My Season 18 boxset has arrived, and with it a new series of reviews! Join me as I journey into uncharted territory and watch and review Tom Baker’s final season as the Fourth Doctor. First up: “The Leisure Hive”.
Right from the opening scene, a seemingly-endless pan over Brighton Beach, I knew this story was to be a special one, at least on a visual level. From the wonderfully-shot model of the Leisure Hive itself, to the special effects of the Tachyon Recreation Generator machine, Lovett Bickford has made this episode look dynamic, modern and sleek. Along with the upscaled quality of the BluRay, his direction renders The Leisure Hive an absolutely stunning watch.
The story itself deals with the rather gritty themes of nuclear war and extinction, as well as explaining to the uninitiated the concept of the tachyon. All of this seriousness is complemented by a great sense of fun, however, with some comedic moments peppered throughout the story which bring it to life.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on top form, though I felt them to be a little underused in this episode. The dourness often ascribed to the Fourth Doctor in this season is indeed present, but I feel that this didn’t harm the story in any way, and the character still got to express some of his trademark goofiness in some scenes. Romana, I feel, was reduced to the role of the stereotypical companion here, asking questions and running about, but she does get to shine in a few scenes, particularly those where she’s working on the Generator with Nigel Lambert‘s Hardin.
The guest characters are all well-played, with Adrienne Corri‘s Mena and David Haig‘s Pangol proving particularly impressive. Their performances amplify the strong worldbuilding writer David Fisher gives to the Argolin people and their world, elevating them beyond the usual Classic Who alien.
What lets this story down most is the Foamasi. While, conceptually, they’re a great idea (intelligent lizards who aren’t stereotypical villains), I felt that the execution was incredibly lacking. In contrast with the stunning design of the Argolins, the Foamasi suits are cumbersome and clearly just costumes. Furthermore, the notion that these bulky things can disguise themselves as humans is absolutely ridiculous!
A great start to a new era of Doctor Who, combining hard science with a sense of playfulness. The design elements and direction are wonderful, but the story is let down by its sidelining of the regulars and the realisation of the Foamasi.