The Leisure Hive (TV story)

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The Leisure Hive was the first serial of season 18 of Doctor Who. It was the first serial produced by John Nathan-Turner. He immediately instituted a number of radical new changes to the series.

The title sequence was redone with a 'star-field' motif. Delia Derbyshire's arrangement of the Doctor Who theme was abandoned in favour of a more dynamic, glossy and 'funky' version of it, done by Peter Howell (also of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, where Derbyshire worked previously), using synthesisers (particularily the Yamaha CS-80 and ARP Odyssey synthesisers, as well as an EMS vocoder). These wholesale alterations to the programme's opening sequence would, with relatively minor adjustments, remain in place until season 24. At the same time, Nathan-Turner decided to end composer Dudley Simpson's long association with the programme. He chose the Radiophonic Workshop to handle the incidental music for The Leisure Hive.

The story also brought a new uniform look for the Fourth Doctor. His coat and trademark scarf were now coloured burgundy, the latter with purple stripes. The new question mark motif premiered here on the Doctor's shirt collar and would persist throughout Nathan-Turner's era.

Narratively, The Leisure Hive was an unusual story in that it was commissioned directly by the producer rather than the script editor, because Christopher H. Bidmead was not yet hired. New executive producer Barry Letts, who had previously served as the show's producer during most of the Jon Pertwee era and during Tom Baker's first story, also had a significant hand in shaping the story's outline.[1] Letts's new role as executive producer would only last for the duration of the season, and would be his last contribution to televised Doctor Who.


The Fourth Doctor and Romana II arrive on Argolis in search of a peaceful holiday at the famed Leisure Hive. Instead they become embroiled in both a takeover scheme by the Argolins' historic enemy the Foamasi and the machinations of Pangol, child of the Generator.


Part one[[edit]]

The Fourth Doctor, having yet again failed to pilot the TARDIS to Brighton Pavilion thanks to his attempts to bypass the randomiser, snores loudly on a deck chair as Romana and K9 discuss alternate holiday options. Frustrated, Romana tosses her beach ball into the sea and K9 goes to fetch it, badly damaging him.

Romana convinces the Doctor to go to Argolis, home of the famed Leisure Hive. Argolis had been nearly annihilated by a brief but devastating war with the Foamasi, but the surviving Argolins have built the domed holiday palace, offering anti-gravity racquetball among other delights.

However, the Hive has run into financial dire straits. The chief executive, Morix, ageing and near death, is pondering a buy-out offer from Earth businessmen Brock and Klout, who represent the Foamasi, but his hotheaded son Pangol will hear nothing of it. Morix dies and is succeeded by Mena, who herself is getting old. Meanwhile, an alien presence has infiltrated the Hive.

The Doctor and Romana arrive and watch a demonstration of the Hive's newest offering, the Tachyon Recreation Generator, but the demonstration goes horribly awry when a volunteer from the crowd is torn apart inside the machine.

The Doctor and Romana realise the recordings of the experiments have been faked. The Doctor explores the Tachyon Recreation Generator, and when an alien turns the machine on, the Doctor appears to be torn limb from limb.

Part two[[edit]]

The image onscreen is merely an illusion - the Doctor escaped the generator from the back. He and Romana are taken to Mena by security guards. Meanwhile, staff scientist Hardin has arrived, and when Mena learns of the newcomers' experience with time technology, she asks Romana to assist him with tachyonics experiments. They are trying to use the questionable science to reverse the flow of time. The Argolin race is sterile after the war with the Foamasi. Rejuvenating themselves is the only way to survive.

Mena begins to age quickly, a result of the radioactivity on the planet. Meanwhile, Hardin and his partner, Stimson, discuss their experiments, which have been faked by them. Hardin wants to confess. Stimson plans to get off Argolis. Romana and Hardin appear to have some success, but when they go to tell Mena, the equipment explodes.

Guards find Stimson, who has been murdered, and arrest the Doctor. He stands trial in the boardroom and claims his innocence. Romana and Hardin announce their success, but before it can be used on Mena, Pangol wants to test it on the Doctor. As the experiment proceeds, Romana realises something is wrong, but she is too late to stop the experiment. The Doctor emerges from the machine, aged several hundred years.

Part three[[edit]]

The Doctor and Romana are imprisoned and try to figure out what went wrong with the experiment. Pangol discovers that Hardin's experiments were faked, which Hardin admits to but says he is near to a breakthrough, and wants Romana's help. Mena refuses.

