Doctor Who: Big World, Big Problems

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 9 Planet of Giants, Episode 1: Planet of Giants

Hey everybody and welcome back to the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite Time Lord.

Today we’ll be kicking off the Doc’s second season, but first off, I’d like to apologize for the late post. Tracking this episode down proved no small task. Netflix has been the go-to source for my backlog of shows, but for some reason this story is one of their few blind spots. Ditto that with my local library, so, needless to say, I’m now the proud owner of Doctor Who: The Planet of Giants. Let’s hope it’s worth it. 

We open on the Doctor tinkering with the TARDIS’ controls. He notices a hot spot on the ship’s instrument panel and sends Susan off to check the ship’s fault locator, which immediately lights up and breaks into a warning alarm.

Then ship’s doors start to open and everyone runs over to hold them shut.

So yeah, we’re about two minutes into this thing and already the TARDIS is on the fritz. Good to see some things never change. 

The crew manages to get the doors shut and the TARDIS comes to a landing. Everybody is fine, but the Doc is freaked out by what happened, like really, REALLY freaked out and goes into his usual piss and vinegar routine.

After calming down a bit, he apologizes to Barbara, explaining “I always forget the niceties under pressure.” Which is a very charitable assessment of his personality, but considering he isn’t kicking anyone off the ship, I guess we’ll chalk this up as one of his nicer days.

Since there’s nothing else to be done, the Doctor fires up the scanner, only to have the screen blow out. With that shot, everybody piles out of the TARDIS to investigate where they are. They look around for a bit, then decide to split off into groups of two.

Barbara heads off with the Doctor who stumbles upon a giant earthworm.

BBC

BBC

Not to be outdone, Ian and Susan find what appears to be a pile of giant tic tacs lorded over by an enormous ant.

BBC

BBC

It turns out that the ant, like the earthworm before it, is quite dead.

Then we cut back briefly to Barbara and the Doctor as they come upon an oversized match. This pretty much dominates the next few minutes, with both groups stumbling on a series of enormous objects. The definite highlight here is a giant matchbox which Ian immediately climbs inside of.

BBC

BBC

I think you can probably put together what’s happening here. The planet isn’t oversized after all, they were simply shrunken down when the doors of the TARDIS flew open. You know, because science.

It’s a fun little twist that climaxes in a great shot that pans up from the TARDIS to reveal a suburban backyard.

BBC

BBC

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Instead of going the Honey I Shrunk the Kids route, the episode does something completely unexpected.

A full-size man walks over and picks up Ian’s oversized matchbox and we follow him off into an entirely different story. It seems this man (who’s name is Farrow) is a scientist testing a new potential insecticide. He’s joined a short while later by the owner of this new product, a man named Forrester.

Farrow tells him that his new product is far too powerful, and ends up killing all animal life in areas where it is used. He also plans on writing a full report blocking its distribution. Farrow tries making a deal with him. Then, when that fails he pulls out a gun.

BBC

BBC

We cut back to the Doctor and his companions who hear what sounds like an enormous explosion.

Then Ian joins up with them and takes them off to find this.

BBC

BBC

It’s a pretty dated effect, but it works really well, giving a real sense of scale while bringing the two stories together.

After awhile they get tired of gawking at the man’s corpse and the Doctor says they should probably just go ahead and get out of there, which is just about the time they notice the cat!

I’ve got to say, this one really caught me off guard. I expected a typical one-note story with our characters getting shrunken down then spending the next two episodes fighting their way back through to the TARDIS with a few oversized props thrown in for effect, but this is really clever, dropping a contemporary murder mystery into the middle of a sci-fi show. I only hope they follow through with this, with Doc and company playing the role of tiny detectives as the murder investigation unfolds around them.

Next up, Dangerous Journey.