OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 533
STORY NUMBER: 110
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 06 September 1980
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Lovett Bickford
SCRIPT EDITOR: Christopher H. Bidmead
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive
The Doctor escapes from the Tachyon Generator, what Romana saw having been just a Tachyon projection. The Doctor is taken to meet the newly arrived Hardin & Chairwoman Mena: he is persuaded into assisting the scientist Hardin. Mena explains to the Doctor & Romana about the 20 minute war that devastated her world and how the hive was set up to give them shelter and promote understanding between species. Another fault occurs, leading Mena to explain that there have been a number of recent faults and they suspect sabotage. She tells them that the Argolins are sterile as she herself begins the process of dying. Hardin refuses to demonstrate his process for Brock and tries to keep the Doctor & Romana away from the equipment. When Romana tells Hardin the equipment could be used to save Mena's life he confesses that his experiments don't work and he had been forced to pretend otherwise by backer Stimson. Stimson seeks out Brock, but finds a skin suit of Brock's lawyer, Klout, hanging in the cupboard. Stimson is killed by an unseen creature. The Doctor interrogates the Tachyon Generator's computer before being summoned: the Argolins have found his scarf wrapped round the neck of Stimson's corpse. Hardin's modified equipment struggles even with Romana's modifications. It temporarily runs back an hour glass but once unobserved it explodes. The Doctor is tried for Stimson death. Pangol is suspicious of Hardin's work and the Doctor volunteers to test the modifications to the Tachyon Generator having a couple of decades shaved off his age. Romana finds that the test failed but is too late to stop the test the Doctor is involved in: when the Tachyon Generator is opened the Doctor is incredibly aged.
Hmm, that ticked along nicely while I watched it but now a few hours later there's little that stands out. Yes the business with the scarf (Brock: His scarf killed Stimson. The Doctor: Arrest the scarf then.) is quite funny, and sticks out in the new, humour depleted version of Doctor Who, and the aged Fourth Doctor is a decent cliffhanger and a decent bit of make up.
Joining new producer John Nathan-Turner is script editor Christopher H. Bidmead (who you can follow on Twitter). Nathan-Turner and Bidmead both wanted a much more serious version of Doctor Who, feeling that in recent times it had all got a bit too silly. While the appearance of the Major Bloodnok's Stomach sound effect in Horns of the Nimon is a step too far, I don't think the humour in general was too much. I certainly don't think that the Nathan-Turner/Bidmead version of Doctor Who was quite what the public were looking for at the time. In fact, in the wake of the summer's release of The Empire Strikes Back what I think they wanted was spectacular space battle. And, as we saw yesterday, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was serving that up on the other side and had nicked a further 0.9 million of Doctor Who's viewers between last week and this.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking against Bidmead and Nathan-Turner this early just for the sake of it. In fact three of my favourite Doctor Who stories make up the tale end of this season. I'm just not sure they were making the right choices to start with, so not giving what the public was expecting, IE The Tom Baker show, and indeed what they really wanted, dramatic space battles with lasers. If anything I think ESB was more of a game changer for Doctor Who than Star Wars was. Following Star Wars, Doctor Who had 3 very successful years. Following ESB it got destroyed in the ratings, couldn't do sci fi humour because Douglas Adams was doing it with Hitch-hikers, couldn't do the effects to Star Wars standards because it didn't have the money did and, partly as a result of loosing it's family audience to Buck Rogers & partly through wanting to be more serious, ended up appealing to a more niche fan market. Around this time Ian Levine's hanging round the production office and becomes the series unofficial continuity adviser, further moving the show into the fans territory and out of the area of family drama appealing to the general public. This will cause problems further down the line the root of which are some of the decisions being made here. But, given where the new production team find themselves, they aren't necessarily the wrong decisions at the time....