Kicking off on Halloween 1964, six weeks after The Reign of Terror (six weeks between seasons? Wow, good job we don’t have to wait that long these days… ) we got in Planet of Giants a number of firsts – a current day story, a human evil and Dudley Simpson providing music to name but three!
The concept of a miniaturisation story had been around since the series’ inception, and for me one of the greatest strengths is how well the conceit was implemented. The props and sets were excellent and gave a real sense of immersion in the tale, and even the occasional obvious photo background is belied by the way that the scaling is consistent and accurate.
Having the unusual conceit of the TARDIS crew never having proper direct contact with the other players in the story gives an interesting angle, and the ecological theme of the damage caused by DN6 is well-handled without preaching.
My favourite part of this story has to be the cerebral approach taken by the Doctor and his companions and it’s nice to see the way it plays for Ian as some of the historicals did for Barbara. In fact, despite her convincing performance Barbara is a bit of a weak point as it doesn’t feel consistent for her to hide her illness in the way she does. And why don’t Ian and Barbara seem to click that they appear to be back in their own time at last? The “full size” cast are a bit cardboard too, and it’s more thinly plotted than the preceding few stories.
This leads to what may be the biggest issue with Planet of Giants – the pacing, which particularly in the final episode is really inconsistent. This makes sense upon discovery that when the story was itself miniaturised from four to three episodes after filming completed, that it was done by leaving the first two episodes as was and editing the second pair into 26 minutes.
The novelisation by Uncle Terrance incorporates the extra elements which makes the read more even, and credit is due to 2Entertain for their reconstruction of the separated Crisis and The Urge To Live that appears as an extra on the DVD.
It’s certainly a story that elicits a range of views, but for me the feel of adventure, excellently scaled visuals and B-movie themes make this one worth revisiting. A good companion piece could be Joe Dante’s tribute to William Castle, the underseen but excellent movie Matinee…
DISCUSS THE EPISODE HERE