Doctor Who Sunday: Planet of the Giants
Doctor Who is one of the most iconic sci-fi series from British television, and has taken its place among other sci-fi giants such as Star Trek, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
And with the 50th anniversary fast approaching, what better celebration of Doctor Who can be had than to watch every single episode? Aidan and Sharona have taken on this mission. In place of your regular scheduled Doctor Who, every Sunday we’ll cover a Doctor Who Classic episode.
We’re well aware we’re out of our minds, but here goes…
Before this: The Reign of Terror
Season 2, Episode 1: Planet of the Giants
Planet of Giants is the first serial of the second season of Doctor Who, and was first broadcast in three parts.
The first story of a new season! And we start with an interesting and engaging episode, with excellent props. Season 1 of Doctor Who may have been a difficult act to follow, but after Planet of the Giants, it’s looking as though Season 2 will surpass it all. Although it is short, only three episodes, and it appears to be quite heavily edited, the story itself was still a bit of fun, with a minor environmental message throughout.
The story starts with the TARDIS once again failing, which seems to be a rather common occurrence in these early Doctor Who stories. They venture outside to discover that they have been shrunk down to about 6 inches tall. They then face perils from an ordinary garden, such as insecticides and cats, and ordinary people who are now titans relative to the tiny TARDIS team. As well as their small adventure, the companions also happen to stumble upon a scandalous murder involving corruption and manipulation of scientific findings to suit business needs. Although the story is in itself slightly quaint, it is still a strong story and quite fun as well.
The acting throughout has shown a large increase in quality, as have the props and sets. Barbara ends up being poisoned by the noxious insecticide, but refuses to tell the other companions so they won’t worry about her. Even though Ian and the Doctor unknowingly prattle on about the how lethal it is, Barbara shows strong resolve, and Hill’s performance is stunning, accurately conveying the conflicting emotions of terror and not wanting to let down her friends. The props have also been improved – they are much more believable and on a much larger scale now to the last series. The bugs are very real-looking, and the sets such as the giant sink are quite authentic.
Evidently the new season received a greater amount of funding to the last season, and overall, the new and improved season is truly fantastic. The new graphics make it easier to suspend disbelief, and this overall makes it a very enjoyable story. Well written, fairly fast paced, with excellent acting and with relatively good graphics, Planet of the Giants is a solid start to the new season of Doctor Who.
Perhaps The Reign of Terror wasn’t the best thing ever, but this season premiere was thoroughly enjoyable. Planet of Giants begins with the usual intrigue – the companions land in a strange place thanks to the Doctor’s incompetence, and they decide to go exploring. A foolish decision, given all the adventure and danger they get into every time they venture off the TARDIS, but that’s their call. And a good call, obviously.
This episode is set in contemporary London, but there’s a twist – the companions have been shrunk down through some sort of science fiction magic, and navigate their adventures at the great height of six inches tall. This makes ants substantial, and humans colossal, and the landscape very interesting to navigate, which is, of course, where the fun lies.
The best Doctor Who episodes are the ones that are clever with their props, and Planet of Giants does it well: some big props (I assume they used styrofoam or balsa wood for things like telephones that would be huge relative to the gang) are used to make the adventurers look legitimately tiny, and switching from the action going on in the normal-sized world (including murder, money and insecticides) to the action the shrunken companions face going about solving a mystery when they are the size of insects. This means the BBC props and costume department doesn’t need to get crazy with alien suits and buildings, and can just deal with making very big matchboxes.
All in all, this three-parter sailed along – after watching stories that carry on for five-plus episodes, a three-parter is relatively quick – and a good time was had by all. Except for those guys that died.