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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive [DVD]
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on 26 March 2010
In many ways "The Leisure Hive" is as enjoyable as any late-Tom Baker Dr Who. The story is solid, so is the script. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward turn in fine performances (I've almost forgiven Lalla Ward for replacing Mary Tamm). By and large the direction is good and keeps up a brisk pace. The only real exception (and unfortunately it's a biggie) is the opening establishing shot on Brighton beach which is self-indulgently arty and goes on forever. Another plus is the demise of K9.

On the down side we get the first hint of dreadful things to come as the question marks appear on the Doctor's collar. If Tom Baker had quietly taken John Nathan-Turner off into a broom cupboard for a talk on the nature of cheese so much misery could have been avoided. The title comes to seem odd, as we never actually get to see much in the way of leisure going on, and the idea that a Foamasi could be disguised as a human being by wearing a rubber suit seems a little unlikely. In one of the excellent documentaries that come with the story it is said that Nathan-Turner wanted to do away with "magic boxes that can do anything" in favour of a more "sciencey" approach. Ironically, in this, his first story, the Generator fills exactly the role of a a magic box that can do anything through the power of "tachyonics".

Much is made of this being Nathan-Turner's first story and of his "new-broom" approach. Part of this approach is visible in the new title sequence which was intended to be more up-to-date. Unfortunately nothing dates faster than "up-to-date", and to these eyes they seem cheap and naff.
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on 7 February 2010
At the beginning of the 1980s Dr Who went through significant changes, including a re-arranged title theme and new 'journey through space' title sequence. I have to say this story certainly looks and sounds great. The first few minutes have a real movie-like quality about them.

The rest of the adventure, however, is pretty spotty. The story, concerning trouble at a leisure complex involving time manipulation and a group of mysterious reptile-people, moves at quite a slow pace. There's the occasional effect which doesn't quite work. For example, I wasn't certain what that docking ship was supposed to be the first time I saw it. It looked more like the inside of some machinery. On the plus side, Tom Baker's Doctor is back to being the darker character he was in earlier stories rather than the figure of fun he so often was in the late 1970s. There are also some good cliffhangers. So overall a pretty slow-moving tale which nevertheless has its moments. The interesting documentary, concerning the changes made to the show in 1980, helps make this purchase worthwhile if nothing special.
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on 5 September 2014
I can remember watching this when I was 8 years old back in 1980-I had been a fan of the series since seeing the Zygons a few years before.Remember the new 80's music and titles and the start of the story with the doctor and Romana on brighton beach!Have been there since a few times to see where the scene was filmed-you can see the old pier in the background which was sadly burned down not that long after the story was broadcast.The scene which has stuck with me was the episode 1 cliffhanger where it seems the doctor has been pulled apart on a scanner screen!His arms,legs and head fly away from his body before the new end titles start up!Tom Baker will always be my favourite doctor and I have now bought all of his stories on DVD to watc again and again!
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on 23 January 2011
This is Jonathan Nathan Turner's (JNT) first story as producer of Doctor Who, and things are looking different:
- A new outfit for Tom Baker
- A re-vamped theme tune and opening sequence
- Removal of comic one-liners
- New incidental music
- Weird science that is now based on scientific fact
Furthermore, JNT's open dislike of K9 is evident in the opening sequence - where the mechanical dog meets an explosive encounter with the English Channel!
But is the story any good? Well, it's not that bad. The basic premise concerns a race of people on the planet Argolis that have survived a nuclear war with the reptilian Foamasi- the only problem is that the Argolians are now sterile and so are dying out! Argolis is now a tourist planet, attracting visitors to see the Leisure Hive where they can see Tachyonics in action - weird science that can duplicate and manipulate organic matter. But all is not well - humans have come to exploit a failing economic situation; the Argolians are desperate for Tachyonics to provide for the ongoing survival of their species; and renegade factions of Foamasi are on the loose. And added to this mix are the Doctor and Romana who get caught up in a sensitive diplomatic situation that is fuelled by murder and corruption. All in all, an interesting story that develops at a good pace with some excellent cliff hangers. Tom Baker is obviously no longer enjoying his role, and reports of personality clashes on set obviously contribute to his slightly lacklustre performance. But don't let that put you off - there is plenty here to entertain and surprise!
Finally, there are some excellent extras on this DVD, including a feature on the changes that were introduced by JNT, a look at the costume design and trip with Blue Peter to Longleat!
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on 30 July 2016
I found The Leisure Hive to be of one of the better late 4th Doctor serials, in fact I would maybe have it highly ranked as one of my favorite classic Dr Who stories. I found this to be a major step up in comparison to the weaker 2 seasons (barring Pirate Planet and City of Death). There are major changes to production as several people say, but I say thats for the better as well and gives it a fresh look, esp as I was a bit hesitant of getting this, again this was due to the previous 2 seasons feeling very rough and not as engaging.

