Planet of Giants

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009 – Planet of Giants
Doctor Who serial
Planet of Giants picture.jpg
The miniaturised Susan and Ian encounter a normal-sized ant
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield
Douglas Camfield (episode 3)
Written by Louis Marks
Script editor David Whitaker
Produced by Verity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer, uncredited)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code J
Series Season 2
Length 3 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 31 October 1964
Date ended 14 November 1964
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Reign of Terror The Dalek Invasion of Earth
List of Doctor Who serials

Planet of Giants is the first serial of the second season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in three weekly parts from 31 October to 14 November 1964. The story was the first since An Unearthly Child to be set on a contemporary Earth.[1]


Following a malfunction on the TARDIS console and the bleating of a klaxon indicating something is amiss, the Doctor insists the fault locator shows nothing is wrong and it is safe to venture outside. He leads his companions Ian, Barbara and Susan to the world beyond and within minutes they find a dead giant earthworm followed by a large deceased ant. They seem to have died immediately. After some deduction the travellers realise they have arrived on Earth but have shrunk in size to about an inch.

Ian is investigating a discarded matchbox when someone picks it up and he is hurled around inside. That someone is a government scientist called Farrow. He is met by a callous industrialist named Forester to tell him that his application for DN6, a new insecticide, has been rejected. In reality DN6 should not be licensed: it is far too deadly to all insect life. When they fall out over this news, Forester shoots Farrow and leaves him for dead on the lawn.

The Doctor, Barbara and Susan hear the gunshot as an enormous explosion, and head for the house. They find Ian unhurt near the dead body and surmise a murder has taken place but can do little about it. They are determined, however, to ensure the murderer is brought to justice despite their microscopic size. While avoiding a cat, the travellers get split up again with Ian and Barbara hiding in a briefcase. The giant Forester returns to the lawn and collects the briefcase, taking it inside to the laboratory. His aide, Smithers, arrives and suspects him of murder, but does not report him for fear of undermining the DN6 project to which he has given his life.

The Doctor and Susan scale a drainpipe to gain access to the house and locate their friends, braving the height as they go. Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara examine the laboratory and encounter a giant fly, which is killed instantly when it contacts sample seeds that had been sprayed with DN6. Barbara foolishly touched one seed earlier and soon starts to feel unwell. Nevertheless, attracted by Susan’s voice in the reverberating plughole, the four friends are reunited.

Forester has meanwhile doctored Farrow’s report so as to give DN6 the licence he wants and, disguising his voice as Farrow’s, makes a supportive phonecall to the ministry to the same effect. This is overheard by the local telephone operator, Hilda Rowse, and her policeman husband, Bert, who start to suspect something is wrong.

The Doctor has meanwhile realised the deadly and everlasting nature of DN6 and the probable contamination of Barbara. They try to alert someone by hoisting up the phone receiver with corks, but cannot make themselves heard. Hilda notes the engaged signal, however, and she and Bert become even more concerned. Forester and Smithers return to the lab and correct the engaged handset and then Hilda rings to check things are okay. She rings again moments later and asks for Farrow and, when Forester impersonates him, immediately spots the faked voice and so knows there is something badly wrong. Bert heads off to the house to investigate.

The Doctor and his companions decide to start a fire to attract attention to the house and succeed in setting up an aerosol can of insecticide and a lab bench gas jet as a bomb. This coincides with Smithers discovering the true virulence of DN6 - it's lethal to everything - and demanding Forester stop seeking a licence. Forester spots the makeshift bomb, which goes off in his face. Smithers retrieves the gun as PC Rowse arrives and wishes to question the men.

Their work done, the travellers return to the TARDIS and the Doctor reconfigures the machine to return them to normal size. Barbara, who was on the verge of death, recovers on being returned to full size; the insecticide and seed responsible aboard the TARDIS shrinking to their real microscopic and minuscule sizes.


An early version of this concept – by C. E. Webber and entitled The Giants – was originally meant to be the first story of the first season.[2] Planet of Giants was recorded in the production block it was decided to hold it for transmission as the start of season 2.[3] This story was originally four episodes in length. Upon viewing Episodes 3 and 4, which focused more heavily on Hilda and Bert, Head of Serials Donald Wilson ordered them spliced together in order to form a faster-paced climax (Episode 3) focusing on the core characters of the series.[4] Episode 4 was called "The Urge to Live" and directed by Douglas Camfield (instead of Mervyn Pinfield, who directed Episodes 1-3). When Episodes 3 and 4 were edited together to make the new Episode 3, only Camfield was credited.

