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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who 13: Science and Technology > Miniaturisation


Shrinking people to microscopic size is commonplace in Earth’s far future – with both medical and punitive applications…
Rusty the Dalek and Clara (Jenna Coleman) from Inside the Dalek (2014).

The concept of human miniaturisation, whether by fantastical or science-based means, has fascinated writers for centuries and become one of the most frequent devices in speculative fiction – notably in novels such as Barry N Malzberg’s The Men Inside (1973), Lindsay Gutteridge’s Cold War in a Country Garden (1971) and Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man (1956). The last of these was memorably filmed the same year as The Incredible Shrinking Man, but, for many, the 1966 feature Fantastic Voyage offers the definitive screen representation of scientifically induced miniaturisation.

The film tells of an experimental nuclear-powered submarine, the Proteus, and its crew of medical specialists, who are shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the brain of a top scientist in order to dissolve an inoperable blood clot using a laser beam. The principle of the miniaturisation process is unexplained: the Proteus is simply bathed in beams of light from overhead Miniaturiser apparatus and the submarine, with its team already on board, rapidly reduces in size. In his novelisation of the film’s screenplay, also titled Fantastic Voyage (1966), the acclaimed science-fiction author Isaac Asimov acknowledged the inherent impossibility of such miniaturisation, citing the relationships between mass, strength, organic complexity and the immutability of the Planck constant. Nonetheless, Asimov also provided the concept with a measure of scientific plausibility by introducing notions of harnessing hyperspace to reduce the size of atoms, ideas that he expanded upon in his later novel Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987).

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Ever since the TARDIS was first revealed in 1963, Doctor Who has presented a bewildering array of alien technology and gadgetry. Human scientific knowledge can do nothing to explain the mysteries of the astonishing devices and phenomena that the Doctor takes for granted. This is the first publication devoted to the incredible ideas that the series has made its own. Highlights include a comprehensive guide to the sonic screwdriver, the secrets of the Time Lords and the weaponry of the Doctor’s most dangerous enemies.