This is an excellent serial to add to your Dr Who collection, esp if you never watched this before and getting into classic Dr Who (like I am)
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on 22 February 2012
When on 30th August 1980 episode 1 of the The Leisure Hive went out, regular viewers of Doctor Who were in for a shock. The iconic "journey through the time vortex" title sequence by Bernard Lodge had been replaced with a more formulaic journey through space, seen in countless other sci-fi shows. The haunting theme music by Delia Derbyshire had been replaced by a more twinkly "disco" version by Peter Howell. Then the opening scene on Brighton Beach (the new producer - John Nathan Turner's - town) which pans across a windswept beach of empty deck chairs for nearly 5 minutes with no dialogue. Then we see our eponymous hero- now in a burgundy version of his costume - snoring away in a deck chair. Art imitating reality, this was to set the mood for the whole show.

Worse to come. K9, much loved by younger viewers, is sent off to trundle after a beach ball by Romana (to a horrendously tiny version of "Oh I do like to be Beside the Seaside") and explodes in the English Channel. When Romana retrieves him from the sea, he is a wreck: covered in seaweed and no longer operational.

In just five minutes all of JNT's changes to the production are introduced and the imagery of a snoring Doctor and broken K9 ,in JNT's back yard, provide an ironic metaphor for what the show had now become: a boring, broken snoozathon.

I've struggled to find anything nice to say about this story because it typifies JNT's approach to Doctor Who: it's just terribly dull and boring. Tom looks bored; K9 (and the humour he provided) is absent; and I can't for the life of me make out the "superior production" that people refer to:

- the lighting is terrible throughout this serial, save for a few short scenes
- the costumes of the Fomasi and just as unconvincing as anything seen in the previous season
- the whole production takes place against a backdrop of white sprayed garage doors!
- horrible incidental music that as another review notes: "like an Ultravox B-side". The whole thing screams 1980s, when Doctor Who was meant to be timeless.

Yes there is some beautiful photography in this - the opening panning shot on Brighton Beach is superb, but this really belongs in an art-house movie, not Doctor Who, when you consider there was no dialogue for nearly 5 minutes into the show. There is also a beautiful scene where the Doctor, Romana and Madame Chairman are looking out into the radioactive wasteland that is Argolis and it's beautifully framed and lit.

Tom Baker is fantastic as a much older version of the 4th Doctor - both in his performance and movements but also the make-up which is superb. Again though, an ironic metaphor- he looks like the audience feels - tired and bored.

Changes are not necessarily a bad thing though - the problem here is that JNT misunderstood the show. When he says he "wanted to bring the show into the 1980s" did he really understand the show? He wasn't making a period piece of contemporary television, more a sci-fiction series not of this world. By rooting the music, production techniques and so on so firmly in that era, he rooted the show firmly of that era. Thus later in the season in "State of Decay" set in a quasi-medieval setting - we get the same twinkly synth music and not suitable medieval music for the piece.

JNT removed all the mystery from the series. We no longer have a journey through time for the titles; now a journey in space. We've seen it before in Star Trek, Star Wars and countless other sci-fi shows. The Doctor now wears '?' on his lapels. This didn't make the lead character mysterious; it just made him look like a comic-strip hero. The US shows are always fond of unsubtly identifying their heroes: "look kiddies - can you make out Superman? He's the one with 'S' on his shirt! Can you make out Batman? He's the one with the bat on his shirt!" So we now have "can you make out the Doctor? He's the one with '?' on his shirt!"

JNT also appears to be patronising the younger audience with the use of bright colours throughout this show - a hallmark of his era. Russell T. Davies once said you should never patronise children when making TV for them. JNT misunderstood them, by removing an element they adored (K9 - there was such an outcry that he came back in a pilot for his own show), whilst at the same time making Doctor Who sets look like the Playschool studio.

The restoration of this serial is superb however. A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix - the only Tom Baker story to get this treatment -is great in places. The theme music particularly is good as the titles fly out of the screen and the accompanying audio wushes over your head. The scene also of weightless squash is good, as the ball bounces off various walls and reverberates across the surround speakers. Some dialogue is not crystal clear though, as they didn't always have clean audio available.

