The Leisure Hive
Working Title: The Argolins.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), John Leeson (Voice of K-9), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana).
In search of a holiday, the Doctor and Romana travel to the famous Leisure Hive on Argolis, a planet ravaged by a nuclear war with the reptilian Foamasi years earlier. The main attraction of the Hive is a device called the Tachyon Recreation Generator, but when things start to go mysteriously wrong with the machine, the Doctor realises evil is afoot in the Hive. He and Romana begin to unearth a tangled conspiracy which may lead to a new, deadlier war between the Argolins and the Foamasi.
Upon assuming the role of Doctor Who's new producer in late 1979, John Nathan-Turner immediately set about implementing a number of changes he believed would bring the programme firmly into the Eighties, better able to compete with the raised expectations toward science-fiction brought about by Star Wars and its ilk. Nathan-Turner felt that the viewing public would no longer be satisfied with cheap-looking sets, costumes and effects, which had become a virtual mainstay of Doctor Who.
He was therefore disappointed to learn that the show would not receive an increase in its budget for Season Eighteen, despite a corresponding hike in expenses due to inflation. Instead, he successfully lobbied for two extra episodes, bringing the total for the year up to twenty-eight, making the new season the longest since the Sixties. This meant that the season could be composed entirely of four-part stories, as was Nathan-Turner's preference -- he felt that six-parters were too long and padded, and indeed was considering the possibility of introducing regular three-episode serials (though in the event, these would not become a reality for several years). And although the per-episode budget would be no greater, this concession had the added effect of giving Nathan-Turner more money overall to allocate as he saw fit.
Early on, Nathan-Turner had decided to bring back John Leeson to provide the voice of K-9 instead of David Brierley, who had replaced Leeson for the previous year. In part, Nathan-Turner lured Leeson back by promising that K-9 would be phased out over the course of Season Eighteen, finally departing mid-season. Nathan-Turner wanted to introduce a more vulnerable supporting cast, and was aided in this endeavour when Lalla Ward informed him in January 1980 that she also wanted to leave Doctor Who partway through the year. Nathan-Turner therefore set about casting a new companion as work on the season began.
Nathan-Turner also decided in January that he would no longer use freelance music composers but would instead look to the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop for incidental music. In concert with this, he asked the Workshop's Peter Howell to completely revise the theme music, the first time such a thorough rearrangement had been performed on Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire's original composition. To go along with the new opening music, Nathan-Turner asked Sid Sutton of the BBC Graphics Department to put together a new title sequence. Nathan-Turner wanted to get away from the disorienting, enclosed feeling of the previous sequences (all designed by Bernard Lodge) and so Sutton put together a starscape-style animation. He also devised a new, neon Doctor Who logo, abandoning the famous diamond logo in use since 1974.
Nathan-Turner's changes extended to the series' on-screen appearance as well. He asked June Hudson to create a new costume for the Doctor. Hudson maintained the basic design of Tom Baker's old garb (especially the lengthy scarf), but changed the colour scheme to primarily burgundy instead of brown. Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner commissioned a new TARDIS exterior prop to replace the battered version used since 1976. This one was fibreglass instead of wood, and also featured a more historically-accurate stacked roof, which had been abandoned on TARDIS props in favour of a flat roof since the mid-Sixties.
Upon assuming his new job, Nathan-Turner discovered that very few stories had been retained for his possible use -- a situation partly arising from the difficulty of his predecessor, Graham Williams, in pursuing new writers the year before. All that was left were a David Fisher story called The Argolins, Terrance Dicks' unused The Witch Hunters which was originally to have been the first serial of Season Fifteen, Pennant Roberts' fantastical Erinella, and a Victoriana tale (possibly written by Bob Baker). (Another Fisher submission, Avalon, about beings who create a breach in the space/time continuum, permitting a monster to escape through it, had apparently already been rejected; note that some sources suggest that Avalon was in fact another working title for The Argolins.) With no new script editor yet hired to replace Douglas Adams, Nathan-Turner began work himself on The Argolins, which was the closest to completion.
Fisher, who had written two Doctor Who stories for each of the previous two seasons, had written The Argolins in the same jokey style preferred by Williams and Adams, as a pastiche of gangster movies. For example, Fisher's monsters were called Foamasi, an anagram of "mafiosa". Nathan-Turner wanted to take the series in a more serious direction, however, a feeling echoed by Christopher H Bidmead, who took up the script editor's job at the start of 1980. To this end, much of the more humourous tendencies of The Leisure Hive (as Fisher's story was renamed) were trimmed.
As director, Nathan-Turner hired Lovett Bickford. Nathan-Turner wanted to use only new directors on Doctor Who, partly as an element of his plan to give the series a fresh look, and partly (it is sometimes claimed) because he did not want a veteran working on the show who could challenge his authority, Nathan-Turner being a first-time producer. Bickford decided to record The Leisure Hive in the style of a feature film, replete with unusual camera angles and single-camera takes.
Work began on Season Eighteen with The Leisure Hive's brief location material. This was filmed on Brighton beach in East Sussex on March 20th and 21st. Unfortunately, Tom Baker was very ill on these days, and accordingly his dialogue was reduced as much as possible. The serial then returned to the studio for what was supposed to be a two-day and a three-day recording block. However, because of Bickford's artistic but time-consuming plans, an extra-day was soon found to be required. Consequently, taping took place from Wednesday, April 2nd to Friday the 4th, and from Friday the 18th to Saturday the 20th. The added costs earned Nathan-Turner an early reprimand from his superiors, and helped ensure that Bickford would not return to Doctor Who. The Leisure Hive was also David Fisher's final work on the series. In recent years he has spent much of his time collaborating with former Who script editor Anthony Read on a series of historical books about the Nazis.
The Leisure Hive boasted the first major use of the new Quantel image processor, a then-revolutionary technology which made video manipulation far easier than had been possible with Chromakey or the roll-back-and-mix technique. For instance, The Leisure Hive marked the first time the TARDIS was seen materialising with the camera in motion. Unfortunately, despite this and Nathan-Turner's other efforts to modernise Doctor Who for the new decade, The Leisure Hive faired very poorly in the ratings, right from the Season Eighteen premiere on August 30th. Opposite ITV's glossy American import, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, Serial 5N fared so badly that its third and fourth episodes placed all the way down at 111th -- Doctor Who's lowest chart position since its very first story, 100,000 BC. This dubious achievement would prove to be a sign of the dizzying highs and lows the series was to experience over the course of the decade...