Number : Season 2, episode 1 of 9.
Which One : Teeny tiny Tardis.
Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Susan : Carol Ann Ford
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacqueline Hill
Forester : Alan Tilvern
Farrow : Frank Crawshaw
Smithers : Reginald Barratt
Hilda : Rosemary Johnson
Bert : Fred Ferris
Written By : Louis Marks
Produced By : Verity Lamb
First UK Broadcast : 31 October – 14 November 1964.
Length : 3 x 25 minute parts.
1) “Planet of Giants”
2) “Dangerous Journey”
Plot : The Tardis lands and automatically opens the doors. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan venture out and explore an Earth-like world; where everything is at a huge scale, to them.
Whats good : Bold concept. Strong set design and decent SFX to convey the difference in size. Good early mystery. Everyday objects as cliffhangers; a full sink, a house cat, etc.
Whats bad : Plot wraps too neatly. The bad-guys are underused. Disappointingly, no interaction between badguys and Doctor/companions.
Review With Spoilers : Planet Of The Giants is the first serial of season 2 and the Tardis’ first return to present day 1960’s Earth; last featured in An Unearthly Child.
However, things never quite go to plan, when the Tardis finally reaches the correct destination. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan discover everything at a huge scale – compared to them. Discovering; giant ants, wasps, earthworms – and giant people; who threaten the quartet – as they attempt to return to the Tardis.
The quartet soon realise that they are actually back on 1960’s Earth but have been accidentally minaturised, by a Tardis malfunction. They also witness a murder and a plot to create deadly pesticide, which accidentally poisons Barbara.
“I wonder what sort of a world, could produce an insect that size?” Ian
Planet Of The Giants excels in clever but simple set design. In particularly, the everyday objects at a huge scale cause sizeable hurdles for the quartet, to interact with; I.e. a sink, a leather satchel, a matchbox, etc.
Also, Planet Of The Giants‘s SFX (although rudimentary by today’s standards); when conveying the Doctor and his party – as minature people in a giant’s world. By using a clever overlay effect, to show the minature group facing off against a huge house-cat and discovering a huge dead body – in the outside yard.
The shrinking situation – also allows the quartet to come up against some unusual and deadly everyday situations. These make for unusual and memorable cliffhangers, to end the episode. Being stalked by a house-cat and attempting to escape down a waste pipe, whilst the water is emptied out of the sink, is a different tyoe of cliffhanger.
What lets Planet Of The Giants down, is the clunkly slow pacing; which makes for a lot of drawn-out dialogue. Infact, it could have been alot worse. As a fourth part was actually abandoned and wisely re-edited into the third – to create a faster paced conclusion.
The human “villains” in the story, aren’t really given enough screentime to flesh out there characters – as antagonists and this leaves them coming across as a missed opportunity and their evil pesticide plan – halfbaked.
Neither – disappointingly, does the minature crew get “discovered” by the villains – or even get to interact with them. Maybe one of the minature Tardis crew being caught, could have upped the ante and made for a better conclusion. Especially if it had been Barbara, after being poisoned.
Ultimately though, you have to admire Planet Of The Giants. As despite it’s shortcomings, it boldly creates a fantasy world, where minature people interact in a giant’s world – but on a shoestring budget.
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