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Planet of Giants was the first serial of season 2 of Doctor Who.

The first episode, "Planet of Giants", was the first episode set on contemporary Earth since "An Unearthly Child", and the first set in England (of any time period) since the same episode. Though it was similar to an idea proposed by C. E. Webber for the Doctor Who pilot, writer Louis Marks claimed the inspiration for the story was the seminal pro-ecology work by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, which warned strongly against insecticides. He reckoned that by shrinking the First Doctor, he would have the opportunity to put the TARDIS crew face-to-face with the dangers Carson had warned against in her book. (REF: Doctor Who The Handbook: The First Doctor) It was, therefore, the first "environmentalist" Doctor Who story, a kind of gently moralistic tale — like Invasion of the Dinosaurs and The Green Death — later to be particularly favoured by Barry Letts, and seen again in revived era stories, notably Orphan 55 and Praxeus.

Though fully scripted and recorded as a four-parter, the third and fourth episodes, titled "Crisis" and "The Urge to Live" respectively, were merged into a single episode called "Crisis", effectively leaving an episode on the cutting room floor. This edited material was not retained by the BBC — though some of it was reinstated by Terrance Dicks for the novelisation.

Aside from being Marks' first work on the series, it was also the Doctor Who debut of long-time composer Dudley Simpson, and the first credit for frequent director Douglas Camfield and writer Louis Marks.


The doors of the TARDIS open of their own accord just before it materialises, running out of control. On emerging, the travellers find the ship has been reduced in size and they are now only about an inch tall.

As tiny people, they stumble across a plot by a ruthless businessman, Forester, and his misguided scientist colleague, Smithers, to launch a new insecticide, DN6 — a product so destructive that it would kill not only those insects harmful to agriculture but also those vital to it.

Forester is willing to commit murder to ensure the success of his business, as civil servant, Arnold Farrow discovers to his cost.

The criminals are brought to justice when the Doctor and his friends — hampered by the fact that Barbara is ill from the insecticide — tamper with the telephone in Smithers' laboratory, fuelling the suspicions of the local telephone exchange operator, Hilda Rowse, who sends her police constable husband Bert to investigate.


Planet of Giants (1)[]

The Doctor is landing the TARDIS in what he believes to be mid 20th century Earth. He finds the console is burning up and discovers a fault with the TARDIS. However, the fault locator shows nothing is wrong. Despite this, the doors open just as the TARDIS begins its materialisation. The Doctor starts to panic; due to the space pressure differential between the vortex and other planets, any malfunction during materialisation can be very dangerous. However, the only real damage seems to be to an overloading of the scanner circuits, causing the TARDIS's screen to implode and the Doctor suspects the glass was too big for the screen, causing it to shatter. The Doctor decides it is safe to venture outside.

He leads his companions, Ian, Barbara, and Susan, to the world beyond. Their curiosity is aroused initially by the odd rock formation by which they have materialised. It seems rough but evenly spaced and there appears to be some residue of concrete at their feet. They decide to split up, so the Doctor and Barbara explore around the TARDIS while Ian and Susan go further afield.

Within minutes, the Doctor and Barbara find what they believe to be a snake; however, it turns out to be a dead giant earthworm. At the same time, Ian and Susan are shocked by a large deceased ant. Both of the creatures seem to have died immediately. After some confusion as to what could possibly explain why a planet would spawn humongous versions of Earth creatures, Ian and Susan come across a giant pack of cigarettes and a large matchbox. Ian climbs into the matchbox, believing it an exhibition piece, but then Susan realises that the environment has not been enlarged; the TARDIS crew has shrunk.

After this revelation, thunderous footsteps are heard. Susan runs for cover but Ian is trapped inside the matchbox, which is picked up. The Doctor and Barbara soon find Susan. The Doctor has also made the connection that Susan made. The Doctor climbs a large rock to discover the man who picked up the matchbox containing Ian is far away in the distance, in real terms the length of a garden.

The man is a government scientist named Arnold Farrow, who has come to the home of a callous businessman named Forester to tell him that his application for DN6, a new pesticide, has been rejected. In reality, DN6 should not be licensed; it is far too deadly to all life. When they fall out over this news, Forester pulls out a gun and kills Farrow.

