Planet of Giants
Planet of Giants was the first serial of Season 2 of Doctor Who. Episode one, “Planet of Giants”, was the first episode set in contemporary England since An Unearthly Child. Though similar to an idea proposed by C. E. Webber for the Doctor Who pilot, writer Louis Marks claimed the inspiration for the story was the seminal pro-ecology work by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, which warned strongly against insecticides. He reckoned that by shrinking the First Doctor, he would have the opportunity to put the TARDIS crew face-to-face with the dangers Carson had warned against in her book. (REF: The First Doctor Handbook) It was therefore the first “environmentalist” Doctor Who story, a kind of gently moralistic tale — like Invasion of the Dinosaurs and The Green Death — later to be particularly favored by Barry Letts.
Though fully scripted and recorded as a four-parter, parts three and four were merged into a single episode, effectively leaving an episode on the cutting room floor. This edited material was not retained — though some of it made it into the novelization. In a sense, then, Planet of Giants was the first serial to have a missing episode.
Aside from being Marks’ first work on the series, it was also the Doctor Who debut of long-time composer, Dudley Simpson, and the first credit for frequent director Douglas Camfield.
Episode 1: Planet of Giants
The Doctor is landing the TARDIS in what he believes to be mid 20th century Earth. He finds the console is burning up and discovers a fault with the TARDIS. However, the fault locator shows nothing is wrong. Despite this, the doors open just as the TARDIS begins its materialization. The Doctor starts to panic; due to the space pressure differential between the vortex and other planets, any malfunction during materialization can be very dangerous. However, the only real damage seems to be to an overloading of the scanner circuits, causing the TARDIS’s screen to implode. The Doctor decides it is safe to venture outside.
He leads his companions, Ian, Barbara, and Susan, to the world beyond. Their curiosity is aroused initially by the odd rock formation by which they have materialized. It seems rough but evenly spaced and there appears to be residue of concrete at their feet. They decide to split up, so the Doctor and Barbara explore around the TARDIS while Ian and Susan go further afield.
Within minutes, the Doctor and Barbara find what they believe to be a snake; however, it turns out to be a dead giant earthworm. At the same time, Ian and Susan are shocked by a large deceased ant. Both of the creatures seem to have died immediately. After some confusion as to what could possibly explain why a planet would spawn humongous versions of Earth creatures, Ian and Susan come across a giant pack of cigarettes and a large matchbox. Ian climbs into the matchbox, believing it an exhibition piece, but then Susan realizes that the environment has not been enlarged; the TARDIS crew has shrunk.
After this revelation, thunderous footsteps are heard. Susan runs for cover but Ian is trapped inside the box, which is picked up. The Doctor and Barbara soon find Susan. The Doctor has also made the connection that Susan made. The Doctor climbs a large rock to discover the man who picked up Ian far away in the distance, in real terms the length of a garden.
The man that has unwittingly kidnapped Ian is a government scientist named Arnold Farrow. He has come to the home of a callous businessman named Forester to tell him that his application for DN6, a new pesticide, has been rejected. In reality, DN6 should not be licensed; it is far too deadly to all life. When they fall out over this news, Forester shoots Farrow and leaves him for dead outside his home.
The Doctor, Barbara, and Susan hear the gunshot as an enormous explosion and head for the house. On their way, a bee falls from the sky. The trio marvel at the death of all wildlife that they have met. The Doctor orders the women not to eat anything until they get on the TARDIS. Meanwhile Ian uses this opportunity to escape from the box. The four meet by the dead body and surmise a murder has taken place. As they head off to the TARDIS, they turn to see a cat hulking menacingly above them.
Episode 2: Dangerous Journey
To avoid the cat the travelers stay still until it loses interest in them. They decide that while the cat is abroad they dare not try to make it to the ship. Forester returns to the garden. The panic induced by the man returning sees the travelers split up again; the Doctor and Susan run into the undergrowth of the grass whilst Barbara and Ian hide in Farrow’s briefcase.
