a real world point of view
|Planet of Giants|
|Novelised as:||Planet of Giants|
|Companion(s):||Susan, Barbara, Ian|
|Main setting:||England, 1964|
|Director:||Mervyn Pinfield, Douglas Camfield ("Crisis" only)|
|Number of episodes:||3|
|Premiere broadcast:||31 October - 14 November c.1964|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Reign of Terror||The Dalek Invasion of Earth|
|Behind the scenes video|
Planet of Giants was the first serial of Season 2 of Doctor Who. Episode one, "Planet of Giants", was the first episode set in contemporary England since An Unearthly Child. Though similar to an idea proposed by C. E. Webber for the Doctor Who pilot, writer Louis Marks claimed the inspiration for the story was the seminal pro-ecology work by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, which warned strongly against insecticides. He reckoned that by shrinking the First Doctor, he would have the opportunity to put the TARDIS crew face-to-face with the dangers Carson had warned against in her book. (REF: The First Doctor Handbook) It was therefore the first "environmentalist" Doctor Who story, a kind of gently moralistic tale — like Invasion of the Dinosaurs and The Green Death — later to be particularly favoured by Barry Letts.
Though fully scripted and recorded as a four-parter, parts three and four were merged into a single episode, effectively leaving an episode on the cutting room floor. This edited material was not retained — though some of it made it into the novelisation. In a sense, then, Planet of Giants was the first serial to have a missing episode.
The doors of the TARDIS open of their own accord just before it materialises, running out of control. On emerging, the travellers find the ship has been reduced in size and they are now only about an inch tall.
As tiny people, they stumble across a plot by a ruthless businessman, Forester, and his misguided scientist colleague, Smithers, to launch a new insecticide, DN6 - a product so destructive that it would kill not only those insects harmful to agriculture but also those vital to it.
Forester is willing to commit murder to ensure the success of his business, as civil servant Arnold Farrow discovers to his cost.
The criminals are brought to justice when the Doctor and his friends - hampered by the fact that Barbara is ill from the insecticide - tamper with the telephone in Smithers' laboratory, fuelling the suspicions of the local exchange operator, Hilda Rowse, who sends her police constable husband Bert to investigate.
Planet of Giants (1)
The Doctor is landing the TARDIS in what he believes to be mid 20th century Earth. He finds the console is burning up and discovers a fault with the TARDIS. However, the fault locator shows nothing is wrong. Despite this, the doors open just as the TARDIS begins its materialisation. The Doctor starts to panic; due to the space pressure differential between the vortex and other planets, any malfunction during materialisation can be very dangerous. However, the only real damage seems to be to an overloading of the scanner circuits, causing the TARDIS's screen to implode. The Doctor decides it is safe to venture outside.
He leads his companions, Ian, Barbara, and Susan, to the world beyond. Their curiosity is aroused initially by the odd rock formation by which they have materialised. It seems rough but evenly spaced and there appears to be residue of concrete at their feet. They decide to split up, so the Doctor and Barbara explore around the TARDIS while Ian and Susan go further afield.
Within minutes, the Doctor and Barbara find what they believe to be a snake; however, it turns out to be a dead giant earthworm. At the same time, Ian and Susan are shocked by a large deceased ant. Both of the creatures seem to have died immediately. After some confusion as to what could possibly explain why a planet would spawn humongous versions of Earth creatures, Ian and Susan come across a giant pack of cigarettes and a large matchbox. Ian climbs into the matchbox, believing it an exhibition piece, but then Susan realises that the environment has not been enlarged; the TARDIS crew has shrunk.
After this revelation, thunderous footsteps are heard. Susan runs for cover but Ian is trapped inside the box, which is picked up. The Doctor and Barbara soon find Susan. The Doctor has also made the connection that Susan made. The Doctor climbs a large rock to discover the man who picked up Ian far away in the distance, in real terms the length of a garden.
The man that has unwittingly kidnapped Ian is a government scientist named Arnold Farrow. He has come to the home of a callous businessman named Forester to tell him that his application for DN6, a new pesticide, has been rejected. In reality, DN6 should not be licensed; it is far too deadly to all life. When they fall out over this news, Forester shoots Farrow and leaves him for dead outside his home.
