TV Club: Doctor Who, Planet Of Giants

“Planet Of Giants” (season 2, episodes 1-3. Originally aired Oct. 31-Nov. 14, 1964)

Maybe the most interesting thing about this one is what it isn’t. As broadcast in 1964, “Planet Of Giants” is a respectable but not overly exciting artifact of the First Doctor era, talkier and duller than a single-sentence synopsis makes it sound: The TARDIS crew has to stop a murderer and avert an environmental holocaust while trying to survive in a world where they’ve been shrunk to one inch high, menaced by ants that now seem as big as wolves. It’s not lacking in ambitious ideas but never quite gels together, and a last-minute re-edit that condensed the original third and fourth episodes into one hurt the story more than it helped. (And I hardly need to point out the irony of that in a story about making the characters victims of traumatic miniaturization.) In the end, it’s something of an offbeat little curiosity, and not much more.

If history had gone a little differently, though, “Planet Of Giants” could have been a much bigger deal: It was supposed to have been Doctor Who’s first trip. As originally planned, after being confronted by his granddaughter’s teachers Ian and Barbara in “An Unearthly Child,” the Doctor would have kidnapped them by unexpectedly dematerializing the TARDIS—only to botch the takeoff and miniaturize them all. But the script fell through, so “100,000 B.C.” went into production instead, followed by the unexpected blockbuster of “The Daleks,” and the rest was history.

So what? Well, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of it, but it’s interesting to note that unlike about 99.9% of Doctor Who plots, “Planet Of Giants” doesn’t involve time travel at all. It’s set in the present day, and gets its science-fictional mojo not by jaunting into the past or the future, but sort of sideways. That physics-gone-crazy, our-magic-technology-is-actually-crazy-dangerous kind of story would become a minor but significant subset of Star Trek episodes, but Doctor Who never really got into it in a big way again, despite the original intentions of its creators. It’s implied in the very name of the TARDIS, after all. The acronym describes how the ship travels: through Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. Most Doctor Who shows are about time. “Planet Of Giants” is one of very few that’s about relative dimensions. If it had been produced in 1963 instead of 1964, it might have inspired more stories like it instead of being an anomaly.

Originally published Dec. 9, 2012 on Read the complete article.

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