An accident with The TARDIS prevents our heroes from returning home. Instead, they appear on a planet of giants.
“It must be something too big to explain!”
We begin season two with an action-packed sequence where something goes wrong with The TARDIS and the doors open during materialization. This brings back uncomfortable memories of The Edge of Destruction. Checking the scanner to see where they are, the scanner explodes. However, everything seems fine apart from this, so our characters journey forth. They find odd rock formations, giant ants and earthworms, and a giant matchbox. They aren’t on another planet, they are on Earth and they have somehow shrunk. Thankfully, this mystery isn’t drug out for very long. And in typical Hartnell-Era fashion, our characters are soon split up as Ian is carried away in the matchbox and Susan panics.
We have a nice moment where The Doctor apologizes to Barbara for snapping at her when he thinks something is horribly wrong with The TARDIS. This shows how much the characters have grown since their initial meetings and how much they have started to care for one another. The Doctor seems particularly fond of Barbara, but given that he hurt her quite a bit last season, he has probably become gentle with her to make up for it. The Doctor, at this point in the show’s history, is very much the grandfather figure. Sadly, William Russell seems to have some difficulty figuring out how to respond in this episode. He has a few dodgy line deliveries and his attempt to convey being trapped in a matchbox is rather ineffective. That could be a directorial problem, though. He should have laid down, not remain standing. Ah, well. 20/20 hindsight and all that. While the shrinking of our heroes is a quickly solved mystery, another mystery remains. The worm and ants found are dead. We find that the plot involves an experimental insecticide that is ecologically lethal. The plot surrounds the attempts of Forester, the businessman responsible for the development DN6, to hide these findings. Sadly, the inspector who has conducted the experiments and discovered the truth about DN6 is murdered by Forester. After being reunited, our characters are menaced by a cat.
Writer Louis Marks seems to have put a lot of thought into what it would be like for our characters to materialize in a different size. The malfunctions in the TARDIS are due to changes in air pressure. The sets are rather well-realized. What seems odd about this particular story is that the main plot about DN6 seems almost incidental to that of our lead characters. It seems almost as if two completely different stories are re-worked to create this one. There also seems to be a bit of heavy-handed environmentalism. The insecticide itself works, but Barbara has a line about “Who would kill insects in a perfectly good garden. Pests one could understand but surely it’s wrong to kill bees and worms and things.”
“Quite so,” replies The Doctor, picking up the writer’s message. “Both are vital to the growth of things.” While I am sympathetic to the message, many pesticides are not only lethal to bugs but can do untold harm to humans and the environment, the way it looks like it may unfold in this story fills me with a bit of apathy. Heavy-handed messages often accomplish the opposite of their effect. But, as I’m a contrarian more often than not, perhaps this is just my problem.
In all, not a bad start to the season. We have some intriguing things set forth, and while the main story is somewhat straight forward, it will be interesting to see how this devious plot is foiled by characters who are barely an inch tall. This may not be epic Doctor Who, it may not even be classic, but it should be entertaining.