Planet of Giants was the embarrassing first story of the second season of the surely-soon-to-be-cancelled British childish science teleimages series Doctor Snooze, which was so dull that they edited it down from four to three weekly parts broadcast from 31 October to 14 November 1964. The story was the first since the very first episode of the simplistic programme to set on a then-contemporary Earth, which I’m sure thrilled all the kiddies tuning in hoping to see more Daleks.
It once had the working title “Minuscule Story” which is really damn accurate, but perhaps not in the way they might have intended. The story writer Louis “Karl” Marx claimed the inspiration came from the pro-ecology book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, so this marks the programme’s first simplistic presentation of all those silly ideas about nature and so on. Long before it was written, David Whittaker was on record as saying (and I’m not making this up) "We badly need a serial about our four running characters being reduced in size.” Christ, what was he thinking?
A novelization of the story, written by - who else? - Tenninch Dicks was published in 1990 and was unsurprisingly the final serial of the William Hartwell era to be novelized. Of interest mainly only to fans of BBC giant rats, it’s not very good. Despite all of the above, viewer ratings for all three parts neared 9 million disappointed fans.
Part one: Planet Of Giants Edit
The Doctor is rocking his cape on the Tardis while Barbara looks sort of placid but hot. The Tardis won't blow up as
Vicki Zoe Susan reads some pieces of paper off a “screen.” The Tardis doors open when it’s suddenly about to be hit by a submarine, apparently. The Tardis roundels look pretty sloppy for the second season of the programme, don’t they? After a Tardis the size of a shoe-box lands, Susan looks like she’s almost forgotten her lines. “Oh Barbara was I rude to you just now? If so I’m so sorry, I almost forget the niceties under pressure” the Doctor says, so I guess he’s been getting a bit nicer after the initial puckishness. The Doctor’s adventures have broken his television screen, “it’s like it was something too big for its frame!” The Doctor thinks the space pressure was far too great for some reason.
Outside the Tardis, everyone looks at some rock and cement, but for once this isn’t a quarry they’ve landed in. Barbara discovers a really big worm and gets quite excited, but it’s dead. Susan can’t see all the eggs until the camera does, proving this programme is self-aware or something, ask Phyllis Sandiflower about that (perhaps the fact that the opening howler was created by turning a televisonal camera upon its own screen has something to do with that?); she’s then frightened of a dead ant. The Doctor and Barbara find a giant match and Ian and Susan a giant matchbox, this is so interesting! The two groups listen to each other’s dialog and we pull back to reveal the Tardis, albeit tiny (about the size of the one from Flatline), has landed on the set of Bewitched or something, going by the music.
OK, so now they know they’re small; Ian thinks it’s ridiculous, and it sort of is. The lights go out and some bloke picks up the matchbox with Ian in it and goes inside while Susan overacts. Ian moshes inside the box while the bloke who looks like an accountant sweats. The Doctor, an old man, won’t let Barbara or Susan climb up because they might hurt themselves, then describes the dullness on our screens (break yours too before it’s too late!). There’s a real live cat, greatly improving the story, while the boring bloke smokes.
The bloke is approached by an evil looking dude. They spend several minutes discussing some pesticide the evil guy wants to sell, but the boring dude, who works for a ministry (a British form of a paddler’s club) won’t let him. The evil manufacturer dude says he’s “never allowed the word ‘cunt’ to exist,” or at least I think that’s what he said. He then pulls out a dramatic pistol. A ‘giant bee’ prop nearly falls on the rest of the Tardis crew, good show stagehands! They hear an ancient canon and the boring bloke stares at a flower. Tiny Ian stands in front of a photographic blow-up of the dead bloke then suddenly is back with the rest of the crew whilst the giant kitty walks towards the camera, perhaps looking for a bit of fish or a nice tasty morsel of chicken. Barbara is already exhausted and we’re not even done with part one yet.
Everyone goes to look at the dead guy photo like he’s an art installation or something, but the somewhat bored kitty, who looks a bit like my own puss in fact, is watching then and scaring everyone for a somewhat lackluster cliffhanger.
Part Two: Dangerous Journey Edit
“Whatever you do, don’t look into the cat's eyes, close your own if you want to,” says the Doctor. “I think the cat’s losing interest;” I was too, cat or no. The kitty leaves, walking right past the dead bloke like cats would do to you (and me) in real life. In another tie-in with real live animals, the Doctor thinks they might be mistaken for mice, a mistake the Daleks have made with the Doctor before.
