Season of 18 of Doctor Who brought a few changes to the series, precipitated by the arrival of new producer and show runner, John Nathan-Turner. We are introduced to a new opening credits sequence with a new version of the theme, the Doctor (Baker) is outfitted in shades of burgundy, and the stories tend to play a little more seriously than before.
The Leisure Hive, a four part story, got things underway on the 30th of August, and wrapped up on the 20 September, 1980. It was written by David Fisher, and opens with the Doctor, Romana (Lalla Ward) and K9 on ‘holiday’ in Brighton.
When Romana suggests leaving Brighton and traveling to Argolis to enjoy one of the Leisure Hives, the find themselves caught up in a takeover plan of the planet by their enemies the Foamasi. They are aided in their efforts by Pangol (David Haig), the young son of one of the leaders of Argolis where Leisure is their business.
The Foamasi are a reptilian species and want the planet for their own, able to survive on the planet’s surface without need of any of the Argolan’s contructs, sabotaging the Hive and those who live and work there. The Argolans love their leisure work but, as a species, they are dying, due to the effects of the war with the Foamasi upon them.
The Argolans are experimenting with tachyons in their new business ventures and also to rejuvenate their failing species, and with Romana’s help they think they solve the problems, but when the Doctor allows himself to be experimented upon, he begins to age rapidly, predicting the possible fate of the rest of the planet. With the Doctor seemingly incapacitated, it seems like a good time for Pangol, who holds a dangerous and frightening revelation about his existence, and the Foamasi to make their final move. But are the Foamasi the real enemy? Or is there more at work here?
The story is played straight, there is little banter, but it races along, and is engaging. It’s not a bad turn for Baker’s Doctor, as he puzzles out what is really going on and Pangol’s involvement and finds a way to restore himself.
The story, however, doesn’t necessarily have the sense of adventure that previous stories have had, and it feels like it’s suffering from budgetary cuts, something the series was always plagued by, but it seems more readily apparent this time around. Set designs are loose, and unappealing, and it seems most of the budget went to the Argolans’ look and the aged makeup for the Doctor.
And so begins the final season of Tom Baker’s Doctor, before it is finished, we’ll see new companions join his travels in the TARDIS, and there will be a regeneration.
But before that happens, the Doctor will be joined by a previous companion – Jacqueline Hill returning to play a different character, and he will have to confront Meglos!