The Rescue / The Romans

Cover of Doctor Who: The Rescue / The Romans DVD release


  • 2 April 2009 (UK)
  • 7 July 2009 (US)




Two solid, entertaining stories are presented. Though not particularly weighty, they're easily the most enjoyable Hatrnell-era releases.

The Rescue - 2 episodes

The Rescue begins, shockingly, not with scenes of the Doctor and his companions landing on a planet, but rather with scenes in which two of the planet's inhabitants detect the TARDIS' arrival. This kind of in media res introduction to the story is a refreshing twist, and sheds some light on the two inhabitants' situation, mental state, and motivations. Such a start suits the story well and is a refreshing change from standard Doctor Who.

The audience soon learns that the planet's inhabitants, Vicki and Bennett, were stranded there after their spaceship crashed and the rest of their party was ambushed and killed by the planet's natives. They survived and must do the bidding of one particular native, Koquillion. The entire situation strikes the Doctor as odd, considering he had visited the planet before and knew the natives to be peace-loving, nonviolent people.

The first episode sets up the situation and mystery well, especially since the audience shares the the perspective of Vicki, Bennett, and Koquillion rather than that of the TARDIS crew. The mention of Susan and Barbara and Ian's concern about the Doctor provide for some nice continuity from previous stories. The sets of the spaceship are very effective, as is the music. There are some frustrating moments for the audience, such as Ian's bizarre move of carelessly leaving Barbara at the hands of Koquillion, dodgy special effects, and scenes of the Doctor and Ian traversing rock ledges that bring to mind the less-engrossing moments of The Daleks. The second episode features some gratifying deduction on the part of the Doctor, and his verbal and physical showdown with Koquillion is tense and very well executed. The resolution of the mystery is intriguing, surprising, and satisfactory.


The Romans - 4 episodes

The Romans brings to mind The Aztecs, which was an unusually light, fast-paced historical story that showcased the gentler, whimsical side of the Doctor. Here these tendencies are taken to an extreme. The story is nearly a farce and almost without substance, though it's hugely entertaining. The Doctor is portrayed extraordinarily sympathetically as a quirky, endearing soul, a far cry from the condescending and amoral character presented at the beginning of season one.

The Romans finds the Doctor and his companions living luxuriously in a villa near Rome in 64 AD. During these scenes the relationship and potential for romance between Ian and Barbara is played up, offering a nice insight into their characters and some rare development for their friendship not seen since An Unearthly Child. The Doctor, restless, decides to visit Rome. After being mistaken for a talented lyre player, he ends up meeting Nero, and a great deal of folly ensues.

The first episode of this serial sets up the action nicely. The second one drags a great deal. The final two are farcical and entertaining, filled with comedy and action and very fast-paced. They're not really in the style of earlier Doctor Who, though some scenes recall the muted humour that went along with Barbara pretending to be a goddess in The Aztecs.

The story works, however. The major characters (Nero, Tavius, Poppaea, Locusta) are well-played, distinct, and memorable. The sets and music are effective. The Doctor himself is brilliant, evading conspiracies, sparring with Nero, and musing about Rome; William Hartnell really makes the most of the comedy elements of the serial and the Doctor's ponderings to himself are quite amusing. The pacing is excellent. The Doctor's youngest companion is neither annoying nor useless; instead she adds character and color to the story. And the fight scenes are well-choreographed (finally!). There are a few nice historical references regarding the role of slaves and the use of poison in ancient Rome. The story may not have that much weight, but it doesn't claim or try to. In the end, it's an entertaining, enjoyable serial, and that's perfectly sufficient.


Special features

It's nice to see some of the actual cast and crew appear in person in the feature on The Rescue, which is mildly informative. The features for The Romans are laregely praise and commentary rather than insight, though "What has 'The Romans' Ever Done For Us" contains some nice historical analysis. The commentaries, sadly, aren't as informative as these features, nor as earlier commentaries, like those for The Daleks.