After a bit of chatting, they see a huge leg coming (phasing!) and split up. Perhaps like a cat, a species that enjoys closed-in spaces such as a box, Ian and Barbara hide inside the dead bloke’s briefcase, which the evil guy picks up while he explains to a scientist (he’s wearing a curiously stained white lab coat, he must be one)
why he killed the bloke, with some cock and bull story which may as well have ended with a unicorn flying out of his butt.
Some tedious bickering later, the evil guy takes the briefcase inside. Barbara reveals that she has been injured by a paperclip. Oh wait, I need to start my laundry. So the evil guy and the scientist move the dead bloke’s body while the Doctor and Susan hit the pipe. Inside the house slash lab, Barbara and Ian finds a pile of what looks like their wages and the prop department’s outlay for the next three seasons, which Barbara notes is covered with something sticky; Ian apparently wasn’t paying her any mind though, probably because she’s a woman and there’s important man-thinking afoot or something. You can see a stage light go out. Barbara starts acting all depressed but won’t tell Ian she’s been poisoned for some reason, probably because there’s important womanly emotions afoot or something. “Just forget how absurd thing are!” says Ian, forgetting he’s on an episode of Doctor Who.
Ian gets excited about paperclips and struggles to open a briefcase while the Doctor is showing his age, poor Billy! A giant fly puppet gives Barbara the shock of her life! The scientist and the evil guy bicker a bit, then, only two episodes into the second season, we can already see the Doctor circling the drain and someone’s pulled the plug. Barbara laying there gives Ian the fright of his life too! Maybe it was her really big hair. Climbing down a chain is apparently very, very ominous, if the music is to be believed, but it's even more ominous going back down the drain.
The scientist and the evil guy bicker about the dead bloke who’d “written a report” as if that means something; I’ll never understand the British form of barbarism that passes for government. In one of the lamest Doctor Who cliffhangers ever, we watch a sink slowly drain.
Part three: Crisis Edit
Replaying scenes we didn’t see last time, the scientists washes his hand dramatically, according to the music. The Doctor and Susan, having gone down the drain to escape the torrent of double exposure water that ends after like two seconds by hiding in another pipe. Ian shows his butt climbing back down the chain and I have to say, both he and Barbara have been doing doing a good job of showing us their eye-pleasing posteriors this story. Deadley Simperson provides some music more fitting for a pantomime horse’s shenanigans rather than the possibility of Ian and Barbara finding the Doctor’s and Susan’s drowned corpses. The evil guy phones up the cluttered BBC offices to try and peddle a script he’s written and admits “yes, it is bad line, isn’t it?” Wait, I need to go cycle the laundry, be right back.
So everybody now, instead of going down the drain, finds a notebook with the formula. Oh but my dryer’s developed such an awful squeak! Anyway, they read the formula and decide it’s pretty bad stuff. Barbara is feeling ill but still won’t explain why, whilst everyone else clambers about the giant telephone from the Bat-cave.
Susan suggest putting a cork in it. Everyone struggles to lift a phone. Susan is bushed after putting a cock in it and Ian suggests they try the other end, which all sounds sort of dirty if you think about it. Because of the slowed down sound, this episode appears to drag even more then everybody yells in unison, sounding like no less than a Monty Python. Mr. Gumby ("my brain hurts!"). Ian says “we can’t have failed after trying so hard,” but the Doctor points out that “yes, I’m afraid we have and it’s all my fault, I thought it was worth trying.” Yup, you failed.
Barbara passes out and everyone finally figures out why she’s sick. The Doctor theorizes that if they all get back to normal size, Barbara will be OK because there will be only the same small amount of insecticide in her blood, having obviously never heard about endocrine and thyroid disruptors and their ilk. Barbara bites her lip and says she feels a bit ropy, which also sounds kind of dirty. The evil guy complains about his phone service provider and smokes. The Doctor cackles with glee at the thought of starting a fire.
The choppy editing of the original last two episodes into this single one is pretty hard to miss now (look for the black screens) when Ian sees a large protuberance and wonders if they can find a way to turn it on. The evil guy and the scientist play some more unconvincing telephone pranks and I’m currently matching my socks, fresh and warm from the dryer. The Doctor, Susan and Barbara struggle until it’s coming. Ian and Susan then light a giant match and make a can explode unconvincingly (maybe something about that “space pressure” again) after the Doctor says something about zeppelins.
The evil guy is blinded by a high-pitched shrieking sound, the scientist guy points the pistol at him, but then the English bobby arrests them both. The Tardis crew are suddenly back in the Tardis, the seed gets small and everything’s back to normal. The Doctor finds the program on his telly screen (mysteriously repaired) irritating. I did too.
What an auspicious start for the second season of Doctor Who!