The Doctor, Barbara, and Susan hear the gunshot as an enormous explosion and head for the house. On their way, a bee falls from the sky. The trio marvel at the death of all wildlife that they have met. The Doctor orders the women not to eat anything until they get back aboard the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Ian uses this opportunity to escape from the matchbox. The four meet by the dead body and surmise a murder has taken place. As they head off to the TARDIS, they turn to see a cat hulking menacingly above them.

Dangerous Journey (2)[]

To avoid the cat, the travellers stay still until it loses interest in them. They decide that while the cat is at large, they dare not try to make it to the ship. Forester returns to the garden. The panic induced by the man returning sees the travellers split up again; the Doctor and Susan run into the undergrowth of the grass whilst Barbara and Ian hide in Farrow's briefcase.

Forester has brought along with him a scientist named Smithers. Forester tries to pass off the murder of Farrow as self-defence, but Smithers deduces from the angle of the bullet hole that Forester must have murdered him. Forester eventually admits it, but says that Smithers must help him cover up the murder otherwise DN6, which was devised by Smithers, will never see the light of day. The two men conspire to make it look like Farrow's death happened aboard a boat that he owned and intended to holiday on after his meeting with Forester. They begin to clear up the evidence, including taking Farrow's briefcase, complete with Barbara and Ian, and placing it in the laboratory.

To gain access to their friends, the Doctor and Susan scale a drainpipe on the outside of the house which leads directly into the laboratory. Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara examine the laboratory. Barbara touches a seed which she later finds has been contaminated with DN6. She does not tell Ian but believes she may have been infected, much as the other creatures they have encountered.

Ian and Barbara decide the best way to scale the drop to the floor level is by making a ladder of paperclips from Farrow's briefcase. While Ian is trying to open the briefcase, Barbara encounters a giant fly and faints. When Ian rejoins her, the fly flies away and lands on the seeds, dying instantly. Barbara wakes, visibly distressed by the speed with which the fly has died. She is on the verge of telling Ian that she believes herself infected when she is interrupted by Susan's voice. She is using the sink as a sound box to amplify her voice.

The four travellers are soon reunited and plan to escape down the plughole. Ian and Barbara begin to scale the chain of the plug when the two men return to the lab to wash the blood from their hands. Ian and Barbara return to the work surface, but the Doctor and Susan have no option but to go back down the plughole. As they do, Smithers puts the plug in, washes his hands, and then begins to let the water out.

Crisis (3)[]

The Doctor and Susan climb into the overflow pipe just as Smithers lets the plug out. Ian and Barbara fear they have drowned. Once they go down to check the pipe it seems as if their friends are dead, but they crawl back out of the drain to their joy.

Forester has used his typewriter to doctor Farrow's report to give DN6 the licence he wants. Disguising his voice as Farrow's, he makes a supportive telephone call to the ministry to the same effect. The ministry give the green light to the scheme. This is overheard by Hilda Rowse, the switchboard operator at the local exchange, which is actually the back room of the combined village shop/police station, and her policeman husband Bert starts to suspect something is wrong.

The Doctor and his companions stumble across a notebook with the equations for DN6. After laboriously copying it out, the Doctor realises just how dangerous it is, not only to insects but to all wildlife. They try to alert the police by hoisting up the phone receiver with corks, but cannot make themselves heard. Barbara begins to feel the effects of her exposure to DN6. When they make the phone call, the travellers can't be heard, but Hilda notes the engaged signal. She and Bert grow more concerned as to the goings-on at the house. Once the phone call is made, Barbara collapses. Her friends smell the DN6 on her handkerchief and conclude she has been infected. When she regains consciousness, the Doctor berates her for not telling them sooner, but he says that when they return to their normal size the poison in her bloodstream will lessen and she will be safe.

Hearing the engaged tone on the phone in the office, Forester and Smithers return to the lab and correct the engaged handset. Hilda rings moments later to ensure that all is OK at the house. When she asks where Farrow is, Forester tries to impersonate him again. Knowing there is something badly wrong, Bert heads off to the house to investigate.

