The Leisure Hive: Doctor Who: Season 18
The Leisure Hive SYNOPSIS:
The Doctor and Romana’s Brighton holiday is brought to an end when K-9 takes in sea-water and explodes. They instead venture to the Leisure Hive of Argolis, a holiday complex built by the surviving Argolin following their devastating war with the Foamasi. The Hive is facing bankruptcy and the Argolin’s Earth agent, Brock, has an offer from the Foamasi to buy the planet.
Board Chairman Morix succumbs to the Argolin war curse of advanced cellular degradation, his consort Mena taking over. Earth scientist Hardin has been brought to Argolis to help her people by using time experiments to rejuvenate the now sterile population. Acts of sabotage in the hive and two murders point to the Doctor and Romana being the suspects.
The Hive’s Tachyon Recreation Generator is used to test Hardin's initially faked time experiments made to work by Romana. The test advances the Doctor to old age and the Doctor realises Foamasi hating young argolin Pangol is using the Generator for a duplication process. Foamasi government agents unmask Brock as a Foamasi criminal but Pangol elects to destroy all Foamasi in a new war with a new Argolin army created by the Generator.
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The Leisure Hive CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
Lalla Ward (Romana II)
John Leeson (K-9 Mk. II)
Laurence Payne — Morix
Adrienne Corri — Mena
David Haig — Pangol
Martin Fisk — Vargos
Roy Montague — Guide
Nigel Lambert — Hardin
David Allister — Stimson
John Collin — Brock
Ian Talbot — Klout
Andrew Lane — Foamasi
Harriet Reynolds — Tannoy Voice
Clifford Norgate — Generator Voice
Production Staff for Serial 5J:
Writer - David Fisher
Director - Lovett Bickford
Script editor - Christopher H. Bidmead
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
Executive Producer - Barry Letts
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The Leisure Hive REVIEWS
After looking tired worn out and basically on it's last legs after Nimon was transmitted suppose the only thing that saved Dr Who was the high ratings thanks to ITV going on strike and the incumbent producer walking out at the end of Season 17.
Then the Leisure Hive blazed onto our screens and just as the the 70's and the advent of colour and Pertwee ensured another 11 years of the series, the advent of a new decade, totally new production team headed by JN-T brought with it a new updated 80's style. Including brand spanking new title sequence set in space, updated pacier theme music and incidental music, new effects, bigger budget and for this season alone an extra two episodes, plus a new script editor and a shit load of new writers & directors meant we got another 10 years.
The only thing that didn't change this time round was the cast, the 4th Doctor, Romana & K9 are all there but different and blend into the changes in the Leisure Hive as though they've just arrived. Tom looks and acts like an older, wiser Doctor in his new burgundy overcoat, hat and scarf, all the frivolity has gone from his performance and he's serious yet comic once again. Romana has also toned down to be the fun loving but totally inquisitive Romana showing her intelligence of old and leaping into the fray like her companion. K9 blows up after 5 minutes but at least he's voiced by John Leeson again and it's a nice opener on Brighton beach.
The script is tight and based on factual science as wanted by new script editor Christopher H. Bidmead. The production values are a tour-de-force and as Grob says, the only way to describe this first new look Who is slick. Well acted, directed, designed and shot, visually everything hooks you into the story and the music and camera shots really give it a cinematic feel and more pace than the last two seasons combined. Despite the fact they are talking about real science the invincible trio are quickly thrown in the deep end. No K9 can help them this time and the Doctor is aged and Romana takes centre stage a lot with the Argolin experiments and the curious thing is the entire supporting cast are acting as if the care and with real earnest.
