The leisure hive (1980)
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This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 30th August - 20th September 1980. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Doctor and Romana decide to visit the Leisure Hive on Argolis for a few days to see the sights and meet new people. Among the people they meet are the Argolin, a dying race who are locked in the Leisure Hive since they can't survive outside, and the Foamasi, who are busy making the Argolin an offer they can't refuse.
The good news:
- new producer, new script editor, new title sequence, new version of the title music, all-electronic incidental music by a new composer, new costume for the Doctor, new technology having become available so the makers could use computer-enhanced images for the first time. Even if not all of these changes were equally successful, it's nice to see the series trying to take a new direction
- the serial is visually interesting, with bold shapes and colours and some unusual shots (like the ones where the use of colour suggests that we move through a wall from the exterior to the inside of the Hive)
- we see several characters age rapidly in this story. This is difficult to do believably, but both the actors and the make-up artists succeed here
- there's good acting, both from the regulars and the supporting cast, and there are some nice, well-rounded supporting characters
- in the Argolin and the Foamasi, the serial tries to give us two alien races with their own history and culture. Even where it doesn't quite succeed, the level of ambition is admirable
The not so good news:
- the model work and the computer generated images are hit-or-miss. Some effects, like the squash game and the fake rejuvenation process in part one, work well. Others, like the Doctor appearing to fall apart and anything that involves shuttles arriving at or leaving the Hive, don't
The even less good news:
- after the long, intriguing opening scene the sight of K9 blowing itself up while attempting to fetch a ball from the sea is disappointing, even if its demise was probably a good thing
- the Foamasi look like guys in lizard-suits. Even in the first few episodes, when all we see of them are some very brief extreme close-ups, their eyes look like beads set inside rolls of green fabric and their claws and feet seem to belong to some child's toy. Since much of the tension in these episodes is supposed to come from the glimpses that we get of the Foamasi creeping up on the Argolin, this is bad
- the story has some gaping plot holes. For instance - and beware, spoilers ahead here - why does Romana decide that the Foamasi who creeps up on her in the laboratory is a good guy, even if she can't understand a word he says? Why does the dead guy have the Doctor's scarf tied around his neck, and how did the scarf get there? Why do Romana and the Argolin chief scientist rush out of the laboratory when their attempt to reverse time appears to be succeeding, without waiting to check whether it actually is? Why does the failed attempt to rejuvenate the Doctor, that apparently nobody is able to stop, leave him old rather than either regenerated or dead of old age? How do you mend a high-tech device by throwing an ancient helmet at it?
- speaking of the high-tech device, throughout the serial there seems to be no consistency to the function or the behaviour of the Tachyon Recreation Generator (TRG). The TRG is used to create a "child of the generator", to enable people to play zero-gravity squash, to make it appear that people are torn apart limb by limb, to actually tear somebody apart limb by limb, to cause extreme ageing, to create an endless number of copies of one individual (though we never see this work), to create an endless number of copies of another individual while simultaneously rejuvenating them, and to rejuvenate without creating copies. In short, the techno-babble spouted about it notwithstanding, the TRG is nothing more than a "machina" with the sole function of creating any "deus" that the story requires
Enjoy the trip, don't think too much about the story.
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