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Exegesis: The Rescue

By Richard Scheib and Michael Chisnall


The Doctor
Appears to be in late 60s. Has long snow white hair, brushed severely back from his proud, hawkish face. Grey, pale but fiercely intense eyes, thin lips which draw down at the corners in a disapproving manner. Beak-like nose gives him a remote, superior air, accentuated by hollow cheeks and flaring nostrils. Wears a starched wing-collar shirt, with meticulously tied cravat, brocaded waistcoat and sharply creased check trousers. Wears a pair of half-moon spectacles upon occasions. (Aren't Time Lords advanced enough to develop corrective eye surgery? More likely the Doctor likes this small eccentricity.) Barbara states that the Doctor comes from a different age and universe. Okay, so this is not his time zone, but I think here she means a different galaxy - universe is the totality of everything.

Slim, dark hair trimmed short and neatly parted in the mod style. Regular features give him a somewhat conventional look, but has bright eyes that suggest determination and a touch of mischief. Dresses in a short jacket and narrow tapered trousers that make him look like a bank clerk.

Described here as slim and shapely, wears her thick black hair in the high lacquered style of the 1960's. Strong features, firmly arched eyebrows and a wide mouth. Wears a tight fitting black cardigan and slacks that give her a formal, austere appearance that matches her direct, independent manner. Seems an irregularity in her calculations - states that she was born 555 years before the story's present (the year 2501) which means she would be born in 1946, which would make her only 17 at the time she left Earth in 1963, barely school-leaving age let alone teaching age. Perhaps she is reacting to the earlier date Vicki gives, saying that she and her father left Earth 8 years ago in 2493, which would make her 25, a more likely age.

Vicki is not short for Victoria. Appearance - small, fragile faced, huge intense eyes, fine eyebrows arched high at the corners giving her the air of constant surprise. Her short-cropped hair, oval face and small mouth suggests Joan of Arc, her nose suggests Norman ancestry. Age - never specified, but The Web Planet calls her a child. Vicki's father left Earth with her, due to the increasing pollution problems, after her mother died.


Gives evidence of great wear - the chipped paintwork, the windows cracked and filthy, thick layers of dust clogging the panelling. This gives evidence of the great wear and tear the TARDIS has been through, except for the fact that the TARDIS recreates its shell very time it materialises. Surely it would recreate the basic model of the shell as opposed to how it wears every time. Perhaps the chameleon circuits' damage is such that it can only rebuild each way the shell was each previous landing, so that every time it is also rebuilding the accumulated dust etc. Even so, the TARDIS is supposed to be invulnerable so how is it is possible to sustain damage to its windows? Well it is not entirely invulnerable - the Big Bang would have destroyed it in Castrovalva. The amount of damage it would take to crack the windows etc makes the mind boggle. The writer later calls the TARDIS frail and wooden - surely Harry Sullivan, in writing up these exploits under the name of Ian Marter, must have forgotten or never learned the TARDIS real nature. Its passing in space is picked up by the Seeker as 'an anomalous monopole field'.

Dido - Planetary Readout

Thirteenth planet in the rotating binary system Proxima Gemini, in the galaxy Moore 11. It is not believed possible that a binary star system can have planets - evidently our current astrophysical theories will have to be revised. The gravitational effects of the rotating binary make the planet's orbit an eccentric figure-8. When the planet reaches a certain position the heat, light and radiation from both suns burns all vegetation and boils the seas. The inhabitants are forced underground in order to survive. Such periods lasts for hundreds of years. It is difficult to really see what would cause such heat waves - a normal orbit travels an ellipse, at points closer to a sun than others, hence seasons. Either Dido's has giant suns allowing a long orbit with a normal summer of several hundred years or these effects are due to other causes. And the orbit must be extremely eccentric to allow such huge climactic variations. the middle-point of the orbit between the suns would not cause any major temperature variations. Possibly the variations aren't so severe - maybe the seas don't necessarily boil away, it would take a huge rise in temperature - perhaps they only get hot and the local lakes and smaller bodies of water boil away? Volcanic activity and earthquakes might stir up lava under the lakes to give the impression that they might be boiling away. The Didoi would have to have vast evolutionary adaptive skills in order to survive, such as the ability to tolerate vast ranges of temperature. It is difficult to believe that such a planet would be able to survive let alone keep an atmosphere or sustain life. Being the thirteenth planet, does this mean that there are another twelve planets closer in orbits that do the same thing? It grows dark very quickly on Dido - interesting, the planet probably has a very small nighttime in comparison to its days, perhaps the quick nighttime is due to a high rotational velocity? Planetary day is only thirteen hours).

