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24 September 2014

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The Leisure Hive

Production Code: 5N

First Transmitted

1 - 30/08/1980 18:15

2 - 06/09/1980 18:20

3 - 13/09/1980 17:55

4 - 20/09/1980 18:15


The Doctor and Romana visit the Leisure Hive on the planet Argolis, the surface of which is uninhabitable following a twenty minute nuclear war between the Argolins and their enemies the Foamasi. The Argolins themselves are now sterile. Pangol, the youngest, was created by the Tachyon Recreation Generator, a machine that runs games in the Hive.

He now secretly plans to use the Generator, modified by an Earth scientist named Hardin, to recreate himself many times over, forming an army of duplicates to destroy the Foamasi. Pangol's mother Mena, the controller of the Hive, is meanwhile coming under pressure from a supposedly human financier, Brock, to sell it to the Foamasi.

Foamasi agents from their planet's government arrive and expose Brock and his assistant Klout as members of a renegade Foamasi group called the West Lodge. The Doctor then reconfigures the Generator equipment using components from the randomiser device previously linked to the TARDIS's navigation circuits, and Pangol's plan is foiled as he rejuvenates into a babe in arms.

Episode Endings

The Doctor enters the Recreation Generator to investigate but a Foamasi operates the controls, trapping him inside. As Romana tries to open the door, an image of the Doctor appears on a view screen and screams as its arms and lower torso are pulled off.

The Doctor agrees to help Romana and the Earth scientist Hardin test alterations made to the Recreation Generator. He enters the machine. Discovering on returning to Hardin's lab that the experiment is flawed, Romana hurries to stop it. She opens the door to the Generator to reveal the Doctor, who has aged immensely and now has a long white beard.

The Doctor, Romana, Hardin and two Foamasi enter the Argolin boardroom. One of the Foamasi advances on Brock and, despite his cries of terror, rips off his face and clothes to reveal another Foamasi.

The Doctor and Romana leave Argolis to sort out its problems, with Pangol rejuvenated to a baby and his mother Mena back in charge.


The Godfather and the Mafia.

Greek myth.

Blake's 7's Children of Auron.

Dialogue Triumphs

Pangol : [Speaking of the Recreation Generator.] "How did you get out?"

The Doctor : "Through a hole in the back."

Pangol : "But there isn't one."

The Doctor : "There is now."

Brock : "His scarf killed Stimson."

The Doctor : "Arrest the scarf then!"

Pangol : "I am the child of the Generator."


The Doctor undergoes 'treatment' in Hardin's rejuvenator. Romana hopes it will take 10 years off him, but it instead ages him around 500 years. The Doctor and Romana try to see the opening of the Brighton Pavilion but he gets both the century and season wrong. The Doctor observes that this is the second time he's missed this destination [see 'The Horror of Fang Rock'?].

Romana mentions over-riding the randomiser (see The Armageddon Factor), which is eventually left on Argolis. The Doctor again states that Gallifrey is 'an obscure planet in the constellation of Kasterborous' (see Pyramids of Mars).

K9 lists all known recreational planets for Romana, ending with 'Yegros Alpha: speciality, atavistic therapy of primitive asteroids. Zaakros: galaxy's largest flora collection... Zeen 4: historical re-enactments.' He is not immune to the effects of salt water.

Brock predicts bankruptcy for Argolis, citing the counter-attraction of planets like Limus 4 and Avidos (which are said to have 'non-gravity swimming pools', speed learning and robotic gladiatorial games).


The Doctor's Age



The Leisure Hive, Argolis, c.2290.

Future History

Argolis is the first of the leisure planets. In 2250 the planet (led by Theron) was all but destroyed by 2000 nuclear warheads (in 20 minutes) during a war with the reptilian Foamasi. The survivors, made sterile by the radiation, invented the science of tachyonics (this happened '40 years ago') and built the Leisure Hive with its Experiential Grid offering 'variable environments'.

There has been a 20 year moratorium on a reduplication programme which began around 2270 (Pangol was the only non-mutant child produced). Romana says this part of the galaxy doesn't discover 'unreal transfer' (a process for manipulating solid objects) until 2386.


