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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive


Author: David Fisher
Read by: Lalla Ward
Publisher: AudioGO
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4458 2638 7
Release Date: 01 July 2013

The face came away like a mask. Underneath they could see green scaly skin… The features of a lizard…” The Leisure Hive on the planet Argolis is an entertainment centre for galactic travellers. At the heart of the Hive is the Tachyon Recreation Generator, a machine with a most extraordinary performance capability and vital to the continued existence of the Argolin after their devastating war with the reptilian Foamasi. While visiting the Hive, the Doctor and Romana are sucked into a whirlpool of treachery and deceit, and are eventually arrested on suspicion of murder. Soon the Doctor is on trial for his life...

When John Nathan-Turner took over as the producer of Doctor Who in 1980, he wanted to curb the humorous aspect of the series, which he felt had grown too absurd under the guidance of his predecessor Graham Williams and script editor Douglas Adams. Meanwhile, incoming script editor Christopher H Bidmead wished to give the science-fiction show a better grounding in real, up-to-the-minute science. As a result, the four-part serial The Leisure Hive, which had originally been conceived by its writer David Fisher as a satire on both the Mafia and the decline of British tourism, ended up as a rather po-faced affair, more concerned with the nature of the tachyon and pioneering video effects.

When he novelised the story in 1982, Fisher reinstated much of the humour. The television plot is still here, including technobabble such as “unreal transfer”, “tachyon surge” and “random field frame”, but the author adds copious comical asides. He presents certain scenes from the point of view of observers such as a deckchair attendant in present-day Brighton and a couple of Terran journalists in the future era of Argolis. His most substantial innovation is a chapter on the history of Argolis, including the planet’s original name (Xxbrmm), the strict code of honour upheld by its once-proud warrior race, and its devastating confrontation with the Foamasi. This prose owes a debt to Douglas Adams, due to its Hitchhiker-style descriptions of the Argolin – who, like the Vogons, wiped out other, more pleasant, native species while rising to dominance. Fisher also clarifies details about the various factions of Foamasi and the convoluted scheme set up by the West Lodge.

As a result of these additions, the bulk of the novelisation concerns events from the first television episode. The cliffhanging moment (still one of my favourites after all these years) in which the Doctor is seemingly torn apart by the Recreation Generator occurs almost halfway through the 3 hour 45 minute running time of this unabridged audio book. After that, the material from Parts Two, Three and Four flies by rather rapidly.

Thanks to these changes, the prose universe of Doctor Who makes a smoother transition than the jarring switchover of styles that occurs on screen between the end of the Graham Williams era and the start of John Nathan-Turner’s tenure. On audio, the process is further augmented by the involvement of Lalla Ward, alias Romana, who lends her authoritative tones as narrator. She previously read Gareth Roberts’s novelisation of the unmade story Shada, which would have preceded The Leisure Hive had its production been completed. This audio book comes across as a natural follow-up.

As with Shada, Ward’s reading is supplemented by John Leeson, who provides the voice of K-9 – though he doesn’t get much to do in this story. The production is enlivened by music and sound effects courtesy of Simon Power, including some gruesome noises for the injuries caused by the Generator.

One slight problem with the audio version is that the word “Terra” (meaning Earth) sounds like “terror”, which can be a little confusing. Fisher himself is evidently a little confused about the function of the Randomiser, claiming that its removal from the TARDIS will mean that the Doctor and Romana will never know where they are going to end up next – whereas on television the result is the exact opposite.

Those quibbles aside, I had a most leisurely time revisiting The Leisure Hive. You should go there too.


Richard McGinlay

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