Oh, hello 1980s! I saw you there, peeking around the corner. Nice of you to finally drop by. What’s that you’ve got there? A wicked new spaced out title sequence with cool synthy music and electronic guitar riffs? How thoughtful! Come right this way, you’ll fit in perfectly around here.
Season 18 gets off to a terrific start, but how much of that is down to its fresh new audio-visual style? It’s not just the synthy soundtrack (reminding me of Blade Runner), but improvements on direction, composition, camera movements and so on. The Leisure Hive is about as good looking as a studio-shot Doctor Who serial has ever looked so far. Wikipedia tells me the director was Lovett Bickford, but it also tells me he didn’t direct any more after this. What a pity.
The plot is as science-fictiony as it gets, hinging on the temporal properties of tachyons and the need to rejuvenate the dying Argolin race. There’s a tragic history, a nuclear war, ongoing racial discomfort, a supposed ‘monster’ who turns out to be no such thing, a power struggle, a cloning machine, time-reversal and rapid aging. It’s full of neat imagery – the Doctor being pulled limb from limb as part of a trick is as memorable a cliffhanger as they come, I’m sure – and his transformation into an elderly man is very well performed. The disguised Foamasi sub-plot was a bit ‘Scooby-Doo ending’, but I’ll give it a pass. The ‘silly’ humour is mostly absent here. The tone is more serious, and I think it suits.
The Black Guardian from two seasons back also gets name-dropped, and with the ‘randomiser circuit’ removed from the Tardis, the implication is that they’ll be running into him again in future. Although I can’t see that having a practical effect on the situations the Tardis finds itself in, if their adventures are as interesting as this one is, I’ll be very happy with that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try to get that awesome new synthy theme tune out of my head. “Wooeeewooooo, dun-dun-dun-dun-dun…”