Doctor Who: Planet of Giants review (DVD)

The Doctor and his companions are about to land and the doors of the Tardis swing open. The Doctor is terrified. Outside they slowly realize they have shrunk to the size of an inch, and they’re witnesses to a murder and discover an evil scientist.

It's a likeable enough filler, and cutting it down from four episodes to three was probably about right. The truly odd thing about this one is that it was a season opener – just before the still-remarkable “Dalek Invasion of Earth”, this is the one that was designed to draw the viewers in. The model work is good, the story is OK, but it does feel a bit more like a leftover from the previous season – which could well be why it’s placed where it is.

The problem is the sub-plot about the murder. OK, TV was slower at the time and granted, the show was aimed at kids. But do we have to have a great long shot of a bloke sitting down to eat a sandwich? There’s so much of this story in which so little is happening. As I say, a likeable enough filler and some genuinely impressive model and set work. The end two-episodes-crammed-into-one-with-a-better-director is very good, as Douglas Camfield takes over from Mervyn Pinfield. This story will also please slightly older fans as it was the first to get the VidFire treatment, it was unique at the time to see William Hartnell looking as though he’d been filming the day before rather than on grainy film.

But if your kids – or you – want to know what the fuss was about with Doctor Who at that stage, go and buy the Dalek Invasion story instead. VidFire is commonplace by now and although the budget limitations are evident it’s much, much better.

EXTRAS ★★★★★ It was a mixed idea to get the surviving members of the cast and a couple of voice artists together and reconstruct the four-part version of this tale. Guys, if someone decided at the time that the story was made that it was looking too thin then it probably was. Better is the documentary on how they did this; few enough people are still around from this replaces the standard “making of” documentary because so many of the original participants are now dead. There are also commentaries with the visuals people, Ford talks openly about her role as Susan and producer Verity Lambert – no longer with us – is seen in archives talking about casting the originals including Hartnell. The extras are first rate as always.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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