Planet of Giants

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 9, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by Louis Marks
  • directed by Mervyn Pinfield (episodes 1, 2, and the first half of episode 3: "Crisis")
    and Douglas Camfield (the second half of episode 3: "An Urge to Live")
  • produced by Verity Lambert
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 3 episodes @ 25 minutes each:
    1. Planet of Giants
    2. Dangerous Journey
    3. Crisis
Story: The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan find that they have landed amongst some incredibly large and primitive animals, most of which appear to have been killed. What deadly experiments are being carried out here? How far will the instigators go to keep everything a secret? While Barbara's fate hangs in the balance, the Doctor and friends realize that they alone must attempt to thwart their gigantic adversaries...

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, vision mixer Clive Doig, make-up supervisor Sonia Markham, and
    floor assistant David Tilley. Moderated by Mark Ayres.
  • 2003 "Story of Dr. Who" interview of Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman). (15 min.)
  • 2003 "Story of Dr. Who" interview of producer Verity Lambert (part two). (14 min.)
  • optional Arabic audio track
  • Episode 3 & 4 Reconstruction (28 min. plus 24 min.)
  • featurette on the making of the reconstruction (8 min.), including Carole Ann Ford (Susan), and William Russell (Ian Chesterton).
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • DVD ROM prop design plans & Radio Times listings

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

Doctor Who's second season opens with a story with an original premise, some good story mechanics, and some nifty effects and sequences. It's still a bit hit and miss, not always nailing the best atmosphere or dialogue in each scene, and, with two different directors who have very different styles, and some last minute editing by the producer, the pace goes through some bizarre shifts before becoming just right near the end.

Episode One - Planet of Giants - directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The TARDIS makes its third materialization in the history of the show, and sadly does so without the sound effect again. Apart from that, this episode is quite well done technically. The drama is fairly well written and satisfactorily directed and acted out - nothing too spectacular though. The mystery begins and soon leads our travellers to explore outside with curiosity and keen observation. This is the right idea, but somehow it isn't as riveting as in "The Dead Planet" (first episode of story no. 2). Still, it's pretty good.

The sets, props, and effects are quite convincing, but Ian and Susan react to things a little less than believably. The first guest character to show up seems a little aimless at first, until another one shows up and the two have a dramatic little scene. Some of their lines have the feel of being contrived to support the plot, but the ones that work are delivered with good conviction.

One has to ponder the science behind the size differences, but we'll save this very involved discussion for the in-depth analysis version of this review, since there are WAY too many spoilers in it.

This story introduces composer Dudley Simpson to the series, who will become its most prolific creator of background music. His debut score is quite a bit different to the very successful style he will eventually settle into during the Tom Baker era, sounding here much closer to 1960's family movie music. Most cues seem to fit the story well enough, but have been dubbed in to the studio taping a bit too loudly, causing them to pop out of the background a bit too much and compete with the dialogue. A few cues that have the auditory center-stage to themselves bring a musical mood to the story that is just a bit too quaint and cute, while the characters' dialogue and expressions convey worry, fear, apprehension, and tension. Not as supportive a combination as I would think is possible.

By the time the cliffhanger comes along, the drama seems contrived and devoid of true danger or suspense.

Episode Two - Dangerous Journey - directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The TARDIS crew's roles appear that they will favour the Doctor for once. Not so, as others get things to do that would have been better suited for him, while he ends up with things that would have been better suited to others. Another new character enters the plot, and appears to be the most contrived character so far in terms of having believable motives. Again, this episode is okay, but not spectacular. The cliffhanger works better than the previous one, though it still lacks a certain immediacy.

Episode Three - Crisis

1st half - the old episode 3: Crisis, directed by Mervyn Pinfield

Compressed into half of its original time-frame by order of Verity Lambert, the pace is about right during Mervyn Pinfield's contribution to this episode. What exactly was cut out? It's not hard to imagine a repeat of the dead air-time problem that still plagues "The Sensorites" (story no. 7, by the same director), or a few scenes of one particular guest character griping about the same things as he did last episode, again without any of it leading anywhere. I think I would have to agree with the producer's call to pare Mervyn Pinfield's work down.

2nd half - the old episode 4: An Urge to Live, directed by Douglas Camfield

This story was also fortunate in introducing Douglas Camfield to the Doctor Who series as a director proper. (He had previously shot some short film sequences for Doctor Who's first story.) Although still a very new director at the time, his track record would later rank among the very best of all Doctor Who directors, if not THE best. Was it wise to pare down HIS work on the original fourth episode of this story? I believe there was still plenty of unnecessary padding in the script, but Camfield has a way of filling time with truly interesting shots and sequences, adding atmosphere, etc. Somehow, some things do seem to be missing from this half of the episode. Of course my nitpicking list of omissions contains too many spoilers to include here. Come back and read them in the in-depth analysis after you've seen the story.

All in all, the compressed episode still works, going where Doctor Who always should - into the hero department. The pace allows our characters to accomplish a great deal in a mere half-hour episode, and the plot has an amazingly well done resolution. The master-director is IN!

Planet of Giants is a bit off beat at first, but has one of the best conclusions of the Hartnell era. However, its uneven qualities make it hard to judge when ranking the season's stories.

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"

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