John Nathan-Turner took over the reins for the 18th season, and this was the story which opened it. I have to admit to rather liking season 17, despite what the pundits might say about it, and so one story into a new season I am struggling. Everything is different. The look is different, the them is different, the costumes are different, the special effects appear different, everything is deadly serious, the picture seems somewhat washed out for some reason. It’s a huge adjustment as a viewer.
They believed, JNT and his script editor Christopher H. Bidmead, that the humour element had gone too far. And they were right, I have to begrudgingly say. However, the decision to basically eradicate ALL humour from the series is not exactly logical. They could have toned it down a lot and still had room to move. Instead, it seems to be abandoned. The Doctor’s costume goes all purply. He had various coats which he wore up to the end of season 17, now it’s an official ‘costume’, which question marks on his shirt collar (not subtle) and everything is more co-ordinated. Don’t see why it was needed and don’t particularly like it to be honest.
Tom does seem to be showing the years a bit more by now. It’s his seventh year in the part after all. In this story he is aged – brilliantly by make-up I must say it’s one of the best aging jobs I have seen done, and he remains old for over two episodes, which Tom Baker hated but I thought was a good aspect of the story. His performance is very good too as the old Doctor.
I like the reworking of the theme music by Peter Howell. We see the re-introduction of the middle eight too which has been missing, bar a couple of odd episodes, for many years from the theme. However the Radiophonic Workshop took over the incidental music in this story, and we bid a very fond farewell to Dudley Simpson. On the DVD they talk about Simpson’s music sounding a bit ‘samey’, but I have to disagree. He’s done most of the last 12 seasons I’ve watched and I don’t recall ever thinking ‘oh he’s used that theme again’ or ‘doesn’t he ever try something different’. Anyways, the decision had been made and I hope ‘The Leisure Hive’ is NOT indicative of what’s to follow because the music is loud and over done and seems to underscore 90% of the story. It’s intrusive and really effects the ability of the viewer to enjoy the story.
|Tom Baker's amazing make up job.|
I’m not really sure what was going on in the tale too. The four episodes run at around 1 hour 27 minutes, so we’ve had around 13 minutes cut from what we normally have over four parts. It’s a pity because this story could really have done with more explanation, especially about Tacyonics. From a quick research job I discovered a Tacyon is a particle which can move faster than light. To use it regenerate a person back to their younger self, I can sort of see that. But to duplicate people into solid beings? That was just confusing and not very logical to me. They wanted the science to be more real. Well, if anything the ideas in ‘The Leisure Hive’ are less believable.
They seem to be very limited on sets too. It’s mostly corridors and cheap ones at that. Ok you can level that criticism at most Doctor Who stories, but it’s really obvious in ‘The Leisure Hive’. The director, Lovett Bickford, has tried a bit of hand-held camera stuff, and a laboriously long opening shot at Brighton Beach with a pretty pointless scene the point of which seems to have been to blow up K-9. John Leeson returns in a strange move, especially for him. If he decided to leave, why would he come back a later?
The DVD frankly looks like it is a second or third generation picture, I’m not sure why but it is very blurry. It does nothing to enhance the story! The exterior stuff on Argolis, the model shots mixed with the new effects device, ‘Quantel’, are however excellent. Not so the shot of the shuttle leaving and arriving. It’s the same unconvincing shot taken through a hole looking up at the rear of the shuttle. It sounds a bit rude doesn’t it? It looks poor and it’s used at least four times.
Look, maybe the ideas are interesting but it’s very confusing to be honest. It’s taken very seriously, Tom Baker seems very dour for 97% of the story, apart from the moment he suggests they arrest his scarf for murder! I can still hear the music ringing in my head 24 hours later. It’s held together with some strong casting, Laurence Payne in the first episode returns to Who – he was in the Gunfighters. David Haig as Pangol is strong too, and Adrienne Corri as Mena is absolutely excellent. The final episode builds up nicely and is a good finish to the story with Pangol becoming a baby.
HOWEVER> I have left the worst to last! The Foamasi. A reptilian race whose design was apparently left to costume. They are laughable. They are perhaps the worst ever creatures in Doctor Who. They are green and fat and clearly men in … well it kinda looks like a dress doesn’t it? It is clearly material. It’s a joke, and shatters the believability of this story completely.
I realise I have really seriously panned this story like almost no other. It’s not the worst. It just has some shocking elements like the music and the Foamasi. It’s not easy to follow, it’s very serious and deadpan, there’s no shades of light and dark.