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Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive

cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, John Leeson, Laurence Payne, and Martin Fisk

director: Lovett Bickford

87 minutes (PG) 1980
BBC DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
The Doctor and Romana are hoping for a little rest and recuperation, but Brighton beach on a chilly day isn't quite cutting it. Then they hear about the Leisure Hive, a relaxing paradise built under cover on a planet left uninhabitable by war. Unfortunately, their arrival coincides with a takeover bid. The few remaining natives, sterile and terminally ill, are about to be bought out by their old enemies - unless a series of risky tachyon experiments can provide hope, and even a new generation. But playing with time is a risky business: there are liars, impostors, even murderers among them, and some who want to begin the war all over again...
   As preparation for the much-hyped new Doctor Who, why not check out how they used to do this sort of thing? This claustrophobic political thriller is a classic Tom Baker adventure - murder, alien intruders, megalomania, techno-babble, and running round in identikit corridors. The special effects may be outdated, and the acting a little stagey, but the ambition is undeniable: after all, how many 'family shows' cover genocide, genetic engineering and organised crime? Even the humour has an edge: on hearing that the nuclear war that devastated the planet lasted 20 minutes, the Doctor observes with genuine surprise, "That long?" Under the comfortable surface of this romp, a darker message is lurking.
   Viewed objectively, the plot is rather slow and simple, but the ever-charming Baker and his cohorts keep it moving along, even handling the pseudo-science with ease. If your imagination won't stretch to men in rubber alien suits, then this may not be for you: however, if you can overlook the production values, and appreciate the core story and the sense of adventure, then this is enjoyable, engaging entertainment.
   The DVD extras are a real treasure trove: good talking heads pieces on writing, design, music, and a fascinating piece on changes in the series' style that began with this episode, as a new producer toned down the humour and bumped up the science. There's even an ancient excerpt from children's show Blue Peter, detailing the presenter's visit to a Doctor Who exhibition. The sorts of extras every TV release should have.

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