The Doctor, Barbara, and Susan hear the gunshot as an enormous explosion and head for the house. On their way, a bee falls from the sky. The trio marvel at the death of all wildlife that they have met. The Doctor orders the women not to eat anything until they get on the TARDIS. Meanwhile Ian uses this opportunity to escape from the box. The four meet by the dead body and surmise a murder has taken place. As they head off to the TARDIS, they turn to see a cat hulking menacingly above them.
Dangerous Journey (2)
To avoid the cat the travellers stay still until it loses interest in them. They decide that while the cat is abroad they dare not try to make it to the ship. Forester returns to the garden. The panic induced by the man returning sees the travellers split up again; the Doctor and Susan run into the undergrowth of the grass whilst Barbara and Ian hide in Farrow's briefcase.
Forester has brought along with him a scientist by the name of Smithers. Forester tries to pass off the murder of Farrow as self defence, but Smithers deduces from the angle of the bullet that Forester must have murdered him. Forester eventually admits it but says that Smithers must help him cover up the murder; otherwise DN6, which was devised by Smithers, will never see the light of day. The two men conspire to make it look like Farrow's death happened aboard a boat that he owned and intended to holiday on after his meeting with Forester. They begin to clear up the evidence, including taking Farrow's briefcase, complete with Barbara and Ian, and placing it in the laboratory.
To gain access to their friends, the Doctor and Susan scale a drainpipe on the outside of the house which leads directly into the laboratory. Meanwhile Ian and Barbara examine the laboratory. Barbara touches a seed which she later finds has been contaminated with DN6. She does not tell Ian but believes she may have been infected, much as the other creatures they have encountered.
Ian and Barbara decide the best way to scale the drop to the floor level is by making a ladder of paperclips from Farrow's briefcase. While Ian is trying to open the briefcase, Barbara encounters a giant fly and faints. When Ian rejoins her, the fly flies away and lands on the seeds, dying instantly. Barbara wakes, visibly distressed by the speed with which the fly has died. She is on the verge of telling Ian that she believes herself infected when she is interrupted by Susan's voice. She is using the sink as a sound box to amplify her voice.
The four travellers are soon reunited and plan to escape down the plughole. Ian and Barbara begin to scale the chain of the plug when the two men return to the lab to wash the blood from their hands. Ian and Barbara return to the work surface but the Doctor and Susan have no option but to go back down the plughole. As they do Smithers puts the plug in, washes his hands, and then begins to let the water out.
The Doctor and Susan climb into the overflow pipe just as Smithers lets the plug out. Ian and Barbara fear they have drowned. Once they go down to check the pipe it seems as if their friends are dead, but they crawl back out of the drain to the humans' joy.
Forester has doctored Farrow's report to give DN6 the licence he wants. Disguising his voice as Farrow's, he makes a supportive phone call to the ministry to the same effect. The ministry give the green light to the scheme. This is overheard by the local telephone operator, Hilda Rowse, and her policeman husband Bert, who start to suspect something is wrong.
The Doctor and his companions stumble across a notebook with the equations for DN6. After laboriously copying it out, the Doctor realises just how dangerous it is, not only to insects but to all wildlife. They try to alert the police by hoisting up the phone receiver with corks, but cannot make themselves heard. Barbara begins to feel the effects of her exposure to DN6. When they make the phone call, the travellers can't be heard but Hilda notes the engaged signal. Bert and she grow more concerned as to the goings on at the house. Once the phone call is made, Barabara collapses. Her friends smell the DN6 on her handkerchief and conclude she has been infected. When she regains consciousness the Doctor berates her, but says that when they return to their normal size the poison in her bloodstream will lessen and she will be safe.
Hearing the engaged tone on the phone in the office, Forester and Smithers return to the lab and correct the engaged handset. Hilda rings moments later to ensure that all is ok at the house. When she asks where Farrow is, Forester tries to impersonate him again. Knowing there is something badly wrong, Bert heads off to the house to investigate.
