Paradise Towers: Doctor Who: Season 24
Paradise Towers SYNOPSIS:
The Doctor and Mel land in Paradise Towers intent on finding a swimming pool. Once a famous high rise residence, the Towers are now dilapidated and populated by opposing gangs of girls called kangs denominated by different colours, cannibalistic residents, Caretakers who act as policemen and a young army recruit called Pex who is despised by all that reside there.
The Doctor is soon captured by the Caretakers and taken to their chief who mistakes the Doctor for the great architect, the designer of Paradise Towers. Pex appoints himself as Mel's guardian and two elderly 'rezzies' welcome her into their apartment explaining all men in the Towers were conscripted for a war years ago. They then plan to eat to Mel before Pex can intervene.
The cleaning machines for the Towers are meanwhile killing kangs, Caretakers or rezzies at random and taking them to the basement as sustenance for what the Chief caretaker has buried there. But now the murders are no longer in control of the Chaief Caretaker and the Doctor finds oout it is the great architect Kroagnon who is imprisoned beneath the Towers.
He hopes to be able to inhabit a new body and eradicate everyone in Paradise Towers and it's up to the Doctor and Mel to get the disparate groups to work together for their survival.
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Paradise Towers DETAILS:
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Paradise Towers CAST & CREW
Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor)
Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush)
Richard Briers — Chief Caretaker / The Great Architect
Clive Merrison — Deputy Chief Caretaker
Elizabeth Spriggs — Tabby
Brenda Bruce — Tilda
Judy Cornwell — Maddy
Howard Cooke — Pex
Julie Brennon — Fire Escape
Annabel Yuresha — Bin Liner
Catherine Cusack — Blue Kang Leader
Astra Sheridan — Yellow Kang
Joseph Young — Young Caretaker
Simon Coady — Video Commentary
Production Staff for Serial 7E:
Writer - Stephen Wyatt
Director - Nicholas Mallet
Script editor - Andrew Cartmel
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
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Paradise Towers REVIEWS
The pain doesn't end on Lakertya…oh no, we drift over to some planet I can't remember the name of for Paradise Towers...
Yep Andrew Cartmel digs up his first new writer, realizing all the old ones are either crap, dead or have long since moved onto films, drugs or writing their memoirs we get his first actual pick and it's Stephen Wyatt!! Well you have to be pretty good to pick a realllllllllly awesome writer first time out and unfortunately this occasion wouldn't help the script editors case. Having seen off the Rani, the Doctor and Mel set of on the first unconnected and original adventure not tied into a Time Lord story arc or featuring old baddies since Timelash. This not being the best example of original adventure….
Yes Dr Who has officially become a kids show. Despite popular opinion insisting it's ALWAYS been a kids show, it has in fact always been made by the BBC drama department and was aimed at a family audience much like the new series but that one children could watch and get a thrill from the shock and horror and be educated on the way. I too got shock and horror upon seeing Paradise Towers but in no way was it a thrill. Ok on paper - a dilapidated building that was supposed to be the best high rise block in the galaxy left to rot because most of the inhabitants have gone off to war and the remaining residents have buried the renown but loony architect responsible for it in the basement - is a good premise.
But Paradise Towers fails for me in the execution. Maybe it's because they brought back Nick Mallet, who directed the dullest portion of TOATL. Ah fellow reviewers I tried to keep an open mind and see it's merits. The idea of robot cleaners killing off people at random for no apparent reason sounds so good and the corridors look really gloomy but there is something about this tale that made me cringe in so many scenes that I switched off at one point. Least on the original transmission.
Syvester is slightly more tolerable, he's settled down but still does so many facial expressions, 'r' rolling and OTT acting moments that I can't buy him as anything other than a panto Doctor who pulls faces to make the kids laugh in the audience (hey Tom did that but made it believable, and didn't actually think the kids in the audience were there in front of him). He's good in quiet spoken moments but hams it up a lot when trying to be heard by others. Colin was bluster now we've got Sylv's innocent buffoonery writ large…Mel is thankfully not as annoying but if she gets any sweeter, the dentist much surely be paying a house visit to rip out rotten teeth. Least she gets into a bathing suit to show off a bit of her form when she and Pex get to the great pool in the sky.
Ok Pex and the Kangs, are all the kids that were left behind, who formed gangs and had no education and therefore should sound 'kiddish' and uninformed…Bin Liner and Fire were good and pretty hot too…apparently Mark Stricken's then wife too! Plus they played the roles extremely well - some of the best performances this season. Though couldn't stand their constant "build high for happiness" chant and Howard Cookes Pex was a bit hit and miss. The Caretakers were bad, again - understand their function in Paradise Towers, a bunch of guys that were serving as security in the towers until real security arrived and told to follow the manual to the letter but it was just that they were played for laughs by a bunch of veteran actors that were just out for a big pisstake on the program. Clive Merrison took the piss with everything he said, "HMMMM?" and Richard Briers Hitler take of the chief caretaker, not remotely believable as a cowardly bully or possessed by the intelligence of the Great Architect. The rezzies also ham it up, especially the ones who tried to eat Mel, they were just not believable either. Hey they have enough food to bake with but still eat people? Why would you sit around in the Towers, well dressed and resorting to cannibalism? If Coles is closed downstairs go for a walk down the street!! Yes Tabby and Tilda - what great creations, can almost hear the kids in the audience yelling 'behind you!" when they're on.
