Doctor Who – Planet of Giants

As there won’t be another new episode of Doctor Who until 7:35 on Saturday, I thought I’d fill in by starting to catch up on the classic DVDs. This one was the opening story in the second season, first shown in October/November 1964. Back then, the show went out almost all year round, with just a short break. The first such break happened just before this one was shown, so this was treated as a new start, which led to a problem I’ll get to later.

The idea of the the TARDIS crew finding themselves reduced in size dated back to the beginning of the series, but it took a year for it to be realised for one reason or another. The problem starts when the TARDIS doors accidentally open in flight, which for reasons of mumble causes it to be reduced in size on materialisation.  Lots of fun follows with less of the usual chasing down corridors and much more trying to work out where they are, what’s happened to them and why all the insects in the vicinity are dead.

In parallel to the story of the Doctor and his companions, we see what’s going on, with a good bit of Evil Conspiracy and Murder to add to the fun. Err, you know what I mean. Given the limitations of effects at the time, and the fact that Doctor Who was recorded as a live performance with very few breaks, the giant surroundings are realised remarkably well, and I had no trouble getting into the story.  It’s not the most exciting of stories, especially compared to anything with Daleks in (this was before the Cybermen made their first appearance), and the management decided that the completed four part story should be cut to three parts. This was done with remarkably little violence to the story, and only one or two slightly odd moments.

Extras aren’t too plentiful – there’s a problem with the early stories in that most of the participants are dead, and the survivors don’t necessarily recall the details of one show among many, but a reasonable selection has been assembled:

  • Episodes 3 and 4 Reconstruction – Working from the scripts, using voice actors and a careful reuse of clips, an attempt has been made to present the original last two episodes. A curiosity, worth a glance at least
  • Rediscovering the Urge to Live – The usual bit of documentary, but based on creating the reconstruction rather than the original episodes
  • Doctor Who Stories – Suddenly Susan – A recycled interview from the 2003 Story of Doctor Who, in which Carole Ann Ford talks about her part, and how it was never quite what she’d hoped it would be (too much passive screaming, not enough intelligence and action)
  • The Lambert Tapes – The Doctor – Another selection from The Story of Doctor Who, in which Verity Lambert, the show’s first producer, recalls the early days.

Then there’s the usual commentary, pictures, production subtitles and other bits and bobs. Overall, nice, but not a particularly special release.