The Leisure Hive
The Leisure Hive was the first story of Season 18 of Doctor Who as well as 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 favor 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 synthesizers (particularly the Yamaha CS-80 and ARP Odyssey synthesizers, as well as an EMS vocoder). These wholesale alterations to the program’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 program. He chose the Radiophonic Workshop to handle the incidental music for Hive.
Hive also brought a new look for the Fourth Doctor. His coat and trademark multi-colored scarf were now colored burgundy. The new question mark motif – premiered here on the Doctor’s shirt collar and would persist throughout Nathan-Turner’s era.
Narratively, 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 also had a significant hand in shaping the story’s outline.
The Fourth Doctor, having yet again failed to pilot the TARDIS to Brighton Pavilion, 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 realize 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.
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 realizes something is wrong, but she is too late to stop the experiment. The Doctor emerges from the machine, aged several hundred years.
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.
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, 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.
The first Foamasi takes Brock’s voice synthesizer 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 randomizer 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 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, with the randomizer removed from the TARDIS, leave to continue their travels.