Another adventure for everyone's favourite Time Lord. The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana take a holiday on the planet Argolis, in the giant pleasure dome known as the Leisure Hive. Unbeknown to them, Pangol, the son of the Argolin leader Mena, is planning to provoke a war with their age-old enemies the Foamasi, using the Tachyon Recreation Generator to create an army of duplicates of himself.
It's hardly surprising that the Beeb take so long releasing DVDs in the Doctor Who
series when they're as highly polished and as carefully selected as The Leisure Hive
. Particularly significant in terms of the series' history, this sequence marked an end to Who
's descent into vaudeville, and heralded the entrance of hotshot, new-broom Series Producer, John Nathan-Turner.
The opening long, slow pan across a wintry beach, on which an autumnal Doctor sits slumped, immediately declares the show's serious intentions. The narrative itself is an erudite discussion on fascism and racism taking in regeneration, megalomania, cloning and a series of Agatha Christie-esque murders. It's the style, rather than the story, however, that's foregrounded in The Leisure Hive: along with his new sober approach, Nathan-Turner brought a new theme tune, a new logo, a new striking red costume and a new title sequence--one that, tellingly, moved away from the enclosed time tunnel to show the vastness of space opening up. Productions values are similarly high: the Quantel effects are impressive even now, and the performances are quite stunning, particularly Baker's as the prematurely aged, infirm Doctor.
By dispensing with the clowning and with what he termed "Douglas Adams' undergrad humour", Nathan-Turner reinvigorated a show that was becoming stale. The diegetic rebirth brought about by the Regeneration Drive at the show's denouement is an apposite motif, emblematic of the rebirth of the show itself--The Leisure Hive truly represented a new beginning for Who.
On the DVD: the images, colours and new 5.1 sound are all impressive, as are the abundance of extras. "A New Beginning" features a rare interview with Baker himself, and "From Avalon to Argolis" indulges in some very satisfying back-biting. There's also a nostalgia-inducing contemporaneous clip of an impossibly young Blue Peter presenter looking genuinely frightened by the exhibits of the then-great Longleat Doctor Who Exhibition. --Paul Eisinger
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