‘THE LEISURE HIVE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
From Brighton to Argolis with the Fourth Doctor and Romana, but not K-9
The 1980s of ‘Doctor Who’ have arrived!
I seem to be lucky when it comes to Blu-ray box set releases of classic ‘Doctor Who’ seasons. So far, the Blu-ray box set releases of classic ‘Doctor Who’ seasons I’ve received have all had something to do with Sarah Sutton in them. It’s of course thanks to the ‘Behind the Sofa’ features on the TV tales.
In the Blu-ray box set releases for Season 12, Season 19 and of course Season 18, the ‘Behind the Sofa’ features have had Sarah Sutton featured in them and reacting to the tales in each season. This is something I’m very pleased about. It is something that won’t last in other Blu-ray box set releases.
But I am happy to enjoy them while they last with Sarah Sutton appearing for all of the ‘Behind the Sofa’ features on the stories featured throughout Season 18. This is especially with regards to the last two stories of Season 18 where Sarah Sutton makes her appearances as Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’.
I was looking forward to seeing Season 18 on Blu-ray. I saw the ‘Galactic Glitter Tours’ trailer for the Season 18 Blu-ray box set with Tom Baker via YouTube. 😀 I was keen to see what brand-new special features would be in the new Blu-ray box set, including the brand-new documentary for one story. 🙂
The Blu-ray box set of Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ is an 8-disc set. The first seven discs contain each of the seven stories of the season including ‘The Leisure Hive’, ‘Meglos’, ‘Full Circle’, ‘State of Decay’, ‘Warriors’ Gate’, ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’. Disc 8 contains the one spin-off special, ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’, as well as some brand-new bonus material featured for Season 18.
Before we begin talking about Season 18 itself, let’s talk about something that I believe is pretty common knowledge among ‘Doctor Who’ fans and audiences in general. For whatever reason, everyone has their preference in terms of what they consider to be a proper ‘Doctor Who’ TV era.
Whoever you are and whatever background you come from, each individual is going to have a different perception in terms of how he or she thinks a ‘Doctor Who’ season should work. For example, I’m generally a great fan of the Peter Davison, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker eras of ‘Doctor Who’.
That’s not something I can say about the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi eras of ‘Doctor Who’. With that said, other people can have different perceptions of ‘Doctor Who’ compared to me. Many would praise the Russell T. Davies era of ‘Doctor Who’ more than the Steven Moffat era or vice versa.
Many would consider the Philip Hinchcliffe era of ‘Doctor Who’ to be superior than the Graham Williams era of ‘Doctor Who’ or vice versa. Equally, many would regard the Barry Letts/Terrance Dicks era of ‘Doctor Who’ to be far superior than the Philip Hinchliffe/Robert Holmes era or vice versa.
And it’s not just certain production terms or Doctors that get this treatment. For example, I’ve come across many people who really loathe ‘Love and Monsters’ from ‘Doctor Who’. Whereas me personally, I’ve a fondness for it and I consider it to be an intriguing experiment of a Doctor-lite tale.
But of course there’s the other end of the spectrum as far as I’m concerned. The majority of ‘Doctor Who’ fans seem to praise the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Midnight’ very highly. Whereas for me I found it to be a very claustrophobic ‘Doctor Who’ episode and don’t consider it highly as other fans seem to.
And no, don’t take that to meaning I think ‘Doctor Who’ fans of that opinion are wrong. It’s just a matter of preference. As I’ve illustrated in my summary of the Steven Moffat era of ‘Doctor Who’ in my ‘Twice Upon A Time’ review, everyone is entitled to their own unique experience of the TV show.
People can have different interpretations of what ‘Doctor Who’ should be about. Whether it’d be serious or funny or whether it should be scary or child-friendly. And it’s not just in ‘Doctor Who’. This can apply for any other TV show or film series that plenty of people have enjoyed for many decades.
For example, many people would regard the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy as the best whilst disregarding the prequels and sequels trilogies. Another example is that many would consider the original ‘Star Trek’ of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock to be the best whilst disregarding the TV spin-offs.
For me, when it comes to viewing or reviewing a particular TV show or movie series, there’s always going to be positives and negatives. I try my best to be analytical and see both sides of the argument in considering whether I think or judge a certain TV show or movie product is going to be good or bad.
