13 spectacular TV shows and episodes about shrinking people

From The Twilight Zone to Star Trek, sci-fi series have used special effects to incredibly shrink characters for years. Here is a brief history of the best ever.

Marvel's tiny Ant-Man is fighting on the big screen these days, but he is hardly the only Lilliputian superhero. DC Comics' Ray Palmer, the first shrinking Atom, showed up on the scene around the same time as Ant-Man, in 1961. Will Eisner's Doll Man has them both beat, dating back to 1939. Grantland has done a nice recap of shrinking in cinema, from The Incredible Shrinking Man and Fantastic Voyage to the '80s boom of Innerspace and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

But we're here to talk about television, not comics and movies. Naturally, with the huge amount of science fiction that has hit the small screen, there has been plenty of shrink rays, giant men and miniature terror. Here is a brief round-up of memorable — or just plain silly — instances of shrinking in sci-fi TV. 

1. World of Giants (1959)

A cool, overlooked slice of sci-fi spy noir, World of Giants, or WOG as it was introduced in the credits, followed the adventures of a six-inch secret agent and full-sized partner, Bill. Only 13 episodes were made.

2. The Twilight Zone "The Invaders" (1961)

Ah, a classic. A teeny little spaceman shows up at a cabin in a sombrero-sized flying saucer and terrorized an old woman. Turns out, he's an American astronaut! Still beats any M. Night Shyamalan movie.

3. The Twilight Zone "The Little People" (1962)

The same ol' trope: Astronauts show up on a planet filled with people of the wrong size. Fletcher and Craig become gods to the bug-sized populace on an alien planet. The two bicker and fight for power. Craig chased off Fletcher. Eventually, more travelers show up who are massive compared to Craig and crush him.

4. The Twilight Zone "Four O'Clock" (1962)

This third instance of miniaturization effects in Rod Serling's serial is far less memorable. Frankly, it's one of the worst episodes, though it is the one more directly about shrinking powers. A crank named Crangle is convinced all evil men will shrink once the clock turns 4PM. Twist! He's the bad one who is shrunk!

5. The Outer Limits "Don't Open Till Doomsday" (1964)

Some will argue this is the greatest installment of the original series. An eloping couple honeymoon in an eerie mansion owned by an old woman. She shrinks the young bride down inside a box — a pocket universe — as a sacrifice to an evil creature to win back her long lost husband. Just look at the little blobby guy! He's like a reverse kaiju. 

6. The Wild Wild West "The Night of the Raven" (1966)

The fifth encounter with Dr. Loveless, whose latest diabolical invention involves a powder that miniaturizes people. Jim West and an Indian princess are among his victims. They are terrorized by a cat.

7. The Land of the Giants (1968–1970)

Who remembers this one? After the successes of the aforementioned shows, not to mention CBS's Lost in Space (which once featured size-disparity horror in "There Were Giants on Earth"), ABC launched this hour-long adventure series. Set in the far, far future of 1983, the plot revolves around passengers on a spaceship who land on a planet of giants. (Like we said, it's a trope.) It lasted two seasons, though served up some fun EFX.

8. Super Friends (1973–1981)

The Atom was often part of DC's cartoon Justice League, but he was not the only one shifting size. Shrink rays showed up in evil hands a few times. “Gulliver’s Gigantic Goof,” “The Tiny World of Terror,” “The Witch’s Arcade,” and “The Case of the Shrinking Super Friends” all revolve around shrinkage. We are particularly fond of a wee Wonder Woman falling into a bowl of milk.

9. Dr. Who "The Invisible Enemy" (1977)

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) gets inside his head — literally. This four-parter introduced the robot dog K-9. 

10. Mork & Mindy "Mork in Wonderland" (1979)

Mork takes a cold medicine to reduce the inflammation of his sinus membranes and the pill shrinks him, because Orkans are all membrane. In this hour-long kickoff to the second season, Mork shrinks so much he finds himself inside a pocket universe called Mirth.

11. The Greatest American Hero "Divorce Venusian Style" (1982)

In this season two opener, Ralph quits the hero business, until the alien Green Guys show themselve and gift him with an instruction book. At the end of the show, for a minute, Ralph shrinks himself after reading the book. "Terrific, now I can join a flea circus!" he cries.

12. Sliders "Exodus" (1997)

Kari Wuhrer faces off against an evil rabbit. Enough said.

13. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "One Little Ship" (1998)

The USS Rubicon shuttle is miniaturized with O'Brien, Dax and Bashir inside. Because Star Trek cares more about real science (kinda), the crew does grapple with the notion that the oxygen molecules outside the shrunken ship would be too large be absorbed into the blood.

The Saturday morning variety show The Krofft Supershow also featured a serial called Dr. Shrinker. What else? Leave anything we overlooked in the comments.

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