The guy playing Pangol goes from merely being a disagreeable youth to a raving nut job. His Mum Mena, does a good job being regal and aging gracefully thanks to great makeup jobs and the Brock is also nicely slimey and Hardin is good as Mena's Tachyon earth scientist and earnest love interest. The part 3 cliffhanger showing Brock and his cohort are actually Foamasi reptiles was a scary reveal especially how the other Foamasi rips his 'human' face off. The part 4 climax is done in the dramatic vein of old Dr Who - where the Doctor has apparently been vaporized, Mena is apparently dead and all Argolins now must obey the mad Pangol. Pangol starts creating a clone army, declares war and orders Romana to be dumped on the radioactive surface of the planet makes the situation dramatically hopeless. Then it turns around within the space of 5 minutes when the Doctor is back on the scene throwing ancient helmets around.
1981 was pretty much starved of any Doctor Who viewing - either new ones or repeats - as the ABC had decided to hold over Tom's last season and screen it with Peter Davison's first season when 1982 rolled around.
And roll around it did and 6.30pm weekday ABC viewing was assured. However, coupled with NEW Who was the screening of the brand new season of the Kenny Everett Video Show at 6pm! So, we had NEW Kenny followed by NEW Who which good ol' Aunty advertised continually. We had glimpses of the new title sequence, music, and all sorts of stuff. I couldn't wait.
In addition to this, I was by now a year long member of the Doctor Who Club of Victoria, membership no 259, thank you very much. As a fully paid up member one received copies of their bi-monthly and usually late newsletter called Sonic Screwdriver which had news, views and crap drawings from its members that eventually I would be able to blow out of the water with my own doodlings. Now, remember this was long before anyone had heard of the internet so any Who news was considered NEW and EXCITING! And we all received a MASSIVE info dump on what was coming up in the new Who series and it was gonna be COOL!!
And it was. First up was the brand new title sequence where our new producer JNT decided to ditch the interior time tunnel sequence and open things up a bit with a star field sequence. As a show that has been crying out for a new direction, style and has to now compete with other sci-fi shows coming out from America, I think this is a wise move. The titles look new and exciting and (for their time) quite state of the art.
My only criticism would be the choice of head shot to represent Tom Baker in the titles. It just really isn't him or - more importantly - the Doctor. Also, it doesn't really grab you as the image of the Doctor used isn't looking straight into the camera, more off to one side. Its also slightly dark, blurry and Tom's mouth is half hanging open. Maybe he was pissed? There were tonnes of proper BBC publicity photos taken of Tom sporting his new look so why weren't one of those used? The music had been updated too, now with a more jangly disco type beat to it (I remember it being played at Transformers one night about fifteen years ago!) Its pretty good and works in well with the new graphics. Its also VERY 80's (well, duh!). I don't think the original theme tune would have worked against the new graphics though.
New producer JNT has just taken up residence in the Dr Who production office and is keen to ring in the changes with new writers and directors and costume people and music. For me, the overall description I would give The Leisure Hive is "Glossy". Everything in the show seems to have been given a make over and is a far cry from our last story with the dreaded Nimons. Tom's new costume looks very good and since clothes maketh the man, he is now back to playing the role straight and sombre. The burgundy coat and new matching scarf suit him very well. He blends in more with the surroundings and is acting as an observer again rather than a Cambridge University Student on crack. Lalla Ward's Romana is equally good and her sailor costume suits her (pardon the pun) to a tee. And John Leeson is back as K9 - briefly - until he blows up in the water.
And on to The Leisure Hive proper. What better way to show off New Who than on a leisure planet that has been blown to smithereens in a nuclear war? The model shots look good and the interior scenes with all the corridor running and boardroom business looks great. Its all very well lit and sparkles. Dr Who has finally moved with the times.
Director Lovett Bickford shoots the The Leisure Hive as though he is doing a film and it shows. From the fantastic long pan shot across the deckchairs at Brighton beach to the scenes on Argolis, here is a director that knows his craft. Pity he went flying way over budget and had to be sacked. There is some great camera work on display here, particularly the end of episode three with the Foamasi reveal. Likewise all the stuff at the generator and when the Doctor is finally aged - interesting to see back then how they thought Tom MAY look when he gets old and how he DOES look now!
Costumes are generally good, although one wonders how a Foamasi fits inside a human suit. The Argolins look good although at times their make up differs from scene to scene depending on the order that it was shot and who was probably doing the make up.