‘Doctor Who’ is a TV show that has gone through many changes in terms of production teams and actors who have played the Doctor. But the show keeps on going and retains to its original premise about an alien who travels in a police box that can go anywhere in time and space. This is appealing.
It’s one of the reasons why I’ve continued to enjoy ‘Doctor Who’ in its various forms. I like to see both the good and bad sides of a particular season because I know there’s something worth looking forward to. I personally don’t want to disregard a ‘Doctor Who’ season despite bad stuff to be found.
Which is why in the current climate of ‘Doctor Who’ fandom nowadays, it seems a shame that there’s this toxic attitude to how the show is being produced under the Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall era. I’ve come across love and hate for that era. More often it’s the hate that’s so dominant.
It pains me to hear people reviewing the current series in a negative regard, whereas I’ve found both good and bad things to say about it. Not everything in a ‘Doctor Who’ season is going to be perfect, which is why I feel it’s important to enjoy a ‘Doctor Who’ season while you still can despite bad stuff.
Why do I raise these points here? Because we’re taking a look at a ‘Doctor Who’ season that had radically changed the format of the show at the turn of the 1980s. Whether you like it or not, Season 18 heralded a decade that saw a number of pretty radical changes designed to improve the TV show.
The 1980s period of ‘Doctor Who’ is one that got love and hatred from all quarters of the fandom and the general TV audience. Like many others, I’ve encountered good and bad things to say about this era. I’ve enjoyed many things found in the 1980s period of ‘Doctor Who’ whilst loathing others.
And who do we have to thank for this? Enter producer John Nathan-Turner! In 1980, John Nathan-Turner took over the post of ‘Doctor Who’ producer from Graham Williams after he’d been doing it for three years. JNT would become producer of the ‘Doctor Who’ series for the entirety of the 1980s.
And that’s not a joke by the way! John Nathan-Turner was the producer of ‘Doctor Who’ from 1980 to 1989. That is a pretty big achievement, even for a ‘Doctor Who’ producer. With that said, there were lots of trials and tribulations in terms of how JNT produced the show during his tenure in the 1980s.
JNT’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ has some pretty good stuff as well as some pretty bad stuff going on in the 1980s. Beforehand, he was the production unit manager of the show during Graham Williams’ time as producer. He had that opportunity to pick up how the series worked before he became producer.
When invited to be the show’s producer, JNT already had an established set-in plan on what changes he would make to show’s current format. For example, he wanted to change the show’s titles music as well as the show’s titles sequence in order to update it for a brand-new era to start off the 1980s.
JNT was also very keen to tone down the silly aspects of the show that were going on. The previous era of ‘Doctor Who’ under Graham Williams and Douglas Adams had gone down into the road of silliness with too much humour. This is pretty evident in most of the stories featured during Season 17 itself.
It was decided that the show would try to go back to its original premise and tell more serious, straight-forward stories without having the humorous comedic aspects be the dominant focus. This is pretty understandable, though it had its disadvantages and the tales became sombre in Season 18.
But as this was JNT’s first year as a producer of ‘Doctor Who’, he needed a helping hand whether he liked it or not. Enter former producer Barry Letts who became the show’s executive producer during Season 18. It’s interesting how Barry Letts came back to work on the TV show as executive producer.
There was also the appointment of a new script editor to the show once Douglas Adams had gone. The new script editor…was Christopher Hamilton Bidmead. Chris Bidmead was a completely different personality as a script editor compared to Douglas Adams. And I do mean completely different!
Once Chris Bidmead was brought in, he had the task of reducing the amount of humour featured in ‘Doctor Who’ at that point and to bring it down to a more serious, sombre level. He also had the task of introducing some real science fiction concepts to be featured throughout the stories of Season 18.
Now you might consider that to be a good or a bad thing. And in my opinion, I think it was a bad thing. Chris Bidmead is a very good sci-fi enthusiast no doubt. He introduced some really intriguing sci-fi concepts into the stories he script-edited. But I did feel his approach to the show wasn’t correct.
I’m of the opinion that you should have a balance of comedy and drama in ‘Doctor Who’ as well as having some good strong character development featured throughout the stories. Season 18 is a season that didn’t really do that as the tales told were often dry especially with the lack of humour in them.
Sometimes it can be a challenge to understand the stories and the scientific concepts behind them in Season 18. There were exceptions to that rule, but the majority of the season felt like that. Fortunately, I’ve been able to re-watch the stories and conduct research on them after my first viewing of them.
