Before there was a ‘Land Of The Giants’, four years earlier, there was a ‘Planet Of The Giants’. A fault with the TARDIS doors has the Doctor (actor William Hartnell) and his three companions, Susan (actress Carole Ann Ford), Ian Chesterton (actor William Russell) and Barbara Wright (actress Jacqueline Hill) reduced to about an inch high. They arrive in the middle of a murder, where a government scientist is shot by a company boss when told that his new pesticide, DN6, is far too dangerous for public use. This explains why all the insects our time travellers discover have died. Well, except one, a very realistic looking fly given the time period. The company boss finds he has an ally of sorts in his scientist inventor, but only as long as his lies that the government scientist attacked him first and even that lie falls apart rather quickly.
Having to avoid being seen, Ian and Barbara hide in a briefcase and get taken inside to a laboratory. It is then up to the Doctor and Susan to get inside to rescue them and they use the sink drainpipe. Although they find each other, they have to retreat down the pipe as the scientist washes his hands after helping to clear the blood outside. Things aren’t helped when Barbara inadvertently touches some DN6 coated corn and starts to get the effects of the poison herself.
Afterwards, they all get together and have to work on a plan to warn people of the danger and a good thing that the scientist also has an act of conscience when he realises the effects of his pesticide. It’s a good thing that this story is set in the 1960s as with automated telephone exchanges today, it certainly wouldn’t have worked today.
The audio commentary consists basically of production people who admit that they didn’t really have much extra to do in this story. In one of the extras, it is explained how difficult it was to find anyone living for the audio commentary and even the surviving actors can remember little about this story. Saying that, these people do give some insight into what’s involved in production.
The extras also includes an interview an interview with Carole Ann Ford and the reasons why Susan wasn’t developed as much as she could have been at the time, which is why she left in season two and this was her penultimate story.
‘Planet Of Giants’ was supposed to have been a four-parter but cut down to three because it was a slow story to open the second season. With a little co-operation from actors William Russell and Carole Ann Ford and some modern voice imitators and judicial repetition of particular scenes and, I’m sorry to say, a little dubious CGI, the script is expanded to what it was originally supposed to be. The Rouses, who run the village shop, telephone exchange and police gets a massive scene growth and the fate of the cottage cat is also accounted for.
One thing I was confused by when I originally saw the story back in ’64 and even now, watching it again, is the ownership of the cottage. As shown, it belongs to the government scientist. That being so, why was the company scientist there in a lab coat and how did he miss seeing his boss kill the government scientist? There’s only one car noted there anyway.
Finally, there is a 2003 interview with the now late first producer Verity Lambert about some of the decisions she made about the show’s original on-set. Something to treasure.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD3479. 1 DVDs 73 minutes 3 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 8.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford
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