‘PLANET OF GIANTS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Honey, I Shrunk The Doctor
I’m afraid this TV story doesn’t live up to the title.
I purchased this ‘Doctor Who’ story on DVD when I was on holiday in Scotland 2012. I recall going to the ‘Collectormania Glasgow 2012’ convention at the time when I was on holiday. I was looking forward to seeing this story on DVD when I got back home from holiday. Sadly however, this was uninspiring.
‘Planet of Giants’ is the opening story of Season 2 of ‘Doctor Who’. It was originally meant to be part of Season 1 and as the penultimate story. But with Season 1 being too long, it was decided by the producers to end the season with ‘The Reign of Terror’ and to begin Season 2 with ‘Planet of Giants’.
This is a three-part story by Louis Marks, who makes his first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series, and no he’s not the guy who made those awful toy Daleks made in the Dalekmania of the 1960s. Louis would later go on to write ‘Doctor Who’ tales for the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras.
‘Planet of Giants’ was originally to be a four-part story. But when Donald Wilson, one of the BBC Heads of Drama, saw it before transmission, he lost ‘the urge to live’ and decided it wasn’t exciting enough. Thus the story was reduced to three episodes with the third and fourth episodes compressed into one.
I must admit when I saw this story for a second time, I found it rather dull. It was an interesting idea to have the characters reduced to the size of an inch and to solve a murder mystery with environment concerns thrown in it. But it wasn’t really that good as the story needed better pacing.
Also when I think of ‘Planet of Giants’, I would expect it to be about the Doctor and his friends visiting an alien planet and actually meeting giants on it. Instead, what we got was our characters in the TARDIS reduced to size, finding themselves on Earth and everything else is bigger than they are.
I’m rather glad that this story was reduced to three episodes instead of four, as I found it rather hard-going to watch. Yes I know, they didn’t have the visual effects they could have had to make the story very exciting. But the combined direction of Mervyn Pinfield and Douglas Camfield didn’t help.
The story goes like this. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan are in the TARDIS when the doors suddenly open. After closing them, our heroes discover that they’re on Earth but they’ve been shrunk to size. This is more like ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Doctor and Friends’ instead of ‘Planet of Giants’.
The whole murder mystery and environmental aspects of the story were intriguing. But I’m afraid they weren’t exciting enough to keep my interest. Sometimes our heroes found it difficult to hear what the ‘giants’ said when reduced to size; trying to solve the mystery and get back to the TARDIS.
The visual effects of ‘Planet of Giant’ are quite terrible. Most of the time, our heroes see giant things like people’s faces and large telephones and they’re achieved through the use of photographs and the actors standing in front of a green/blue screen. I was able to see through those effects I’m afraid.
I did like it though when the Doctor; Ian; Barbara and Susan manage to get to see life-size versions of the smaller objects, like a matchbox and a matchstick. Also the life-size versions of an ant; a bee or a fly tended to be quite frightening, especially when Barbara sees a fly before her and promptly faints.
To add to this, I did find the giant cat before the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan a little disappointing at the end of the first episode and at the beginning of the second episode. The cat doesn’t do much and it’s only film footage that we see of her. The ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘Catspaw’ did better than that.
William Hartnell is pretty good as the Doctor in this TV story. I like it when he works out where he and his friends and that they’ve shrunk to size. I don’t think this story has him do any standout moments, apart from climbing up a water pipe with Susan and sharing more scenes with her in this.
Carole Ann Ford is equally good as Susan in this story. It was good when Susan was explaining to Ian that they’ve been reduced to size at the same time as the Doctor explains to Barbara. Susan doesn’t get much character development either, but I like the relationship that she has with her grandfather.
William Russell is very good as Ian too. Ian easily gets taken up in a matchbox by someone off the ground, but thankfully he reunites with his friends at the end of the first episode. I liked it when he’s showing concern for Barbara in this story and when he also uses a matchstick in order to light a fire.
Jacqueline Hill as Barbara is also good, but I’m afraid she suffers terribly in this story. After Barbara touches a seed infected with insecticide, she gradually becomes weaker and doesn’t tell her friends that she’s ill. Her friends soon realise and do all that they can in order to get her back to the TARDIS.
If I might go off on a tangent here, there’s something that bothers me about this. That is…why didn’t Barbara tell her friends that she was ill the moment she touched the seed? It seemed rather out-of-character and unusual for Barbara not to let her friends that she got infected before it was too late.
I was anxious for Barbara in this story and was insisting that she’d tell Ian, the Doctor and/or Susan what had happened to her. But then again, maybe she wasn’t in her right frame of mind after she touched the seed. But I would have thought Barbara had more sense than that to inform her friends.
Alan Tilvern guest stars as Forester in this story. Alan would later appear in the ‘Dad’s Army’ episodes ‘Battle School’ and ‘My British Buddy’. Here he plays a bad guy in Forester, who wants the insecticide of DN6 to go ahead. He’s even willing to kill with a gun to stop anyone getting in his way.
There’s also Frank Crawshaw as Farrow, who gets a sticky end after refusing to give the go-ahead to Forester on DN6. There’s also Reginald Barratt as Smithers, a nervous and cynical scientist who works with Forester. And there’s Rosemary Johnson and Fred Ferris who play couple Hilda and Bert.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s an ‘Episode 3 & 4 Reconstruction’. This is a brand-new feature for the DVD, where the third and fourth episodes are rediscovered with new dialogue and animation from the original TV scripts. I found this disconcerting but interesting when seeing it. There’s also ‘Rediscovering The Urge To Live’, which is a making-of the ‘Episode 3 & 4 Reconstruction’, featuring interviews with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford who reprise their roles as Ian and Susan as well as actors Toby Hadoke and John Guilor and the director Ian Levene. There’s ‘Suddenly Susan’, a 2003 interview with Carole Ann Ford and ‘The Lambert Tapes – The Doctor’, a 2003 interview producer Verity Lambert. There’s also a photo gallery of the story. There are two audio options, including an Arabic audio option of the story. There’s also a DVD audio commentary with vision mixer Clive Doig, special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, make-up supervisor Sonia Markham and floor assistant David Tilley, moderated by Mark Ayres. There’s also an info text commentary option to enjoy and PDF materials, including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ of the story and ‘Prop Design Plans’. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Vengeance on Varos’ Special Edition DVD.
‘Planet of Giants’ is not the most exciting ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve seen. I’m glad it was compressed into a three-parter instead of a four-parter, as it didn’t keep my interest. The story is adequate enough and the performances of our heroes are good. But I’m afraid this pretty average and lacking.
‘Planet of Giants’ rating – 5/10
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