Chapter 145. Doctor Who – Planet of Giants (1990)

Synopsis: When a government inspector fails to approve a new pesticide, the chemical’s inventor takes drastic action. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally succeeds in getting his schoolteacher friends back to their own time and place – but at the wrong scale! Shrunk to the size of an ant, the travellers suddenly face danger at every turn, from running water and the attentions of a curious cat to the very same pesticide that has just driven a man to murder…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Landfall
  • 2. The Unknown
  • 3. The Terrible Truth
  • 4. The Destroyer
  • 5. Death in a Country Garden
  • 6. Getting Away with Murder
  • 7. Dangerous Rescue
  • 8. Whirlpool
  • 9. Suspicion
  • 10. The Doctor’s Plan
  • 11. Barbara’s Peril
  • 12. Plan of Action
  • 13. Fire!
  • 14. A Question of Size

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Louis Marks for the 1964 serial (inspired by an idea from CE Webber), completing the run of stories from the second season and the first Doctor’s era as a whole! At 25 years and two months, this is now the holder of the record for biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation. It’s also the first novel to be released after the end of Doctor Who as an on-going TV series – not that we knew this for certain at the time.

Notes: The opening chapter summarises each of the stories of Season One, from the teachers’ first meeting with the Doctor through to the Daleks, Sensorites and the Reign of Terror (and they’ve just left 18th-century France. There’s also a curious sentence: ‘Her name was Susan Foreman and she called the Doctor “grandfather.”‘ – as opposed to ‘she was the Doctor’s granddaughter’. Apparently, one of the Doctor’s favourite sayings is ‘all the savage species in the galaxy, few were more dangerous and bloodthirsty than man’.

The Doctor tries to explain the complexities of time-travel to Ian and Barbara by comparing the action of moving a chair from one room to another to that of moving the chair from a house in 1796 to a house in 1964 – ‘a different matter altogether’. Susan elaborates:

‘If you put a dish in a bowl of water, the water rises, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes of course, that’s simple,’ said Barbara impatiently.

‘But, suppose the water was filling the bowl to the very top and there was a tight lid on as well? There’d be no room for displacement. Well, it’s rather like that when the weight of the TARDIS suddenly enters the atmosphere. Something has to give way.’

Ian shrugged. ‘The air, presumably…’

The Doctor spoke without looking up from the fault indicator. ‘Exactly! And the atmospheric pressure on Earth is fourteen point seven pounds to the square inch. You’re getting the idea, Chesterton. It’s all right when the TARDIS is fully materialized, the envelope of air can always give way somewhere.’

‘Just as we’re entering the time dimension,’ said Susan. ‘That’s the danger point.

The Doctor admits to Barbara that he’s never visited Africa and Australasia, asking if gigantic earthworms might be common there (she confirms that they are not). 

The cat that continues to bring jeopardy for the time-travellers is a ginger tom. Farrow is a civil servant whose motto is ‘waste not, want not’, hence why he picks up the box of matches he finds in the garden. He recognises Mark Forester from his photo, which he’s seen in the newspaper. Forester is dark haired, thick-set and ‘beetle-browed’ with a ‘heavy jaw’ and a ‘deep authoritative voice’; he’s not a big man but in his expensive suit from Savile Row, he gives off ‘a feeling of power’, looking ‘every inch the tycoon’. The scientist, Smithers, worked on famine relief projects for the United Nations when he was a young man. He saw ‘hundreds’ of people die while locusts devoured their food; ‘the terrible sights of death by starvation were burned into his memory’.

The village where Smithers lives is so small that the village shop and the police station are in the same building. The exchange operator Hilda Rowse is married to the local police officer, Bert. Hilda has been curious about the cottage ever since it was bought by a London company who installed lots of scientific equipment and a man called Smithers moved in. She recognises that Forester is not Farrow, as she met the civil servant when he came into the shop for provisions for his boat. Smithers is distressed to find that the cat has died, which is what alerts him to the dangers of DN6.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover shows a friendly Doctor beckoning (a reworking of a photo reference from The Celestial Toymaker) as a giant fly approaches him from behind.

Final Analysis: The last novelisation of the first Doctor’s era and the penultimate book in the range by Terrance Dicks, Planet of Giants is another example of a rather sleight story being expanded just enough. Dicks fills in some of the details that were removed when the TV story was truncated from four episodes to three. He also adds explanations for things that might be alien to young readers in 1990, such as ‘reversing the charges’ and a telephone operator who manually connects the calls. There’s a final treat as the final chapter concludes with a huge tease into the next story (also novelised by Dicks back in 1977):

Outside in the ruins of London the Daleks were waiting…

2 thoughts on “Chapter 145. Doctor Who – Planet of Giants (1990)

  1. That last sentence reminds me of the one in Terrance’s “An Unearthly Child” (another big print, low word count effort as pointed out by my schoolmates at the time). Wasn’t it something very similar like “Out there on Skaro, the Daleks were waiting for him”?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 19 when this came out and it didn’t make much of an impression on me – by this point, I was dismissive of Dicks’ work outside of his early novelizations – but this has gotta be way more entertaining than the television version and its interminably long and dull conversations between Forrester and Smithers.

    During the Twitch marathon of the classic series a few years back, I happened to tune in to story during one of said conversations and was entertained by the chat, in which the kids experiencing this story for the first time noted that Forrester looked a bit like Richard Nixon, and began shipping him with Smithers as “Smixon”! No matter how solid the novelization might be, that’s probably the most entertainment value I ever got or ever will get out of this story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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