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Recap / Doctor Who S18 E1 "The Leisure Hive"

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Even when rapidly aged 500 years, the Doctor still doesn't look a day over 760.
Brock: His scarf killed Stimson!
The Doctor: Arrest the scarf then.

The one where Doctor Who goes full 80's.

The Doctor, now in burgundy, and Romana are in the mood for a holiday. After trying out the English seaside — shown during a 2-minute pan across a deserted beach — during the off-season, when the weather's bad and everything's shut, and it turns out that K-9 isn't waterproof, they head for the Leisure Hive, a famous resort on the planet Argolis in the 23rd century.

After Argolis was devastated in an interplanetary nuclear war, the survivors founded the Leisure Hive as a contribution to peace: a place where different races could mingle and get to know one another in laid-back surroundings. Not every Argolin, however, agrees with the Leisure Hive's peaceful mission statement. Also, Romana doesn't take long to notice that some of the Leisure Hive's technology is more advanced than it should be. And then the Doctor gets entangled in a murder investigation. Oh, and there's some kind of green scaly critter with great big claws lurking about, that's obviously up to no good...


"The Leisure Hive", and by extension season 18 as a whole, brought Doctor Who into the 1980's in full force, with new Show Runner John Nathan-Turner, a new look, and a new title sequence (complete with a new electronic synthesizer version of the theme tune and a bright neon-tube logo). Let's see what else is new to this era:

  • As mentioned above, it's The '80s. That means we're taking a long, loooooooooong trip to Synth City!
  • The Doctor wears a heavier, burgundy & purple version of his hat-coat-scarf ensemble for the rest of the season, and his collar is now adorned with a question mark on each side; the question mark motif would become a staple of later Doctors' costumes for the remainder of the show's original run. The scarf is also much longer and he's donned a pair of riding boots.
  • Because K-9 has been deemed too overpowered by the new regime, he gets put through the wringer in every serial before his departure, with the exception of "State of Decay", in which he gets one last chance to laser people.
  • The show gets a new script editor in Christopher Bidmead. He would rework the show into something more firmly grounded in hard science (or at least things that look like hard science) than it was in the past. Don't know what tachyonics is? You're not alone.
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  • The jokier elements of the series have been toned down, making this season much more sombre in comparison to the 6 preceding it, even in comparison to the Gothic-horror stories of the Philip Hinchcliffe era.note 
  • The Doctor is himself more sombre, less disposed for fun and frolic and more weary at the universe. The general feeling was he knew his time was near, and he wanted to get as much done as possible before his regeneration. Reality Subtext seemed to play a role in this, given how the unusually long amount of time spent in the role, combined with his own mental issues, led Tom Baker to take a significant dip in well-being that had noticeable effects on his physical health; among other things, his trademark curly hair started to deflate to such a degree that he actually had to get it permed for "State of Decay".

Looking back from post-2005, the serial's villains are also noteworthy. There's a plot twist where it turns out that the alien monsters, rather than being part of a hostile racial monolith, are a bunch of profit-motivated criminals regarded as renegades by their own society. Another plot twist is that several apparently-human characters are actually the villainous aliens in skin-tight disguises, even though undisguised (as represented by an actor in a bulky monster suit) they're clearly larger than any of the humans they impersonate. There's even a scene involving a horrified bystander and a discarded skin in a closet. Does anything remind you of this?