Music is very well suited to the new direction the show is taking - all electronic and up to date. The music used when the Earth ship arrives on Argolis is particularly good.
Finally the plot. It maybe didn't grip the average 12 year old (I had a bit of trouble working out what was going on back then) but there was other things to look at anyway. In some ways it foreshadows the writing styles of a certain Russell T Davies. The Leisure Hive is a nice, leisurely start to the season with enough visual imagery to keep you sitting there watching it. In some ways it reminds me of New Earth (don't ask me why!)
Summing up, I'd give the Leisure Hive an 8.5 out of ten. The series was looking old and tired and it needed someone to come in and clean the place up a bit. Well done JNT!! By the way; the DVD of the Leisure Hive is well worth getting. Aside from looking great, the DVD extras that go into this period of the show's history are amazing and go into a lot of depth about what was going on behind the scenes. Recommended.
JNT wasn't afraid to bring it when he took over the reigns. Determined to move away from the "jokiness" of the previous 3 seasons, he started to chip away at all the iconic things... starting with Tom's scarf! Apparently he wanted to cut the scarf all together, but eventually the seamstress convinced him to have a single coloured one. The adding of the "?" started here too... it's a lot more subtle on Tom's costume cos he thought it was a stupid idea... I kind of agree...
Then there's the whole new look and sound of the titles. At the time, I thought this was just fantastic. It's kind of aged a little bit, but every time I hear that "fsshhhheewwwwwwrrr" at the start, I get excited and taken right back to 1983 (or was it 1982... 1980 something anyway). Is it as good as the old theme and iconic silver tunnel? I don't know, but it certainly looks good, and heralds a whole new era. And the final "Choooom!" is still awesome!
And then K9 gets killed in the first scene... OK, so he's not fully dead - but you get the feeling that JNT was pretty keen to get rid of him too... maybe that had something to do with that 1st place ribbon!
Which brings us to the story. I've always remembered the Leisure Hive fondly, but couldn't really remember any of the plot. Maybe I've always liked it because the Argolins look like Australian cricket or tennis fans... or maybe they look like those lolly pineapples... why didn't the Doctor lick one of them and find out? Re-watching it, they are pretty good characters - interesting that we sort of come of age when our balls drop - poor old Argolins die when theirs drop! The Foamasi are kind of interesting too - OK, they're sewn together badly, but as a character they still work well. I think one of the most interesting things in the story is when the Foamasi we've seen breaking into the Hive is finally revealed as a good guy sent to capture the two masked dealers... that's good stuff!
Story wise, I don't know, The Leisure Hive kind of falls down in parts. On the whole it generally holds together well, but I think the telling of it shows that really Fisher had only written enough for 3 parts, as there is a lot of padding. Starting with the famous Brighton Beach scene. I guess it kind of works - but man, he has a time machine (that he clearly can steer despite the attached randomiser) - if you've missed the right date for the opening of whatever it is, wouldn't you go back? OK, that's a bit picky - and it's a nice new "bubble" fade that takes as to Argolis too - so points there!
The thing that makes the Leisure Hive labour though is the long shots of the hive on the barren land... we get that it was ravished by nuclear war, and the first couple of shots show that nicely - but we get a hell of a lot of these shots which suggests that there really wasn't enough to stretch this out to the four parts... some extra long recaps at the start of the stories add to the suggestions. Maybe some more about the Foamasi back-story / planet could have been added? But I'm pretty sure they were pushed for time and had to go with what they had.
And what they had is still very good - especially the cliff-hangers... seeing the Doctor pulled to pieces at the end of the first episode of the season is brilliant - and then being transformed into an old man is gold too... and it's a damn good make-up job too... not too far behind the job done more than 25 years later! Speaking of which, the rejuvenation machine thing is a lot like the Lazarus experiment isn't it!
Another good Fisher story - pity the Leisure Hive was his last, and pity it was a bit short.