By Jessica Holmes. Hello again, everybody, and welcome back to our adventure through Time and Space on Doctor Who! In excruciating detail, no less. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely.
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Or do they? Something very strange indeed, as the Doctor sincerely apologises to Barbara in case he was rude to her under pressure. I am quite certain that the Doctor is a bit more than 12 inches tall, yet Bill Hartnell has yet to explode out of my television screen in a shower of glass. A few moments later, Ian and Susan come upon some massive ant eggs, followed by a giant dead ant. Ominous music builds as Ian comes upon a gigantic matchbox. Prepare for me to gush over the set design quite a lot over the course of this article.
It really is very good and creative, and there has been a definite step up in quality, boding well for the rest of the series. That, or they spent all the budget on Planet Of Giants , and the rest of the series will be taking place in my back garden. So, the rock formations? Paving stones. Basically, when the doors opened during landing, the space pressure made the TARDIS and all its occupants shrink… or something. Susan runs to hide, but when she comes out, Ian is nowhere to be found. He fell inside the massive matchbox.
Watching William Russell fling himself from side to side to simulate being jostled about in the matchbox is hilarious but slightly undermines the drama of the situation. Oh dear. That might be a bit dangerous. Now we have the first indications that the dealings going on at full scale are going to be important to the Doctor and his companions, as a dead insect drops out of the sky, carrying with it a strong chemical whiff.
Creative set design and cold-blooded murder in the first twenty minutes of story. Not to worry, folks. The Doctor and Ian know just how to avoid being eaten by a gigantic housecat. You just stay still until it gets bored and wanders off.
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Up at normal scale, Forester has been joined by a scientist. There are no powder burns around the bullet hole. Neither of them are too upset about the death of an innocent man, though. Smithers does have a somewhat noble motive, though.
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He wants to save people from famine, which is very commendable of him. I have to admit, as much as I like the Big Dipper, it is a rather rough ride. Grand National the rollercoaster, not the horse race , on the other hand, is a must-do if you ever happen to visit Blackpool. The Doctor and Susan emerge from hiding, and seeing the briefcase gone, realise that it must have been taken inside. The Doctor attempts to climb into a drainpipe, finding that it stinks to high heaven of the stuff on the dead insects.
So of course they decide climbing into it is a great idea. Um, guys? Inside, Ian and Barbara come upon some enormous grains of wheat that are covered in some sticky stuff. Not knowing what the sticky stuff is, Barbara goes ahead and touches some of it. Ian has a good idea about using the paperclips in the briefcase to make a chain they can climb down, and hopefully make it back to the others. Barbara would like a look in the briefcase for herself, as her suspicion grows that her hands are covered in insecticide. Back in the house, as Ian struggles to get the briefcase open, a housefly turns up behind Barbara.
Meanwhile, Smithers and Forester have hidden the body, though Smithers is very upset with Forester for involving him in this whole sordid business. Susan and the Doctor make it up the drainpipe and emerge at a plughole which is really pretty neat. Barbara wakes up from her fainting spell, to be told by Ian that the fly flew off, then landed on the seeds and died instantly. Barbara, now might be a good time to tell Ian about the fact you touched them, too. Outside, Smithers and Forester have just finished mopping up the blood.
Hearing the men coming, Ian and Barbara climb back up the chain, and the Doctor and Susan start heading down the pipe. Smithers notices the dead fly, and gets excited about how effective the insecticide is, and we get into a scene which did seem a bit inconsistent to me.
I thought Smithers and Forester were on the same page about Forester killing Farrow to prevent him revealing the destructive truth of the formula and putting an end to the project. Unless Smithers thinks his work is perfectly sound, and Farrow was going to turn in a false report for his own gain? Meanwhile, Farrow fills up the sink and washes his hands, while the Doctor and Susan cower in the drainpipe below.
Ian announces to Barbara and the viewer that the tap has been turned on with the Doctor and Susan still being in the sink. Thank you, Ian, we can see that. Not to worry, Barbara. It turns out that the Doctor and Susan were hiding in the overflow pipe, so managed to avoid the deluge, and out they pop, reuniting the gang at last. I swear this lot get separated so often they should make a habit of holding hands everywhere they go. Or perhaps the Doctor should put his companions on a leash.
The sink set is my favourite from this serial. Our companions continue their trek across the lab and come across a notepad, upon which is written a chemical formula.source
Could it be the pesticide? Barbara suggests that knowing what it is might help them find a cure for it. Seeping into the soil, into the groundwater. To say that would be a disaster would be an understatement. Apart from the ecological collapse that would ensue, imagine eating food contaminated with a pesticide this deadly. Even touching contaminated produce would slowly kill us. Come on, Barbara. They might start getting their bums in gear if you mention the teensy little fact that you might be about to drop down dead.
The group decides to make an attempt at using the phone. For some reason. Then again, the sight of everybody bellowing down the phone, loudly and slowly like a Brit in Benidorm trying to order some sangria, is pretty funny. Barbara comes around just in time for a good scolding from the Doctor for not telling anyone sooner.
Thank you, Doc. I was about to climb into the screen and tell her myself. Behind his back, Forester pulls the gun out again, and loads it. Back with the companions, the Doctor and Ian are being wonderful role models for children, by which I mean they decide to start a fire in order to draw the attention of the neighbours. The Doctor quite literally giggles and rubs his hands with glee at the thought of a bit of arson.
I love him. The group are working on their arson plan. Ian enlists Susan to help him strike a match, not an easy task when said match might as well be a battering ram.
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The Doctor has spotted a pressurised flammable canister nearby the gas tap. If they light the gas, the can will heat up, and eventually explode. The difficult part will be getting far enough away from the can before it goes boom. With Forester blinded, Smithers grabs the gun, which is promptly taken from him by the police constable who has just materialised.
Did the operator call him? Or did he just hear the can explode? Pretty convenient that there was a passing bobby. The group get back to the TARDIS without any trouble, and the Doctor sets about restoring them to proper size, Ian watching in amazement as the seed the Doctor brought appears to shrink before his very eyes.
Now at full size and having managed to get a good drink of water, Barbara does seem to be doing better. Barbara healed, day saved, devastating environmental disaster averted. That issue of the plot being over instantly if everyone used their brains aside, this is a very enjoyable serial. I found the three episodes to be just the right length for this story. The three-act structure is tried, tested, and approved by generations of storytellers.
An issue I found with the previous series of Doctor Who was that the serials were sometimes quite poorly-paced, with some of them overstaying their welcome by an episode or two. Planet Of Giants, however, keeps up a lively pace all the way through, with no filling.
It applies pretty well to Smithers.
Not so much with Forester. But with Smithers, yes. In his hopes of ending famine, he became an accessory to murder, and almost poisoned all our farmland. Honesty and integrity won out on Doctor Who, but will the same be true for us?
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