‘Flair’ is not necessarily a word that springs to mind regarding ‘classic’ Doctor Who. There were obviously on-camera performances that captured the eye and the imagination but how often did direction in Doctor Who make an impression one way or another. That’s rare, and one reason why Graeme Harper was instantly lauded for The Caves of Androzani and the anticipation for his work in nu-Who Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, thereby bridging the eras, was there.
The real stars of this weeks cap addition The Leisure Hive are producer John Nathan-Turner and director Lovett Bickford. Anyone who had become inured to the production style and tone of Doctor Who through the seventies were in for a jolt right from the jump of The Leisure Hive.
New opening titles, a massive new arrangement of the theme. This was JN-T immediately putting his imprimatur on the program. And it continued right into The Leisure Hive where Bickford gave an almost completely studio bound show (although to be fair the most remembered sequence from The Leisure Hive is the filmed open on the beach with the very long, loving tracking shot to a sleeping Tom Baker just before K-9 got fried) a very different look to what had come before. This was. along with Peter Howell’s incidental music, Doctor Who being pulled hard into the 80’s.
What’s obvious in retrospect about The Leisure Hive is that is was clearly a holdover script from the Graham Williams era, but was massively adjusted to fit the sensibilities of the new production team. As a result The Leisure Hive runs really short for a four-part story with episodes 2, 3, and 4 running barely over 20 minutes apiece. This was also when Tom Baker’s excesses in the role were being clearly reined in and draped tip to toe, in red.
Time to close out another Wing of the Tour when Classic Capitology convenes … next time.