The Doctor and his companions decide the only way to stop the spread of DN6 is to start a fire to attract attention to the house. They use a gas tap to ignite a can of insecticide. Smithers begins to look through Farrow's files and discovers the true virulence of DN6 . He demands Forester stop seeking a licence. Forester pulls a gun on Smithers. As they move into the lab, Forester spots the makeshift bomb, which goes off in his face. Smithers retrieves the gun as PC Rowse arrives.
Their work done, the travellers return to the TARDIS. The Doctor reconfigures the machine to return them to normal size. Barbara, who was on the verge of death, recovers as a result. The Doctor encourages his friends to have a good scrub whilst he lands the TARDIS, unsure where they are; the scanner is still broken.
- The Doctor - William Hartnell
- Ian Chesterton - William Russell
- Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
- Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford
- Forester - Alan Tilvern
- Arnold Farrow - Frank Crawshaw
- Smithers - Reginald Barratt
- Hilda Rowse - Rosemary Johnson
- PC Bert Rowse - Fred Ferris
- Writer - Louis Marks
- Director - Mervyn Pinfield
- Director - Douglas Camfield (material for episode 4 which was included in episode 3)
- Producer - Verity Lambert
- Script Editor - David Whitaker
- Designer - Raymond Cusick
- Assistant Floor Manager - Dawn Robertson
- Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon
- Associate Producer - Mervyn Pinfield
- Costumes - Daphne Dare
- Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
- Make-Up - Jill Summers
- Production Assistant - Norman Stewart
- Special Sound - Brian Hodgson
- Studio Lighting - Howard King
- Studio Sound - Alan Fogg
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- The Doctor and Susan were observers at a Zeppelin air raid during World War I.
- The Doctor states that he has never been to Africa.
- All three episodes exist as 16mm telerecordings.
- This story had the working titles Miniscule Story and The Miniscules.
- Negative film prints of all three episodes were recovered in 1978.
- Arabic prints of all three episodes are also held by the BBC.
- The request to compress this serial into three parts came from Donald Wilson, BBC Head of Serials, who felt the story simply didn't work in four parts. Episode 3 was entitled, "Crisis" and episode 4 was to be called "The Urge to Live". In the end, the edited episode retained the original title of episode 3, "Crisis", but the end credits for "The Urge to Live", because that required the fewest edits at a time when editing was a very expensive proposition. Thus Douglas Camfield, who was in fact the director of "The Urge to Live", came to be the credited director of the transmitted version of "Crisis".
- The story was originally developed under the title The Miniscules. The working title of "Dangerous Journey" was "Death in the Afternoon". (REF: The First Doctor Handbook)
- The story was filmed as part of the first bloc of stories but a decision was made to hold it over as the opener for the second series.
Shrinking the Doctor
It is sometimes casually asserted that Planet of Giants was a story that had been proposed by C. E. Webber as the first story of season 1. However, it was merely the general idea of shrinking the Doctor and his companions that linked Marks' script to Webber's idea. All the details were quite different. Indeed the story of how a miniaturised TARDIS eventually made it on screen was relatively complex.
The idea of a story that featured the minaturisation of the TARDIS crew went back to one of the foundational documents of Doctor Who: "Dr. Who: General Ideas on Background and Approach" written by C. E. Webber and heavily amended by Sydney Newman. There, Webber said that the first story "may result from the use of a micro-reducer in the machine which makes our characters all become tiny". The idea was carried forward in a 16 May 1963 document, prepared by Newman, Webber and Donald Wilson, in which the first story, called The Giants, was proposed. Its first episode was to be broadly similar to "An Unearthly Child", but instead of landing in Earth's past, the TARDIS would land in the Coal Hill School laboratory — at a much-reduced size. The travellers would spend the next three episodes avoiding the now-huge students, teachers and classroom objects all around them. By 4 June 1963, Webber had completed his full outline, which now included a scene in which the travellers placed themselves under microscopes so the students could see and communicate with them.
