Aug. 23rd, 2018

purplecat: The Fourth Doctor (Who:Four)
The Leisure Hive is mostly discussed, in fan conversation, with regard to the marked constrast between it and The Horns of Nimon, the preceding story.

There is a marked difference between the two, though it is probably worth noting that The Horns of Nimon is among the silliest of Tom Baker's stories (mileage may vary on whether it is delightful or embarrassing) and would always have contrasted strongly with anything attempting to be even a little more serious. The Leisure Hive is a little more serious but it still has moments of charm and whimsey and I'm not sure the viewing audience would have been as aware of the contrast as some like to think. It doesn't have the pantomime DNA of The Horns of Nimon (but The Horns of Nimon wasn't exactly typical) but it is hardly grim or dour either.

The story is stuffed full of ideas and has, on occasion, been held up as signifying not only a more serious approach to Doctor Who but also a more scientific approach. It has to be said, I'm even less convinced about this. While it is a matter of record that the production team of the time felt that Doctor Who had become too "undergraduate humour" (signifying, I suppose, that they felt it was both too silly and too self-consciously elitist in its silliness) I don't see a huge difference between The Leisure Hive's plethora of different ideas and, frankly, Douglas Adams' tendency to throw as many ideas around as possible.

In The Leisure Hive we are given a dying society, evil monsters that aren't, vague mafia shenanigans, and time travel technology that isn't. It has interesting world building and plenty going on and all the pre-requisites of a solid, if not great, Doctor Who story. Sadly, overall, it is a little underwhelming. This may be because it has a bad guy who lacks real charisma, or perhaps because much of the heart of the drama takes place in a boardroom. It may be Tom Baker's distinctly subdued performance - particularly in the episode he spends as an old aged (but thankfully not Dobby-Like) version of himself and, if anything, it is Baker's performance that is the most dramatic change from the Graham Williams' era.

At the end of the day I think it is a shame The Leisure Hive as a story is over-shadowed by the behind-the-scenes drama of a change of production team and a change of direction. It is a perfectly functional tale which does not, on the face of it, feel particularly out of step with what had gone immediately before. In fact its very indistinctness seems to doom it to be remembered more for what the production team said it signified than for what it actually was.

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