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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Doctor Who: The Planet of the Giants

Serial Title: Planet of Giants
Series: 2
Episodes: 3
Planet of Giants
Dangerous Journey
Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

The TARDIS doors come open during flight in the space/time vortex. As one would logically suspect, this shrinks the TARDIS to miniature size. You know, because of the space-pressure being unequal.

...Not a strong start.

The good news? The TARDIS has finally returned to modern-day (1963/64) England, Ian and Barbara's home time. The bad news? After discovering a giant dead earthworm, and a giant dead ant... the TARDIS crew realizes they are now only millimeters tall.

Ian is investigating a matchbox when it is picked up with him inside. Government scientist Arnold Farrow has come to the house of a man named Forester, a sinister businessman who has developed pesticide DN6. Farrow is here to announce that his application for a government license has been turned down... on the grounds that it is completely deadly to ALL insect life and can spread like wildfire, making it far too lethal to be a proper pesticide. (Think of the ladybugs, darn it! No one wants THEM to be killed along with the aphids! Heck, I got bit by 'em twice- twice more than I've ever been bit by aphids- and even I'd be heartbroken if they all died out!) (NFS:....Do and can ladybugs really seriously bite???)

Forester takes the news well, shooting Farrow dead.

The micro-group arrives to find Ian, having tumbled out of the matchbox, unhurt, by the dead body. Which is lying out on Forester's lawn. I am seeing a few small flaws in Forester's plan. Determining that a murder has taken place, the group is determined that the murderer be brought to justice...

After a close run-in with a cat on the hunt, Ian and Barbara are hidden inside a briefcase and taken inside by Forester, who also hides the body. Susan and the Doctor try to climb a drainpipe to gain access inside. Meanwhile, Forrester's assistant, Smithers, suspects foul play... but keeps it quiet, as his future rests on the success of DN6 as well.

Ian and Barbara encounter a giant fly (some very impressive props and puppeteer skills there) and Barbara handles a DN6-coated seed, infecting her (NFS: Biiiig surprise that it was wasn't Ian! all seriousness it's actually a big surprise that it wasn't Susan!!). She begins to grow progressively ill.

After a close call with an activated sink, the Doctor and Susan emerge in the lab and are re-united with the group.

Forester doctors Farrow's report to be a favorable one, and, disguising his voice, makes a phone call to the government to report his 'positive findings.' The local phone operator, Hilda Rowse, and her husband, Bert, a policeman, overhear the call and begin to suspect that something is up.

The group, by great effort, manage to lift the receiver and dial the phone, trying to report Forester to the police, but are so small that their voices don't register on the phone. However, the mysterious call makes Hilda and Bert more suspicious. After Forrester and Smithers return and hang up the receiver, Hilda calls back and asks to speak to Farrow- when Forester impersonates him on the phone, Hilda doesn't buy it and Bert goes to investigate the house.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan decide to start a fire to attract attention, and succeed in burning through a pressurized spray can of DN6, causing it to explode. This occurs fortuitously as Smithers, discovering the true report (that DN6 is lethal to everything) and trying to stop Forester, is being held at gunpoint by the now-deranged businessman. When the makeshift bomb goes off, Smithers is able to relieve him of his gun, just in time for policemen Bert to arrive and take him in.

Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor is able to reverse their condition, and as the travelers return to full size, the nearly-microscopic dose of poison in Barbara's bloodstream does not grow with her, becoming harmless due to it's negligible amount in her now full-sized adult bloodstream.

Well, this was... interesting. Honey, I shrunk the TARDIS. Very... interesting.
The production values, props, and video quality were improvements even over the excellent Reign of Terror; everything looked fantastic, the numerous oversize props were excellent, and the pupeteered giant fly was very impressive; they must've blown the budget for this one.

The story, on the other hand... whuh? Um, okay, if you say so. The end of the story wrapped up well, but felt rushed compared to the padded-pacing of it's recent brethren; it wasn't a surprise to learn that this serial was originally a four-parter that was cut down, the third and fourth chapters being combined. The science was... iffy at best. Nothing standout performance-wise... a light fluff episode in terms of performance, but a blockbuster in terms of set pieces, effects, and production values. (NFS: But in Doctor Who....sometimes you NEED a light fluff out the kinks. :-D)

So, overall- a bizarre start for the second series, but one with great prop and effects work, at least- and the one-inch-tall looking TARDIS miniature worked for once because it really was one inch tall! :-)

Great moments:
All the bugs, but that giant fly on the tabletop was a pretty sleek bit of pupeteering! (NFS: "Puppeteering" is SO a word...but the spell checker is insisting that it isn't and that is annoying me.)

Final Rating: 3 out of 4 Shrunken TARDISes (since Blessings of Orb clearly only apply to the first series...)

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