The area where the ship has landed is desert, the sand coarse and coloured. This would seem to be representative of the whole planet which is described as having a dusty atmosphere and cloudless skies. This would have to mean that there is very little water in the atmosphere, although the air is charged with electricity, like an incipient storm. This has not always been an arid region as the area is scarred with the remains of crusted lakebeds. This may suggest some planet-wide ecological disaster, although the question of where the water has gone to is still up in the air so to speak.

The planet's nearer sun is a red sun and the planet has three moons. Native flora - tall spiny-leaved plants, thorny shrubs, cacti. Glassy rocks are found in the sand that would suggest heat formation - probably some type of by-product of the nearby living areas. Water is to be found - Vicki talks of going and 'gathering' it - exactly what she means seems obscure, perhaps she is referring to condensation collectors, although surely the time for collecting condensation would be night-time and it is very clearly daytime. The foliage would also seem to be adaptable - lush growth growing along the Didoi water pipe. This may suggest that Dido at time inhabits a distance from its sun that leaves it in a climate not unlike Earth's own. It would have foliage resultantly adapted, probably very tough foliage able to hibernate for long periods and revive with the return of favourable conditions.

The Didoi - Biology

Long heads tapering to narrow jaws set on slender necks. Skin flecked and faintly sparkling. Eyes large and perfectly circular, glowing faintly green in the dark - perhaps the development of some cat-like retinal tapetum as part of their adaptation to underground living. Bodies lithe and wiry, limbs suggesting much strength despite their suppleness. Dress in a mirror-bright silver material - boots, one-piece suits, balaclava-like headgear. Seem to communicate without speech. The Didoi would have to be very close to humanoid size for Bennett to wear the Koquillon costume and be able to manipulate it with the degree of finesse that he is able to use the claws to manipulate fine instruments, although in fact their frames are said to be lithe and 2 metres in height. We must assume that so is Bennett. Capable of low level (possibly higher) pyrokinesis and, it is implied, telepathy.

The Didoi - Culture & Society

Have built stone dwellings into the cliff-face, and vast underground dwellings in the mountainside. A city exists at the centre of a huge 2 km wide crater - multi-levelled glass, plastic and metal buildings being built up around the sides of the crater and connected by numerous bridges on many levels to a vast metal, plastic and glass tower in the centre. The Didoi collect their water from up in the mountain and pipe it down to the city. The Doctor has travelled here before and comments that he founds the Didoi one of the most friendly, civilised people he has ever met, violence was unknown to them. (Although they do have a Hall of Judgment - although its function is archaic, but would indicate that they have not always lived as a harmonious society). Their population only numbered around 100 at this time, which is extinction figures, although it is possible that this is only the population of the city. At one time the Didoi practised human or rather Didoi sacrifice in a highly ritualised manner, although this practice is now extinct. The planet's unusual orbit means that they have to live underground and co-operation has become necessary for their survival.

Egress to the underground city is gained through a very difficult means - along a narrowing, crumbling ledge that climbs the side of a cavern over a nasty drop, which is guarded at the bottom by a vicious creature, a false entrance as a door at the end of the ledge almost hanging right out over sheer cliff-face which suddenly transforms into a very nasty blade trap imprisoning anybody who tries to open the door on the ledge, and then tries to push the door over the ledge along with the person hanging on to it if one happens to turn the rings the wrong way. All of which seems a rather precarious and dangerous means of entering one's city. Against whom is it meant to protect? Why such incredible lengths? This doesn't seem the sort of planet that would have many invaders. And surely it seems designed to protect only against land-moving invaders, as any flight-powered invader could easily circumvent this whole route. Possibly this was created in the time of the sacrificial cults to keep the above-ground dwelling people from the underground city for some reason - maybe it was considered a holy abode only for use in times of emergency or some such?

The Didoi - Technology

A rectangular club about 70 cm long. The head consists of a ring of lenses, and the thinner end a control grip with trigger, primer buttons and liquid crystal sight. This is a sonic laser for use in engineering projects, which was just being developed last time the Doctor was on Dido. The development of a sonic laser would be interesting - it would have to combine two quite different principles - focused sound waves and focused light waves. Light and sound are both independent of each other - their combined effect in a beam will not really do anything to strengthen or weaken the other. Bennett's describes its effect as like that of a microwave, which it probably is - a maser instead of a laser, microwaves, like light operate on the electromagnetic spectrum, one merely operates in the visible end. Possibly it is sonic waves taught to behave in the same ways focused beams of light do in a laser, although the problems here are that any target will cause reflections with nearly as destructive effects. And yet when Bennett fires it at the Doctor, the Doctor is able to use a mirror to turn the beam back on Bennett - surely if it was sonic in nature the mirror would be shattered? The other possibility is that sonic describes the type of equipment that produces a normal laser beam. Other technology - iron, oil (greases and plastics are used), some form of artificial - possibly naturally tapped - light


