Monday 7 May 2012

532 The Leisure Hive Part One

EPISODE: The Leisure Hive Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 30 August 1980
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Lovett Bickford
SCRIPT EDITOR: Christopher H. Bidmead
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive

The Doctor is trying to catch the opening of the Brighton Pavilion, but they've arrived on Brighton beach in the middle of winter. K-9 is damaged trying to fetch a ball from the Sea and Romana insists they go elsewhere, to visit the Leisure Hive on Argolis, built by the Argolin survivors of a nuclear war between Argolis & the Foamasi. The Leisure Hive is struggling financially and it's chairman Morix is dying. Their Earth agent Brock has had an offer to buy the entire radioactive planet from the Foamasi. Outside the Leisure Hive several creatures attempt to tunnel their way in. The Doctor & Romana arrive to see a demonstration of Argolis' Tachyon science from the youngest Argolin Pangol. His Mother Mena arrive on Argolis to take over the chairmanship from the deceased Morix. An accident occurs during Pangol's demonstration of the recreation generator, killing a visitor. The Doctor investigates and is taken for the Earth scientist Hardin, who has been conducting experiments for Mena. The Doctor & Romana accidentally see the recording of the experiments and are convinced they're faked. They attempt to leave, and return to the Tardis, but he Doctor's curiosity is piqued by the Recreation Generator and he is trapped inside. A figure manipulates the controls and Romana sees him being ripped apart on the Generator's viewscreen.

Where do you start with this? Well I think the first thing it's necessary to do is point out that the show has a new producer, John Nathan-Turner. He'd started working on the series during Patrick Troughton's last year as a floor assistant eventually becoming production manager at the end of Tom Baker's third season. In that role he had masterminded the trip to Paris to film City of Death abroad and had become Graham Williams preferred choice to succeed him. Williams' superior, Graeme MacDonald. had preferred the experienced George Gallacio, the previous production manager, so as a compromise Barry Letts returned to Executive Produce the series over Jon Nathan-Turner, in his first job as producer. Gallacio, meanwhile, went on to produce the highly successful Miss Marple series which is great fun for spotting Doctor Who cast members in. Nathan-Turner arrived with a list of things he wanted to change.

The most obvious thing he changed is the title sequence: we big goodbye to the Tunnel sequence that's been with us for six years (and in a slightly different form for a year before that). Instead we get an animated sequence involving moving through a starfield, with the stars forming first the Doctor's face then the new logo. Thematically it's similar to the previous sequence with the idea of travelling being common to both sequences and the going towards concept of the opening titles and the receding from with the closing titles. This titles sequence, with a couple of modifications, will be with us for the next six years.

Alongside the new titles a new version of the theme music was recorded, whose end version now permanently includes the middle eight which for the last few years has only been heard on the six part stories. I'd never heard it before and was shocked by this new piece of music suddenly appearing in the middle of the Doctor Who music. I love this version of the theme and think it's aged wonderfully well. The theme was re-arranged by Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the Radiophonic workshop now become responsible for the incidental music for the show with John Nathan-Turner dispensing with the services of the series regular composer Dudley Simpson, who he felt was producing scores that all sounded the same. Oddly I hear the Leisure Hive score now and immediately think of the music for The TV version of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the Radiophonic Workshop's Paddy Kingsland, who'll score four of the eight stories this season/

Then we have the opening of the episode.... a long tracking cinematic shot over Brighton beach: I timed it and it lasts from 00:37-02:16! That's an awful lot of an 25 minute episode used up in one shot. There's one other peculiar shot in the episode, and that's used twice: The shuttle coming into land. The only way you know what's going on is the voice over telling you the shuttle is landing: the visuals show an object moving towards you but there's no way you can tell what it is! But apart from these oddities the episode isn't bad. Yes it looks & sounds different, and perhaps it's a little slow & talky but it wouldn't be the first episode like that!

Sadly there's one moment in the episode that totally takes you out of it now, but it's something that wouldn't have been an issue at the time. The time experiment demonstrating is narrated by Nigel Lambert, in his role as the scientist Hardin, and it sounds *exactly* like the narration he uses for the first series of Look Around You. If you've not seen this, or don't own a copy, then buy one now as it's fabulous.

The only location filming for this story takes place in this episode with Brighton Beach, close to the new producer's home, serving as itself. Also seen only in this episode is Laurence Payne, as chairman Morix, who was Johnny Ringo in The Gunfighters, and will be Dastari in The Two Doctors.

The rating for this episode is worth looking at: 5.9 million viewers, lower than the lowest rating for the previous season. By contrast Horns of Nimon episode 4 had 10.4 million viewers. The same night ITV was showing (thank you Encyclopaedia of TV Science Fiction) the first episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Planet of the Slave Girls shown in the UK as a single 105 minute episode. Yes I know the Awakening is the first actual episode of Buck Rogers: ITV showed this on first. Buck Rogers was networked by ITV: all the ITV stations in the UK were showing it nationwide at the same time and this has a crippling effect on Doctor Who's viewing figures for the first five stories of the season. I can remember watching the original airing of Buck Rogers: by contrast I had no idea a new season of Doctor Who had started and the first I saw of it was a small amount of one of the Full Circle episodes, and then picked up watching regularly from Warrior's Gate.

This is also the start of a massive run of episodes on DVD for us: We will watch at least the next One Hundred & Fifty Two episodes on DVD but, depending on when Greatest Show in The Galaxy is released, it may well be DVD for all the remaining One Hundred & Seventy One episodes of Doctor Who. And the one of K-9 & Company. Speaking of K-9, this is the episode where John Leeson returns as the dog's voice, after a year off. OK, this is the only episode of the story he's in.....

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