Written by David Fisher
Directed by Lovett Bickford
Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television series that has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, he is portrayed by Tom Baker, who has always been a favorite of fans. He is traveling with fellow Time Lord, Romana, portrayed by Lalla Ward, as well as a robotic dog known as K-9.
In The Leisure Hive, the Doctor and Romana are on a vacation of sorts on Brighton Beach. When K-9 short circuits, Romana admonishes him for his choice of locale. She suggests they travel to the planet Argolis, which is the first of the leisure planets.
Argolis became a world of leisure following a devastating nuclear war. When the Doctor and Romana arrive, they learn the planet is in a crisis. The computer systems haven’t been functioning properly and there are cost overruns to deal with as well. There are also hidden consequences of the nuclear war that the Argolins are working on a solution for – a solution that may in the long run be worse than the problem.
An Earth agent arrives and offers to buy the planet outright. Unfortunately, he is a front for a race known as the Foamasi, who can live on the radiation-infected surface of the planet, but who were the foes of the Argolins in the nuclear war.
The newest “attraction” at the vacation destination is a regeneration generator. The generator kills one human in an apparent malfunction.
And you know what, there’s still more I could recap of the plot. The main problem with The Leisure Hive is it tries to cover too much ground in a short period of time. With a running time of 86 minutes, there was too much story to cover in too little time with the plot being so convoluted.
This story marked a change of series producers. This new direction John Nathan-Turner took the series, away from the comedy that marked the seasons before it and more toward drama, was made clear in the first few scenes with how he quickly disposes of K-9 for the entire story. The character would eventually be phased out altogether.
While The Leisure Hive was definitely meant to impress with the new tone of the show, it was too much too fast. There almost seemed to be a tone of superiority in the way things were handled; as if the last few seasons were somehow work that was beneath this new team. More to the point, the plot of the show is utterly confusing. David Fisher muddied the whole thing with way too much happening: plot points that just as you understood them got resolved, preaching about the morality of war and cloning, raising the issues of xenophobia and ageism. All of these subjects would have been fine taken one on one or even paired with another. All put together makes me scratch my head. I was thankful for the commentary as it provided me a second opportunity to watch the story arc and I felt like I picked up on a lot that I had missed previously.
What makes The Leisure Hive watchable are several factors. The first is the acting. The guest cast is impressive, especially the mother and son who fight over the fate of the planet. Lalla Ward was hardly my favorite companion to the Doctor, and I enjoyed the actress who originally portrayed Romana much more, but she grew on me quite a bit here. She shows concern without being just window-dressing to scream when things aren’t going well.
Tom Baker has to switch gears quickly from where he had the Doctor going during the previous season. Here, he is much more reserved and thoughtful, with the bombastic personality he had developed curtailed. Humor does ebb through at some moments, although I thought it could have allowed for more humor. With all of the plot to push through, though, I don’t suppose there was time. When the Doctor ages rapidly and multiplies later in the story, he handles it all well. I quite enjoyed Tom Baker as an elderly Doctor.
This brings me to what else was good – many of the effects. Yes, cheesy effects are what fans have grown to love in the series. Don’t worry – it hasn’t improved that much. But here the make-up is terrific and the sets look like they have been given more thought than being simply cobbled together to try to look like something other than a set on a soundstage.
While The Leisure Hive was definitely not my favorite Doctor Who adventure, I did find it entertaining. It’s not a DVD I would seek out again to watch multiple times as I can other story arcs, but it is decent. This is not a classic episode to start non-fans of the series watching to get an appreciation of the show back when many of us use to watch it originally. I would rate it probably one of the lowest of the DVDs that I’ve seen from the Tom Baker years.
• A New Beginning
• From Avalon to Argolis
• Information Text
• Synthesizing Starfields
• Leisure Wear
• Blue Peter Gallery
• Picture Gallery
• Who’s Who