Story 009: Planet of Giants

Original broadcast dates October – November 1964

AKA “Honey, I Shrunk The TARDIS!”

In this first story of Season 2, the Doctor and crew wind up on Earth in 1964… except they’re only an inch high. No futuristic space aliens this time, just giant bugs, a huge telephone, and a neighborhood police officer who stops in to check out the rude people and finds a murder victim.

The effects in this were as good as could be expected, and the props team clearly had a fun challenge to build some giant every day objects, including a briefcase, a matchbox, and Mt. Telephone. The story had the characters finding dead things, killed by a not-yet-marketed and overly agressive pesticide called “DD6”. (There could have been no relation at all to an overly damaging pesticide called DDT that was being argued about at the time, could there?)

The characters did things that made sense, and, for a nice change, they did’t all work just right the first try. They did things that failed, instead of just waltzing through their plans effortlessly, which was a nice touch. They also deliberately meddled this time, rather than trying to keep out of things, what with the Earth being poisioned too big a fate to risk.

Barbara got sick, and then was cured, and the credits rolled to introduce the next story with an episode optimistically titled “World’s End”.

The “characters get made tiny” has become a trope of its own and has been done by all sorts of media. This is a relatively early example, and does it well considering the limits of technology and budget the show suffered under. The 1957 movie “The Incredible Shrinking Man” does predate it, and uses some of the same items, including matches and a terrifying, dangerous house cat. But this is television, and entirely different!

In a slight twist over the usual trope, the characters do not try and get help from the giants, solving their own problems at the end with another pseudoscientific handwave to undo the shrinkage problem that started the episode. The episode would have been a lot shorter if they’d just have done that first.

This aired as three episodes, but was filmed as four. One of the DVD extras was a recreation of that missing episode. The recreation was pretty well done, using actual footage, and new voice actors when needed, or cutting in clips of the character speaking from elsewhere in the episode so you could see who was talking, with just a hint of awkward early CGI. It was clear and easy to follow, and better than the missing episodes that have been animated. It was, however, clear to me that these two episodes were condensed for a reason; there really only was half an hour’s worth of plot there, and the trimming resulted in a better story with less distractions. The editing was well done back in the day, and only one place was mildly confusing because part of the conversation had been cut.

Modern viewers may not understand the part of the plot about the telephone operator listening in if they’re unfamiliar with manually switched telephones. Why is this person there? Why are they eavesdropping? Why don’t they just dial London? Because that’s how rural phones worked in 1964, even if anyone under the age of 50 has never seen it. Heck, I’m 50 and have never seen it, only knowing what it was because I’m a telecommunications geek.

Now, on to some more Daleks!

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