What I Learned From Doctor Who: “Planet of Giants,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: Presumably the 1960s, based on the dress and lack of specificity.

Place: Earth.  In or around London.  It looks as though the Doctor nearly has it right…but for one small problem.  Get it?  Small?

Episodes: 

1. “Planet of Giants” (Season Two, Episode One)
2. “Dangerous Journey” (S2, E2)
3. “Crisis” (S2, E3)

Today’s Lessons

1. New feature for Season Two: Susan’s eyeliner.

2. The doors open mid-materialization of the TARDIS, and the Doctor has something like a heart attack in the near miss, after Ian, Barbara, and Susan successfully re-close the doors.  The Doctor grouses while Ian and Barbara fret over his well-being.  When the Doctor shouts that he’s talking about time travel and doesn’t expect Ian and Barbara to understand, Ian retorts, “Well, how can we?  You never explained it to us!”  Fair point.  The Doctor then apologizes to Barbara for being rude and admits that he “forgets the niceties under pressure.”

3. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show the effect of, say, being shrunk down to size and being carried away inside a giant matchbox within a giant briefcase or satchel, and how turbulent such a journey might be, simply rock back and forth on your feet against a large box covered in black material.  See also: exaggerated falls and rocking during attacks on the Enterprise or TARDIS.

4. Susan explains to Ian, and the Doctor to Barbara, that when the doors opened mid-materialization, the whole inside containment of relative size/being bigger on the inside thing leaked out, causing the whole TARDIS and everything inside it to shrink.

5. The second episode of the serial finds Ian and Barbara carried away in a briefcase into a nearby house, and Susan and the Doctor climbing up the drain pipe of a sink in the house with the intent of rescuing them.  Inside the house with the sink is a laboratory, where apparently an insecticide is being fashioned, one so deadly that it kills insects on contact (though apparently not miniature humans…) and one so important, one of the inhabitants murders someone else for it.  How can an insecticide be worth murder?  Update: There was a mistake in the formula, and the murdering investor would have lost money.  That old chestnut.

6. The Doctor and Susan become stuck in the laboratory sink, while the scientist goes to rinse his hands of blood, and puts the stopper in the sink to fill it.  Their escape seems rather sudden – they manage to climb back into the drain and to find an overflow pipe to hide in, and even when they suspect that the rush of filled water from the sink will go into the overflow pipe, they still manage to climb out without drowning.  Seems…convenient.  Though kudos to the art directors for constructing what looks like the large basin of a sink and drain in and around which the actors could climb.  See: in the sixties, CGI wasn’t the norm.  They had to rely on ingenuity to create suspension of disbelief, and though it wasn’t always successful, it wasn’t always Unsuccessful either.

7. Why doesn’t Barbara just tell the others that she touched the wheat seeds coated with the insecticide?  That seems very out of character for her!  It seems more like something Ian would do.  Frustrating!  And an unresolved question: the Doctor figures out her plight and rightly chastises her for withholding this piece of information.

8. The Doctor is a bit of a pyromaniac!  In order to attract attention to the house and the murder, and to create a distraction, so that they could escape through the open front door, the Doctor and his companions hatch a plan to start a fire in the house by lighting an over-sized match and setting a flammable can of insecticide on fire.  While the can explodes, and the foursome get away and back to the TARDIS safely, they do not succeed in starting the larger fire, though the Doctor took much glee in starting it!

9. “Planet of Giants” was not my favorite serial, though it was probably an early influence for the film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  Everything that happened was solved too easily and too quickly, despite the immense dangers our intrepid foursome faced.  The cat just walked away, the water just disappeared, the exploding can’s shrapnel managed to miss them all – it was all a bit too convenient — danger devoid of any real stakes.  The next serial marks the return of the Daleks, though, and they’re always a good time.

Next serial: “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (Season 2, Episodes 4-9).

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · January 19, 2014

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