The Doctor and his companions decide the only way to stop the spread of DN6 is to start a fire to attract attention to the house. They use a gas tap to ignite an aerosol can of insecticide. Smithers begins to look through Farrow's files and discovers the true virulence of DN6. He demands Forester stop seeking a licence. Forester pulls a gun on Smithers. As they move into the lab, Forester spots the makeshift bomb, which goes off in his face. Smithers retrieves the gun as PC Rowse arrives. The policeman takes the gun away and then places the men under arrest, saying they will have a lot of explaining to do.

Their work now done, the travellers return to the TARDIS. The Doctor reconfigures the machine to return them to normal size. Barbara, who was on the verge of death, recovers as a result. The Doctor encourages his friends to have a good scrub whilst he lands the TARDIS, unsure where they are; the scanner is still broken and is showing only interference. Then the interference resolves itself, becoming a faint picture of what appears to be slowly moving water...


Uncredited cast[]

  • Sammy, the cat - Noakes (supplied by John Holmes)


Uncredited crew[]



Story notes[]

  • All three episodes exist as 16mm telerecordings.
  • This story had the working titles Miniscule Story and The Miniscules.
  • Negative film prints of all three episodes were recovered in 1978.
  • Arabic prints of all three episodes are also held by the BBC.
  • Richard Martin was the original choice to direct, but was switched over to The Dalek Invasion of Earth instead.
  • The request to compress this serial into three parts came from Donald Wilson, BBC Head of Serials, who felt the story simply didn't work in four parts. The third episode was entitled "Crisis" and the fourth episode was to be called "The Urge to Live". In the end, the edited story retained the original title of the third episode, "Crisis", along with the end credits for "The Urge to Live" because that required the fewest edits at a time when editing was a very expensive proposition. Thus Douglas Camfield, who was, in fact, the director of "The Urge to Live", came to be the credited director of the transmitted version of "Crisis". No full versions of the original two episodes are known to exist. A reconstruction based on the original scripts directed by Ian Levine was made for the 2012 DVD release of the story, featuring new recordings by Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and other actors impersonating the rest of the cast.
  • The story was originally developed under the title The Miniscules. The working title of "Dangerous Journey" was "Death in the Afternoon". (REF: Doctor Who The Handbook: The First Doctor)
  • The story was filmed as part of the first block of stories but a decision was made to hold it over as the opener for the second series.
  • This is the first time the Doctor manages to return to contemporary Earth since An Unearthly Child, the first story.
  • No date is given on-screen for the events of Planet of Giants. However, three dates are known to exist, taken from various Doctor Who publications: 1963 (Terrance Dicks's novelisation); 1964 (The UNIT Chronology in Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special: UNIT Exposed); and June 1969 (The Grandfather Infestation), five years ahead of the original transmission, when the UNIT stories were supposedly set. None of the aforementioned dates were derived from any information given on-screen.
  • This is the first of two serials in this season to feature giant ants.
  • William Russell was ill during shooting and was rushed to hospital as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Shrinking the Doctor[]

It is sometimes casually asserted that Planet of Giants was a story that had been proposed by C. E. Webber as the first story of season 1. However, it was merely the general idea of shrinking the Doctor and his companions that linked Marks' script to Webber's idea. All the details were quite different. Indeed the story of how a miniaturised TARDIS eventually made it on screen was relatively complex.

The idea of a story that featured the miniaturisation of the TARDIS crew went back to one of the foundational documents of Doctor Who: "Dr. Who: General Ideas on Background and Approach" written by C. E. Webber and heavily amended by Sydney Newman. There, Webber said that the first story "may result from the use of a micro-reducer in the machine which makes our characters all become tiny". The idea was carried forward in a 16 May 1963 document, prepared by Newman, Webber and Donald Wilson, in which the first story, called The Giants, was proposed. Its first episode was to be broadly similar to An Unearthly Child, but instead of landing in Earth's past, the TARDIS would land in the Coal Hill School laboratory — at a much-reduced size. The travellers would spend the next three episodes avoiding the now-huge students, teachers and classroom objects all around them. By 4 June 1963, Webber had completed his full outline, which now included a scene in which the travellers placed themselves under microscopes so the students could see and communicate with them.

