Doctor Who – Planet of Giants [DVD] [1964]

“Planet of the Giants” opened the second season of Doctor Who with William Hartnell’s Doctor and companions Susan, Barbara and Ian finding themselves in a mysterious labyrinth filled with dead giant ants. A TARDIS malfunction has left the travellers an inch high and they have landed in the cracks in a garden path, part of a testing ground for an insecticide which could trigger a biological apocalypse. The plot combines the urgent warning of Rachel Carson’s 1962 environmental landmark Silent Spring, with the basic scenario of Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), the characters facing similar hazards including being menaced by a domestic cat. The low budget means the huge props necessary to realise the story are limited, but what there are prove surprisingly good. Even the over-size ants and a big fly look fairly impressive. The story maintains an unsettling mood, with an effective cliff-hanger involving the laboratory sink. Continuity problems stem from the original four-episode story being re-edited into three parts prior to transmission, but this is still a superior example of early Doctor Who, predating the popular American TV series Land of the Giants (1968) by four years. Lindsay Gutteridge’s once popular 1973 novel Cold War in a Country Garden owed much to the story. –Gary S Dalkin