Review By Liam O Brien, 4 out of 5 The tenure of John Nathan-Turner as producer on DOCTOR WHO from 1980 to 1989 is a bone of contention here at SciFind. On one hand I love eighties WHO- its classy, clever stuff, colourful, inventive and boasts better visual effects than anything the show had seen before. Paul however, doesn? like much of it- perhaps the odd Colin Baker or Peter Davison, but he has no time for poor old Sylvester McCoy. So, as you read this review, remember I like the JN-T period, and, had Paul written this review, it may have played to a very different tune indeed. THE LEISURE HIVE is where the eighties began for DOCTOR WHO. Radically different from the previous season (an artistic nadir for the show, culminating in the woeful HORNS OF NIMON) the story is tense, clever, boasts a fantastic plot, premise and great make up work. The basic plot is this: after missing out on the opening of the Brighton Pavilion, the Doctor and Romana (the fantastic Lalla Ward, in her first DVD appearance) land the TARDIS on Argolis, inside the titular Leisure Hive where all sorts of things are about to happen?Sadly, K9 is written out at the start of this story (he would return in the next serial, MEGLOS, but was phased out by JN-T until his departure in WARRIORS GATE.)

Director Lovett Bickford got peoples backs up filming this story, as he decided it would be a good idea to film the four episode serial as a movie, with depth of field, long, methodical takes and great lighting and camera set ups. He adds a sheen of class to THE LEISURE HIVE, glossing over the odd problem with the story (the costumes of the Fomasi creatures are pretty poor, so he uses either extreme close ups or hides them in the shadows) and giving the whole thing a lift. The classy filmic direction really makes this feel like a work of strong quality, and is comparable to the work of Graeme Harper on THE CAVES ON ANDROZANI four years after this. The script, written by David Fisher, is a solid idea grounded in real science (tachyonics are science fact, not fiction) punctuated with daring ideas, great dialogue and characters. Foreshadowing something it would take another few years to try full on, Tom Bakers Doctor is more melancholic, more in the background. Its nothing as important as what would happen with the Seventh Doctor, but it was something that we rarely saw from Tom, and it makes a nice change, as does his plum red costume.

THE LEISURE HIVE not only boasts great direction, scripting and rich production work, but also has an inspired cast. David Haig as the fascist Pangol is brilliant, conveying a man (or Argolin) on the brink of madness, driven to this point by his views. Andrienne Corri as Mena and Nigel Lambert as Hardin also shine. As this was the first story of season 18, the first story with Nathan-Turner in command, it also features a few things worthy of note- for starters the move to having the Radiophonic Workshop provide the incidental music. In the future this could be a drawback- some of the stuff we get later in the series is garish noise, but the work of Peter Howell on THE LEISURE HIVE brilliant- and far more exciting and ?cience fictiony?than the work of Dudley Simpson (the guy who scored not only most of the seventies WHO stuff, but also the man who did the score to every episode of BLAKES 7). THE LEISURE HIVE was also the first to feature the new titles and theme music, replacing the old Bernard Lodge/Delia Derbyshire combination. The new theme would be heard up until REVELATION OF THE DALEKS while the actual visuals would stay until 1987 (obviously altered for the current Doctor- in Colin Bakers case it was lit up like an amusement arcade, making it as garish as the Sixth Doctors costume). The ?ew?titles are brilliant, doing everything they were supposed to do for JN-T and ensuring that it gives the series an outer space adventures feel. Overall then, THE LEISURE HIVE is a classy bit of wonderfully scripted and acted DOCTOR WHO. It was a great start to the eighties, like it (me) or loathe it (Paul).

THE EXTRAS: The centre piece of this disc is ? New Beginning?a documentary looking at the changes JN-T brought in when he began- mature enough to include criticism. This is backed up by ?rom Avalon To Argolis?which discusses the writing of the story; ?ynthesising Starfields? a look at the creation of the new titles; ?eisure Wear? which talks to the costume designer, June Hudson, a Blue Peter excerpt from 1980 a photo gallery and all the usual stuff. The commentary, featuring Lalla Ward, Lovett Bickford and script editor Chris Bidmead is revealing and critical. Bidmead is not afraid of asking questions and saying if he thinks things worked or not. He makes some good points and some bad, while Bickford explains how he tried to shoot THE LEISURE HIVE as a movie with limited time and budget. Lalla Ward is the most interesting participant in that she is witty, clever and tells us where and when in the story she and Tom Baker were and weren? talking. The story also comes with a 5.1 remix courtesy of WHO sound wunderkind Mark Ayres that is always welcome- it sounds as good as a story of this type can. Overall, a great package, again putting major studio releases to shame by being quality and well worth your money- give it a shot.


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