Episode 13: Planet of the Giants

The Dalens Aren’t Robots team returns to the First Doctor and the group that started it all: Susan, Barbara, Ian and the Doctor, plus the ever-beautiful and half-starving TARDIS. 

As it turns out, size DOES matter, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking. Who will hold the idiot ball this time? Listen and find out!

Daleks Aren’t Robots!? is a podcast in which two Whovian friends take two non-Whovians on a deep dive through the show from the very beginning.

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Theme: Garage – Monplaisir

Podcast Contents Include

Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though.  – Kari

SUMMARY

The Tardis has a malfunction, with the doors popping open and everyone having to shut them by force. They land and start exploring, finding a bunch of dead giant bugs, including an ant the size of a doberman. They eventually work out they ARE on earth, but shrunk to the size of an inch high. They split up and have to look for each other a couple times.

There are some full-sized humans in this episode. Forrester, Farrow and Smithers. Forrester is a businessman, Farrow a safety inspector and Smithers a scientist working on a new pesticide. Farrow finds the pesticide works but TOO WELL–it kills EVERYTHING, including beneficial bugs like bees and earthworms, and persists in the environment afterward, making it unfeasible as a pesticide. Forrester has been producing the pesticide for a year and will lose everything if it’s not sold, so he kills Farrow, which the Tardis Team sees. Smithers finds out about the murder, but he doesn’t realize the pesticide is bad, so he agrees to help Forrester cover up the murder of Farrow.

This means the Tardis team can’t just ask for help–even if the humans could understand their tiny high pitched voices one of them is a MURDERER and isn’t gonna want witnesses no matter what size they are. They also work out that the pesticide is unworkable–and Barb touches it before she realizes it’s on a piece of grain she’s picking up. Unfortunately she does not tell ANYONE and holds the idiot ball instead. UGH.

The Tardis team tries to call the cops about the murder, using a GIANT TELEPHONE but they can’t be understood with their high pitch. They set up an explosion to burn down the lab, which doesn’t really work but does wound Forrester, just in time for a policeman to come in and arrest him, because he ALSO tried to get away with pretending to be Farrow on the phone even though he sounds nothing like him, AND Smithers has worked out that the pesticide is bad and is determined to stop Farrow anyway.

The team gets back to the Tardis and the Doctor manages to restore them to their original size, which cures the by now VERY ill Barbara because… SCIENCE! I guess. and the Tardis starts to materialize again!

THE TEAM

  1. Barbara gets the worst treatment in this one, and she holds the Idiot Ball. It’s super unfortunate. She touches the poisoned grain, which isn’t unreasonable, but then she doesn’t tell anyone she’s touched it when she finds out it was poisoned. There’s no real reason given for this either, and it sucks. She even faints, although I’m willing to attribute that to getting poisoned rather than being a wimp.
  2. Ian also carries the idiot ball a little bit early on, in that he sees a giant seed thing with a bunch of text including “Norfolk” on it and can’t concede he’s tiny, even when he and Susan find the matchbox. Otherwise he does pretty well, and serves as the muscle and tries to illuminate some of the science.
  3. Poor Ian’s actor when he’s in the matchbox knocking back and forth. It’s hilarious and terribly fake but he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got!
  4. Susan doesn’t have a huge part here but she’s plucky and smart. She catches on to the fact that they’re tiny first. She climbs the drain spout. She does get a bit upset when Ian is picked up in the matchbox, but not to the point that it’s unreasonable.
  5. The Doctor has shown so much character growth here. He gets very snippy at everyone early on, but he apologizes SINCERELY to Barbara without being made to, and he voluntarily opts to look for Ian when he gets taken up in the matchbox.
  6. It is however HILARIOUS when he says he can’t expect sympathy from a murderer. WE’VE BEEN WATCHING THIS SHOW, MY DUDE.
  7. Also the Doctor has a cape now and it’s great.
  8. The Tiny Tardis is freaking adorable. I love that they use the miniature for the Tardis and it looks kind of silly and like it’s a miniature, and then you find out IT IS.

THE GUEST STARS

  1. There’s a cat, and at first I thought that was going to be the main antagonist, but the cat is not. Pretty cat, though.
  2. The plot with the guest stars is absolutely inspired. It adds a lot of complication to the story and gives them another reason not to just ask for help.
  3. Forrester is a murderer, and he’s pretty threatening, but also not very smart, as he assumes he can pretend to be his victim easily.
  4. Farrow is the one who’s been charged with testing the new insecticide, and he finds that it works–but TOO well. It kills EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. He tells this to Forrester, who says he’ll be RUINED financially if they publicize that the pesticide is a bad one. Farrow won’t budge and says he’ll turn in the report with the truth in it. Forrester shoots Farrow.
  5. Smithers is another scientist who’s absolutely desperate to get the new pesticide out, because it will enable them to feed more people. He doesn’t know that the new pesticide kills ALL the insects and Forrester lies to him about it. Smithers decides rather than allowing Forrester’s murder of Farrow to derail their pesticide, he will help Forrester cover it up so that they can get the pesticide out and feed the world. When he finds out the pesticide is bad he tries to act.
  6. Smithers and Forrester seem like a couple. They stand super close to each other and Forrester is the worst boyfriend.

THE SETTING

  1. The science in this one is ridiiiiiculous so many times. From the pressure on the Tardis shrinking them, to the “fact” that Barbara’s tiny body is “too small” to fight off the insecticide. Also, I don’t think they get bio-accumulation thing quite right–they say the scientist has made the pesticide “everlasting.” rather than pointing out it persists through the food chain (like some real pesticides do, such as DDT).
  2. The setting is glorious, though. Things blown up to giant size are great. Sometimes they use rear projection and sometimes not. The bugs BASICALLY look like the bugs ought to look like. The “giant sink” set is pretty great, and the giant bit of grain is a cute prop.

THE PRODUCTION

  1. I really like the story in this episode. It’s a lot better than “honey I shrunk the tardis crew.” By adding the murderers as a plotline it gives you an added element of danger. The episode isn’t fast-paced but it steadily builds the tension, with a ticking clock in the form of Barb getting poisoned.
  2. How did they do the effects? What was their budget like?
  3. Where does this fit in with DDT/Silent Spring, which basically kills everything AND bio-accumulates?

DALEK SCORE
I really liked this one. It’s slower-paced but the tension keeps building and building.

Sources Include

Episode 3 and 4 Ian Levine Official Reconstruction

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