Four years before Irwin Allen brought a team of space
explorers to a planet inhabited by giants in Land of the
Who covered the same territory in Planet
of the Giants. Similar in a lot of
ways to the US series that would come later, this story that opened the
season of the long-running BBC show featured the first Doctor, William
and his companions only an inch tall, and the only witnesses to a
murder. While it's not the best
installment, it's not
particularly bad either. The original
four episode story was shorted to three (after all four had been shot)
while the end is a little rushed, it is still a solid example of the
its early years.
After witnessing the arrest of Robespierre in 18th
Century Paris (in the previous story, The
Reign of Terror scheduled for release
next year), The Doctor and his companions take off in the TARDIS but
goes wrong. The doors open in
mid-flight, something they're never supposed to do.
Ian, Susan, and Barbara close them and The
Doctor lands. No one seems to be the
worse for wear, which surprises The Doctor, so they decide to explore
They find themselves on a planet with a rocky landscape and
enormous creatures. The Doctor and
Barbara find what looks like a snake at first, but it turns out to be a
earthworm that's luckily deceased.
Similarly Ian and Susan find some giant ants, which are also
dead. After some discussion, The Doctor
come to the same conclusion: they are
back on Earth, but they've been reduced in size to approximately one
No sooner has this sunk in than Ian, having climbed into a
box of matches, gets accidently taken by a full sized man.
The other go and look for him, and while he's
only yards away it seems like miles to the diminutive explorers.
While this is going on, the narrative (and scale) switches
to the man who unknowingly has Ian, a government scientist named Farrow. He's been examining a new pesticide, DN6,
which an industrialist, Forester, and a scientist, Smithers, are
developing. They need government approval
before they can
go into large scale production, but unfortunately Farrow has discovered
the compound works too well. Not it
kills all insect life that it comes into contact with, not just the
Forester has all of his money tied up in DN6, and when
Farrow refuses to listen to his pleads, he kills him.
He then pulls Smithers into his plot to hide
the body and falsify the Farrow's report so they can go ahead with
Ian, escaping from the matchbox, discovers Farrow's body and
easily figures out that he's been shot dead and shows the rest of the
catch up with him. Of course they can't
let a murderer go free, and The Doctor is quite interested in what has
of the insect life in the area, so they sneak into the lab, a make some
As I mentioned earlier, this played out a lot like an
episode of Planet of the Giants. The
'little people' had to bring a criminal
to justice despite their small size, as well as use every day object
suddenly grown to enormous size (from their point of view) in order to
some traps, like being stuck in a sink.
It was a fun show with some nice touches. I
particularly liked the fact that
normal-sized people couldn't hear them, which makes sense since their
would be moving a miniscule amount of air.
It is a bit of an odd story in some respects however.
They're left on their own for the most part,
never directly interacting with the regular-sized humans.
As a matter of fact, the murderers never even
see them. On top of that, no one really
seems all that worried that they're only an inch tall.
They're much to intent on exploring than
solving their dilemma. The criminals are
pretty stupid too, and though The Doctor helps in bringing them to
it's Foresters inane stupidity that really does them in.
Aside from that, it's a pretty solid installment of the
show. It has a good amount of action and
even some comic relief from a switchboard operator and her constable
husband. If fans rarely bring up this
story when they get together and discuss the early years it's because
neither exceedingly good, nor exceedingly bad.
Just a solid, decent example of the program.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The Restoration Team has worked their magic once more and the full
B&W image looks very good. I was
really impressed with the sharp and clear picture.
The level of detail is excellent, the blacks
are deep, and the image is stable. This
is one of the best looking black and white episodes of Doctor
Who to be released.
You'll be pleased.
There was a bit of a problem with the extras for this
story: There's hardly anyone left alive
who was connected with it. Yes, William Russell and Carole Ann Ford are
thankfully still with us, but they hardly remember anything about this
story. As one person put it in one of
the extras, it was just four weeks of work 40 years ago.
It was all done in the studio so there are no
locations to visit today either. That
didn't stop Ed Stradling, the person who put together the bonus
this disc. He came up with some nice
solutions to the problem and created a nice pack of extras.
For the commentary track some people you don't hear from
very often were brought in, namely sound designer Brian Hodgson, makeup
supervisor Sonia Markham, vision mixer Clive Doig and floor assistant
Tilley who were joined by moderator Mark Ayres.
They talk about the episode, but also spend a fair amount of
reminiscing about their time on the show in general.
It was surprisingly entertaining, especially
since I didn't go in with high expectations.
There's also an odd bonus that not many people will find useful, and
original Arabic dub of the story. Way
back when the BBC sold copies of Doctor Who all over the world and by
miracle the Arabic track survived all these years.
It's a quirky bonus that's kind of fun to
have, though I'm sure I'll never sit through all of it.
The video extras start off with a reconstruction of episodes
three and four. The story was originally
scripted, and filmed, as four episodes.
When the execs at the BBC screened the story, they
it dragged at the end and was to 'talkie.'
He ordered that the last two episodes be cut down into one, and
the way it originally aired. While the
original edits to episodes three and four are long gone, the scripts
survive. So Ed Stradling decided to
reconstruct the original episodes. To
re-recorded the audio to the missing segments he brought in William
Carole Ann Ford to reprise their roles and hired some very good mimics
the other characters. For the video, he
used some careful editing (zooming in on a frame so it looks different
previous time it was used for example) and some CGI to make up the rest
missing 25 minutes. It worked moderately
well. It's easy to tell the new parts
from the segments lifted from the aired version of episode three, and I
myself being pulled out of the show every time they switched, but
works more than it fails. The new
episodes do have more than a little dialog and it's easy to see why the
Drama wanted it cut, but the story worked a little better, filling in
moments and fleshing out the story. It's well worth watching.
Rediscovering The Urge to Live is an 8-minute look at the
the final to episodes and has William Russell and Carole Ann Ford
what they can about the show (not much).
It features a peek in on the recording of the audio and
the decision was made to remake two episodes rather than have a
on the original story. Next up are a
pair of interviews with Carole Ann Ford and the late Verity Lambert
recorded in 2003 for The Story of Doctor Who.
These were nice discussions of their time with the show, though
Verity's had been a bit longer and went more in depth.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from the Radio
A solid example of the show from the early years, Planet of
the Giants is a good installment of the long-running SF program. The reconstruction of episodes 3 and 4 (they
were originally scripted and filmed but then merged into a single final
episode) is a nice treat for Hartnell fans and gives a good indication
the story was originally intended to look like.