For fans of a certain age and ilk, The Leisure Hive was a seminal viewing experience. Not so much for the story (after all it was penned by David Fisher, stalwart of the past two seasons), but for the startling changes in production and tone it brought to our favorite television series.
At 15 I watched in awe as a brand new eye-popping title sequence whizzed by on the screen as if to say, "Try and keep up, burgeoning fanboy!"
Suddenly there seemed to be a gravitas to the program. Which is odd considering the story began with an endless (pointless?) tracking shot of some beach tents capped off by a snoring Doctor. But there was a strange confidence to the scene, a slow burn to acclimatize the viewer.
Between seasons, the Doctor had apparently been visited by Tim Gunn and now donned a striking and less thrown-together outfit (complete with self-conscious question marks). Of course looking back now it was the slow steady costume-ification of the cast. But back then I loved it!
And while I wouldn't have been able to articulate it at the time, the sharp direction was definitely producing a rush. Single camera setup and ceilings! Mind you it never occurred to my adolescent mind that there was less playfulness...less fun. It's kind of how when you're a kid you don't like to be kidded because it makes you feel less grownup.
Years later, when I visited the UK I made a point of nipping down to Brighton to visit this iconic location. Sadly the old pier had long since burned down, but it didn't stop me from trying to position myself at the appropriate points on the beach. And perhaps I even fantasized that I might dig up some long forgotten screw that had dropped off the mechanical mutt. In the end I bought some fish and chips, closed my eyes and listened for ghosts.
The Leisure Hive had fallen out of vogue for me in later years; it was fashionable to mock the po-faced nature of the Bidmead year, and those shots of the earth shuttle docking went on for far too long. I'm happy to report that this week I was able to slip through time and sit down beside an excited 15-year-old acne challenged teenager for 90 minutes. There is still a majesty and confidence to the whole thing, and a real desire to stretch the boundaries of Doctor Who. Adrienne Corri is wonderfully haughty and I'm sure she and Hardin were getting it on during her jaunts to Earth (to supplement her loveless, marriage of convenience with Morix who quite obviously spent most of his time in the gay quarter of Argolis).
I can scarcely believe I've arrived at Tom Baker's final season. Time has marched by like an army of petulant Pangols! Next week it's a talking cactus and Barbara Wright with a long blond ponytail.
Original viewing date: November 24, 1984
Wine: In the spirit of the story I searched the aisles of the LCBO for something new. I found I great Australian Pinor Noir from Barwick Estates.
Music: "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters