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on 15 January 2013
Planet of Giants was the first commissioned serial of Doctor Who's second season and it was duly anticipated by viewers in 1964, according to the Radio Times at least. I have previously owned the VHS version of this serial, which was the first to receive the VIDFIRE process, and I always thought that it was an interesting story, though maybe a little too convoluted as a season opener. Upon discovering more information via this DVD I have learned a lot more concerning this particular serial, and I now have a newfound fondness for this three-part addition to the Who mythos.
The plot of the story revolves around the malfunction of the Tardis door opening mid-flight, resulting in the miniaturising of the occupants inside to roughly one inch tall. Suffice to say, conspiracy unfolds concerning murder and agricultural ethics in the form of an indiscriminate fertiliser. Originally, this serial was meant to air with four parts, but it was necessary to edit them down to three due to thoughts that the pace of the story was far too lagging. This led to a loss of some crucial plot elements, I think, and it is only through the reconstruction of the original episodes three and four that, in my opinion, has renewed 'Planet of Giants' to its intended status as a worthy second season opener.
The DVD itself contains the complete serial, at approximately 73 minutes in length, with digitally remastered picture and sound quality. This is particularly evident in comparison with the VHS release, and the team have done a brilliant job yet again at cleaning up the odd grain and dirt stain. The serial can be viewed with optional English subtitles and production notes, which provide significant insight into the making of and history behind the serial, along with information regarding the cast and crew. There is also an offering to view the story with an audio commentary with vision mixer Clive Doig, special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, make-up supervisor Sonia Markham and David Tilley, moderated by Mark Ayres. This provides an interesting account of the production of this particular serial and the show in general, and the people engage wholeheartedly in the programme to deliver an entertaining first-hand account. Also provided are two interviews, taken from 'The Story of Doctor Who' in 2003, with Verity Lambert and Carole Anne Ford, who played Susan, which provide an insight into characterisation and programme development. The real bonus, in my opinion, is the reconstruction of the original unaired episodes three and four, which were originally edited into one episode for reasons described above. The team have done an absolutely brilliant job in using stock footage and new material, alongside existing actors and impersonators to recreate these missing episodes, which provide an extension of the main story, with a lot more plot development and interactional dialogue. There is also a documentary detailing the making of the reconstructed episodes, alongside a photo gallery of on-set photographs and a PDF version of the Radio Times listings for this particular serial, with an integrated overview of the first season recounted by the article writer.
All in all, it is definitely worth picking up this DVD, even if you aren't a dedicated Whovian, as there is so much history to be explored within this little serial, with plenty of extra features to keep you occupied. As previously stated, I have a newfound fondness for 'Planet of Giants' and I am glad that it has finally received the treatment it deserves.
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on 3 December 2001
Don't believe everything you read in reviews, especially when they're full of inaccuracies! This story is three episodes long, not because of problems with any other story, but simply because the last two episodes were edited together before broadcast to make a much more taut result. Ray Cusick's giant size sets work well, as do the optical effects used to render the TARDIS crew only one inch tall. Listen out too for future regular composer Dudley Simpson's very first incidental score for the programme. This is also the first Dr Who story where the direction was credited on screen to Douglas Camfield, arguably the series' finest director. Although not perfect the story is still highly entertaining and well worth buying, especially for the opportunity to see Hartnell's Doctor on "video" as opposed to "film" for the first time since the original transmissions, thanks to the new VidFIRE process being applied!
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The first story from the second season of Doctor Who comes to DVD. Originally broadcast in 1964, all three black and white episodes are presented here on a single disc dvd.

It features the First Doctor, along with his companions Susan, Ian and Barbara.

The story uses an idea that had been under consideration ever since the start of the show. What if the TARDIS shrunk? In Planet of Giants, the doors of the TARDIS coming open in mid flight lead to that happening. The ship has landed in the middle of the garden of an old house in a sleepy English village. But in addition to all the dangers the crew face from insects and nature as a result of their diminished size, they have another problem. In the house is a ruthless businessman who is so determined to get a new pesticide onto the market, despite it's devastating effects to all kinds life, he will stop at nothing, even murder, to achieve his aims.

