Saturday, 17 August 2013
The Leisure Hive
Halfway through my 50 landmark Doctor Who stories, and we come to what marks the biggest shake-up of the series since Spearhead From Space.
Despite having worked on the programme since the latter days of the Troughton era, and having previous producer Barry Letts watching over his shoulder, new producer John Nathan-Turner comes in and institutes significant changes. He is aided and abetted by new Script Editor Christopher Hamilton Bidmead.
Letts was unhappy with the direction that the programme had taken since he left - disliking the levels of horror in the Hinchcliffe period, and the more recent descent towards pantomime, and JNT concurred. Bidmead wanted to include more hard science in the programme, and disliked any fantastical elements.
For the viewer at the time, the changes are rung in with a new title sequence and new arrangement of the music (by Peter Howell). One of the reasons for the new graphics was that Tom Baker simply didn't look like his old image any more. The musical changes went beyond the title music, as Dudley Simpson was rather unceremoniously dropped as incidental music composer after years of loyal service.
One of the main impacts of the new regime is the reining in of Tom Baker. Graham Williams had rather over-indulged his star, and JNT and Letts were going to stamp their authority on him. He is put into a new, sombre, wine red costume - and his performance seems to match the muted colours. Things are not helped by the fact that Tom's lifestyle seems to be catching up with him - appearing rather gaunt.
Director Lovett Bickford adds to the sense that things have changed from the very beginning - with an opening shot the likes of which had never been seen in the programme before - a slow panning shot across Brighton beach past various colourful tents, the Doctor's snoring becoming more noticeable as we reach the TARDIS.
K9 is quickly written out of the story - its expensive revamp proving no match for Brighton's shingle beach. And this despite the fact that John Leeson had been talked into returning to voice him.
However, plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose. In studio out-takes, we see that Tom can just be as difficult as ever, and we have fairly rubbishy men-in-suits monster costumes that simply don't work.