With a war-weary Mike Yates and nervous housemaid Mrs. Wibbsey in tow, the Doctor takes the fight to his nemesis, using the TARDIS’ dimensional stabilizer to reduce himself to the size of the hornets and confront them on their own turf. They quickly win an audience with the Queen of the alien hornets, and the Doctor resists her will, but she finds an more receptive ear in Yates, preying upon the same fears that led him astray at the end of his career with UNIT. The Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey are locked up while the Queen continues trying to persuade Yates to join her, and the Doctor uses this time to hatch a scheme for thwarting the hornets’ invasion of Earth… assuming that Yates is still on his side.
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Susan Jameson (Mrs. Wibbsey), Rula Lenska (The Queen)
Notes: Hive Of Horror follows up on the events of two Pertwee-era stories, Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (which depicted Yates turning against the Brigadier and UNIT) and Planet Of The Spiders (which showed Yates’ attempts to redeem himself through meditation after being discharged from the military). Again, there is a mention that Yates has met the fourth Doctor before, clearly taking place after Planet Of The Spiders, which concluded with the third Doctor regenerating into the fourth. Like The End Of Time and Death In Blackpool, the two-part TV story and the Big Finish audio, respectively, released at roughly the same time, Hive Of Horror takes place at Christmas. With all of this yuletide drama, one wonders why the Doctor doesn’t just skip straight to the new year…
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: After A Sting In The Tale set up a wonderful blend of story and delivery, Hive Of Horror was either going to pick up the ball and be spectacular, or it was going to be a disappointment. Sadly, the closing chapter of Hornets’ Nest brings things full circle, and it ends up losing that momentum.
The idea that the final installment would give Yates a greater share of the action is a promising one, and it actually demonstrates that this chapter of the story worked better with Yates than it would have with the Brigadier (the original plan for the Hornets’ Nest stories was to feature the Brig as the Doctor’s sidekick). Confused and apparently embittered Yates is more susceptible to the Queen’s coercion; Lethbridge-Stewart would’ve emptied his service revolver into the Queen at the earliest opportunity, regardless of the Doctor’s wishes. That part of it works better.
Somewhere around the time that a certain prized possession of the Brigadier’s is revealed, however, it’s easy to spot the twist at the end of the story from a mile away. In places, the script gives full vent to Tom Baker’s eccentricity, and the more ill-timed instances of this kill some of the tension quite handily. Baker’s celebratory laugh of “Merry Christmas, ha HA!” at the end almost makes it seem as though the joke’s been on us. Another tension-killer: again, early in the story, the narrative begins to unfold in the past tense, which relieves the proceedings of most of their suspense. If this final story is about the temptation of Mike Yates, about the least suspenseful thing that can be done is to have Yates recounting the story in past tense having obviously survived just fine.
How would I have wrapped up the story? By keeping things in the present tense – which could’ve been done without any additional cast members – and by tying things off with something truly surprising. I think the Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey should’ve taken off in the TARDIS after ensuring that Yates is settling back in nicely. That would either set up another set of fourth Doctor adventures – hopefully one more consistently thrilling than Hornets’ Nest – or leave the audience wondering about this previously undiscovered TARDIS team. That would’ve been lovely.
The Hornets’ Nest cycle was a worthwhile experiment; it’s gotten Tom Baker back into the Doctor Who universe, participating in new adventures for the incarantion of the Doctor that many people, even post-Tennant, still consider definitive. The recent news that Baker has agreed to finally give Big Finish a chance may well be the most promising thing to come out of Hornets’ Nest… so long as they include Mrs. Wibbsey as his companion.