Or to go by the Didoi name translated into human speech - Khakhuiljan. Head a seeming avian/insectoid combination. Globular eyes the glow red, protruding at the end of two thick, tubular stalks. (In the suit it must give a very narrow field of vision and would be difficult to control the direction of vision in order to get binocular sight). Domed skull bristles with stubby antennae, some sharply pointed, like probes or stings and others gaping open like suckers. Beak guarded by two large fangs that curve inwards from the squat, segmented neck. (If this was ever based on a creature these fangs would have made extremely difficult eating). Also has thick rubbery lips, (unusual on a beak, but then this is only an artificial creature). The chest is armoured, body a horny carapace, which glistens as if sweating a viscous oily gum. (This is an artificial suit, why bother installing secretory glands - I can only assume that this effect can be the carapace's natural sheen). Long simian arms end in vicious pincers like crustacean claws. Walks bipedially, the huge feet also hooked, sharp and claw-like. Breathes slow and belabouredly (perhaps the result of wearing the heavy costume, but breathing said to be as heavy and relentless as a steam hammer). Vicki calls it a hybrid - unsure whether this is Bennett's description of the costume or Vicki's assumption possibly to try and explain why it combines insectoid and humanoid design.

This is really a ritual Didoi costume, robe worn by the most senior member of their society only upon then most formal occasions, but Vicki and the Doctor's party mistake it for a native lifeform, when Bennett places it on, using an electronic voice distorting device to disguise himself. He claims he did this to protect himself - he had killed one of the crew and was arrested, but then the ship crashed and he adopted the disguise to kill off the rest of the crew. Why don't any of them ask themselves how Koquillion happens to know English?

Other Lifeforms

The Silocodon - A species only found on Dido and the planet Sokol in one of the Willoughby galaxies - interesting parallel evolution. (But then just look at the number of human races in the galaxy). Of `vast size' - the head alone the size of a small room, which would make it on a scale larger than the largest dinosaurs. Jaws lined with curving scimitar gums as sharp as blades - I do not believe that gums could be as tough as teeth and hence regard the description as somewhat exaggerated - and a huge purple tongue. Luminous red eyes that give it perfect vision for in the dark, the Doctor says that the eyes provide their own light source. (This makes a very interesting evolutionary adaptation - animals eyes that supposedly glow in fact don't, they merely reflect light as opposed to produce their own. The tapetum, the device that does this, is an extra lining of cells behind the retina that reflects escaping light back so that the animal can see at a much lower illumination level than a human. The simplest explanation is that the silocodon has a red tapetum. But as to the Doctor's claim that it produces its own light source problems arise. We can consider something like fireflies or angler fish that produce their own light. However in having the light in the eyes the retina is going to need shielding as the light source will blind the creature to any incoming light, the shield would have to have a hole in it for the light to escape resulting in a creature that has a blind spot in the middle of its field of vision). Neck lined by a ruff of bony spines alternated with weblike plates. Long, thick tail. Body plated and hinged like that of a rhinoceros or armadillo. Skin dry and horny, sand coloured. Legs so short that its belly drags on the ground. An interesting creature - one wonders where it would find the food to survive in such a desert. Creatures this big need a huge diet but it exists only on plants and insects. Perhaps its huge bulk is only empty - possibly for storing water, or air for when burrows underground. Vicki rather incredibly manages to train it to come to her to be fed. The light source would indicate that the creature is adapted for living indoors i.e. probably underground, but can also survive outside, but probably only at night (the only time we encounter it). It is probably a sand-burrowing creature as the cavern seems too small for it to move around in and in and out of, later indicated by its attack on Barbara and Vicki. The Doctor describes it as areniculous - meaning sand-dwelling.

Other life-forms - flying beetles with multi-coloured shells. They also encounter a giant armoured worm about 15 metres long - a slimy spherical head, tiny red eyes, a thick segmented body which it moves by peristaltic action; it lives and burrows underground.

The Spaceship

Named the 'Astra 9', the ninth of Earth's lifeboat expeditions to populate new worlds after massive planetary eco-failure. This is not Earth's first venture into space, which would seem to be quite well inhabited with the establishment of Intergalax, an interstellar police and financing agency.

