Saturday, 12 February 2011

9: Planet of Giants - Making The Everyday Sinister.

The Insects look great.
Written by: Louis Marks.
Companions: The Doctor, Susan, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright.
Mosters/Villains: Forester.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS crew become miniaturised and try to stop the production of a lethal insecticide.
Rating: 7/10

I feel that this a good time to make a confession. I haven't actually seen a lot of the black and white stories, ever! I should be ashamed by this, but I'm actually starting to appreciate this previous blasphemy. It's like finding a hidden chest full of episodes of your favourite programme. They have been there waiting for me the whole time but I can't deny I am loving having new, old Doctor Who.

This story was originally penned to be the very first episode ever, it ended up being the first episode in season 2 instead.  The story opens with some fairy suspect technobabble. The doors open during materialisation due to too much 'space pressure'? And then the Doctor explains that the scanner screen exploded because what it was trying to show was too big to explain!? The explanation of why our heroes end up miniaturised is practically nonexistent, but who cares...

The sets were tip top.
The sets in this story are wonderful, and really wouldn't look out of place in a more modern Doctor Who. There's a classic 60's model shot of the TARDIS which looks like a model shot but in this episode that is exactly right! Also the fact that all the insects in the giant garden are dead due to the insecticide means all the wonderful set pieces aren't required to move, making them look even better.

What a wonderful cliffhanger.
What Doctor Who has always been excellent at is making the everyday sinister. There's a wonderful cliffhanger at the end of the episode where we simply see the water draining down a plug hole. Doesn't sound like much but when you realise the Doctor and Susan just went down there it becomes The Terrifying Sink of Doom! Fortunately the pair escape when they discover The Overflow Pipe of Freedom. The script is well crafted and works very well. All of our heroes are on top form, even Susan. We also get another little reference to a previous adventure for the Doctor and Susan, when she mentions an air raid, and Doctor adding "those Zeppelins were infernal machines."

Planet of Giants obviously owes to the 1955 novel The Borrowers and even more so to The Incredible Shrinking Man. The primary difference here is that the Doctor and Co have to stop a ruthless businessman, Forester from producing a lethal insecticide, that not only kills insects harmful to agriculture, but also those vital to it. A feat that were they not one inch tall might have been somewhat of a challenge. 

This was originally a four part story but was restructured into just three to tighten up the action. It feels relatively short, but it really works: The set up, the rising action and the pay-off. It's a shame they didn't format more of the early stories this way. I really enjoyed Planet of Giants and I'm really looking forward to the next outing.

Join me next time, back to DVD (sigh, I shall miss the crackly VHS quality) and The Dalek Invasion of Earth.


Corby Kennard said...

I dug this one. It was very clever and a lot of fun.

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