K9 appears only at the start of the first episode. Klout, unusually, is credited on screen even though he is a non-speaking character.

There are new opening and closing title sequences, complete with 'neon tube' logo, designed by the BBC's Sid Sutton, accompanied by a new Peter Howell-arranged version of Ron Grainer's theme music.

A new TARDIS exterior prop makes its debut, this time made of fibreglass rather than of wood and, with its stacked roof arrangement, somewhat truer to the design of a genuine police box than the previous version (first seen in The Masque of Mandragora).

K9's original voice returns, actor John Leeson having been persuaded by John Nathan-Turner to reprise the role for this season.

This story features the first use in Doctor Who of the digital Quantel image processing system. Amongst the effects created by the use of this system was a moving shot of the TARDIS materialising on Argolis (whereas the 'roll back and mix' technique by which the materialisation was achieved normally necessitated a completely static shot).


The wires pulling K9 along the beach are visible in episode one.

The Doctor and Romana are able to comment on Hardin's experiment, despite having missed the hologram of it.

In episode two the top of the sonic screwdriver is nearly bent off.

Presumably the Foamasi have to put on corsets before they don the skin suits.

Why is everyone taken in by the phoney Brock's sudden acceptance of a seat on the board, and why is he (a West Lodge Foamasi) so interested in Hardin's experiments as a possible source of revenue when his interest is in the running-down of the Hive so that his group can buy it?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Romana - Lalla Ward

Voice of K9 - John Leeson

Foamasi - Andrew Lane

Generator Voice - Clifford Norgate

Guide - Roy Montague

Hardin - Nigel Lambert

Klout - Ian Talbot

Mena - Adrienne Corri

Morix - Laurence Payne

Pangol - David Haig

Stimson - David Allister

Tannoy Voice - Harriet Reynolds

Vargos - Martin Fisk


Director - Lovett Bickford

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Costumes - June Hudson

Designer - Tom Yardley-Jones

Executive Producer - Barry Letts

Film Cameraman - Keith Barton

Film Editor - Chris Wimble

Incidental Music - Peter Howell

Make-Up - Dorka Nieradzik

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Romey Allison

Production Unit Manager - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Christopher H Bidmead

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Duncan Brown

Studio Sound - John Howell

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Andrew Lazell

Writer - David Fisher

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'The dawn of the new Argolis.' A new direction for Doctor Who starts with some confidence. The Leisure Hive looks gorgeous thanks to the stylish sets and Lovett Bickford's imaginative, flashy visuals. This is part of Doctor Who's step away from its traditions of technobabble. A brave, if not altogether successful, experiment.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

With the coming of the eighteenth season it is as though Doctor Who has undergone a complete transformation. So many changes have been introduced by new producer John Nathan-Turner that the series is almost unrecognisable from the one that ended its previous run with The Horns of Nimon earlier the same year. The familiar 'time tunnel' title sequence so associated with Doctor Who has been dispensed with in favour of a more conventional 'journey through space' effect, while the famous Delia Derbyshire arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme music has given way to a more modern but less exceptional synthesiser version courtesy of Peter Howell. Dudley Simpson, whose highly distinctive incidental music was for so many years a staple ingredient of the series, has been superseded by the BBC's own Radiophonic Workshop composers.

The Doctor too has undergone a very noticeable change from the madcap wisecracker of recent years into a more sombre figure with a new, heavily stylised burgundy version of his traditional costume. Fan reaction to all these innovations has ranged from the ecstatic to the horrified, but one thing that no one can deny is that Nathan-Turner made his mark on the series right from the word go.

The Leisure Hive itself exhibits all the glitz of state-of-the-art early eighties television, with imaginative direction and camera work, impressive visual effects, wall-to-wall incidental music and a plot involving intrigue, mystery - and a lot of scientific gobbledegook. In fact, watching the story, it is hard to believe that it was commissioned as something of an emergency measure when it was discovered that no other suitable scripts were held in reserve in the Doctor Who office. As John Peel wrote in TARDIS Volume 5 Number 6 in 1981: 'Direction was tight and gave a marvellous air of sophistication to the show, costumes (especially those of the Argolin) were faultless, effects were pleasing, for the most part... In fact, only one thing marred this story for me, and that was the total lack of any rational explanations for anything.'

