“You destroyed a whole planet to save your own skin. You’re insane!”– The Doctor
A short and simple story giving our first introduction to a new companion. Vicki comes across as a great addition to the crew—the fact that she is an orphaned child is highlighted to make her sympathetic but the acting by Maureen O’Brien really what makes the character. This viewing was the first time I noticed how the story is structured to highlight her stepping into the family. It’s emphasized how much like a tired old man the Doctor is acting (napping, not paying attention) at the beginning; after his encounter with Vicki, all that goes away and he is suddenly a grandfather again, in control and giving guidance. (There is a also sweet and tender scene when The Doctor accidently calls out to Susan forgetting she’s gone and is embarrassed.)
As for the story itself, I always seem to forget that it all makes sense in the end. I keep misremembering it, imagining that it has plot holes about why Bennett has to trick Vicki, where the Koquillion costume comes from, how Barbara survives her fall, and such, but then when I watch the story I remember that all that is explained quite well. In fact, these stories stand as very good examples of plot points being explained naturally in the course of conversation. (And even how to insert a truly funny throw-away line: When Barbara notices the ship is now steady, she says “Doctor, the trembling’s stopped.” To which he absentmindedly replies “Oh, my dear! I’m so glad you’re feeling better!”)
My favorite scene is when the Doctor enters the People’s Hall of Justice—the whole tone of the story changes. The dark lighting and dramatic sound effects underscore the suddenly confident and knowledgeable Doctor, confronting and revealing Bennett’s treachery that he had already figured out well before. Perhaps a surprise for us but not for the Doctor. It’s interesting that he doesn’t seem to have a backup plan of what to do after the confrontation (perhaps he thought Bennet would give in after being unmasked) but to his credit the Doctor does get a great sword chop in!
Best unsettling moments:
The Didoans scared me as a child because of their sudden imposing and expressionless presence at the end; I wondered at how their slow, silent steps toward Bennett could frighten him such that he would scramble away to his death. It made them seem eerie and mysterious. But overall, what I find more unsettling now is just to think how sad life on Dido has been for poor Vicki, how manipulated and afraid she’s been—under the thumb of Bennett, traumatized by the loss of her father, cowered by Koquillion, even having to deal with her friendly pet and only companion being killed.
- First introduction of a new companion
It’s a small point but I wish they had shown or pointed out that there is an exit door in the middle section between the main room and Bennett’s room. Otherwise it would make no sense for Vicki to think that Koquillion had left.