The decision to splice the last two episodes into one would have ramifications for the second production block of the series, when the producers were left with a one-episode space following Galaxy 4. Rather than producing a single-episode stand-alone story or extend any of the planned serials, "Mission to the Unknown" was commissioned to serve as a prelude to The Daleks' Master Plan without the participation of any of the regular cast. This was produced in the same block as Galaxy 4, and both were held over to form the first five episodes of Season 3.[5]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Planet of Giants" 31 October 1964 (1964-10-31) 23:15 8.4 16mm t/r
"Dangerous Journey" 7 November 1964 (1964-11-07) 23:40 8.4 16mm t/r
"Crisis, original recorded version" Unaired  ??? n/a Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Crisis, broadcast version" 14 November 1964 (1964-11-14) 26:35 8.9 16mm t/r
"The Urge to Live, original recorded version" Unaired  ??? n/a Only stills and/or fragments exist

In 2008, Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern wrote that the story had ambition and impressive set design, but felt that "the drama itself is less than enthralling". He pegged the scientists to stereotypes and found it disappointing that they did not directly interact with the miniature TARDIS crew about their plans. Mulkern also noted that Barbara "[came] across as uncharacteristically wet" and Dudley Simpson's score was "annoyingly childish".[9] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave Planet of Giants three out of five stars, feeling that it was an average "solid installment". Sinnott noted that it was a strange story because the TARDIS crew did not directly interact with the "pretty stupid" criminals and they seemed more concerned about exploring than returning to their normal size.[10] Dave Golder of SFX gave the serial two and a half out of five stars, feeling that it was "undeniably slow, talky and lacking in excitement" and "not quite in synch with the main show" because Barbara and Ian never note that they are in contemporary Britain, to which they are trying to return. Despite praising the TARDIS crew for using "intelligence, ingenuity and simple science to get themselves out of problems", he felt they lacked their usual chemistry and also criticised Barbara's characterisation.[11] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn described the serial as "not lacking in ambitious ideas but never quite [gelling] together, and a last-minute re-edit that condensed the original third and fourth episodes into one hurt the story more than it helped". Bahn felt that the script "is constantly undercutting its own dramatic potential in subtle but pervasive ways", such as when the characters tried calling the police on a telephone, and the "plot-dragger" of Barbara keeping her illness a secret. However, he praised set design and acting of Hill and Tilvern.[12]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Planet of Giants
Doctor Who Planet of Giants.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Alister Pearson
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
18 January 1990
ISBN 0-426-20345-3

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in January 1990. It was the final serial of the William Hartnell era to be novelised. The novel also reinstated much of the material cut to make the televised serial into three episodes.

Home media[edit]

This serial was released on VHS in 2002;[13] it was the first commercially released story to receive the VidFIRE process.[14] It was released on DVD in Region 2 on 20 August 2012.[15]

The 2012 DVD includes recreations of the original Episodes 3 and 4, based on the original scripts and featuring newly recorded dialogue[16] from regular cast members Ford and Russell and other actors impersonating the remaining (all deceased) cast. A variety of techniques has been used to re-create the missing visual material, but most of this is done by re-editing existing footage from the finished episode 3.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The episode is undated, though its general appearance is consistent with the year of transmission.
  2. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1994). Doctor Who The Handbook - The First Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. pp. 178–9. ISBN 0-426-20430-1. 
  3. ^ "Serial J: Planet Of Giants" A Brief History of Time Travel 27 June 2012
  4. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1994). Doctor Who The Handbook - The First Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 275. ISBN 0-426-20430-1. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon. "Mission to the Unknown (aka. Dalek Cutaway)". A Brief History of Time (Travel). Retrieved 24 April 2007. 
  6. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "Planet of Giants". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  7. ^ "Planet of Giants". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (4 April 2005). "Planet of Giants". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  9. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (14 November 2008). "Doctor Who: Planet of Giants". Radio Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Sinnott, John (31 October 2012). "Doctor Who: Planet of Giants". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Golder, Dave (17 August 2012). "Doctor Who: Planet of Giants Review". SFX. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Bahn, Christopher (9 December 2012). "Planet of Giants". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Roberts, Steve (28 September 2001). "Planet of Giants". Doctor Who Restoration Team. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Roberts, Steve. "VidFIRE". Doctor Who Restoration Team. Retrieved 24 April 2007. 
  15. ^ "DVD Update: Summer Schedule". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  16. ^ "Doctor Who Online - News & Reviews - Planet of Giants - DVD Cover and Details". 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]