Number : Season 18, episode 1 of 7.
Which One : Space holiday complex.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Lalla Ward
K9 MK-II : John Leeson (voice)
Morix : Laurence Payne
Mena : Adrienne Corri
Pangol : David Haig
Vargos : Martin Fisk
Guide : Roy Montague
Hardin : Nigel Lambert
Stimson : David Allister
Brock : John Collin
Klout : Ian Talbot
Foamasi : Andrew Lane
Tannoy ; Harriet Reynolds
Generator Voice : Clifford Norgate
Written By : David Fisher
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 30 August – 20 September 1980.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor and Romana take some time out, firstly on Brighton beach and then on planet Argolis – a declining leisure planet.
Whats good : It’s a new era under JNT.
Whats bad : It’s a new era under JNT. Questionable changes. K9’s exit. Poor story. The Fouth Doctor’s question mark attire.
Review With Spoilers : The Leisure Hive begins a new era in Who. With the handing over of the baton from outgoing producer Graham Williams – to incoming producer JNT. A man – either loved as a maverick moderniser, or loathed – as the man who hammered the final nails; into the Classic Who coffin.
The first sweeping changes JNT laid down, are so self evident – its nearly painful. The semi-retirement of K9 (despite original voice John Leeson returning), the change of the Doctor’s wardrobe to burgundy, the horrible question marked shirt and the one colour scarf.
Out went the irreverant humour and in came real sounding science-waffle. Even the Tardis blue exterior is not safe from the change and it gets an update – which will take it upto the series cancellation in 1989.
As for the story, the Doctor is still on the run from The Black Guardian and returns to Brighton, after the last attempt in The Horror Of Fangrock.
Whilst doing a bit of lounging on the beach, K9 bizarrely chases a ball into the sea and blows up. He remains in a damaged state – until his eventual departure, later in Warriors Gate.
“It’s the first of the leisure planets. In relative Earth date 2250, there’s a hideous war against some reptile people called the Foamasi. Most of the planet gets wiped out by 2000 interplanetary missiles, but the survivors build a recreation centre – called The Leisure Hive!” Romana
It’s not even the demise of K9 which is a problem – it’s the manner. As his departure was really needed, to stop the writers having to find new ways to bolt him into a story; or use his snout lazer as a get-out-of-jail-free card – by having him shooting all the baddies and ruin the tension.
JNT really shows sheer contempt for the character, by having the super-intelligent computer dog – chase a ball into the sea and blow up.
Deciding to seek rest further afield, the Doctor takes Romana to Argolis; a leisure complex built on a planet with a hostile atmosphere. Here, the Doctor uncovers a plot to sabotage the complex and drive the tourists away by an indigenous species of Lizard – called the Foamasi (whose Chamelion green lizard look is admittedly well designed!).
The scenes following Tom Baker’s accidental forced aging, which leave him as a white haired old-man – within the tampered recreation generator. Speak more for probably how Baker was actually feeling himself, in his last season. Admittedly though, the makeup job for this effect – is actually quite good.
Gone is the playful wit and intimidating cold charm which Baker brought to his earlier seasons. He seems for all intents and purposes to be just going through the motions in The Leisure Hive. Relations had soured behind the scenes with new producer JNT. Baker later said, he felt this was one season too far.
Baker – on form could take the most average story and raise the bar a couple of notches. Without him firing on all cylinders though, we are left with a surprisingly dull land-grab caper – in space.
The Leisure Hive on the whole is a deeply unpopular episode with the fanbase, bar the odd fan’s striving to find some hidden genius – or meaning.
Coupled with all of the changes made to the new season, (which also proved unpopular with the fanbase). The Leisure Hive suffers as a step too far, from the previous tone and style of season 17.
It’s not an episode I could sit through again and there are better to come – even within season 18. At times, watching this, I felt just like the aged Fourth Doctor – old and tired.
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