Can the Doctor and friends survive, return to their normal size, and save the Earth from the perils of the pesticide?

In the early days of the show the ambition of the production team was never stopped by the limitations of tv of the time. Or by the budget. As anyone who has seen 'The Web Planet' will know. But whilst Planet of Giants does it's best to create a bit of drama, and it does do some set pieces reasonably well, it can't get past the problem of being rather dull. There's no great tension to any of the proceedings, and the dated visuals and effects make it very hard to suspend your disbelief or really get hooked on the story.

It's also rather lacking in pace. Which is one reason why it was cut down from the originally planned four episodes into three. The third episode is the result of the original parts three and four being re-edited into one.

This is by no means a bad story. It's just not the most involving of them.

The dvd has the usual language and subtitle options:

Languages: English. And also Arabic, since the BBC still hold a copy of the print that was sold to certain arabic speaking countries, so you can listen to it in that if you wish.

Subtitles: English.

It's also English audio captioned.

It has the usual features of this dvd range:

Production information subtitles.

A photo gallery of stills from the story and shots from it being made.

A commentary. None of the guest cast of the story are still with us, so this one is done entirely by members of the production staff.

A trailer for the next release in the dvd range.

And in addition to the usual Radio Times listings for the story as a PDF file you also get prop design plans from it.

Other extras:

Two more sets of interviews originally made for a 2003 documentary about Doctor Who. One with original producer Verity Lambert, and one with Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan. Both run for fifteen minutes [approx]. Both are good interviews. Both also need to be watched right to the end of the credits in order to see an additional moment.

The dvd also contains a reconstruction of the original full length third and fourth parts. This is run together as one long extra of just over fifty one minutes, but each part does have ending and opening credits. If you want to watch just one at a time you can get to the start of of part via the chapter button on the dvd remote, and pressing it till the part starts.

The original footage that was cut is no longer with us, so it has been restored by putting in reprised shots from elsewhere in the story. Occasional bits of cgi. And having a new recording of the dialogue. Given that William Russell [Ian] and Carole Ann Ford are still with us, they reprise their roles. And new actors do the other characters. The new cast are very good. The actor who does the Doctor's voice especially so. But you can't get by the fact that they all sound different to the original cast. And that is very noticeable.

Whilst this version of part three isn't too badly paced part four does feel slow and lacking in pace at points. So you can see why it was cut.

Be aware [Mild spoiler] that these two episodes do contain a couple of moments that young children and animal lovers might find a bit distressing. Although that might not be a problem since they may not be able to suspend their disbelief at the points in question [end of mild spoiler].

But these two new versions are nonethless an interesting look at what might have been.

There is also a seven minute long feature on how they were done, complete with lots of footage of the new voice cast at work.
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on 15 February 2010
The Doctor is attempting to return Ian and Barbara to earth, but when they get there they find that they have all been shrunk to 1 inch tall, and are in a garden where a powerful new insecticide has been tested, and has killed every living creature. They find themselves in all sorts of trouble, being menaced by a cat, Ian being stuck in a matchbox, the Doctor and Susan nearly getting flushed down the drain when the tap is turned on etc. And they have to try and stop the spread of the deadly insecticide.