By 10 June, Newman began to sour somewhat on Webber's idea, noting that the storyline didn't seem to allow for much in the way of character development. He also felt that portraying the shrinkage of the TARDIS would be "patently impossible without spending a tremendous amount of money" and asked Webber to reconsider his ideas so they could be achieved practically. Webber only got as far as the draft scripts of the first two episodes before the script was officially rejected by Donald Wilson and Rex Tucker, the interim producer who briefly preceded Verity Lambert. Their objections were quite different to Newman's. They now knew that the first serial of Doctor Who had to be recorded at Lime Grove Studio D, whose cameras couldn't be fitted with wide-angle or zoom lenses. This made the convincing portrayal of miniaturisation impossible. Webber was duly paid for his first two scripts in July 1963 and the idea was temporarily shelved.
Nevertheless, script editor David Whitaker — who, having been appointed in the last week of June, was not party to the decision to reject The Giants — wasn't ready to give up on the idea just yet. He wrote an 8 August memo to Ayton Whitaker saying, "We badly need a serial about our four running characters being reduced in size". His plan of attack to achieving this goal was to eliminate Wilson and Tucker's objection: Lime Grove. He argued that Studio D was simply not up to the production of a variable format show like Doctor Who and that the production could not continue if it was permanently restricted to that antiquated studio.
By 16 September, David Whitaker had placed a "shrunken Doctor" serial back on the season 1 schedule. Never named, it was to be written by Robert Gould and had nothing to do with Coal Hill School. It did, however, posit the notion of returning the TARDIS crew to 1963. The Gould script proceeded slowly, however, and by 4 February 1964, Whitaker released Gould from that idea and requested a replacement story —one that also never even made it to the synopsis stage. Whitaker commissioned Louis Marks to write an outline for a "shrunken Doctor" script, on which Gould had given up. By late May 1964, the idea finally moved to full commission, with four episodes being requested of Marks. More importantly, Whitaker achieved his ambition of ensuring that the story would be recorded at BBC Television Centre, rather than Lime Grove.
Even after Planet of Giants went before the cameras at TC4, it still underwent changes. Donald Wilson didn't feel it was a great season opener and would have actually preferred to have begun with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, had not Carole Ann Ford's departure in that story made the transposition of the serials impossible. Saying that "by its nature and the resources needed we could not do everything we wanted to do to make it wholly satisfactory", he took the unusual step of editing the already-recorded third and fourth episodes into a single episode. (REF: The First Doctor Handbook)
- "Planet of Giants" - 8.4 million viewers
- "Dangerous Journey" - 8.4 million viewers
- "Crisis" - 8.9 million viewers
- At the end of episode 2 the sink is emptied and the plug is placed upon the bench. At the beginning of episode 3 the plug is back in the sink providing a method of escape.
- An emergency klaxon is heard in the TARDIS in episode one. This appears to be a forerunner of the Cloister Bell (first heard in TV: Logopolis and many stories since).
- Ian ponders what kind of planet would produce large insects, and later finds out on Vortis. (TV: The Web Planet)
- This is the first time the Doctor managed to return to contemporary Earth since TV: An Unearthly Child, the first story.
Home video and audio releases
The serial was released on DVD on August 20, 2012. Alongside the existing serial, the DVD includes an animated reconstruction of the original episodes 3 and 4, with original cast members reprising their roles for the recorded dialogue, where possible.
- 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
- Episodes 3 and 4 Reconstruction - Using original scripts, newly recorded dialogue and animation
- Rediscovering the Urge to Live - The team behind the reconstruction explain how it was put together
- Suddenly Susan - Carole Ann Ford interview originally recorded for 2003's The Story of Doctor Who
- The Lambert Tapes - The Doctor - Verity Lambert interview recorded for The Story of Doctor Who
- Photo Gallery
- PDF materials - Radio Times Listings, Prop Design Plans
- Optional Arabic Mono Audio
- Planet of Giants at the BBC's official site
- Planet of Giants at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of Planet of Giants at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Planet of Giants at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Encyclopaedia of Fantastic Film and Television entry for Planet of Giants