to fight?” – Alydon
As the Daleks load radiation into their distribution capsule– the way they will spread it around the planet– the Doctor tries again to bargain with them. He offers to teach them about time travel, even show them the TARDIS if they let him go. The Daleks refuse, replying that once everyone is dead they will simply find the TARDIS and learn its secrets on their own. While doing this, the Doctor tricks the Daleks into revealing the location of the lost fluid link, the part that was stolen from Ian several episodes previously. Before they can continue, an alarm is sounded: the Thals have entered the city.
Ian and his group are in the city-proper by this point, hiding from Dalek patrols. They also hear the alarm going off as the invading Thals are detected. The Daleks send reinforcements to level one, giving Ian and his group some cover as they head deeper toward the control room.
“Nothing can stop the Daleks.” – A Dalek
A few moments later, Ian and the others find Ganatus and his team of Thals, still searching the city for the Doctor. (How they got through while the Daleks were massing at the entrance is not said.) The group has ascended to level nine when another announcement is heard: all Daleks to proceed to the control room on level ten, and that all other levels will be sealed off. Ian and the Thals race and strain to hold open the doors to allow the team to get back to a lift that will take them to the control room level. Barbara is trapped briefly under a closing door, but Ian and the others pull her to safety.
Once they are clear, the final assault on the Dalek control room begins. One Thal emerges from the ceiling, but is quickly shot. Barbara throws a rock at a Dalek then flees into the corridor, when the Dalek follows her it is ambushed by Ian and the Thals. Other Thals are less lucky, even wounded or killed in the fighting, but one of the Thals manages to ram a Dalek into a control panel and we see its weapon fire. By this time, Ian and Alydon are able to release the Doctor and Susan from their bonds, but as they make to flee they realize the battle is over: all of the Daleks have lost power and are barely able to move. One pleads with the Doctor to help, but he refuses. Ganatus is remorseful. Couldn’t there have been another way? Susan reassures the Thals that they will be able to put all this technology to good use.
Some time later, back at the TARDIS camp, some Thals are looking over Dalek machinery. The Doctor and his companions are preparing to go: Susan has been given a Thal cape, while Barbara is given a gift of fine cloth. Even the Doctor has taken specimens. As they get ready to depart, Barbara and Ganatus share a quiet kiss.
“Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars and yours is here” – The Doctor
As the TARDIS departs from Skaro, there is an explosion in the control room and everyone is knocked unconscious. To be continued!
“Oh, how stupid of me. I very nearly forgot my specimens.” – The Doctor
As the Doctor and Susan spent nearly the entire episode trapped by the Daleks, we get a good look at how they work under that kind of pressure. While the Doctor seems at first to be cowardly, even willing to turn over the TARDIS to the Daleks to secure his rescue, on second glance it seems that he was working to buy time, as well as find the location of the needed fluid link. The episode is a bit ambiguous on this point, but for now I am going to think that he is playing a long game.
“It’s a present from Dyoni. Isn’t it gorgeous?” – Susan
Susan remained trapped with the Doctor, but mainly trusted in the Doctor rather than try to break or talk her way free on her own. The best that I can say about Susan this episode is a moment, possibly unscripted, between her and Alydon at the end. It brings a bit of closure to the ill-considered love triangle from the earlier episodes. Susan is also quite pleased to have a Thal cloak, suggesting that she may enjoy the strange fashions of distant planets.
“First and foremost we must find the control room and knock it out.” – Ian
Ian remains the primary hero this episode, but there is also much less to say about him. He gets a great moment where he strains against the Dalek door to free Barbara from being crushed, but he is strangely absent from the final confrontation with the Daleks– he rescues the Doctor rather than charging in headlong himself. Ian also is the one to notice the dim light coming from the Dalek tunnels.
“Well, you must experiment. These Dalek inventions should be of some use to you.” – Barbara
Barbara get a pretty good turn this episode: first as the optimist that pushes the group forward after Antodus’s death, then when she confronts a Dalek herself to lure it into a trap. The quiet moment she has with Ganatus at the end hardly seems earned– I did not get a feel for their relationship much in the rest of the serial– but it shows a level of maturity that Doctor Who sometimes forgets about. I wonder what Ian thinks of the kiss? Does he know?
This episode is frustrating! On one hand, I loved some of its little moments: Antodus’s sacrifice, Barbara’s assault on the Daleks, the Doctor’s gambit to reclaim the fluid link, and even the snogging between Barbara and Ganatus at the end; but on the other hand, our heroes defeated the Daleks entirely by accident. In fact, none of our main characters even were directly responsible for the victory.
One thing the episode does well is describe the logistics of the final city. We know that Ian and his team were attacking from the rear, while Ganatus and other others came in the front, and we also saw the Daleks respond to the Thal invasion by moving troops out of the areas where Ian and the group were. That was good planning! But then they meet up with Ganatus who should not have been able to get as far into the base as he did– and if they could break through the Dalek defenses so easily, why bother with the backdoor approach? We also have to forgive the lucky timing that after days of wandering that the attacks would go off at the same time; we can claim it was good planning, but it was probably just plot-necessity.
My real problem with the resolution is that it was by accident and in hindsight I realize I do not know what the goal was. Supposedly it was to recapture the fluid link, but when the Doctor was kidnapped it was not clear that is what they were going for. The fact that the Daleks essentially suicided by accident does not add to the victory, instead it lets the Thals off easy: they do not have to think much about the morality of genocide that they did not deliberately cause. In fact, the only person that might have a guilty conscience after this episode is the Doctor as he uncharacteristically refuses to help the injured Daleks as they gradually died. Would later Doctors have done the same? I am not sure.
There were a few “throwing the rope” moments, but overall the pacing was strong. A fine ending to the serial that probably bought Doctor Who a place in history. No complaints about that!
- Good control of tension as the group ascended to the control level, plus we got a nice sense of the way the battle was progressing and what the Daleks were doing about it.
- I especially love the Doctor telling the Thals that he will never return to see them, but that he might visit their grandchildren. A concise way to define the modus operandi of the Doctor for the rest of the show. Except for Earth, he almost never returns to the same people at the same time.
- Victory by accident. Enough said about that.
- Susan might as well have been shopping this week, save for a moment at the end when she tries on a new cloak.
- Even with the Thals defeated, the Daleks still did not have a way to leave the city.
And with that, we say “Goodbye!” to the very first Dalek story. I will write a final summary of the whole serial next, then on to The Edge of Destruction!
Buy this episode on Amazon:
Previous episodes this season:
- E01: An Unearthly Child
- E02: The Cave of Skulls (An Unearthly Child, Part 2)
- E03: The Forest of Fear (An Unearthly Child, Part 3)
- E04: The Firemaker (An Unearthly Child, Part 4)
- E05: The Dead Planet (The Daleks, Part 1)
- E06: The Survivors (The Daleks, Part 2)
- E07: The Escape (The Daleks, Part 3)
- E08: The Ambush (The Daleks, Part 4)
- E09: The Expedition (The Daleks, Part 5)
- E10: The Ordeal (The Daleks, Part 6)
If you have enjoyed this, please consider liking me on Facebook. Clicking “like” on the right will support my blog and new articles will (sometimes) appear in your Facebook feed. Clicking “like” above or below will tell Facebook this post is cool. Feel free to click both! To subscribe via email, use the form on the right. My email address is joe at coatofmanycolors.net.