This is a very amusing and unusual Doctor Who story, with plenty of excitement and some very cleverly construced props (I thought the giant plug and plughole were particularly convincing.) I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 5 May 2014
The first story of the second season, originally transmitted October and November 1964.Rather than just having The Doctor and the 3 original companions land somewhere, this story had the travellers shrunk to 1 inch tall, due to the Tardis doors opening pre materialisation. Ian witnesses a murder and the rest of the plot revolves around the travellers trying to expose the murderer and get Barbara back to the Tardis as quickly as possible, as she has been contaminated with an extremely dangerous insecticide. Needless to say all turns out well in the end.
An interesting story, somewhat different to what was originally offered at the time. The special effects, for the time, are well done, and the restoration team have done an excellent job, as the picture and sound quality are excellent.
The bonus material with this disc are once again excellent. This story was originally planned as a 4 part story, but was cut to 3. The bonus material recreates how it would have been if it was transmitted as a 4 part story. Carol Ann Ford expresses her time on the programme, which is interesting if you can remember her in the series all of those years ago. Altogether, I would recommend this story if you were a fan of the series when it first aired.I would think that viewers who have only seen the new series (from 2005 onwards) would probably find this story a bit dull.
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on 30 April 2012
Planet of Giants is a quaint little 3 part serial from 1964, it is set in contemporary day Earth and stars a small cast of established British actors. The story concerns the TARDIS crew landing on Earth and finding that they have been reduced in size to about 1 inch, then, the plot thickens when Forester, a big-time crook murders Farrow, a scientist who has deduced that DN6, Forester's latest invention is basically a poison, rather than an insecticide. The story then revolves around the TARDIS crew fingering the murderer and getting back to the TARDIS so they can resume normal size.

Planet of Giants was originally going to be a 4 part serial, but the producers felt that because the story had no monsters or battles etc, that it would be best to reduce the serial by one episode so as to add a more climactic end to events and faster paced season opener. Overall, the story works really well and is one of the better Hartnell stories, its always been one of my favourites and stands up very well today. The sets and design are very modern and although Doctor Who was produced on a miniscule budget, the giant sets used here work brilliantly well. This stands as probably one of the best Doctor Who visual serials and I certainly can't wait for the BBC DVD release this year to fully enjoy this classic.

The Doctor Who Restoration Team have done wonders in cleaning up these episodes for release. The VidFIRE process really shines here, the picture and sound quality is fantastic and a DVD release is really awaited with baited breath, the Restoration Team have even gone to the effort of recreating the missing and erased 4th episode by gathering all the remaining cast and re-recording the dialogue for the missing segments. Excellent stuff. As usual with the latest Doctor Who DVD releases, I'm sure that the Team will have pulled together a few more juicy extras to entertain us all.

Overall, I rate Planet of Giants very highly, I think it is an underrated little 3 {now 4} parter from the early years of the greatest show in the galaxy {which co-incidentally is released just before this story}.

Thank you very much for your time,

M.B.
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on 5 August 2005
I don't really see what's wrong with this story. Everyone I've met and asked seems to like it, but most reviews on the internet always give it a bad one. The 'sink set' is very good effects wise, but some of the other things aren't... but so what? What makes it good is it is just very simple- the Doctor and his companions wandering round discovering deadly traps. Worth the money, so buy it!
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on 24 October 2013
Everything is quiet in the garden - which is hardly surprising since it has all been killed! Restored to an amazing standard, this is one of those 'makes you think' stories from Doctor Who's distant past. After the TARDIS doors open in flight, the crew are reduced to just one inch tall. The rest of the plot could really stand on its own without this extra element, but it does give the special effects department something to do. The edited episodes are cleverly restored, although I'm sure that some cat lovers will be dismayed at a couple of the animated scenes!
All in all, a good package with some useful extras. If you have never seen early Doctor Who, this isn't one of the most immediately exciting stories, but it has a strangely claustrophobic atmosphere and as I wrote above, it does make you think!
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on 10 March 2014
Apparently this was one of the first ideas they had for Dr Who - the TARDIS miniatures the crew and they end up running round Coal Hill School only one inch high, but very wisely they decided to do one about cave men instead, not that there's anything wrong with this...

But there are implicit challenges, and one of these is that if you're only one inch tall, who are you going to talk to, apart from each other? The cat? No - to the cat, you're just another edible toy. When Carole Ann Ford recalls that the story was heavy on dialogue, one reason for this is that there weren't any other characters that our friends could talk to.

