Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fourth Doctor adventure The Leisure Hive...
And wham...we're in the 1980s. In comes a new producer, John Nathan-Turner (henceforth & hereafter JNT) & a new serious script editor, Christopher H Bidmead. Together they take their new broom & give Doctor Who a good going over.
There's a new title sequence & a new version of the theme tune. There's a new feel to the series to. Out goes the undergraduate silliness of the Graham Williams era & incomes serious science stuff. Proper sf. Words like tachyons get bandied about without due care & attention.
Tom's got a new costume too. And a new attitude. He looks thinner and older. There's an air of melancholy about him. It is as if the realisation that his time as the Doctor is coming to an end has hit him hard & all these new, serious people are interfering with his Doctor-ish vibe. The 'old Doctor' scenes in particular feel really heavy & elegiac. No, that's not quite the right word.
Lalla Ward continues to give stalwart support as Romana II dressed in an Edwardian bathing outfit thing. I do like Romana II but apparently the incoming JNT thought the TARDIS crew was too clever by half & plans are afoot. Hinted at by K9's rather unfortunate encounter with the English Channel. Things are changing.
The story itself is OK. The Leisure Hive itself is a fun facility on the planet Argolis. Argolis has been ravaged by a twenty minute war against the Foamasi. The Argolins are all greens & yellows with seeds that pop off to mark their impending deaths. The Foamasi are insects. Big insects. Director Lovett Bickford does a fine job of allowing us to see them only a hint at a time because when finally revealed they look nice but just a bit too obviously costume-ish.
The Doctor & Romana get caught up in events as usual. Blamed for a murder here, aged by a tachyons cock-up there whilst the plot slowly unravels: there's sabotage, fraud & a rather unpleasant priggish young - too young? - Argolin called Pangol (David Haig).
The Doctor & Romana are able to get to the bottom of things in a rather rushed final episode involving one of the most rubbish get outs from a difficult situation in Doctor Who history - the destruction of the Foamasi Ambassador's ship. Watch it. Talk about deus ex machina.
The spoilt & slightly mad Pangol gets regressed to a baby & his rejuvenated mother Mena (Adrienne Cory) vows to bring him up better this time around before dumping the little baby in the arms of the Doctor. Who then palms him off on Hardin (Nigel Lambert)? Pangol's not going to be much better the second time around is he?
It's got some nice moments. The main guest stars all do sterling serious work, David Haig in particular but the thing you'll notice most is how different this feels to Season 17 as JNT & co turn the 80s amp up to 11.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.