Mind you, I can’t blame Chris Bidmead entirely for the sombre atmosphere of the stories he script-edited. For one thing, he and Barry Letts had to work with a producer who wasn’t really interested in story and character development. JNT was somebody who did not come from a writer’s background.
As I’ve noticed from watching the majority of the JNT period of ‘Doctor Who’, the stories often lacked certain character development and drama, especially for the main regulars including the companions. Script editors and writers who worked with JNT for his era often found that frustrating.
Season 18 is also of course Tom Baker’s last season in his era of the show. Tom Baker had been playing the character for six years by that point and this was to be his seventh. And sadly, for whatever reason, Season 18 does not bring out the best of Tom Baker’s Doctor on a reassuring high.
Tom Baker’s Doctor is often remembered for his bonkers, eccentric humour. Yet in Season 18, Tom Baker’s Doctor was beginning to wind down and often not be his bonkers, eccentric self. This season also doesn’t reflect Tom’s Doctor exiting on a heroic note. That’s mainly due to creative differences.
It was clear from the outset that Tom Baker and producer John Nathan-Turner didn’t always see eye-to-eye in terms of how they perceived the show itself. JNT’s vision of ‘Doctor Who’ was completely at odds with Tom Baker’s. Whilst enthusiastic about the TV show, the two did clash with each other.
Tom Baker had made his mark as the Fourth Doctor, but JNT wanted to put his mark as the new producer. As a consequence, Tom was an obstacle to JNT’s vision for the show. Tom perceived ‘Doctor Who’ as ‘the Tom Baker show’ by that point. JNT wanted to reduce that in his first TV season.
This did upset Tom during his final season. He got bad tempered; became ill during the production of Season 18 and wasn’t an easy actor to work with. He didn’t like the changes made to the show by JNT e.g. the question marks on his shirts and the changes made to the theme music and the titles sequence.
Another issue with Tom Baker was his working relationship with Lalla Ward. During Season 18’s production, the two bickered with each other on and off set as friction was caused between them. They did marry each other after Season 18 ended (more another time), though it lasted for eighteen months.
So what we have here is a season of ‘Doctor Who’ produced by a new producer who brought in his pretty radical vision for the show; had a former producer watching over him as he was making it; a new script editor who toned down the silly humorous aspects of the show by adding in his own scientific sombreness of storytelling to the season; a temperamental actor who played the Doctor in his final season and having a fractious relationship with his co-star; all coming together to make a new era of the show that would introduce ‘Doctor Who’ to a new audience at the start of the 1980s.
If you believe in miracles, the fact that this ‘Doctor Who’ season was made under huge pressure with new changes and behind-the-scenes tensions before transmission on TV should be evidence of that.
Anyway let’s talk about Season 18 itself! We begin with the four-part story, ‘The Leisure Hive’ by David Fisher!
Despite Tom Baker’s opinion, I love the ‘Doctor Who’ titles sequences for the 1980s period. I honestly do. I get a sense of thrill and excitement when watching the titles sequence and hearing the theme music in the background. It would be used again for both Peter Davison and Colin Baker eras.
The 1980s arrangement for the ‘Doctor Who’ theme music was composed by Peter Howell. I love the dazzling feel of the 1980s theme music of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s meant to have a discotheque feel to it which suits the 1980s period of ‘Doctor Who’ well, especially as you’re travelling through the stars. 🙂
Speaking of the stars, the titles sequence designed by graphics designer Sid Sutton is equally brilliant. Whilst I do love the time tunnel titles sequences for the Tom Baker era and the new series eras of the show, the star-field titles sequence makes you feel like you’re travelling through space. 😀
Anyway, ‘The Leisure Hive’ was of course the first ‘Doctor Who’ story to be produced by John Nathan-Turner. It’s the story that began the new era of the show’s history as it entered the 1980s. And I got to say, it’s certainly a story that has a style about it with being it directed by Lovett Bickford.
I enjoyed watching this story when I first saw it on DVD and especially when re-watching it on Blu-ray. It was intriguing to see how producer JNT radically changed the TV show’s format to bring it forth into a new era with this first story. There are positives and negatives, but we’ll get to that later.
I don’t think ‘The Leisure Hive’ is the most exciting ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve seen, but it was visually stunning. There were lots of things that baffled me when watching this story. This is especially in terms of the sci-fi concepts featured in this TV tale like the tachoynics which I don’t understand fully.
