When the TARDIS next lands, the Doctor mistakenly asks for Susan to open the doors, causing Barbara and Ian to feel sorry for him. Outside the Doctor recognizes their surroundings as the planet Dido, which he had visited once before. While the Doctor stays behind, Ian and Barbara move on, coming across a city that appears to be in ruins. Before they can investigate further, they come across a being called the Koquillon, who traps Ian, the Doctor, and the TARDIS by using some sort of weapon to create an explosion and then shoves Barbara off a cliff. The Doctor identifies the Koquillons as the natives of the planet, but is confused at the hostile reception Ian and Barbara received since the Koquillons have a very hospitable and peaceful culture. Meanwhile Barbara is rescued by Vicki, whose ship crashed on Dido months ago. The only other survivor besides Vicki is a man named Bennett, whose injuries keep him bedridden. Vicki explains that it’s the 25th century and that the same Koquillon Barbara encountered has been keeping them prisoner, threatening that if they stray far from the ship the other Koquillons will kill them, just like they, according to Bennett, killed the other crew members. Their only hope is a rescue ship that is supposed to arrive soon. Vicki’s father, who was moving with Vicki to another world after the death of Vicki’s mother, was among those who died.
Ian and the Doctor, who make their way around the obstruction through a cavern, eventually come across the crashed ship too. Vicki becomes upset when Barbara mistakes Vicki’s “pet”, a creature indigenous to Dido, as something threatening Vicki and shoots it with a gun, but the Doctor is able to calm her down and manages to get her to explain more about the situation. His curiosity piqued, the Doctor insists on meeting Bennett and forces his way into his room. Inside the Doctor discovers a recording of Bennett’s voice, demanding to be “left alone”, and finds a trapdoor leading into an underground complex. There, in a giant meeting hall, the Doctor runs into the Koquillon, which is of course Bennett in disguise. Answering the Doctor’s demands for an explanation even as he walks menacingly toward him, Bennett explains that he had murdered one of his shipmates and, in desperation, not only caused the crash on Dido but also used a weapon that can cause explosions from afar to massacre the rest of the crew and wipe out the Koquillon race, who were relatively few in number. Since Vicki had remained at the ship the entire time, Bennett set up the disguise to have her as a witness that would, after they were rescued, claim that the Koquillons were the real culprits. The Doctor shouts that Bennett must be insane to kill so many people just to save his own skin, a diagnosis Bennett is happy to verify by viciously attacking the Doctor. Luckily the Doctor is saved by two actual Koquillons, who rescue him and kill a terrified Bennett. After recovering from Bennett’s attack, the Doctor, Barbara, and Ian all agree to invite Vicki along. Vicki, who admits that she doesn’t really have anywhere else to go, happily agrees.
It’s the first time since “An Unearthly Child” that there’s a new companion. Also for those nerds keeping track of “lost adventures”, the Doctor has been to Dido at least once before.
Our Future History
The means of time travel has been discovered by the 25th century. Also interstellar travel is commonplace enough that people go to new planets just for the sake of finding work.
The main problem, of course, is that the episode is blatantly a sales pitch for the new companion, Vicki. It’s clear the showrunners were still committed to the show’s original formula and felt a replacement for Susan was absolutely necessary. Luckily the Doctor didn’t end up with another young waif for a relative; instead we have a plucky orphan from the 25th century, who finds the TARDIS a more than feasible alternative than staying behind on a planet where the natives are probably not all that inclined toward being polite to any representatives of the human species. It’s especially distracting since the entire script seems to be written like an audition: here’s Vicki grieving over a dead pet! Here’s Vicki lashing out at Barbara! Here’s Vicki warming up to the Doctor! At least the script is honest enough that it sets up that the Doctor misses Susan, Barbara and Ian realize that the Doctor misses Susan, and so they’re happy when a suitable replacement comes across their path.
Honestly I’m being more of the typical sarcastic Internet critic than I need to be with this one, since, for a story built around a remit, it’s not bad at all. In fact, it deserves to be remembered as arguably the first episodes where the Doctor is truly front and center. Not only does he solve the mystery du jour, but for the first time he gets into an actual brawl with the villain (he loses, but still…). All in all it’s a good couple of episodes with an interesting set-up and so far Vicki doesn’t look like she’ll just be a clone of Susan or, God help us, embody Susan at her worst; it’s just hard to ignore the producer-driven mandates behind the scenes and take the story fully on its own merits.