I decide to have some fun with Sue before we dive into season two. When she asks me how many episodes make up this story, I tell her that it’s an eight-part epic and several chunks are missing, although there is a reconstruction of part seven that will be performed by an amateur dramatics group from Bournemouth. She simply shrugged her shoulders and sighed, “We’d better get on it with then”.
Planet of Giants
Sue is fascinated by the swanky new costumes that are now being sported by the TARDIS crew.
Sue: Barbara looks like a dental nurse, Ian is going for a job interview, Susan is looking forward to spending some time on a farm and the Doctor has a shiny new cloak. It’s all go, isn’t it?
Sue quickly identifies several parallels with The Edge of Destruction, as the TARDIS appears to be on the blink again. She remembers how useless the fault locator is – “There’s something wrong with my switch!” – and she can even remember the last time the doors opened all by themselves – “Does this mean they’ll turn into homicidal maniacs again?”. When they eventually leave the ship, Sue begins to draw parallels with Irwin Allen.
Sue: Did they get the idea for this from Land of the Giants? I loved that show when I was a kid.
Me: Land of the Giants isn’t made for a few years yet.
Sue: So they nicked the idea from Doctor Who?
Me: Wait and see.
Sue: But it’s obvious. They gave it away with the title. They are on an alien planet with giants on it. Look, there’s a giant alien ant. Actually, that looks pretty good, although it is dead, I suppose. I bet they couldn’t make it move.
When Ian and Susan stumble across a giant seed packet bearing the words ‘Made in Norwich’, Sue cries “A-ha!” and I can’t tell if the penny’s finally dropped or if she’s trying to impersonate Alan Partridge. In fact, it takes an amazing model shot to reveal the whole truth. Our heroes are trapped in crazy paving.
Sue: So it’s Earth, then? That’s pretty clever. Well done.
When the story shifts gears and we suddenly enter the real world, Sue feels a little cheated (“I’d psyched myself up for giant aliens in spandex”), while the subplot about DN6 fails to make any impression on her at all, despite all the dead wildlife we’ve seen so far.
Sue: Is that Percy Thrower?
She is, of course, referring to Frank Crawshaw’s rather unfortunate speech impediment.
Me: Maybe it’s an alien planet where people whistle while they talk?
Sue: Now you’re just confusing me.
As our heroes gaze into Crawshaw’s cavernous nostrils, Sue gives the show a patronising pat on the head (“Nice try”) whereas the cliffhanger, which is supposed to be pant-wettingly scary, doesn’t quite get the reaction it’s striving for.
Sue: Aw, what a cute kitty.top
Sue: This is incredibly ambitious. I doubt they’d have the balls to try something like this today.
The crew have split up, and while the Doctor and Susan are busy shimmying up a drainpipe, Ian and Barbara are carried in a briefcase to Forester’s laboratory. Sadly, curiosity gets the better of Barbara and she accidentally picks up a seed that has been sprayed with the deadly DN6. She tries to hide this from Ian in a way that reminds Sue of a zombie victim hiding a bite mark.
Sue: Ian has really gone down in my estimations. It’s obvious that Barbara has touched one of the seeds. Why else did she ask you for your bloody handkerchief, you silly fool! He should be much more attentive to her needs, he is Barbara’s lover after all.
Me: Well, that’s not strictly -
Sue: Bloody hell! That giant fly looks amazing! And it’s moving!
Barbara is so overwhelmed by the fly’s presence, she faints. Sue is a little disappointed at first – “At least she didn’t scream” – but she eventually decides that Barbara is too brave for nonsense like that and she must have fallen down because the insecticide is slowly killing her.
When we reach the sink set, it takes a few seconds for Sue to process what she’s looking at. At first she’s convinced that they must be standing on a blow-up photograph, but it’s far too good for that. And then it slowly dawns on her…
Sue: That’s a real set!
Me: I know. Brilliant, isn’t it?
Sue: It’s incredible!
As Ian and Barbara climb down the plug’s chain, Sue notices that Barbara’s trousers are very trendy for 1964, and then all hell breaks loose as Smithers and Forester arrive to scupper their escape plans.
Me: Only Doctor Who could transform something simple like a person emptying a sink into something horrific.
Sue: It should be silly but it’s a great cliffhanger. We have to watch the next one straightaway.top
I tell Sue that we about to watch the last two instalments that were edited together into a single episode because Verity Lambert (who Sue’s met, incidentally) decided that it was too boring and tedious for an audience to bear and something drastic had to be done to save it.
Sue: I thought you said this was eight episodes long?
Sue spends the next 20 minutes trying to guess where the cuts were made.
Sue: I bet there was a really long scene where Ian had to read out what was on that notepad. The walk to the phone probably went on for ages as well. I think the cliffhanger probably happened after Barbara collapsed, there’s a very strange cut there. But I have to say, I’m glad that Verity made her decision, this episode is paced really well compared to others I’ve seen. Good on her.
Sue goes on to proclaim that three episodes is the perfect structure for any Doctor Who story. The first part sets it up, the second ups the ante and the third brings the resolution. Anything else is just padding. I can’t wait to see what she makes of The Daleks’ Masterplan.
Sue: This is the very first time that I’ve seen the crew actively resist the temptation to run away. Which is odd because running away now would actually save Barbara’s life. Instead they decide to do the heroic thing and save the entire planet from eating genetically modified food. It’s bizarre, but heroic.
As the TARDIS crew attempt to set fire to the house in a strange and rather convoluted attempt to draw attention to the scene of the crime, Sue is mesmerised by just how ambitious this all is.
Sue: That was brilliant. They managed to convey most of that with just some lights and a sound effect. Very impressive.
Brilliantly, it’s the telephone operator who saves the day, and it’s all because she doesn’t fall for Forrester’s patently ridiculous ruse of sticking a hankie over the receiver when he attempts to disguise his voice. It’s enough to make you believe that Crawshaw’s voice impediment was a plot point after all.
When our heroes return to the TARDIS – “Massive chunk missing here” – and back to their regular size, Sue is left with a nagging doubt about the scientific accuracy of what she’s just witnessed.
Sue: The only thing I don’t understand is why they shrank in the first place.
Me: The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental. It makes perfect sense for the crew to shrink if it all goes tits up.
Sue: Yeah, I suppose that does make sense. A bit.top
The Final Score
Sue: I really enjoyed that one. The sets were fantastic and the plot was very inventive – like a cross between The Borrowers and The Avengers. I think it’s probably the best one yet.
Me: It’s certainly about as atypical as it gets.
And then Sue gives Planet of Giants a very healthy -
Sue: I like it when the story is self-contained like that. I feel like I’m watching a little play.
The next story is the very antithesis of that. Just don’t tell her what’s coming.
The experiment continues…top
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