2x1. Planet of Giants
Writer: Louis Marks
Directors: Douglas Camfield & Mervyn Pinfield
Script Editor: David Whitaker
Producers: Verity Lambert & Mervyn Pinfield
Synopsis: The Doctor and his companions find themselves shrunk
the size of insects by the sudden increase in pressure when the TARDIS
open before the ship can properly materialize. They land on Earth and
threatened by natural dangers as well as the schemes of a murderous
who wants to conceal the dangerous effects of his new
Review: "Planet of Giants" is in some ways the toughest kind of
episode to review. It's almost uniformly average, with few exceptional
moments and equally few glaring flaws. At the level of its fairly
modest ambitions, it basically
works, and I'm not sure what I'd suggest to improve the story, but it
capture my attention like "The Aztecs" or even "Inside the Spaceship"
These early Doctor Who episodes have done a pretty good job of
the TARDIS crew solving problems without resorting to brute force.
there was some action and violence in "The Daleks" and "The Keys of
the emphasis was still on the way they used their brains to handle
situations, and "Planet of Giants" takes that to its logical extreme by
them almost entirely incapable of using physical force against the
they encounter. Not all of their efforts are successful -- they labor
great length to make a telephone call only to find that the person at
other end can't hear them -- but they're adept enough to escape with
lives and intelligent enough to figure out what's going on with DN6
on the evidence of the dead insects, the scientific documentation they
across, and the body of the murdered Mr. Farrow. The four of them are
at their most comfortable with each others' company that we've seen so
as there is no trace of the animosity and mistrust that the Doctor had
towards Ian and Barbara in some of the first season episodes.
Two elements of the story do stand out from the rest. The first is the
of Dr. Smithers, whose name it is impossible to hear without laughing
the post-Simpsons era but who makes for a refreshingly
conflicted antagonist. He participates in Forester's scheme, but
reluctantly, and only because he's unaware of Farrow's
true findings about DN6 and still believes it can be used to prevent
deaths. Since the TARDIS crew never really interact with the other
characters, Smithers forms a nice contrast to the truly selfish and
Forester. The second is the specifics of the plot itself, which seems
reflect the concerns of an earlier phase of the environmental movement
issues like global warming and ozone depletion became more prominent.
Louis Marks was reportedly inspired by Rachel Carson's Silent
which was published only two years earlier, and "Planet of Giants"
a certain historical significance as a result. If nothing else,
it's worth a look for anyone studying the ways in which
environmentalist concerns have been portrayed in popular entertainment.
One area in which the serial feels a bit "off" is in its handling of
and her poisoning by DN6. It's not at all clear to me why she chooses
hide this from the others, and it's equally unclear why none of them
that this is the reason for her strange behavior and unexplained
when the Doctor has warned them all that they could be in danger from
pesticide. I also didn't think much of the Doctor's eventual "solution"
their predicament, which is to try to lure the authorities to the house
starting a fire. First of all, it doesn't really work: though they
to burn Forester's face and prevent him from potentially killing
nothing actually catches fire, and Forester is only caught because the
telephone operator had sent her policeman husband over to investigate.
of all, I realize that they were running out of time to save Barbara,
isn't this kind of irresponsible? They had no idea how big the house
or who else might be there, and starting a fire could just as easily
killed everyone and destroyed the evidence of what Forester and
were doing. And come to think of it, why couldn't they go back to the
cure Barbara, and then return to the house to try to stop Forester?
still would have faced danger given their size, of course, but it
seems like the less risky of their options.
Still, whatever its merits and faults, "Planet of Giants" is not a
that leaves much of an impression either way. It's mildly interesting
its environmental theme and for the three-episode format that would not
used again until the Sylvester McCoy era (though it was originally
as a four-parter, with the last two episodes condensed at Verity
order). Otherwise, it can safely be filed away under "Competent but
Rating: **1/2 (out of four)
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