Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Review: Fourth Doctor DVD - The Leisure Hive

We return to DVD for todays review, and this time it is the turn of The Leisure Hive. Your reviewer for today is Chris Newman.

Oooh, you might be thinking, this is a bit of an odd one to review. Its been out for a while (released in 2004 by those lovelies at 2Entertain), its not the greatest story of all time, no particularly memorable villians. In fact, its a bit of a bog standard Tom Baker yarn...... Oh how wrong you'd be!

For a kick off, this story is now available on a well known online store that shares its name with a rainforest for a measly £5.99. So if you are tempted to dip your toe into the water of Classic Who but are not sure its worth the expense, then this is the same price as a Big Mac Meal and 2 cheeseburgers

I won't waste my time recapping the story. Oh no. Instead I shall give you blurb..
The Doctor and Romana visit the Leisure Hive on the planet Argolis, the surface of which is uninhabitable following a twenty minute nuclear war between the Argolins and their enemies, the Foamsi. The Argolins themselves are now sterile. Pangol, the youngest, was created by the Tachyon Recreation Generator, a machine that runs games in the Hive. He now secretly plans to use the Generator, modified by an Earth scientist named Hardin, to recreate himself many times over, forming an army of duplicates to destroy the Foamsi. Pangol's mother Mena, the controller of the Hive, is meanwhile coming under pressure from a supposedly human finanacier, Brock, to sell it to the Foamasi …
It is a very enjoyable story and has some brilliant moments. The 4 episodes fairly scoot by and Tom Baker looks every inch the 750 year old alien. The costumes are bright and the guest stars are good. But it is the creative team (direction, effects and music) that really shines in this story and for the full details behind that you need to go to the extras...

"A new beginning" is 50 odd minute documentary on the massive changes that JNT undertook when taking the show over from Graham Williams. There is detail on the new music, the new title sequence, the new script editing team and the new costume. It is brilliant and a really detailed discussion of where the show was going in the 1980s and where it was starting to go wrong. It gives such a wonderful insight into the problems of running a show like Doctor Who and I would advise you to watch this documentary first and then watch the show. Your viewing experience will be greatly enhanced.

"From Avalon to Argolis" is a 'making of..' and is well worth your time. It doesn't run for anyway like as long as the other but there is a nice amount of sniping by everyone concerned. It is this doc that gives you a real taste for the directors scope in making the show - Cinematic! The music is likewise of movie quality and (rare for the Classic Era) the effects really stand up - especially the make up of the aged Tom Baker - absolutely superb.

The commentary is a real treat with Chris Bidmead (be warned, he is not to everyone's taste) and the staggeringly divine Lalla Ward). The production notes are wonderful as usual (but the documentaries are so comprehensive that for once they are a little superfluous - they are still worth having on though).

As usual the picture remastering is of a high standard, I watched this on an upscaling LG at 1080i and the picture was wholly acceptable. The 5.1 stereo remix was particularly impressive (good depth of sound and nicely balanced music score).

I am willing to accept that this is not to everyone's taste. Buying this might be a gamble - there are much 'safer' introductions to Tom Baker. But this is a wonderful little story and feels just a little bit different to any other. It is beautifully shot and if you are a fan of early 80s electronic music then the score is sumptuous. So go on, give it a go....

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