But I do appreciate the boldness of what this story was trying to do and how it stood out as the first ‘Doctor Who’ story of the 1980s. The amount of music often distracted me as I watched the story. Sometimes the lack of humour diluted the drama for me, but that’s how the experience was for me.
As I’ve already established, the theme for Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ was about change. This wasn’t just in ‘The Leisure Hive’ was of course. This would be dominant throughout the stories featured in the season, especially with an outgoing Doctor; outgoing companions and new companions coming in. 🙂
The story starts with the Doctor and Romana on Brighton beach – I’ve been there! I’ve been Brighton! 😀 My parents and I went to Brighton to attend a ‘Doctor Who’ convention called ‘Timey Wimey 1’ run by Louise Jameson in November 2014. I’ve happy memories attending the convention.
My parents and I spent the whole weekend in Brighton. The day before we went to the ‘Timey Wimey 1’ convention, we explored the area with visiting the town and seeing where they got to film the scenes for ‘The Leisure Hive’. It was an incredible experience. I would like to visit Brighton again.
I did like that opening shot of the story where we have the panoramic view of Brighton beach. Yeah, I know it’s too long. 90 minutes according to Chris Bidmead apparently. But it was interesting way to start the new era of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1980s, giving it a calm serenity at the tale’s beginning here.
The first scene between the Doctor and Romana was also enjoyable to watch. It turns out they were in the right place, wrong time (as usual) as the Doctor was supposed to take her and K-9 to the Brighton Pavilion. K-9 gets severely damaged as a result of fetching a beach ball in the sea. Whoops!
After their holiday in Brighton fails, Romana suggests to the Doctor about visiting the Leisure Hive on the pleasure planet of Argolis. And it doesn’t seem to be in the friendliest of environments (but I’ll get to that later on). Once they’re on the planet, the Doctor and Romana see some deaths occurring.
These deaths involve science and technology. The Doctor and Romana become involved in a web of events regarding Argolis’ future. The Leisure Hive holds some dark secrets which all culminate in a bitter uprising taking place. The Doctor and Romana have to solve the big mystery in order to stop it.
As I said before, this four-part adventure is by writer David Fisher. David had written a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories before this one for the previous era under Graham Williams’ time as producer. He wrote stories like ‘The Stones of Blood’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’ for ‘The Key To Time’ season.
He also provided the story for ‘City of Death’ as well as writing the story ‘The Creature From The Pit’ for Season 17. Writing for a new production team of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1980s must have been a challenge for David. It’s clear that David did find it difficult to write a serious story for ‘Doctor Who’.
With the greatest respect to David, I don’t think this story of his was very exciting compared to the previous stories he wrote for ‘Doctor Who’. It was interesting to watch, but it wasn’t very exciting for me. If there were more jokes provided in the story, then I would have enjoyed it far more than I did.
Argolis is interesting as a planet devoted to leisure. It’s indicated the Argolins built the Leisure Hive as a result of their feudal war with the lizard-like alien Foamasi. There are indications of the Argolins rapidly aging from the radiation as a result of the war since the plant-like pods fall out of their heads.
There are themes of fascism and racism depicted in this adventure as well as the concepts of regeneration and duplication. The alien Foamasi could be the key to what’s going on in this TV tale, especially with how the uprising is caused and what prompts certain characters to do what they do.
The Argolin costumes and make-up are also interesting in this adventure. The costume designer June Hudson does well with creating the Argolin costumes. The green face make-up and the slightly blonde hair makes the Argolins appear alien, especially with the plant-like pods on top of the heads.
As I’ve already established, the scientific concept of tachyonics gets introduced as a main aspect of the story. I’m afraid I found the science stuff of tachyonics baffling in this story. I was left unsatisfied from watching this story. I’m sure David Fisher did his research when he worked with Chris Bidmead.
But even after watching this story again for Blu-ray, I was left befuddled on what tachyonics was about. Maybe if I read the Target novelization of ‘The Leisure Hive’, I might change my opinion on this. It makes me wonder whether kids of the 1980s could understand what was going on in this tale.
This leads me to believe that the Leisure Hive is not a very good holiday resort. For a planet that’s devoted to leisure, there’s not much leisure happening in this story, is there? It feels like being on a school trip when the Doctor and Romania witness a demonstration of tachyonics by Pangol early on.