Forester has brought along with him a scientist by the name of Smithers. Forester tries to pass off the murder of Farrow as self defense, but Smithers deduces from the angle of the bullet that Forester must have murdered him. Forester eventually admits it but says that Smithers must help him cover up the murder; otherwise DN6, which was devised by Smithers, will never see the light of day. The two men conspire to make it look like Farrow’s death happened aboard a boat that he owned and intended to holiday on after his meeting with Forester. They begin to clear up the evidence, including taking Farrow’s briefcase, complete with Barbara and Ian, and placing it in the laboratory.
To gain access to their friends, the Doctor and Susan scale a drainpipe on the outside of the house which leads directly into the laboratory. Meanwhile Ian and Barbara examine the laboratory. Barbara touches a seed which she later finds has been contaminated with DN6. She does not tell Ian but believes she may have been infected, much as the other creatures they have encountered.
Ian and Barbara decide the best way to scale the drop to the floor level is by making a ladder of paperclips from Farrow’s briefcase. While Ian is trying to open the briefcase, Barbara encounters a giant fly and faints. When Ian rejoins her, the fly flies away and lands on the seeds, dying instantly. Barbara wakes, visibly distressed by the speed with which the fly has died. She is on the verge of telling Ian that she believes herself infected when she is interrupted by Susan’s voice. She is using the sink as a sound box to amplify her voice.
The four travelers are soon reunited and plan to escape down the plughole. Ian and Barbara begin to scale the chain of the plug when the two men return to the lab to wash the blood from their hands. Ian and Barbara return to the work surface but the Doctor and Susan have no option but to go back down the plughole. As they do Smithers puts the plug in, washes his hands, and then begins to let the water out.
Episode 3: Crisis
The Doctor and Susan climb into the overflow pipe just as Smithers lets the plug out. Ian and Barbara fear they have drowned. Once they go down to check the pipe it seems as if their friends are dead, but they crawl back out of the drain to the humans’ joy.
Forester has doctored Farrow’s report to give DN6 the licence he wants. Disguising his voice as Farrow’s, he makes a supportive phone call to the ministry to the same effect. The ministry give the green light to the scheme. This is overheard by the local telephone operator, Hilda Rowse, and her policeman husband Bert, who start to suspect something is wrong.
The Doctor and his companions stumble across a notebook with the equations for DN6. After laboriously copying it out, the Doctor realizes just how dangerous it is, not only to insects but to all wildlife. They try to alert the police by hoisting up the phone receiver with corks, but cannot make themselves heard. Barbara begins to feel the effects of her exposure to DN6. When they make the phone call, the travelers can’t be heard but Hilda notes the engaged signal. Bert and she grow more concerned as to the goings on at the house. Once the phone call is made, Barabara collapses. Her friends smell the DN6 on her handkerchief and conclude she has been infected. When she regains consciousness the Doctor berates her, but says that when they return to their normal size the poison in her bloodstream will lessen and she will be safe.
Hearing the engaged tone on the phone in the office, Forester and Smithers return to the lab and correct the engaged handset. Hilda rings moments later to ensure that all is ok at the house. When she asks where Farrow is, Forester tries to impersonate him again. Knowing there is something badly wrong, Bert heads off to the house to investigate.
The Doctor and his companions decide the only way to stop the spread of DN6 is to start a fire to attract attention to the house. They use a gas tap to ignite a can of insecticide. Smithers begins to look through Farrow’s files and discovers the true virulence of DN6 . He demands Forester stop seeking a licence. Forester pulls a gun on Smithers. As they move into the lab, Forester spots the makeshift bomb, which goes off in his face. Smithers retrieves the gun as PC Rowse arrives.
Their work done, the travelers return to the TARDIS. The Doctor reconfigures the machine to return them to normal size. Barbara, who as on the verge of death, recovers as a result. The Doctor encourages his friends to have a good scrub whilst he lands the TARDIS, unsure where they are; the scanner is still broken.