It’s a pity The Leisure Hive never gets time to breathe as a story. The episodes are so brief and frenetically directed there’s never a moment when you can sit back and appreciate it before suddenly there’s a new effect or it’s darted in a different direction. The plot here is no more complex than The Horns of Nimon: after the Foamasi war, the Argolins invented the tachyon recreation generator to save their species: Pangol was the result, and now he’s all grown up he wants to finish the job and lead his people back to their blood and thunder days. But while The Horns of Nimon interspersed the plot with jokes and quieter moments (like Romana’s interaction with Sezom), The Leisure Hive hurtles from one room to another, one experiment to the next, breathlessly and relentlessly. It’s exhausting to watch.
Somewhere along the line, I lost track of what the tachyon recreation generator was meant to do: rejuvenate or reproduce? The obvious reveal would be that Pangol is Theron, the warlord turned back to a baby, but risen again to pursue his dreams of conquest. But it turns out he’s some sort of clone, and the Doctor’s interference in the machine means that his new army of clones are, in fact, copies of the Doctor (do they all have ‘This is a fake’ written on them in felt tip, I wonder?). This is a fun reveal, but suggests to me that neither Fisher nor Bidmead had ever properly worked out the plot, and the final outcome is a less elegant story than anything last season.
Vague bewilderment aside, I didn’t hate The Leisure Hive. A lot of the ideas are quite fun and interesting, and the decrepit Doctor is something they haven’t tried since The Savages (Tom Baker does a great job of playing him wearier and blunter than usual, and the way this season progresses you could suggest that this is the beginning of the end for this incarnation). It’s odd to think the audience cared more about the Black Guardian than the actual story of the fate of the Argolin, and that they needed to make a point of writing the randomiser out so there were no loose ends left from The Armageddon Factor. Well, apart from the fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 – and there’s a plan for them as well.
Next episode: Meglos