My idea for a ‘Doctor Who’ story about a place devoted to leisure would be in my ‘Fifth Doctor’ story, ‘The Space Hotel’. That story had people enjoying themselves whilst a terrible murder mystery was occurring there. ‘The Leisure Hive’ has the murder mystery but none of the fun to be found in it.
But of course, this is where Tom Baker begins his seventh and final year as the Doctor in this story. I could tell that 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 at times with the production teams changing in his TV era.
It’s clear that Tom wasn’t happy with the changes made by JNT in this new era for the show during the 1980s, hence why they were clashes between them. Tom manages to do the best he can with the material he’s given, but rightly points out that it does not illustrate his Doctor in the best of light.
It didn’t help matters when Tom’s Doctor gets to age dramatically during the story and he becomes an old man. Tom Baker delivers an excellent performance as a white-haired old Doctor in the story. I sometimes wondered if I was seeing Gandalf from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ with Tom’s Doctor here. 😀
This ‘Doctor Who’ story introduces the burgundy coat that Tom Baker’s Doctor wears for Season 18. The costume was designed by June Hudson herself. Tom Baker wears that burgundy coat extraordinarily well, though I would not say it was iconic and familiar to previous costumes he wore.
And of course there was the introduction of the question marks on the Doctor’s shirts, starting with Tom Baker’s Doctor in the 1980s. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the question marks either. It makes little sense for the Doctor to have them on his shirts. He does not need them to show that he is eccentric.
This was also Lalla Ward’s final season as Romana in ‘Doctor Who’. Lalla was also unhappy with the changes made to the show’s format by producer John Nathan-Turner. It’s clear that Lalla preferred the jokey atmosphere of the Graham Williams/Douglas Adams period of the show compared to this.
And like I said, there was tension between Lalla and Tom as their relationship became rocky during the making of Season 18. Not sure how that tension was caused, but it was reported that they argued a lot during the making of Season 18. It is intriguing to watch these stories with that in mind.
K-9 was another obstacle in the JNT/Bidmead set-up for Season 18. It was decided K-9 would depart the series as soon as possible since JNT and Bidmead hated the cute robotic dog. I like K-9 and I thought it was really cruel the way the new production team treated the dog in his last set of stories.
John Leeson was asked to come back and voice K-9 in Season 18 after having a year off doing it. I like John Leeson’s voice for K-9 and prefer it over David Brierley’s for Season 17. Sadly K-9 doesn’t feature much in this story. He is briefly seen in the opening Brighton scene before he gets blown up.
The highlight of ‘The Leisure Hive’ for me was David Haig as Pangol. I enjoyed David Haig in this. Before this, David Haig played the villainous Todman in ‘The Moon Stallion’ with Sarah Sutton. David delivers a terrific performance as Pangol who is a young Argolin with racists and fascist views in this.
Pangol hates anyone who is alien to him and this racism is due to the long-suffering war that the Argolins have had with the Foamasi. Watching David Haig as Pangol reveal his true colours in ‘Parts Three and Four’ of the story and being nasty to the Doctor and Romana was very engaging to watch.
I’m surprised David Haig hasn’t returned to do more ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the TV series. Maybe he will. Perhaps he’ll do a ‘Doctor Who’ audio story with Big Finish someday. I’d certainly like him to reunite with Sarah Sutton in a Big Finish audio of ‘Doctor Who’. I’ll have to write the story myself. 😀
The guest cast for ‘The Leisure Hive’ also includes Laurence Payne (who was in ‘The Gunfighters’) as Morix, Pangol’s father, who dies early on. There’s Adrienne Corri as Mena, Pangol’s mother taking Morix’s role as Argolin leader; John Collin as Brock and Nigel Lambert as the human scientist Hardin.
I found the Foamasi aliens rather disappointing in terms of costume and design in this story. We see the Foamasi with close-up shots of their red eyes and sometimes see them as shadows outside the Hive itself. But when they actually appear in full form, they did look pathetic and not very menacing.
As I’ve said, 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’ in the 1980s. He was ambitious to use the new technology, delivering an impressive adventure in shots; effects and 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 original DVD special features were as follows. There was the making-of documentary called ‘A New Beginning’ with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There was also the documentary called ‘From Avalon To Argolis’ looking into the writing side of ‘The Leisure Hive’ with contributions from writer David Fisher; script editor Christopher H. Bidmead and producer John Nathan-Turner. There was an info-text commentary option to enjoy and the ‘Synthesizing Starfields’ featurette with composer Peter Howell and graphics designer Sid Sutton as they look into the 1980s titles music and titles sequence for Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’. There was also the ‘Leisure Wear’ costume featurette with costume designer June Hudson, looking into the costume designs of this story. There was a ‘Blue Peter’ item and a photo gallery of the story to enjoy.
