‘THE LEISURE HIVE’
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A New Beginning
The 1980s have arrived!
‘The Leisure Hive’ is the first story of ‘Doctor Who’ produced by John Nathan-Turner. It’s the beginning of a new era of the show’s history, as it entered the 1980s. I enjoyed watching this story and found it interesting how JNT radically changed the show’s format to bring it forth into a new era.
I don’t think ‘The Leisure Hive’ is the most exciting story I’ve seen in ‘Doctor Who’. There were lots of things that baffled me in terms of the story and how it was produced and directed. But I enjoyed the boldness in what this story tried to do and how it stood out as the first ‘Doctor Who’ story of the 80s.
Graham Williams’ tenure as producer of ‘Doctor Who’ came to an end in 1979. The new producer John Nathan-Turner was supported by script editor Christopher H. Bidmead and executive producer Barry Letts to help rejuvenate the show into a new era. The theme of Season 18 was about change.
Gone were the humorous/silliness aspects of the show under Douglas Adams, as a sombre scientific atmosphere was induced into the show’s stories. The show’s title and incidental music as well as the title sequence were also revamped through this bold approach of the show’s changes during the 80s.
This first story of Season 18 is a four-part adventure by writer David Fisher. It’s about the Doctor and Romana visiting the Leisure Hive on the pleasure planet of Argolis, after a failed holiday on Brighton Beach. When they arrive on the planet, a series of deaths occur that involve science and technology.
The Doctor and Romana soon become involved in a web of events on the planet Argolis. The Leisure Hive holds dark secrets and the Doctor and Romana soon discover a bitter uprising taking place. They have to solve the mystery in order to stop it. Can the green alien Foamasi be the key to all this?
I like the story’s opening sequence where the Doctor and Romana are in Brighton – wrong place, wrong time as usual. I know the first panoramic shot of Brighton is too long, but it’s an interesting way to start the new era of 80s ‘Doctor Who’. It gives this calm serenity at the beginning of the story.
I’ve been to Brighton before attending the ‘Doctor Who’ convention called ‘Timey Wimey 1’ in November 2014, run by Louise Jameson. My parents and I spent the whole weekend in Brighton. We enjoyed exploring the place as well as seeing where they got to film the scenes for ‘The Leisure Hive’.
David Fisher has written a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories for the previous era under Graham Williams including ‘The Stones of Blood’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’ for ‘The Key to Time’ season. Writing for a new production team in the 80s, must have been a challenge for David during the time.
It’s clear that David found it difficult to write a serious story for ‘Doctor Who’ that was less jokey. In all fairness to David, I don’t think this story is exciting as his previous stories were. It was interesting to watch, but not exciting for me. If they added more jokes in the tale, I would have enjoyed it more.
Argolis is interesting as a planet devoted to leisure and having a history of a feudal war between the Argolins and the bug-like Foamasi. There are themes of fascism and racism depicted in this as well as the concepts of regeneration and duplication. The Argolin costumes and make-up are so interesting.
The scientific concept of tachyonics is introduced as a main aspect of the story. Now I’m afraid the science stuff of tachyonics baffled me and it left me unsatisfied whilst watching the story. David Fisher had certainly done his research when he worked with Chris Bidmead, but I was left befuddled.
Tom Baker begins his seventh and final year as the Doctor in this story. I could tell Tom was getting tired by this point, as he had been playing the Doctor for a long time. Tom’s temperament got the better of him with production teams changing. I know he wasn’t happy with the changes JNT made.
There were clashes between Tom Baker and producer JNT. It didn’t help matters when Tom’s Doctor ages dramatically during the story and he becomes an old man. Tom delivers an excellent performance as a white-haired older Doctor. I sometimes wondered if I was seeing Gandalf here! 😀
Lalla Ward also plays Romana in the first of her last set of stories in this her final season of ‘Doctor Who’. I know Lalla wasn’t happy either with the changes made to the show’s format by producer JNT. She enjoyed the jokey atmosphere of the Graham Williams/Douglas Adams era of the TV show.
Also there was tension between Lalla and Tom, as their relationship was getting rocky and they would argue during the making of this last season of stories together. Eventually this resulted in the two getting married, but it was short-lived. It was intriguing to watch these stories with this in mind.
It was also decided that K-9 would depart the series as soon as possible, since JNT and Bidmead hated the cute robotic dog. John Leeson was asked to come back to voice K-9 in his last set of stories. K-9 doesn’t appear much in this story, since he is briefly seen in the opening Brighton scene.
For me, the highlight of ‘The Leisure Hive’ is David Haig as Pangol. David played the villainous Todman in ‘The Moon Stallion’ with Sarah Sutton before this. I enjoyed David in this story, as he delivers a terrific performance as Pangol, a young Argolin who has racist and fascist views on aliens.
Pangol’s racism is due to the long-suffering war that the Argolians had with the Foamasi. Watching David Haig as Pangol revealing his true colours in ‘Parts Three and Four’ and being nasty to the Doctor and Romana was very engaging. I’m surprised David Haig hasn’t returned to appear in ‘Doctor Who’ again.
The guest cast for ‘The Leisure Hive’ also includes the following. There’s Laurence Payne as Morix, Pangol’s father, who dies early in the story; Adrienne Corri as Mena, Pangol’s mother who takes Morix’s role as Argolin leader; John Collin as Brock and Nigel Lambert as the human scientist Hardin.
The Foamasi aliens that appear in this story are rather disappointing in terms of costume and design. We see the Foamasi with close-up shots of their red eyes and sometimes see them as shadows outside the Hive itself. When they actually appear in full form, they look pathetic and not menacing.
The story is spectacularly directed by Lovett Bickford, who makes his first and only contribution to the show. Bickford presents a glossy look to start ‘Doctor Who’ into the 1980s. He was ambitious to use the new technology and also delivers an impressive adventure from its shots to effects to music.
Unfortunately, the time-consuming efforts of director Lovett Bickford and going over-budget meant that he wasn’t asked to direct for ‘Doctor Who’ again. This is a shame since he delivers an extraordinary and bold adventure. It would have been nice if he had directed for ‘Doctor Who’ again.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary ‘A New Beginning’, featuring interviews with cast and crew. There’s also the documentary ‘From Avalon To Argolis’, looking into the writing of the tale with writer David Fisher and script editor Christopher H. Bidmead.
There’s also an ‘Information Text’ commentary option to enjoy and ‘Synthesizing Starfields’, which looks into the 1980 title music and title sequence for the series. There’s also ‘Leisure Wear’, looking into the costume designs of the story; a ‘Blue Peter’ item and a picture gallery of the story to enjoy.
There are also some audio options to enjoy. These include a Dolby Digital 5.1. Surround Audio for the story; a commentary with Lalla Ward, director Lovett Bickford and script editor Christopher H. Bidmead; and an isolated music option composed by Peter Howell to enjoy.
There’s an Easter Egg to look out for on the main menu of this DVD.
I’ve enjoyed ‘The Leisure Hive’! It’s not one of my favourite stories from the series, though it does present some interesting moments on how JNT radically changed the show’s format for the 1980s. There’s plenty to enjoy and it’s an exciting and interesting new start to this era of the show by JNT.
‘The Leisure Hive’ rating – 7/10
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