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The Doctor (Tom Baker) & Romana (Lalla Ward) are trying to go for a
holiday, but after their stay in Brighton Beach resulted in their robot dog K-9
(voice: John Leeson) being blown up when going into the water (there is no
further explanation, obviously robot dogs just explode when entering the sea
...), they decide to go to the relative safeness of the recreation planet
Argolis, otherwise known as the Leisure Hive.
Of course though not all
is as it seems: After their war against the Foamasi 40 years ago that
essentially destroyed their planet & only made in inhabitable in the
shielded city called the hive,
The Argolins have become sterile from the radiation & therefore a dying
race. So the lady Chairman Mena (Adrienne Corri) has decided to bet on time
manipulation with tachionic technology to rejuvinate Argolis' people - but the
earth scientists she has hired to do that prove to be frauds: Stimson (David
Allister), who helped finance the research proves to be a conman while his
partner Harding (Nigel Lambert) is essentially a benevolent but misguided
scientist in desperate need of funding.
But if that wasn't enough, earthmen Brock (John Collin) & Klout (Ian
Talbot) try to buy the Argolins out of their own planet due to financial
difficulties & sell it to their erstwhile enemies, the Foamasi - much to
the dismay of especially Pangol (David Haig), son of the Argolin chairwoman.
It seems however that the Doctor & Romana, specialists in the
manipulation of time since they are Timelords, are able to sort things out with
the tachionic apparatus ... but not to everyone's liking, as someone has killed
Stimson & pinned the murder on the Doctor.
As punishment the Doctor is forst to be the test dummy for the new
rejuvenation machine ... & comes out centureis older. & then even some
Foamasi (weird reptile creatures) show up, but ionstead of trying to make war
they merely are here to arrest Brock & Klout, who are not earthmen at all
but renegade Foamasi wanting to win a final vicory over the Argolins ...
& wouldn't you know it, this is where the problems begin, it
turns out that Pangol himself has sabotaged all the efforts to make the
rejuvenation machne work to see his mother die, take over from her and use the
technology of the Leisure Hive to make himself an army of Pangols.
Of course though the doctor interferes & instead of an army of his
clones, Pangol gets an army of unstable Doctor-clones (which by the way also
rejuvenates the Doctor again), & he manages to get both Pangol & his
mother (who is by now at the verge of dying) into the now functional
rejuvenation machine, & while Mena comes out considerably younger, Pangol
comes out a mere baby ...
The Leisure Hive marked the premier of John Nathan-Turner as the Doctor
Who's producer & his idea to revamp the show (by now already in its
18th season) manifold: The beautiful Ron Grainer title song was rearranged, the
title sequence re-shot - both in a very eighties way -, Tom Baker's typically
casual costume consisting of baggy old coats, older hats & a colourful
scrarf, was updated & given a very carefully designed all-dark-red look
(thjat didn'T sit too well with his rather casual handling of the role), &
the jokes, the absurdity & the genre bending of previous seasons
(especially season 17, when Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide through the
Galaxy-fame was script editor) were thrown out for very straight science
fiction stories with a much more restrained Tom Baker in the central role (he
quit after season 18).
Of course, the concept didn't really work, starting with the title- song
& -sequence that almost immediately sounded more dated than its
predecessors, also the absence of humour did make a convoluted & utterly
silly story like this one rather unbearable. Also budgetary restrints were a
litle too obvious to make this one work:The reptile-like Foamasi-costumes were
some of the worst reptile costumes ever (looking rather like very bad homemade
Halloween costumes), & the whole concept of a recreational planet for
tourists that is fought over is just thrown away when that planet proves to be
nothing more than a few corridors. & the restrained Tom Baker is not
exactly satisfying, for if you want a restrained
performance, why have an actor like Tom Baker, an outrageous but highly
enjoyable ham in his own right, in the first place ? ... as a consequence, in
season 19, Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davison (of All Creatures
Great and Small-fame), a fine actor in his own right, but definitely
lacking the weird Doctor-persona.
But why all this ? Rumour has it that John Nathan-Turner saw this the only
way to compete with the highly forgettable (& today thankfully forgotten) Buck
Rogers in the 25th Century-tv-series, which aired on ITV
the same time Doctor Who aired on BBC - & was luring
away its audiences ...