By 10 June, Newman began to sour somewhat on Webber's idea, noting that the storyline didn't seem to allow for much in the way of character development. He also felt that portraying the shrinkage of the TARDIS would be "patently impossible without spending a tremendous amount of money" and asked Webber to reconsider his ideas so they could be achieved practically. Webber only got as far as the draft scripts of the first two episodes before the script was officially rejected by Wilson and Rex Tucker, the interim producer who briefly preceded Verity Lambert. Their objections were quite different to Newman's. They now knew that the first serial of Doctor Who had to be recorded at Lime Grove Studio D, whose cameras couldn't be fitted with wide-angle or zoom lenses. This made the convincing portrayal of miniaturisation impossible. Webber was duly paid for his first two scripts in July 1963 and the idea was temporarily shelved.

Nevertheless, script editor David Whitaker — who, having been appointed in the last week of June, was not party to the decision to reject The Giants — wasn't ready to give up on the idea just yet. He wrote an 8 August memo to Ayton Whitaker saying, "We badly need a serial about our four running characters being reduced in size". His plan of attack to achieving this goal was to eliminate Wilson and Tucker's objection: Lime Grove. He argued that Studio D was simply not up to the production of a variable format show like Doctor Who and that the production could not continue if it was permanently restricted to that antiquated studio.

By 16 September, David Whitaker had placed a "shrunken Doctor" serial back on the season 1 schedule. Never named, it was to be written by Robert Gould and had nothing to do with Coal Hill School. It did, however, posit the notion of returning the TARDIS crew to 1963. The Gould script proceeded slowly, however, and by 4 February 1964, Whitaker released Gould from that idea and requested a replacement story — one that also never even made it to the synopsis stage. Whitaker commissioned Louis Marks to write an outline for a "shrunken Doctor" script, on which Gould had given up. By late May 1964, the idea finally moved to full commission, with four episodes being requested of Marks. More importantly, Whitaker achieved his ambition of ensuring that the story would be recorded at BBC Television Centre, rather than Lime Grove.

Even after Planet of Giants went before the cameras at TC4, it still underwent changes. Donald Wilson didn't feel it was a great season opener and would have actually preferred to have begun with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, had not Carole Ann Ford's departure in that story made the transposition of the serials impossible. Saying that "by its nature and the resources needed we could not do everything we wanted to do to make it wholly satisfactory", he took the unusual step of editing the already-recorded third and fourth episodes into a single episode. (REF: Doctor Who The Handbook: The First Doctor)


  • "Planet of Giants" - 8.4 million viewers
  • "Dangerous Journey" - 8.4 million viewers
  • "Crisis" - 8.9 million viewers

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Around the 4:30 mark of "Crisis" a boom microphone can be seen entering the top of the frame for a few seconds. This happens again around the 14:14 mark.
  • As Forester and Smithers drag Farrow's dead body across the ground, Frank Crawshaw (Farrow) can be seen blinking a few times.
  • At the end of "Dangerous Journey", Smithers unplugs the sink and leaves it outside of it. However, in "Crisis", when Ian and Barbara go to check for the Doctor and Susan, the plug is in the sink again without any obvious replacement.


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

The serial was released on DVD in region 2 on 20 August 2012 and in region 1 on 11 September 2012. Alongside the existing serial, the DVD includes an animated reconstruction of the original third and fourth episodes, "Crisis" and The Urge to Live", with original cast members William Russell and Carole Ann Ford reprising their roles for the recorded dialogue. As William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill had both passed away by 2012, the role of the Doctor in these recordings was provided by John Guilor who, a year later, would act as a voice double for Hartnell in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor; while Barbara was played by Katherine Mount.

Special features:

Digital releases[]

This story is available:

  • for streaming through BritBox (US) as part of Season 2 of Classic Doctor Who.
  • for streaming through Quickflix (Australia) as "Planet of the Giants".

VHS releases[]

UK Release: January 2002 / US Release: May 2003
PAL - BBC Video BBCV7263
NTSC - Warner Video E1740

External links[]