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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Planet of Giants


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 20 August 2012

Whilst attempting to land on Earth, the TARDIS’s doors open mid-flight. Apart from worrying the Doctor all else appears normal. Safely landing the crew venture outside to discover some very strange objects, large match boxes and giant ants, the crew quickly realise that they have been shrunk down to only an inch in size. Before they can leave Ian is picked up in a matchbox forcing the Doctor and his friends to follow. The crew walk straight into a murder, but given their size is there anything they can do...?

Planet of Giants was the first story of season two. The story was directed by Mervyn Pinfield, from a Louis Marks script. The crew consisted of The Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and the Doctor's granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). The show was originally transmitted between 31 October and 14 November 1964.

With their reduced stature the crew walk into a murder committed by ruthless businessman Forester (Alan Tilvern) who kills the government inspector Farrow (Frank Crawshaw). Farrow has come to stop Forester’s use of a particular insecticide, DN6, because it is so potent that it kills all insects, including the ones needed for agriculture. Although Forester is being helped by his own scientist, Smithers (Reginald Barratt), the crew are determined to stop Forester.

The story was originally shot as a four parter, but was cut due to the intervention of the Head of Serials, Donald Wilson, who thought the whole thing was too slow. In its new three part version the story works well, given the limits of both budget and technology. There are attempt to link the full sized world with the miniature by having the crew placed next to objects which are duplicated in both scales. This works relatively well, but the lack of shots showing both the crew and the full sized Forester stretches the suspension of belief. The crew in their miniature state interact with giant matchboxes, wheat and back projected giant cats and the effects are generally good.

In its truncated form, the solving of the mystery is less engaging than the crew playing around in a giant playground. There is a small subplot, where Barbara touches some wheat and is poisoned by the DN6, although her fear of the consequences stops her telling any of the others, this little device adds some much needed tension to the overall plot.

The only part of the plot which didn’t work for me was the sound, apparently someone decided that, if you are smaller, then your sound register would become compressed making your voice at the least high, if not inaudible by the full sized humans and they would sound deeper. Now, the Doppler Effect would do this if they were moving at different speeds, but makes no sense for someone who is just smaller, it may be a minor point but it is such a large part of the plot that an error like this spoils an otherwise good story.

As normal the DVD comes with a good collection of extras including a full length commentary with vision mixer Clive Doig, special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, make-up supervisor Sonia Markham and floor assistant David Tilly. It has its moments, but can’t really compete with the commentaries which include the cast members. The exclusion is covered in the reconstruction extras, which basically explained that Carol Ann Ford and William Russell remember almost nothing about the show. You also have the option to play the show with either the original English audio track or a version in Arabic.

Episode 3 and 4 Reconstruction (52 min, 38 sec) is the reconstruction of the missing two episodes from the original scripts. It sort of works, with the missing material being filled in with a mixture of animation and rerecorded audio. The only two actors which are still alive are Carol Ann Ford and William Russell, who lent their voices to the proceedings; all the other actors were impersonated. Personally, I thought that it proved that the show worked better as a three parter.

Rediscovering the Urge to Live (8 min, 30 sec) has the team behind the reconstruction talking about how this was accomplished,

Doctor Who Stories - Suddenly Susan (15 min, 19 sec) Has Carol Ann Ford talking about her time on the show

Verity Lambert Tapes - Part Two (14 min, 04 sec) is a reshowing of an interview with the woman, without whom we would all be a little poorer. She speaks about the Doctors, her love of Hartnell’s portrayal and her increasing dislike of the direction the show took.

The disc is rounded off with the Radio Times listings, subtitles and production subtitles, a photo gallery and the Coming Soon for Vengeance on Varos (1 min, 10 sec).

It’s an odd little story; it works well even when you realise that nothing much happens. The picture and sound have been restored and both are wonderful.


Charles Packer

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