Vargos fits the Doctor and Romana with limitation collars. They can roam freely around the Leisure Hive, but must stay within the limits programmed into the collars. If they enter a forbidden area or attempt to remove the collars, these will tighten around their necks and strangle them.

Pangol prevents Mena from signing contracts with the Foamasi. He wants to rebuild Argolis. He is the first Argolin created in the recreation generator and has big plans for the machine.

Hardin frees the Doctor and Romana from their collars with a borrowed security key, and they decide to put Romana in the machine. She works on the machine but is confronted by an alien. Pangol sees the Doctor on a monitor and goes to stop him. He programs the machine to age the Doctor, who he thinks is in the machine, another two thousand years.

The alien, a Foamasi, helps Romana escape. The Foamasi doesn't speak with words but the Doctor can understand him. They go to the boardroom where Pangol reveals his grand plans to Brock - he will raise an Argolin army from the generator. The Foamasi approaches Brock and pulls at his face - revealing that it is a mask and he is a Foamasi.

Part four[[edit]]

The first Foamasi takes Brock's voice synthesiser and reveals that Brock and Klout (the murderer) are disguised Foamasi, members of a dissident group called the West Lodge. They do not act in the interest of the Foamasi at large, however. The two planets are now at peace. Pangol is suspicious of the Doctor and the Foamasi, and refuses to let them leave. When the Foamasi ship takes off, it is destroyed by Pangol.

Pangol plans to start creating his clone army. The Doctor and Romana try to stop him by using the randomiser from the TARDIS. Pangol enters the machine, wearing the Helmet of Theron, and duplicates himself into an army. However, because the Doctor was in the machine at the time, the clones are images of the Doctor, who has been restored to his original age. The clones do not last long, disappearing one by one.

Hardin takes a near-dead Mena to the machine to regenerate her, but Pangol pushes past him. Both Mena and Pangol get into the machine, and both are restored, Mena to a young adult age and Pangol to a baby. The Doctor shuts off the generator.

The Foamasi who rescued Romana appears, not having been in the Foamasi ship when it was destroyed. He and Mena begin negotiations for peace. The Doctor and Romana decide to leave, and the Doctor decides to leave the randomiser behind despite the threat of the Black Guardian, as he is tired of not knowing where he's going. With that, the two return to the TARDIS to continue their travels.





  • In 2250, Argolis (led by Theron) was all but destroyed by two thousand nuclear warheads in twenty minutes during a war with the reptilian Foamasi. Argolis's surface, while beautiful, is deadly to all life.
  • The Argolin survivors, made sterile by the radiation from the war, invented the science of tachyonics "forty years ago", and built the Leisure Hive with its Experiential Grid offering variable environments.



  • K9 lists all known recreational planets for Romana, ending with "Yegros Alpha: speciality, atavistic therapy of primitive asteroids. Zaakros: galaxy's largest flora collection. Zeen 4: historical re-enactments.".
  • Argolis is the first of the leisure planets.
  • Brock (the real one) lists other more successful leisure planets: Limnos 4, and Abydos; the latter was name-dropped in The One Doctor.


  • There are lodges of Foamasi, the West Lodge being one such group.


Story notes[[edit]]