  • The '80s: This serial marked the point where Doctor Who hit the decade and where the decade hit it. While Season 17 finished airing in January 1980 (and "Shada" would've aired up to the end of February had it been completed), that was still decidedly rooted in the late 70's; from here on out, the show would take on a sleeker style grounded in surprisingly accurate insight on the look and feel of the years ahead, and would only continue to maintain it until the series' initial cancellation in December 1989. As most people agree that the 80's didn't come into its own from a cultural standpoint until around 1981 or 1982, this essentially means that Doctor Who stepped into the 80's before the 80's themselves!
  • Actual Pacifist: The Argolins.
  • Animal Motifs: The Foamasi, with their penchant for disguise, look rather like chameleons.
  • Author Tract: David Fisher wrote the story as a satire on the decline of tourism in the UK in the 1970s.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Brock, seemingly completely human up towards the end, is forcibly unmasked to reveal he's really a Foamasi imposter. Foamasi heads are ridiculously bigger than human heads, but while the other characters are shocked at the reveal that he's really an alien, none of them seem to realize that his mask is Bigger on the Inside, meaning they Failed a Spot Check.
  • Break the Badass: After two seasons of the Doctor being an Invincible Hero, the first episode gives us a cliffhanger of the Doctor screaming in terror as his limbs are ripped off. The Mood Whiplash is massive and suggests a lot about what this season is going to be like.
  • Busman's Holiday
    Doctor: Anyway, there's been enough randomising on this job.
    Romana: Job? It was meant to be a holiday.
    Doctor: Well then, I'm going to be very glad to get back to work.
  • Cloning Blues: Part of the plot involves an attempt to repopulate the Arglins by generating tachyon clones. Needless to say, this does not end well.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Argolis.
  • Curse of Babel: A Foamasi detective is presented as a villain until we find that he just lacks a speech synthesizer.
  • Dropped Glasses: When Stimson is fleeing for his life, he drops his glasses, which are then Trampled Underfoot by his pursuer.
  • Dying Race: the Argolians.
  • Evolving Credits: This episode introduces a new title sequence that will be used until the end of the Sixth Doctor era, getting modified three times during its run (twice due to new Doctors, and one final time to update the music).
  • Explosive Instrumentation: K-9 literally blows his top, emitting a quite impressive fireball, the second he enters the water.
  • Faceless Goons: The story features an army of clones with their faces covered in helmets and the Doctor hides among them.
  • He Who Must Not Be Heard: The lawyer Klout never speaks a word on-screen, which turns out to be plot significant: He's one of the disguised Foamasi, and doesn't have the anatomy to speak English.
  • Homage: The opening sequence on Brighton beach was John Nathan-Turner's paean to Death in Venice.
  • Latex Perfection: The Foamasi body-suits — undetectable when being worn, obvious rubber when they're taken off.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The notorious opening shot of Brighton Beach.
  • Liquid Assets: The Doctor is aged considerably, while Pangol is reduced to an infant.
  • Me's a Crowd: Pangol's answer to the question "With what army?". (In the event, the Pangol-clones last only a few minutes — and most of them turn out to be clones of that meddling Doctor, anyway.)
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The script describes the Foamasi as reptiles, the director wanted insects, the final result is a mixture of both.
  • No Water Proofing In The Future: K-9 short-circuits after going into the sea, in an excuse to not have him in the story.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-story example — when the suave Brock is attacked by a Foamasi, his posh demeanor cracks and he starts screaming at it to keep away from him in an accent several social rungs lower than the one he's been speaking in up to that point.
  • People in Rubber Suits: It's some kind of textured fabric, rather than rubber, but it's definitely a suit, with a great big seam down the front and visible stitches at the neckline. Nice try, though.
  • Pleasure Planet: Argolis.
  • Raise Him Right This Time: Mena says this word for word when Pangol is reduced to an infant.
  • Rapid Aging: As a side-effect of the radiation, Argolins remain youthful for decades and then all their age catches up with them over the course of a few hours.
  • Royal "We": Pangol begins referring to himself in the plural when he takes over Argolis. (That's not the only reason, though.)
  • Scooby Stack: The Doctor and Romana, when they're trying to escape to the TARDIS.
  • Shock Collar: When the Doctor and Romana are murder suspects, they're put in collars that will "become uncomfortable" if they go out of bounds or attempt to remove the collar.
  • Significant Anagram: "Foamasi" is a tweaked anagram of "mafiosi".
  • Sterility Plague: The Argolian race were rendered sterile by their twenty minute war with the Foamasi.
  • Tower of Babel
  • The Unintelligible: The Foamasi have insectoid mouthparts and speak in mixed of chirps and clicks that nobody (not even the Doctor and Romana, for some reason) can understand without a translator device.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Pangol, when things start going against him.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: The Doctor and Romana walk into a room and comment on the techyonics demonstration that was taking place before they entered.
  • We Need a Distraction: When they're trying to get a closer look at the Hive's Tachyon Recreation Generator, Romana notes that "What we need is a diversion", and the Doctor provides it by soliciting the Generator operator's opinion on a knotty problem in warp mechanics (which is so complicated that it causes the operator to make choking noises and faint).
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: A piece of video evidence turns out to have been faked by editing together footage from two different events. The Doctor and Romana spot it straight off; he explains loftily that he'd noticed subtle interference patterns at the point of the edit, she adds that also, of course, the woman in the video was suddenly wearing a different necklace.


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