- Producer: Verity Lambert
- Story Editor: David Whitaker (Planet of Giants to The Dalek Invasion of Earth), Dennis Spooner (The Rescue to The Chase), Donald Tosh (The Time Meddler).
- Regular cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor); William Russell (Ian Chesterton in Planet of Giants to The Chase); Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright in Planet of Giants to The Chase), Carole Ann Ford (Susan in Planet of Giants to The Dalek Invasion of Earth); Maureen O'Brien (Vicki in The Rescue to The Time Meddler); Peter Purves (Steven Taylor in The Chase to The Time Meddler).
The Doctor and his companions are travelling in the TARDIS when Barbara burns her hand on the console. Something is over-heating. Before the Doctor can react, the doors suddenly open by themselves and an alarm sounds. As the Doctor attempts to remedy the situation the others force the doors shut. The TARDIS then appears to make a normal landing.
The Doctor and Susan explain that take-off and landing are the most dangerous times for anything to go wrong. When he turns on the scanner to see where they have materialised, the Doctor is shocked to see the screen blow out.
They go outside to explore and find themselves in a labyrinth of rock cut passages. The rock itself seems odd, made up of material like concrete. They decide to split up - the Doctor and Barbara going one way, and Ian and Susan the other.
The Doctor and Barbara come across a huge snake-like creature. Fortunately it is lifeless, but the Doctor points out it is not a snake. Rather, it is a giant earthworm. A dead bumble bee then falls at their feet. Ian and Susan come across large eggs, which belong to giant ants. These too are dead.
They then come upon a huge matchbox and what looks like a poster - but is really a seed packet. The address on this is in England. They are on Earth. Ian thinks it might be some sort of fun-fair, but Susan is sure they have been shrunk to only an inch or so tall. The Doctor has come to the same conclusion.
They are amongst the paving stones of an English country cottage garden. It is the home of a scientist named Smithers, who has developed an insecticide named DN6.
A civil servant named Farrow is in the garden - come to let Smithers and his business partner Forester know that he has completed a report for the government. He intends to reject full-scale production as DN6 attacks all insect life - even that which is essential to agriculture. Not only that, it does not break down in the soil, but retains its potency for many years and could build up in the food chain.
When Farrow approaches the area where the TARDIS crew are, to pick up his match box, the miniaturised travellers are forced to scatter. Ian hides in the box and is carried away. The others are forced to set off to find him.
Forester has invested heavily in DN6. Farrow lets slip that he has come here on his way to the coast where he has a boat waiting. He is about to go on a sailing holiday across the Channel. When it becomes clear that the official won't change his mind and cannot be bribed, Forester pulls out a gun and shoots him dead.
Ian is reunited with the others and shows them the body. They realise that they cannot rely on the people in this house to help them, as one of them is a murderer.
As they wonder what to do next, everyone freezes in terror as they see the giant form of a cat watching them...
Next episode: Dangerous Journey
Written by: Louis Marks
Recorded: Friday 21st August 1964 - Television Centre Studio TC4
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 31st October 1964
Ratings: 8.4 million / AI 57
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Mervyn Pinfield
Guest cast: Alan Tilvern (Forester), Reginald Barratt (Smithers), Frank Crawshaw (Farrow)
The second season of Doctor Who gets underway in relatively low key fashion. The decision where to stop and take a break was always an arbitrary one. For a time they were going to break after The Sensorites. The production team recognised that this story was a weak start, and the BBC would have liked to launch with the forthcoming Dalek sequel. The problem with this was that the regular cast was about to undergo a major change, and so the running order could not be changed. As it was, whilst Planet of Giants wasn't under threat of being junked altogether, it did have part of its run scrapped, as we'll see when we get to Episode 3.
The story has a long history, in that a variant of it was supposed to have launched the series back in the Autumn of 1963.
CE 'Bunny' Webber had been tasked by Donald Wilson with writing the first story, the opening episode of which is known as "Nothing At The End Of The Lane". There are two overall story titles usually attributed to it - "The Giants" and "The Miniscules". Following a set-up similar to An Unearthly Child, the TARDIS would have landed in a classroom at Coal Hill School - Ian's science lab. The ship and its occupants would have become miniaturised, leading into an adventure in which they would have to traverse the lab to get back to the safety of the ship. Amongst the hazards would have been the threat of being stepped on by a teacher and their pupils, a particular pupil capturing one of them and putting them in a matchbox, and "giant" spiders and caterpillars. The travellers would have used a microscope to get a message to a teacher in order to help them. A device in the TARDIS - a micro-reducer - would have been the cause of this predicament. (This makes more sense than the "space pressure" cited in this episode).