  • This story is the debut of the new opening and closing title sequences, complete with "neon tube" logo, designed by the BBC's Sid Sutton, accompanied by a new Peter Howell-arranged version of Ron Grainer's theme music. The arrangement is notable for being performed in F# minor, whereas all previous arrangements were in the original key of E minor.
  • The scene changes with the picture shrinking, leaving the star effect. This only happened once.
  • This is John Nathan-Turner's first story as producer.
  • The story had working titles of The Argolins[2] and Avalon.
  • A new TARDIS exterior prop makes its debut, this time made of fibreglass rather than of wood and, with its stacked roof arrangement, somewhat truer to the design of a genuine police box than the previous version (first seen in The Masque of Mandragora).
  • The Doctor's new outfit (burgundy colour) also debuts in this story.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black-and-white full-length publicity shot of the Doctor and Romana standing outside the TARDIS on Brighton beach, with the accompanying caption "Voyages through time as the Tardis returns with Dr. Who and Romana and the first planned trip is a holiday. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward: 6.15". (original published text) That for part three bore a black-and-white photograph of the aged Doctor sitting next to Romana, each wearing a limitation collar placed on them by Vargos, with the accompanying caption "A grisly accident happens in the Tachyon Recreation Generator when Dr. Who (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) arrive on Argolis: 5.55". (original published text)
  • Harriet Reynolds (Tannoy Voice) was uncredited on-screen for part two, but credited in Radio Times.
  • John Leeson returns portraying the voice of K9, having been persuaded by John Nathan-Turner to reprise the role for this season. By this time, Leeson could provide K9's voice by vocal power alone, and therefore no longer required the vocal modulator he had previously used.
  • This story features the first use in Doctor Who of the digital Quantel image processing system. Amongst the effects created by the use of this system was a moving shot of the TARDIS materialising on Argolis (whereas the roll back and mix technique by which the materialisation was achieved normally necessitated a completely static shot).
  • ITV, the commercial TV competitor to the BBC, premiered the American series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century directly opposite the first episode of The Leisure Hive, after a high-profile promotional campaign. ITV had never previously attempted to compete with Doctor Who by scheduling science fiction in that slot before, and its change of policy in 1980 is credited as being a major factor in the significant slump in ratings seen for the early stories in Doctor Who's eighteenth season. Not only did small audiences watch the first episode of The Leisure Hive, but figures dropped each week. By week three, Doctor Who did something it hadn't done in eighteen years: it fell out of the top hundred programmes for the week it was transmitted.
  • Production of the serial was extremely challenging. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward's tumultuous off-screen relationship was at a nadir, causing the mood on set to be distinctly chilly. Director Lovett Bickford's management of the shoot caused it to go so badly over budget that John Nathan-Turner was severely reprimanded by his superiors. Bickford would never work on Doctor Who again.[1]
  • The baby Pangol was played by Alys Dyer, whose mother was production unit manager Angela Smith.
  • David Fisher initially strove to maintain some of the same comedic elements that he had invested under Graham Williams. He envisaged the story as a pastiche of gangster movies, and even formed the name of the alien Foamasi as an anagram of “mafiosa”. However, more and more of Fisher's humour was winnowed out during the story's development, by which time Christopher H Bidmead had come aboard as script editor. Fortunately, Fisher had done some research into tachyonics via the New Scientist, and so he could supply the desired element of hard science.
  • The episode was written as a satire of the decline of tourism in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.
  • The alien costume used for the Foamasi was later reused in the BBC's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as the leader of the G'Gugvuntt.
  • The opening shot on Brighton Beach was John Nathan-Turner's idea, as he lived nearby. The scene took a day to film.
  • Siân Phillips was offered the role of Mena.
  • Clive Swift was considered for Brock.
  • Brian Protheroe was the original choice for Pangol.
  • Lalla Ward and Laurence Payne had previously co-starred in the Hammer Horror film Vampire Circus.
  • Lovett Bickford developed a reputation for achieving distinctive visuals and was eager to record the story in the style of a feature film, replete with unusual camera angles, single-camera takes and the widespread use of a handheld camera.
  • Tom Baker was unwell following a long flight from Australia, and his mood was further affected by a downturn in his relationship with Lalla Ward. The pair had decided to end their romantic liaison when shooting ended on Season Seventeen. Now, however, Baker yearned to rekindle their affair, while Ward was content to leave things as they were. As a result, both stars were soon refusing to speak to one another. Baker's attitude was at least moderated by his cordial working relationship with John Nathan-Turner, although he was unenthusiastic about several of the changes introduced by his new producer.
  • This was David Fisher's final contribution to the series, partly due to his unhappiness over the efforts of John Nathan-Turner, Christopher H. Bidmead and Lovett Bickford to cut a significant amount of Fisher's material which they deemed to be superfluous, in order to augment the pace of each episode. As a consequence, all four instalments were quite short, even with lengthy reprises grafted onto the last three parts.


  • Part one - 5.9 million viewers
  • Part two - 5.0 million viewers
  • Part three - 5.0 million viewers
  • Part four - 4.5 million viewers

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The wires pulling K9 along the beach are particularly visible in part one.
  • In part two, the top of the sonic screwdriver is nearly bent off.
  • The shiny silver belts of the zero gravity squash players were a poor choice of costume accessory for the CSO effect. Because they reflect the colour of the special effects backdrop, they have a tendency to become completely invisible.
  • The number of nodules on Morix's horn changes between shots during his death scene.


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

CD Release[[edit]]

In March 2002, At the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 3 was released with The Leisure Hive score in it.

DVD releases[[edit]]

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive.


NTSC - Warner Video E2217

Special Features[[edit]]


VHS releases[[edit]]

Released as Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive.


  • UK January 1997
PAL - BBC Video BBCV5821
  • US September 1997
NTSC - Warner Video E1135

External links[[edit]]