Being an inch tall means that most of the story has to be about coping with stuff that usually you'd not think twice about - a crazy paving path is a strange stone maze, a drain pipe assumes the role of the convenient ventilator shaft that they always use to get into places, and the cat means to torture and kill you, and it's a good job there's insecticide everywhere or those ants would be really dangerous. Here's another problem with small size stories - all the scenery has to be tiny things made big, so it can't really be as detailed as a big thing at its normal size, so after the initial `Oh that's a big plughole' reaction, you're kinda stuck with something that's really only as interesting as a plughole, and if you want something else that's interesting, you need to make more set - hence the reason that there's quite a lot of talking in front of big sets going on - there is only so much money to spend on sets. When they need a shot of the dead body's head, or one of the phone, it's a big photograph (though it may be closer to the lens than the actors).

And it's a great testament to designer Ray Cusick that it all works as well as it does - Chromakey hadn't been adopted, so it's all been achieved by design and ingenuity - and while a certain amount has been filmed against black drapes, it does all look properly convincing.

The rest of the plot - because four tiny people trying to avoid the cat isn't going to carry one episode, never mind three - is that of the villainous Forrester hell-bent on marketing his deadly - will kill everything - insecticide, whatever the consequences, killing the quite-properly concerned government inspector, and then conspiring with a scientist to cover it all up - finally the scientist does the right thing and a policeman arrives.

This is the point at which our friends do manage - just about - to effect the actions of full sized people, and quite ingeniously; inserting corks under the telephone receiver is a clever idea, and a serious physical challenge - I'm not sure quite how they manage it with only one fit strong adult among them.

In the end, they escape back to the TARDIS, and we know they are growing back to full size because the grain of wheat that the Dr made a point of keeping, shrinks back to tiny, and Barbara is all recovered from her contact with the insecticide.

So that's the story as transmitted, and I like it.

But back in 1964, it was originally a four part story, and the exciting Part Three was once Part Three *and* Four - there were copious cuts - and now, as the `special feature' for the DVD, Ian Levine has re-created those two episodes.

I doff my hat to him - it's clearly taken a lot of painstaking work - the editing must have been a heck of a job, and as well as that the cast has had to be re-assembled, or rather mostly re-cast because all but two of them are dead. Still, it is nice to see Carole Ann Ford and William Russell working together again, and the young man doing the impersonation of William Hartnell is doing superb work. It's very interesting to see how it would have been.

But it's not as good as the transmitted Episode Three.

This is not to deny the worth of the work done; the problem rather is with the script - there just aren't enough ideas to sustain the story, so however much Forrester and Smithers and Hilda and Bert talk about it, it's just padding - more `Comings and goings' than Five Go Mad in Dorset - while what the story needs is action, preferably from the little people, but that would mean another tiny-things-made-big set.