There were also four audio options. There was a stereo sound audio mix option for the story; a 5.1 surround sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Lalla Ward, director Lovett Bickford and script editor Christopher H. Bidmead. There was also an isolated music option composed by Peter Howell to enjoy. There was also an Easter Egg to look out for on the DVD, which was the BBC continuity announcements for ‘The Leisure Hive’.
On Disc 1 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 18’ Blu-ray, the ‘A New Beginning’ making-of documentary; the ‘From Avalon to Argolis’ documentary; the ‘Synthesizing Starfields’ featurette; the ‘Leisure Wear’ costume featurette; the ‘Blue Peter’ item; the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the 5.1 surround sound audio mix for the story; the DVD audio commentary and the isolated music option can be found on there. The info-text commentary option; the photo gallery and the BBC continuity announcements for ‘The Leisure Hive’ have been updated for 2019 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘The Leisure Hive’ with Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor); costume designer June Hudson and John Leeson (K-9) as well as Wendy Padbury (Zoe); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa). There’s also raw studio footage from ‘The Leisure Hive’ to enjoy! 😀 There’s also the clean opening and closing titles for Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ (which is taken from the ‘Meglos’ DVD and is now updated). There’s also the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘Meglos’ with Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and K-9 (taken from ‘The Seeds of Doom’ DVD). There’s also a brand-new Blu-ray audio commentary for ‘The Leisure Hive’ with Tom Baker, moderated by Matthew Sweet.
On the PDF front, there are production documents; scripts and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
I have enjoyed ‘The Leisure Hive’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story! It’s not one of my favourite stories from the TV series, although it does present some interesting insight on how producer John Nathan-Turner radically changed the show’s format for the 1980s. And it was a pretty bold approach indeed.
There’s plenty to enjoy in ‘The Leisure Hive’ as it does deliver an innovative and intriguing new start to the 1980s era of ‘Doctor Who’ by JNT. Who knew where the Doctor and Romana would go next and how the new era would progress? I was looking forward to seeing the next story of Season 18 on Blu-ray!
‘The Leisure Hive’ rating – 7/10
‘DOCTOR WHO AND THE LEISURE HIVE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Come to Argolis for Rejuvenation
I don’t think I’m any wiser about tachyonics from reading and hearing this book! 😀
‘Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive’ by David Fisher is of course a novelization of the season opener in Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom Baker and Lalla Ward. The book was published in July 1982, which was two years after the TV tale was transmitted on BBC One from August to September 1980.
I’ve enjoyed David Fisher’s writing in ‘Doctor Who’ over the years. I feel his best efforts in terms of ‘Doctor Who’ writing are the ones when he wrote for Graham Williams’ era as producer of the show. David wrote two ‘The Key to Time’ adventures – ‘The Stones of Blood’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’. 🙂
He also wrote the storyline for ‘A Gamble With Time’, which eventually became ‘City of Death’ with Douglas Adams under the pseudonym ‘David Agnew’. He also wrote the story ‘The Creature From The Pit’. From those stories, there is a sense of David Fisher balancing both comedy and drama well.
That’s not something I can say about his last story for ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Leisure Hive’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent effort by David in terms of trying to do things seriously under the John Nathan-Turner/Christopher H. Bidmead period, but I don’t regard ‘The Leisure Hive’ that very highly.
Had the humour remained in the story, maybe I would have appreciated and enjoyed it. It feels like a different tone of David Fisher writing compared to what he had contributed before. Sometimes taking away the humour that David Fisher injected into his stories well doesn’t assist in the outcome.
I’m not sure if David Fisher regards ‘The Leisure Hive’ favourably despite him sharing his thoughts in an interview on the DVD/Blu-ray release of the story. Regardless, ‘The Leisure Hive’ isn’t what I would call one of his best, which is a shame as there are some intriguing concepts behind the adventure.
However, could a novelization of the story change my mind about how ‘The Leisure Hive’ works as a story? That was what I hoped to find out when I purchased a paperback copy of the Target novelization from Amazon in 2021 as well as the audiobook for the tale which I obtained via Audible.