The ship has a spherical head about 50 metres in diameter, tail a complex of clustered cylinders connected to the head by a tubular central stem. Left Earth in 2493, is now 2501. Capable of travelling at half the speed of light, have covered 37,540,400,000,000 km. Vicki's calculations seem to be somewhat out - she gets the distance/time equation right, but said distance would only take one about 0.3 light years short of Alpha Centauri, the nearest start to us. Unless perhaps Vicki is measuring by the old standards of a billion being one million squared and a trillion a million billion. 3.7 x 1019 works out roughly at four million light years which would get the ship to any close galaxy. But for an 8-year journey they would have to be travelling at 500,000 times the speed of light. The ship has tachyon polarisers, so it almost has to be assumed that the ship is using some type of faster-than-light drive. And obviously as the rescue ship arrives within an appreciable span of Vicki and Bennett's lifespans there must be Faster-than-light drive.

Has crashed on the planet, although one would expect something so big to make much larger impact on hitting. Your average airliner will crash over several miles of territory, an object coming in from space of roughly the same size, like a meteor, will have considerably less velocity and will impact a crater the size of several city blocks. Loose sand may well cushion the impact, but the depth to which the ship is buried would indicate that the sand is fairly solidly packed. Blown sand might well cover the impact crater, but the ship would be so deeply impacted that it too would be buried. One must have to assume that the ship was countering velocity with its retrorockets.

How one wonders without hyperspatial travel does the rescue message get back to earth and the rescue mission arrive within in appreciable span of Vicki and Bennett's lives. The rescue ship does manage to slightly miscalculate its ETA, claiming that it is 1.993 million ks out, with a velocity of 33,700 k/hr with 68 hours to arrival. Such velocity and distance will only take 59.1 hours. Perhaps the other 8.9 hours will be taken up with correcting orbit and landing procedures.

Bizarrely enough the expedition is equipped with a flare pistol - for what need I fail to see. I mean when you're looking for a downed ship you're looking over a whole planet or a whole solar system - the area is simply so enormous a visual search is absurd. Perhaps the flare is for when expedition members become separated from the ship. It would seem to be an incredibly powerful flare, able to blow the head of creature which is described as being the size of a small room up into an incandescent fireball - perhaps it has dual function as a weapon. Ship uses a radar system that works along x-ray principles - the trouble with that is that x-rays need a source emission in order to be picked up ie. the radar is no good if there isn't anything out there to project x-rays. And x-rays are of too low a wavelength to be able to be effectively picked up.

The Seeker mission navigates in bizarre ways - the effect they are subject to in which they pushed away from the planet by the Didoi's powers is explained as being due to freak reception on the hologram - possibly they could mean power reception and that the hologram referred to could merely be a printout or monitor? An equally bizarre explanation given is that of a ghost, although this may mean reception ghosts (doubling over of signal). The ship is built of a metal called Reaganium (???)

The landing and after

The Didoi killed the whole expedition except for Bennett and Vicki. Contact was made after they landed and they invited to a council meeting. Vicki stayed behind, having a fever. Bennett jury-rigged a bomb which he used to destroy the party and most of the Didoi, saving Vicki because she knew nothing of his arrest (I think this would be difficult on a ship the size of the Astra 9) and told her that the Didoi has killed the crew, masquerading as Koquillon to maintain the illusion that the Didoi were hostile. Bennett would seem to have developed the Koquillon role almost as a split personality, having developed an insane hatred of the Didoi, wanting their planet obliterated once they get back to Earth, saying he believes that Koquillon is responsible for killing all the Didoi and the rest of the party. (Is the obliteration of hostile inhabited planets the customary thing to do on Earth or is this just Bennett's paranoid delusion?) Well, I suppose that with the amounts of invasions that Earth ends up suffering from maybe such an attitude is justifiable.

Earth 26th Century

The colonists were forced to leave because the Greenhouse Effect was increasing through increased CO2 content in the atmosphere, bringing about rise of temperature worldwide and the danger of an ice-cap rise. Possibly due to massive defoliation. Most of the environment is poisoned and many inhabitants regard it as insane to raise children, although there is no indication of any population control as yet. Earth seems to have returned to national boundaries - there being a cold war implied between the Chinese and the rest of the international expedition, which means that nations would have to have broken back down to their old boundaries after having been divided up into political zones in the 2030 of The Enemy of the World. This would cause massive chaos undoubtedly. Possibly old international boundaries were re-established after the Dalek invasion of 2164. Scientists gave up on the possibility of time travel in the 24th Century. The Chinese are also involved in space colonisation.

This item appeared in TSV 14 (July 1989).

Index nodes: Exegesis, The Rescue