The picture restoration is superb too - looking probably better now than on transmission. One of the aspects the restoration has allowed the restoration team to revisit is the colour grading, so that the presentation looks more colourful - in line with current production values, rather than the "washed out" colour we were used to in the 1970s/ early 1980s. Of particular note is the new titles sequence, where you can see the stars in all their refracted rainbow glory; the blacks deep black, and the closing white-out explosion, now devoid of any film dirt or noise (something never possible on 1st transmission). 5* for the restoration.

The extras are the best you will ever see for a JNT story I think. With so many new initiatives at once, you have documentaries on the story, costume, music and title sequence. I used to think the titles were done on an early form of super-computer as CGI- not so. Something stunningly simple but effective: a star filter on a camera, travelling towards black card with back-lit pin-holes.

Of particular note is the excellent "A New Beginning" documentary which outlines both the making of this story and the new changes JNT introduced, with interviews with both Tom Baker and JNT included. So many interviewees tread a fine line between saying what they thought of JNT and not wanting to speak ill of the dead:

"John thought that he knew how to put stories together, and actually he didn't. John liked stories that essentially didn't work and had to be worked very hard on to make them work and he didn't like stories that I think would have been quite marvellous, something was lost as a result of that." - Christopher H. Bidmead

"The dog yes... I wanted shot of that" -JNT

"The character of K9... was a great success with the children" - Tom Baker

"John had asked for the new theme to have a 'discotheque' theme" -Peter Howell

"John was unusual as a producer, he was very young, he had not produced before, but his attitude was different from most producers" - June Hudson

The Leisure Hive was the Leisure Dive, and would sadly set the tone for the classic show's last decade.
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on 14 June 2017
Worst possible start to the JNT era in 1980, and Tom Baker's final season. Terrible story and slow moving plot.
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on 25 November 2016
Doctor Who entered the 1980s with a total revamp. A new title sequence coupled with new music and a subtle costume makeover for Tom Baker. The production team were keen to introduce more hard science elements to the series and to move away from the magic and monsters concept of past Doctor Who serials. The story itself works pretty well and is relatively fast paced. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are both on top form. The dvd contains the usual excellent set of extras that are the norm for Doctor Who dvd releases.
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on 2 December 2011
The Leisure Hive is a significant landmark story; the dawn of the final era of the original Doctor Who, which all bar 2 episodes is the 1980s or the John Nathan-Turner era (producer of nine seasons). 1980s Doctor Who generated great diversity in opinion at the time and arguably since, even for season 18 which had the stability of Tom Baker in the role for his final year.

Whatever can be said about the era it starts, The Leisure Hive boasts some of the very best incidental music and direction of the entire series. It is almost a different programme from the light-entertainment era preceding it. The title sequence and theme music are radically different. Tom Baker's costume is new and both the Doctor and Romana look stunning in their outfits (Romana's changes every story). The script is modern and fresh, the actors are notable and particularly good with both the humanoid Argolins and Chamelon-like Foamasi well-realised.

Helping run the programme is executive producer Barry Letts (Pertwee-era producer) and script editor Chris Bidmead who had a strong flair for science fact and therefore science fiction. It should have been the dawn of a great era. Sadly The Leisure Hive went seriously over-budget and the next story Meglos really suffered. The "science fiction" feel started in The Leisure Hive does remain throughout season 18 and is particularly noticeable in Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy (Full Circle / State of Decay / Warrior's Gate) [DVD].

In isolation, The Leisure Hive is made up of many above average to superb elements which make this a five-star story because it ticks many more boxes than stories around it; every time I watch this I am never disappointed. There are some great episode endings too. The Leisure Hive along with the three E-space stories (Full Circle, State of Decay and Warriors' Gate) make me wish we had more Doctor/Romana stories in the more serious, strong science fiction mould that season 18 brought.
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on 11 October 2003
John Nathan Turner said of this serial, which was his debut as producer, that it was his way of launching the series into the 80's and was going to show us what he wanted to do with it. Thankfully what he eventually did was better. I don't know what it is about this story but I don't like it. There are good things, the opening scenes on Brighton Beach and Tom Baker's aging as the Doctor and the majority of the guest cast play it seriously except for David Haig's Pangol which is a little OTT but somehow it really suffers from the overlighting that a lot of 80's stories suffered from, most notably Warriors Of The Deep, and the story just feels lame, which is strange because the Target Book version always led me to believe this was a good fast paced story so either David Fisher changed it when he wrote it or the production team made cuts on the original.
But whatever it is it doesn't work for me and after watching it I felt really dissappointed. Sorry JNT.
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