The doors of the Tardis fling open as it’s materializing and causes the ship and everyone inside it to shrink to only an inch tall (yes, really) which complicates things because the gang have finally arrived on Earth and, what’s worse, they have bumbled into a possibly ecological disaster in the making as a ruthless businessman seeks to market a potentially disastrous insecticide. But how does the Doctor stop him when the Doctor is dinky-small?
This is a curious adventure and it doesn’t completely work. Sure, yes… I understand that at some point or another, a kid’s show is going to shrink the protagonist. Even with the shows that I grew up with, it was practically a cliche from He-Man to Thundercats and so on. With Doctor Who, though… it’s just weird. It doesn’t seem to fit comfortably into the narrative of exploring time and space and kind of sits out on its own in the corner, picking and eating its own boogers.
I’m not saying that “Planet of Giants” is a disaster because it’s not… it’s an odd duck at worst, a testament to the show’s craftsmanship at best.
Let’s talk about the best: For a series with a notoriously shoestring budget such as Doctor Who, the miniaturized sets look amazing. Even by today’s standards. Sure, every now and then a painted backdrop will stick out like a sore thumb, but for the most part the oversized props and sets look amazingly realistic.
The script… not so much. As I was getting bored during this episodes, I started googling some facts about “Land of Giants” and learned than an entire installment of this serial was edited out. Let that sink in for a moment… an entire episode of “Planet of Giants” was cut from the serial meaning that, at some point before it aired, it was even more slow going. So slow that an entire episode was cut and no difference was made. I’ll at least give the creators props for recognizing that and dealing with it, but lands… that’s pacing problems the likes I’ve rarely seen before!
“Planet of Giants” presents another problem that I noted with a more recent outing of Doctor Who, “In the Forest of the Night.” Basically, had the Doctor never showed up, things would have probably been okay anyway. You can argue that holding up the bad guy’s phone call slowed him down, but in all likelihood the bad guy would have been caught anyway. If anything, the hero of this serial isn’t the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, or Fainty McUseless but rather that sharped-eared operator.
Furthermore, the bad guy in this episode was cartoonish at best. Not interesting and barely competent. I never really felt he was much of a threat. That scientist guy was pretty bad too.
While I thought Jacqueline Hill did a great job playing the stricken Barbara, defiant in the face of death, I honestly don’t understand why Barbara would be dumb enough to keep her contact with the poison a secret. It served no purpose and, if anything, she did nothing more than put her friends in jeopardy too.
Overall, as much as the episode tried to have fun with the premise, it just wasn’t fun at all. “Planet of Giants” is trite, tired, and boring with in effective story and strange character motivations that make no sense.
If anything, I’m grateful they didn’t subject us to the half hour they edited out.