I think that, in 1964, cutting was a good decision.
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on 2 May 2012
Review now fully updated. The team had wanted to do miniaturised tardis crew from day one (*1) & when Louis Marks wrote the script that actually got produced he wisely added the miniaturisation plot to another story strand, in this case an environmental one. The tardis crew land on Earth ( in the 1st adventure set on contemporary Earth, if it's meant to be earlier then there's nothing that points this up) where an evil manufacturer of pesticides Forrester (wonderfully unlikeable performance from Alan Tilvern) is about to unleash one which is potentially lethal to people. The crew must expose him hampered by the fact some sort of dimensional wrong turn has left them bug size.
Speaking of bugs there is a nicely designed but spectacularly immobile giant fly which makes the Green Death one look like Jurassic Park!
This is using the Dr, Susan and companions almost like a Mission Impossible team and sees them problem solving e.g at their present size can they use phones to warn people?
Extra tension is created by Barbara being poisoned by the pesticide and the clever solution to that can be viewed as too easy or scientifically plausible depending on your point of view.
Now while many aspects of the production could be done better today, there's no dispute that the majority of giant sets/props are terrific. Take the giant sink where it looks especially real as they have taken the trouble to add scratches around the plughole to denote use instead of the usual squeaky clean look that giant stuff usually has in shrunken heroes type tales.
The sets etc look as good as in Irwin Allens' Land of the Giants on a fraction of the budget and with the added advantage of not being Land of the Giants (sorry but it's the only 1 of the Allen big 4 which I don't like).
1 bit apart from the fly which doesn't work is the crew against a giant corpse which looks like they're standing in front of a blown up photo. That may well not be how it was achieved (in the commentary we learn how it was actually done)but however it was done, it doesn't work.
The pace is rather gentle not unlike cuddly old cop show Dixon of Dock Green despite ep 3 being the directorial debut of Who great Douglas Camfield. 1-2 were directed by Mervyn Pinfield who (Also helming Space Museum) was the go to guy for dimensional whoops stories. The restoration has as always delivered a good quality picture.
Originally it was a 4 part story but 3-4 (both directed by Camfield) were felt to be too slow & were edited down to 1 ep and this has given rise to an unusual extra. Episode 3 and 4 Reconstruction Originally shot as a four-part story, the final two episodes of Planet of Giants were edited into a single episode for transmission. Using the original scripts, newly recorded dialogue and animation.
There is not a great deal of animation (the best bit involves a cat) but it is used together with adjusted & redubbed bits of the transmitted episode 3 to re-create the missing footage.
Admittedly a lot of footage is reused many times e.g. endless closeups of Forrester's nose and eyes as he speaks missing dialogue and the new voices do not match up to the original ones. It's quite interesting to hear the changes in Carole Ann Ford and William Russell's voices over the years and while not a match for originals, the new voices for the Dr and Barbara etc. are still pretty good.Yes it's true that this does show that the original version would not have had enough going on for 2 episodes-although the loss of comic relief courtesy of Hilda and Berty Rowse was a bit more of a loss. What this does succeed in is showing us how the original pre-transmission version worked.
It's supplemented nicely with "Rediscovering the Urge to Live" a brief look at how the recreation was done showing the voice recordings and discussing the animation.
The commentary with vision mixer Clive Doig, special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, make-up supervisor Sonia Markham and floor assistant David Tilley, moderated by Mark Ayres, presumably Toby "The Moderator" Hadoke was busy (he actually plays Forrester in the recreated scenes & provided Ayres with the priceless revelation that Alan Tilvern later sold Cuckoo clocks!) is an informative rather than funny one. Clive Doig reveals he was Vision Mixer on all Hartnell stories. They recall the move to TV Centre being much better than the old Lime Grove facilities.
Sonia Markham recalls Hartnell was very friendly to make up crew once he got to know them and would never have his wig on until the final run through. They also note that after being warned not to look in the giant cat's eyes, the characters do just that!
Doctor Who Stories - Suddenly Susan Carole Ann Ford talks about her role as the Doctor's granddaughter and the first companion in the TARDIS in this interview originally recorded for 2003's The Story of Doctor Who. She recalls the disappointment in the role altering from a kooky hyper intelligent go-getter she was cast as, to a standard schoolchild but notes Verity lambert thought she managed to get plenty of strange in anyway. A charming interview
* Verity Lambert Tapes - Doctor Who's original producer looks back on her time on the series in the this interview recorded for The Story of Doctor Who. She has warm, memories of her time as you'd expect and tells us who was the best of the classic Docs after Bill Hartnell!
* Prop Design Plans (DVD-ROM only - to be viewed on PC/Mac).
* Radio Times Listings (DVD-ROM).
* Programme Subtitles.
* Production Information Subtitles.
* Photo Gallery.
* Coming Soon Trailer.
* Digitally remastered picture and sound quality.
.

An enjoyable but unexceptional story for big fans more than the casual ones. A good supporting package and I believe it shows that regardless of reconstruction/animation quality recreating lost material is a worthwhile pursuit. Following this Shada, for which the surviving cast (except for Tom) recorded the unfilmed dialogue and for which animation was filmed and then rejected by 2 Entertain should be re-thought, with a view to releasing the reconstructed version.

*1 The 1st script written for a show called The Giants had a similar premise and later a script or storyline by Robert Gould entitled "The Miniscules" did too.
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