Timestamp #110: The Leisure Hive

Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive
(4 episodes, s18e01-e04, 1980)



It’s a new season with new credits and a new theme! A so very ’80s theme.

We open on a windy beach with a long, long, loooong panning shot that reveals a snoozing Doctor and a disgruntled Romana. In her frustration, she throws her beach ball in to the ocean and K9 tries to fetch it. The robot dog’s head explodes removing him from the story for the time being. Dammit, Romana!

At least he had the right voice again.

Another jarring change: The Doctor’s new outfit is a lot of burgundy and purple. I’m not as keen on it as his original costume.

The source of Romana’s frustration is that the Doctor missed the opening of Brighton Pavilion, mostly because he is still using the randomizer to avoid the Black Guardian, and she suggests an alternative: Argolis, home of the Leisure Hive.

The leaders of the Leisure Hive, a group with amazing hair and makeup, are experiencing financial straits and that is causing discord among them. An Earth businessman offers a way out, but it involves a buy-out by Argolin enemies known as the Fomasi. That causes further discord both among family – Chief Executive Morix’s son Pangol despises the idea – and opens the door for the Fomasi to take advantage of the radioactive wastes beyond the Hive’s walls. During the negotiations, Morix dies from old age.

At this point, I was impressed with the production values. They have improved with this serial, from the filming and scene blocking to the music. It feels very 1980s sci-fi, and it’s a style that carried into productions like Red Dwarf and remained prevalent for a long time in TV sci-fi.

The Doctor and Romana arrive in time to watch a demonstration of the Hive’s newest technology, the tachyon recreation generator. A demonstration goes awry, tearing a volunteer limb from limb. As they watch and debate the sciences, a reptilian cuts into the wall and infiltrates the Hive. As the Doctor and Romana investigate the incident, the new chairman, Mena, requests to see them. It is a case of mistaken identity as Mena is expecting an Earth scientist named Hardin. The Time Lords try to run for the TARDIS as security is alerted about their presence, but the Doctor ends up inside the tachyon generator and is apparently torn apart as a reptilian hand activates the machine.

The image is a cliffhanger and an illusion, revealed as the Doctor slips out the back of the device at the start of a new episode. The Time Lords are captured and taken to Mena for questioning as the actual Earth scientist that the chairman was waiting for arrives. Based on their proven expertise, Mena asks the Time Lords to assist in the tachyon experiments, which are an attempt to rejuvenate the Argolin surface by reversing the flow of time. The radiation causes the Argolins to age rapidly, and has also caused their sterility. Their race is dying.

The big fly in the ointment is that the Earth scientists have been faking their results, and they are very hesitant about involving the Time Lords for fear of discovery. Romana injects herself into the experiment, and Hardin’s partner Stimson ventures off to find the Earth businessman. Instead, the man finds the businessman’s corpse before becoming one himself in short order. The Doctor is snooping around when he found by the supposedly dead businessman and is framed for the Stimson’s murder. So, three options: 1) Businessman Brock is a doppelgänger; 2) Businessman Brock’s corpse is a doppelgänger; or 3) I’m watching The Walking Dead three decades early.

Romana and Hardin are able to make the experiment work, but just as they leave to deliver the good news to Mena, the experiment catastrophically fails. Pangol orders one more test, this time on the Doctor. He agrees, but as the experiment begins Romana finds the remnants of their previous attempt. The Doctor exits the booth, and he has aged several hundred years instead of getting younger. The aged Doctor looks a lot like Donald Sutherland in The Hunger Games franchise.

That’s some really bad science by Romana and Hardin since they didn’t check their results fully before declaring success.

The Time Lords are imprisoned by Pangol, driven by the Doctor’s pending charges for murder, and are fitted with collars that limit the places that they can visit. Pangol uncovers the fraud by the human scientists, and Hardin asks for leniency to continue since he and Romana were so close. Mena allows this, but not Romana’s help. The human is on his own.

As they sit in their cell, the Doctor notes to Romana that Pangol is the only young Argolin at the hive. They are soon freed by Hardin using a borrowed security key, and the they piece together that the machine is not for recreation but for re-creation.  Clever word play, and it comes into the calculation as Pangol sways Mena to turn down the Fomasi offer, claiming that he will rebuild Argolis because he is the first of the new children from the generator. It’s a sort of cloning machine.

Romana goes into the machine since she has more years to spare than the Doctor, and while inside, she encounters an alien. Using the security feeds, Pangol notices that the Time Lords are meddling with the device, and plans to age the occupant by two thousand years. Luckily, the alien, a Fomasi, rescues Romana and reveals a device that was stopping the rejuvenation experiments. The Time Lords escort the Fomasi to the boardroom, where the alien reveals Brock’s true face: The businessman is a Fomasi.

Which we already knew for the most part.

The good Fomasi goes further, unmasking all of the Fomasi in the room and explaining their presence. Brock’s team represents the West Lodge, dissidents of the Fomasi government who were trying to buy out Argolis and foment war. The good Fomasi apprehends the dissidents and makes plans to take them home for trial, the ever skeptical Pangol interferes by destroying their ship upon takeoff.

The Time Lords and Hardin return to the lab and discover that the device from the machine is missing. The Doctor retrieves the randomizer from the TARDIS and installs it in the generator. Pangol dons the Helmet of Theron, a holy artifact, and duplicates himself many times over in the machine. Since the Doctor was in the machine as well, the clones turn out to be images of the Doctor. The process restored the Time Lord, and the clones are unstable and short-lived. As they start to vanish, Hardin takes the ailing Mena to the generator to rejuvenate her, but Pangol pushes by. The process turns Mena into a young adult and Pangol into an infant.

I was impressed by David Haig. He really sold Pangol’s insanity.

After the Doctor stops the machine, the good Fomasi returns, having been kicked out of his shuttle before takeoff. The Argolins and Fomasi begin their discussions again, and the Time Lords depart for that overdue holiday.

I was entertained by this serial, despite several padding moments. I was very disappointed in the lack of K9, especially after John Leeson returned. It came down to a high three grade, and I’m keen on rounding up.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Meglos


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.




5 thoughts on “Timestamp #110: The Leisure Hive

  1. Most reference works on Doctor Who are keen to spell out new producer John-Nathan Turner’s inadequacies from a story-telling standpoint, but his strengths come in how he figured out how to increase the apparent production values and in pulling in ever better star talent to work on the show. Paired with a strong script editor like Christopher Bidmead, the show does some really great things.

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