Sydney Newman scotched the idea, thinking it lacked incident and concerned about the insects taking the series into BEM territory (Bug Eyed Monster). Additionally there were the on-going concerns about the technical facilities at Lime Grove Studios where the series was to launch.
The story was set aside for a while and then resurrected by the writer Robert Gould. This was intended as a potential fourth story for Season 1. Along with Malcolm Hulke's "Hidden Planet" idea, this was deferred again soon after due to scripting problems. Gould went on to propose a hostile vegetation plotline, and was upset to hear that this would be included in The Keys of Marinus after it was rejected by David Whitaker. The script editor had to prove that he and Terry Nation had come up with the idea behind The Screaming Jungle in isolation from Gould.
The series had as part of its basic set-up the idea that there would be adventures in space, in time and in 'strange states of matter' - the latter sometimes also referred to as "sideways" stories. Verity Lambert liked the idea of the miniaturised TARDIS and its crew and so persevered with it. It was only with a move away from Lime Grove that the idea could be made reality. The third writer to tackle it was Louis Marks. His background had actually been an academic one - he was a doctor of philosophy and a bit of an expert in Renaissance economics - but had developed a successful TV writing career, including soap operas. Whitaker knew him through the Writers' Guild.
Marks' main inspiration was the 1962 book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. This collection of New Yorker articles warned of the dangers of unrestricted use of pesticides and other chemicals in farming. The spraying of DDT in the 1950's had led to the destruction of bee populations. The chemical entered the food chain, leading to toxic worms which then killed the birds which fed on them. Cats were also susceptible to it, digesting it when they groomed themselves. Planet of Giants' DN6 is pretty much based on DDT. Marks elected to use this ecological threat to flesh out the miniscules one.
Because of the technical complexities of this story it was given to Mervyn Pinfield to direct. He would cover the first three episodes, then Douglas Camfield would be given an episode to test him out.
A week of filming got underway at Ealing on Thursday 23rd July for the various VFX shots for all four episodes. The exploding TARDIS scanner was simply video of a smashing screen that could be played in to the studio session on the night.
This filming included all the shots of the cat as well, as it would be almost impossible to wrangle it in a cramped TV studio setting with limited time. The regular cast members were only needed on Thursday 30th July - or so it was thought. The shots of the cast standing in front of photographic blow-ups (the dead Farrow, a rack of test tubes and a telephone) were deemed unsuitable for broadcast, and so a remount was required for Thursday 13th August.
The giant earthworm and bumble bee were made for this episode by Shawcraft Models of Uxbridge, but the giant ant encountered by Susan and Ian, used prominently in publicity photographs, derived from an earlier production. It was made by Derek Freeborn, who had provided VFX on the Pathfinders sci-fi serials and puppet show Space Patrol.
We see the upper storey of Smithers' cottage in a long shot, as the travellers observe Farrow sitting in the garden. This was a rare use of a glass matte shot - at least rare for Doctor Who at this stage in its history.
Significantly, this is the first story to have Dudley Simpson as its composer. He would go on to become the series' "court composer" during what many regard as its golden age. Born in 1922, he moved to London to work with the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet, conducting at Covent Garden and touring with Margot Fonteyn. He began working with the BBC in 1961. He composed incidental music for 62 Doctor Who stories (63 if you count the work he did on the unbroadcast Shada), as well as the themes for Moonbase 3, The Tomorrow People and Blake's 7.
- For its second season, Doctor Who moved back to its old regular start time of 5:15pm.
- The ratings were a big improvement on the closing episodes of the first season, which had gone out during the hot summer months. Both audience numbers and the appreciation index were up.
- Despite this story taking place after a season break, it is suggested that this takes place immediately after the visit to Revolutionary France as the Doctor is still wearing his cloak from that story. The reason for this is actually to serve the VFX scenes where the tiny travellers stand in front of photographic blow-ups (see above). It was essential to wear light coloured clothing for the effect to work. Had he worn his usual black coat this would have been rendered invisible on screen.
- The draft script made it explicit that this followed The Reign of Terror as the Doctor mentioned them just having left 18th Century France.
- The draft script also had the Doctor state that he had never visited Africa or Australia.
- No date is ever given for this story, but it is generally assumed to be around the date of broadcast, making it the first contemporary Earth story since An Unearthly Child. However, as the Doctor had been trying to get the teachers home when the TARDIS went wrong, it may actually be 1963.
- Being the start of a new season, Radio Times elected to give its readers a summary of the story so far, with information and images from Season 1 alongside details of this first episode of a new story.