Doctor Who #43: Planet of Giants

"I always forget the niceties under pressure."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of Planet of Giants, a story that is scheduled for DVD release sometime in 2012. I will just have to watch it on You-Tube. First aired Oct.31 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS crew is reduced to an inch in size. As they explore, they come across many dead insects. In the normal-sized world, a man is killed for opposing the manufacture of a dangerous insecticide.

REVIEW: HONEY, I SHRUNK THE DOCTOR!!! It's a ridiculous premise. The TARDIS crew has been SHRUNK to minute size and must undertake an epic trek from the front garden to the house. And though yes, it is absurd and quite unlike anything that'll ever happen to the TARDIS again, it's a classic science-fiction trope. Even Deep Space 9 did it, and that was a usually serious show. Fact is, it's fun to see how very small things would look if you were even smaller, and the props are all well made, excepted perhaps the grass painted on the wall. This first episode is about exploration, and the characters discovering what situation they are in, though it is, of course, rather spoiled by the episode title. The irony is that this strange environment is actually their home. The Doctor's managed it... except not.

And speaking of "environment", Planet of Giants is an eco-fable, probably before such things were common (the ultimate eco-fable, Dune, was being serialized in Analog though). For in the normally scaled world, we have Forrester, a ruthless insecticide producer, silencing permit-withholder Farrow's distracting whistling lisp, neither character destined to interact with the cast. That's an interesting twist, at any rate. No, the cast will instead come to understand the plot from a unique vantage point. They've found all the dead bugs, might even have gotten themselves contaminated, and when a loud cannon seems to be fired in the distance, it can only mean a harsh murder has been committed. In fact, that would explain the giant dead body. (I like how Ian puts a handkerchief in front of his mouth to check his breath. It's all in the details.)

Louis Marks' first of four Doctor Who scripts is well realized by director Mervyn Pinfield, especially the sequence that intercuts between two conversations that are apparently exactly the same (it was once said Time Lords all have the same mind, something for our Theories section one day, surely). No editing required, it was all done live in those days. An alien world in one's front yard would hopefully connect with the kids, and it remains one of the easier episodes to restage using one's action figures. And though the insects are dead, it's not a world without danger. In addition to falling prey to the poison that killed those bugs, there's the giant cat leering at the TARDISeers. The black calico cat doesn't photograph very well, in my opinion, but its markings do make it seem more malevolent than cute, so I suppose it's a good choice. Given what little interest cats have in acting (as opposed to improvising), they're lucky to get any cat at all.

THEORIES: So how can the TARDIS and its crew get shrunk during materialization?! Well, if we look at the Doctor's dialog, we may get a few clues, but don't go looking for strong scientific principles in the bafflegab. The relevant line is "there we were in the late eighteenth century and I tried another frequency to sidestep the ship back into the middle of the twentieth century." The key words seem to be FREQUENCY and SIDESTEP. Is there more than one way to travel the space-time vortex? And would taking a shortcut, as it were, have unforeseen consequences like these? By changing the TARDIS' "frequency" (which I understand to mean the modulation of its quantum vibrations), it changes the nature of the ship, and thus of its interior dimensions. Perhaps the trouble is that the frequency was not re-synchronized with our universe when it materialized, creating a spatial discrepancy. What if the side-step was actually a sideways trip to a parallel dimension (à la Pete's World in Rise of the Cybermen), one which was simply bigger, just as Pete's World's time is faster? That might be easier to accept than the idea that you could theoretically rig the TARDIS dimensions to a smaller scale, and just look at that title, but episode 3 features a seed shrinking as proof of the TARDIS growing, so it doesn't agree.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - This kind of thing is just good fun, and look, there's even a message about respecting the ecosystem. Nothing epic or anything, just a quirky change of pace. (But at the very start of a season?)

2 comments:

LiamKav said...

Nothing to do with this episode specifically, but are the first Doctor's outfits specific enough that you can tell what story the toys of him are from? (I only have the one from the 11 Doctors set, but I believe there's one with a hat and scarf as well.)

Oh, and can you tell us when the St John's Ambulance badge disappears? The nerd in me really wants to know.

Siskoid said...

The Doctor's outfit changes far less than his companions in this incarnation (he doesn't change in the Aztecs, for example, even though everyone else does). The hat and scarf look are from An Unearthly Child, the basic 1st Doctor look is in most episodes.

As for the St John's Ambulance badge, if I'm not mistaken, it disappears entirely in The Dominators (2nd Doctor serial), but it's barely visible from earlier on, under a coat of paint.

 

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