The audiobook is read by Lalla Ward who played Romana in the TV adventure. I enjoyed Lalla’s reading of the story. She’s proven to be a good narrator on previous ‘Doctor Who’ audiobooks such as ‘City of Death’ and ‘Shada’. Mind you, she is good in terms of reading the Douglas Adams tales. 😐
That’s not to say she doesn’t provide a good reading for ‘The Leisure Hive’ audiobook! On the contrary, she does. It’s just I feel Lalla has more love for the Douglas Adams period of ‘Doctor Who’ compared to the Chris Bidmead period. It’s understandable considering there is more humour there.
I believe John Leeson provides a few lines for K-9 in the audiobook’s opening chapter. He’s not credited in the audiobook’s credits, but I’m pretty sure it’s him since his K-9 voice is so recognisable. I’m surprised Lalla Ward wasn’t asked to provide K-9’s voice herself. I’m sure she’d be quite good. 😀
‘The Leisure Hive’ story is divided into 9 chapters in the book. This leads to a problem I have with the novelization. With a novelization, I expect a lot of scenes in a certain story to be expanded upon in greater detail. It’s what I’ve experienced in the ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Fantastic Four’ film novelizations.
That’s sadly not the case with ‘The Leisure Hive’ novelization. For one thing, some material in the latter part of the story is truncated. The first five chapters focus on ‘Part One’, Chapter 6 focuses on ‘Part Two’, Chapter 7 focuses on ‘Part Three’ and Chapters 8 and 9 focus on ‘Part Four’ of the story. 😐
I would have liked it if David Fisher provided equal amounts of chapters to each episode of the story in the book. Reading and hearing Chapters 6 and 7 which comprised ‘Parts Two and Three’ felt dragged on, especially when you’re absorbing certain details about the story and the characters in it.
Even when the whole of ‘Part Two’ is in Chapter 6 and the whole of ‘Part Three’ is in Chapter 7, certain scenes are omitted from the TV tale into the book. I expect every scene I recall from watching the TV story to be in the book. I’ve seen ‘The Leisure Hive’ more times to know it by heart.
This was a different experience for me compared to hearing David Fishers audiobook novelizations for ‘The Stones of Blood’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’. I enjoyed those audiobooks and found them satisfying novelizations of the TV stories. I didn’t have the same feeling with ‘The Leisure Hive’ book.
Chapter 2 of the story is quite a problem for me. There’s a lot of material given about the backstory concerning the Argolins (or the Argolin as David Fisher calls them in the book) and the Foamasi. The history of the Argolin’s beginnings as a species is given and their war with the Foamasi gets detailed.
Whilst I appreciate David Fisher going to the trouble of detailing the Argolin and the Foamasi’s history, including the Argolin being a warlike tribe who conquered or killed other tribes of their planet and the Foamasi having a history as assassins, it feels dragged on while reading and hearing it.
Honestly, it would have been better if David included the Argolin and Foamasi’s history as an Appendix, like what J.R.R. Tolkien did when he provided Appendices for ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Chapter 2 slows the story down and it’s frustrating when we want to get back in to the story’s action.
I liked how the book opens with a deckchair man and a candy floss seller observing the Doctor and Romana on the beach. That just echoes the good humour of David Fisher’s writing and I preferred it when the Doctor didn’t sleep whilst Romana was telling him about Argolis whilst on Brighton beach.
There’s an extra scene where in the future, two journalists observe Mena and Hardin leaving Earth but they ignore him. Whilst I appreciate that additional scene added in the story, I would have preferred it if the other scenes featuring Mena and Hardin were included and weren’t omitted in the book.
Tha’’s another issue I have with the novelization. I don’t think Mena and Hardin’s relationship is explored enough in the TV story (I’d like to think they are lovers), but at least you could see that they liked and truly cared for each other, as shown in Adrienne Corri and Nigel Lambert’s performances. 🙂
Here in the novelization, once Mena becomes the Heresiarch/ruler of Argolis, she severs her emotional connections to Hardin despite the past relationship they had. Now I might be interpreting that differently in terms of how Lalla Ward read it in the audiobook, but that is what it felt like here.
The book doesn’t provide us with enough scenes of how Mena and Hardin mean to each other as friends as was the case in the TV story. There isn’t even the scene where Pangol exposes Hardin as a fraud, which I expected to find when I read and heard the tale from watching it on DVD and Blu-ray.