Director Lovett Bickford's decision to eschew the normal multiple camera recording technique of studio television and proceed instead by way of a succession of single camera set-ups, as on a film production, paid dividends in terms of the story's lavish and detailed visuals - as well as causing it to go over budget. His careful presentation of the Foamasi, relying on close-ups of their eyes, claws, feet and so on rather than showing them in their entirety, was wise as it helps to maintain the tension and avoids exposing too much the rather serious limitations of the costumes. The sequence at the beginning of Part Four in which the Foamasi impersonating Brock and his assistant Klout are stripped of their human disguises - a rather daft idea bearing in mind that, as with Scaroth in the previous season's City of Death, the creatures are clearly somewhat larger than humans - provides perhaps the best illustration of the success of this approach, as the rapid intercutting of a series of close-ups effectively conveys the impression of what is supposed to be happening without it ever actually being seen.

Another aspect of the story's production that deserves particular praise is the make-up used for Tom Baker in the scenes after the Doctor has been unnaturally aged by the Recreation Generator. This is simply magnificent, perfectly complementing Baker's restrained and totally believable performance as an older version of his Doctor. In fact all the actors give a good account of themselves in this story. Adrienne Corri's performance as Mena is perhaps the best amongst the guest cast, being suitably dignified and stoical, although - strangely enough, given that he has no dialogue - Ian Talbot's creepy, unsettling portrayal of Klout is also particularly memorable.

Fan reviews of The Leisure Hive have tended to be rather mixed, reflecting the aforementioned differences of opinion as to the merits of the changes introduced by the new producer. Chris Dunk, writing in Ark in Space No. 5, dated Spring 1981, was highly enthusiastic: 'It gave what the [series] needed - a change in direction - and the credit for this must go almost totally to... John Nathan-Turner. To interfere with such an institution as Doctor Who is a tricky business, but he grabbed it firmly, and successfully, by the horns...'

Tim Robins, on the other hand, tore the story apart in The Doctor Who Review Issue Seven in 1980: 'I'm truly sorry. I tried to like The Leisure Hive, but however hard I tried, the inconsistencies, the flaws, the plodding plot kept nagging at the back of my mind. Terrance Dicks is quoted as saying that [Doctor Who] is the only science-fiction series to successfully make the genre accessible to the general public at large. Alas, The Leisure Hive hardly did that.' One aspect of the story that Robins particularly disliked was the closing scene of Part Four, which he found to be unduly flippant and totally out of keeping with what had preceded it: 'It seemed to me as if everyone realised that The Leisure Hive had been too heavy-going and hoped to make up for it in the last few minutes, chucking characterisation out of the window in the process.'

The Leisure Hive was the last individual Doctor Who story to come under the scrutiny of the BBC's Audience Research Department. Most of those whose views were recorded were apparently pleased to see the series back, and their reactions were generally positive: 'The majority... derived a fair amount of enjoyment from the episodes of the story they had seen, the storyline being described as "intriguing", "compulsive", "exciting" and "tense" in various areas of the sample audience. There were viewers who thought that this story was below the usual standard for Doctor Who: some people found it hard to follow, while others considered it unexciting.

Nevertheless, most of those reporting regarded the story as welcome escapism and found it very entertaining.' Tom Baker's performance was once more 'rated very highly' and Lalla Ward was also praised, although there was still 'some criticism of her acting ability'. Particular praise was also accorded to the overall standard of production: 'The production clearly impressed those reporting: the special effects were rated very highly and several people considered these the most important part of the programme. Praise was also accorded to the make-up, costumes and sets. Apart from some viewers who considered that few new ideas had been demonstrated in this production or described the series as a "mere special effects show", most people appreciated the series for its visual interest.'

From the general viewing public at least, then, a ringing endorsement of John Nathan-Turner's efforts to improve the look of Doctor Who and thereby, as he often put it, to 'bring it into the 1980s'.

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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