A new season begins figuratively for the bods down in the HD Re-classic-ation cellar of the THT Tour Worldwide. Since the advent of colour series and the Pertwee era, Doctor Who had a familiar look to it. The ratio between video and film or studio to location filming always moved around, sometimes by a lot, but always reverted to a recognizable form — if not in this adventure, then the next.
John Nathan-Turner didn’t necessarily put an end of all that, he still had his budgetary concerns to work within, and despite his protestations to the contrary, he was determined to put his stamp on the program right away, beginning with The Leisure Hive.
If ever in the classic canon there was a triumph of style over substance it was with The Leisure Hive. This story, along with the next which we’ll be talking about in due course, bear so many of the after effects of Season 17–for good and ill, that for a new imprimatur to be made it would have to be in direction, and Lovett Bickford was there to oblige. Long, very long lingering shots and distinctive camera angles strive mightily to cover-up a very slight story. The episodes underrun almost criminally even with generous carryovers between parts 1, 2, and 3, but with a totally new approach to scoring and designer June Hudson’s spectacular vision for the Argolin, The Leisure Hive manages to move along just enough to impress. A tantalizing confection to be sure.
Tom Baker was put through the costuming ringer early in his last go-round, being made an old man (years before Matt Smith would turn the same trick in The Time of the Doctor) for almost two full episodes here before getting quite prickly in the next story. A then there’s the general overhaul to his look in Season 18. Long-standing conventional wisdom has it that he hated the look for that last Season, but it was another marker that change was underway, and would only continue up until the end of his time.