Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Planet of Giants" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with the wrapup post for the first story of Doctor Who's second season, "Planet of Giants." As I've said in each episode review (see below), neither Ketina nor I were much looking forward to this story as we both remembered it as being (charitably) slight and a bit dull. It was odd to discover that, according to several interviews I read at the Doctor Who Interview Archive that this was Carole Ann Ford and William Russell's favorite story. Obviously, it was time for a reassessment, so I tried to go in with an open mind. And I was rewarded--as Ketina and I both discovered, this story, although still problematic, has a lot to recommend it.

One of the chief of those recommendations is certainly the oversized props that our miniaturized cast has to contend with. (These were actually what Ford and Russell talked about in their interviews.) Raymond Cusick, designer of the Daleks, did a tremendous job giving us gigantic phones, notepads, earthworms, ants, the sink (a brilliant set!), etc. The (still living) fly is particularly impressive, with its moving wings and legs it looks quite lifelike. Just a tremendous job on a rather small budget.

The story itself was...well, to be honest, it's servicable at best. I've mentioned some of the criticisms: that the TARDIS crew doesn't really do anything to resolve the "giant" part of the plot, or that the giants don't have all that much to do with the "tiny" plot, for instance. While I think it's overstated, conventional wisdom has a point here. Something I did not know, at least not until I read the story's production page at Shannon Sullivan's site, was that the story we saw was about a quarter shorter than originally written and recorded. The fourth episode, "The Urge to Live," was edited together with "Crisis" to produce the third episode we saw last Friday. In its full four episode length, we would have apparently seen more interaction between the crew and the "giants," including the Doctor's examination of Farrow's notes and his deduction of the reason for the latter's murder. We also would have gotten a payoff for the cat cliffhanger from episode one; apparently, the cat would have also become a victim of DN6's destructive qualities. (It's like Chekov's cat--introduced in the first act and used in the third!) On the other hand, we would have gotten more Hilda and Bert and a plot that was even more drawn out. It's honestly hard to say whether a fourth episode would have made this story feel a bit less lightweight or whether, as was decided at the time, an extra episode would have felt padded and dragged out. What do those of you who've seen this story think? (Seriously, I'd like to know. I've been going back and forth on this one.) A final note relating to this episodic editing: Episodes one through three were directed by Doctor Who's original Associate Producer, Mervyn Pinfield. Episode four, however, was the Doctor Who directoral debut of Douglas "Dougie" Camfield, one of the most prolific (and popular) directors of the show's first fifteen or so years. For some reason (perhaps more footage from four was used than three?), he is given sole credit for the televised episode three, making that his first onscreen Doctor Who credit!

All right, enough of my babbling. Here are the links to each episode review, for your convenience:

"Planet of Giants"
"Dangerous Journey"

And here, as usual, is the BBC episode guide for the story.

Next, a foe returns! Join us tomorrow (as I type this) for the beginning of a new adventure as the Doctor and company land on...but that would be telling!

Until then, I remain


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