I did like how Mena’s ageing gets depicted in the book, both in terms of how it’s written and how Lalla Ward performs it in the audiobook. You could see how badly affected the Argolin are from the outcome of war and you’re reassured when Mena’s age is restored once being inside the generator.
More emphasis is made on whether the Doctor’s ageing into Gandalf ( 😀 ) means that he passed his trial or not. It was interesting when the Doctor seemed to be on the verge of death whilst being old, which I don’t think was made much of an issue in viewing Tom Baker in old make-up in the TV story.
In the scenes where the Doctor and Romana are observing the demonstration given by Pangol about using tachyonics, the Doctor questions Pangol at times. I like how the Doctor and other tourists are more interactive in those scenes. In the TV story, they felt like a science lecture than a pleasure trip.
Even the character Loman who got killed in the story gets to say some lines in the book compared to the TV story. Loman’s death is also more gruesome where blood spills out from his arms when he’s detached. I found that quite horrific and it’s something I didn’t expect from watching the TV story. 😀
I like how David Fisher incorporates more of the holidaying aspects of the adventure which I felt were lost on me when I was watching the story on DVD and Blu-ray. I still think more exploration should have been given about Argolis’ pleasure activities rather than the story’s scientific aspects. 😐
Apparently, when the Doctor and Romana are brought into the board room to meet Mena for the first time, the fake rejuvenation recording by Hardin gets played on a loop. This explains the Doctor and Romana’s familiarity with the experiment, which wasn’t quite clear when watching the TV story.
Some dialogue where Pangol reveals his plans to Brock before the Foamasi come into the board room gets omitted in the book. The build-up to the Doctor, Romana, Hardin and the Foamasi’s entry into the board room is in one scene as there’s no cutting back and forth to Pangol, Brock and Mena.
There are mentions about most of the surviving Argolin being members of former Argolin ruler Morix’s old crew who attacks Foamasi as the time of Argolis’ bombardment. There are also mentions about the surviving Foamasi being guards and inmates of an underground prison in this novelization.
Pangol’s racism is clearly evident in the book, especially when he’s interacting with the Doctor and Romana during his tachyonics demonstration. The build-up to his villainy in the book is more profound compared to the TV story and it doesn’t feel like it’s a last minute thing during ‘Part Three’.
The fact that Brock’s lawyer Klout doesn’t speak is made clear in the book as well as the fact that Foamasi Brock can’t speak English without the ‘universal translator’ to use. Klout also gets captured by the Foamasi investigator when he tries to plant an explosive, which isn’t featured in the TV adventure. 🙂
More information is given about the West Lodge’s operations, including the arranging of deaths and accidents to force races to sign their contracts. I think that a lot those details would be lost on people in terms of both viewing the TV story as well as reading/hearing the novelization/audiobook.
It’s intriguing that in the novelization, Pangol has never seen a Foamasi before, hence his bitter reaction to the Foamasi investigators when they introduce themselves. This didn’t happen in the TV adventure as Pangol seemed to know what the Foamasi investigators were once they exposed Brock.
In the story’s final scene where the Doctor and Romana lose the Randomiser, it’s stated that losing it will mean neither they nor the Black Guardian will know where they’re going. Except in the TV series, the Randomiser is meant to do just that for the Doctor and Romana to escape the Black Guardian. 😐
I’m curious how come David Fisher didn’t know that since his stories ‘City of Death’ and ‘The Creature From The Pit’ were set during Season 17 where the Randomiser was used. Maybe there was a lack of communication between Douglas Adams and David Fisher regarding the Randomiser. 😐
There are moments in the story where the Doctor and Romana are attending to K-9 in the TARDIS, who’s flooded with seawater. A shame K-9 didn’t get to say more lines in the story as opposed to the few lines he had been given in Chapter 1. John Leeson’s credit in the audiobook would be justified. 🙂
So yeah, ‘Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive’ was a disappointment on my part. I appreciate some of the additions David Fisher put into the book such as the backstory on the Argolin and Foamasi races, but a lot of scenes are either omitted or truncated, making the reading/hearing experience less joyful. 😦
I enjoyed Lalla Ward’s narration of the story and she does provide decent performances for the characters featured in it. I wish I could like ‘The Leisure Hive’ more as a story from reading the novelization/audiobook compared to watching it on DVD and Blu-ray. It does have a lot of potential.
‘Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive’ rating – 5/10
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