“Planet of Giants” is the first adventure of the second season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1964. It follows “The Reign of Terror” and it’s a three parts adventure written by Louis Marks and directed by Mervyn Pinfield and Douglas Camfield.
Something’s wrong in the Tardis and the doors open during its journey. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) and Susan (Carole Ann Ford) try to locate the fault but everything seems fine. The rematerialization seems correct and the journey apparently ends without other hitches.
Together with Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), the Doctor and Susan leave the Tardis and start exploring the surroundings. Initially they think they have arrived on another planet where giant insects and worms live but soon realize they’re on Earth and they have somehow shrunk.
This DVD contains a good amount of extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Listings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure episodes alternative audio track by the members of its production crew Clive Doig, Brian Hodgson, Sonia Markham, David Tilley and Mark Ayres.
Episodes 3 and 4 Reconstruction. A version of what in the original plans were supposed to be two episodes, based on the original screenplay with dialogues recorded for this edition and animations. They provide an idea of what the second half of this adventure was supposed to develop.
Rediscovering The Urge to Live. A documentary about the reconstruction of the last two episodes.
Suddenly Susan. Actress Carole Ann Ford talks about her role as Susan. It’s interesting because she talks about some ideas that were proposed to develop her character that were then heavily toned down, which after some time led to the actress’s decision to leave the show.
The Lambert Tapes – The Doctor. The second part of the interview with Verity Lambert, the first “Doctor Who” producer.
Optional Arabic Mono Audio. The option to watch this adventure dubbed in Arabic.
Prop Design Plans. A file containing various designs connected to this adventure.
The idea of having the protagonists miniaturized was among the ones proposed since the creation of “Doctor Who”, so much so that it was among the ones taken into consideration for the plot of the show’s debut serial. However, the production had limited resources available and the show’s creator Sydney Newman didn’t want to have bug-eyed monsters, quite a problem in a serials that was supposed to feature insects. They were important factors in the decision to develop other ideas but it was only a delay.
After several false starts, screenwriter Louis Marks was commissioned to write what became “Planet of Giants”, the first serial of the second season. The story was developed over four episodes and produced despite the limitations of the studio in which it was shot and the need to replace the director for the last part due to a schedule conflict.
The result wasn’t considered particularly exciting but the following serial, “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth”, ended with the Susan’s exit from the show so they couldn’t swap their transmission order to open the second season with a stronger adventure. The consequence was that it was decided to merge the last two episodes of “Planet of Giants” to cut parts that slowed down the story’s pace.
In “Planet of Giants” the protagonists are miniaturized together with the Tardis, which rematerializes in the 20th century. Not only does this expose them to a number of dangers when they go out in the open, where there are also insects as big as them, but they end up involved in a homicide perpetrated in the house they arrived in. The intrigue that develops around that event is a story that runs parallel to the travelers’.
Both subplots are influenced by a central element, which is the invention of a new insecticide. That’s a topic that at the time was already a source of controversy for possible environmental damage caused by chemicals used to kill parasites but had sometimes very serious side effects on the ecosystem. The DN6 could be worse than all insecticides from this point of view and the strong economic interests around it are the motive for the murder.
The fact that the two subplots are developed in parallel almost without any point of contact but at the same time in the same house is one of the problems of “Planet of Giants”. The travelers spend their time handling themselves among animals and obstacles that are very small but difficult for them to overcome. At the same time, the normal-sized characters must continue the events following the murder but this happens practically only through dialogues.
Basically, many things happen to travelers while in the other subplot almost nothing happens with the result that the tension drops quickly. The decision to reduce the duration of “Planet of Giants” indicates that already in the ’60s that way of developing the story wasn’t considered good enough to keep the audience’s attention but that remedy only works in part.
The issue of insecticides with their possible damaging effects and the economic interests around their production could be interesting but in “Planet of Giants” it’s not really developed. As a thriller it doesn’t work because we only see a few moments when the killer makes arrangements to cover up his crime and only at the end of the serial something happens.
The subplot about the adventures of the miniaturized travelers is much better but far from perfect. In particular, certain behaviors by Barbara have the sole purpose of adding moments that are supposed to be dramatic but don’t make much sense coming from a person who generally acts in a rational way.
In the end, “Planet of Giants” is not bad but it’s a bit dull. The reconstruction of the last two episodes originally scheduled included in the DVD allows us to get an idea of how this adventure was supposed to to be developed and to judge the two versions. There are not many extras on the DVD but they’re interesting enriching it with contents, so much that I can recommend to buy it almost more for the extras than for the serial.