The amateurish tone of this production is cemented by bringing back that cockhead Keff McCulloch, who thinks, slap bass keyboard sounds and claps give things a sinister atmosphere…yes well the old 'bring the different warring groups together to fight off a greater evil' is a good but well worn message but we never get any of the back story as to what the war was, why people live in such a bad building and who Kroangnon really was apart from being a great drawer and nutcase. Was he human? Did he go mad and start killing before in the Towers or in some other building he made? Not enough meat on the bones there in what is already a bad production and it doesn't help. The show is struggling still to find it's feet with this new style and it ain't working and the BBC doesn't give a damn about it any more. Am going Grob again 0/10
Did you know that more happens in the first episode of Talons of Weng Chiang than in the ENTIRE Paradise Towers story? Did you know that someone actually had to WRITE to Andrew Cartmel and TELL him to actually WATCH Talons of Weng Chiang so he could understand the show he was script editing? Jeezus, Andrew Cartmel wasn't even working at the bloody BBC or in the industry when HE got this gig. How fucked up was the show at this time??? I'm still digressing.....
Anyway, the really sad part about Paradise Towers is that buried under the bad dialogue and boringly turgid and repetitive script is a fairly decent idea. It is based on J G Ballard's book High Rise about a micro society in a building that just loses all reason and accountability. Its a great read. And if there was a script editor who had the experience to make something out of a new-comer's script then we would have had a ripping little adventure. I'm not against having new writers on Dr Who at all. But if they are BRAND NEW TO THE TELEVISION INDUSTRY and they are paired with a completely inexperienced script editor then its going to achieve NOTHING. Sadly, this is where it all falls flat cos there is about seventy five minutes of just wandering around corridors by the Doctor and Mel and bugger all is happening.
Bugger all is happening to the Doctor and Mel as well cos they have no characters to call their own. The seventh Doctor was written with no particular actor in mind, while Mel was written with no particular character in mind. So they just become two people wandering around and saying lines and nothing else. McCoy just isn't interesting at this stage of his tenure. He hasn't got anything remotely identifiable that you can hang his little hat on cos all the manic stuff from the previous story has gone.
The whole feeling of Paradise Towers - more so than any of the other season 24 stories - is that it was a rush to get it in the can. No time seemed to be spared on bothering to get anything looking good. Point. Click. Film. Get it in the can. Move on. Even the music by that half-wit Keff McMuffin is appalling. He had to replace some other guy at the last minute but considering how bad a job Keff finally did could the other guy have been any worse ?
Nicholas Mallet's direction is utterly appalling. Paradise Towers is set in an abandoned high rise. Its suppose to be dark, filthy and dangerous. So why is it all so brightly lit? Why does it all look so brand new? Why is there no threat from the killer cleaner robots? Interesting idea but they move as fast as an asthmatic dalek. He is just as bad here as he was for The Mysterious Planet but just pointing the camera and shooting it. Dear old Graeme Harper would have done wonders with this story and in the process would have paced Paradise Towers so well that it would only be two episodes long instead of four.
Mallet also has a problem reigning in his guest actors too. Why did he allow Richard Briers to go so over-the-top as the chief caretaker? Likewise Clive Merrison as the Deputy Chief? Those two old ladies are equally full of ham with their forced and unfunny performances. And Howard Cooke was cast as Pex for what reason? Pex is supposed to be like Rambo or Arnie Shwartzerwatsit instead of some average build wimpy guy. Its almost as though the director was deliberately working AGAINST what the script and the writer were trying to dictate. On the other hand during this stage of the show, maybe he was TOLD to...... You gotta wonder, maybe they finally decided to make it a kids show after all by actually talking down to the kids and thinking they (and the fans) will watch any old rubbish.
I was bored, slightly intrigued and sad. Sad cos the show really was good and had the potential to be better. But its just getting really stale. 1/10
Maybe Paradise Towers bites off more than it can chew, and the result is probably a fair bit of silliness - but there's a lot to like about the story. If nothing else, this is the first time since Vengeance on Varos, and only the second time since Frontios, since a story hasn't contained anything to do with the show's past (aside from the Tardis, Doctor or companion). That's twice in 3-4 years! We know that the show was beginning to struggle, so you've got to give kudos to them for trying to move forward.
And there are some good ideas in Paradise Towers - The big evil in the basement trying to clean his building is fine... as are the building's inhabitants... yes, even the extreme comic book Pex isn't bad. The idea that he's the only guy (other than building inspectors) that hasn't gone to fight in the war (which I read was the Dalek war... so maybe this did have a reference to the past... don't know if that's true though) gives an extra layer to his character.
However Paradise Towers is marred by one big thing - realization. And that's both in visuals and script.
One thing I really hate is attempted humour that's a play on words, or a misunderstanding or misinterpreting of English... hated that bit in Voyage, and hated it even more here... OK, kangs are gangs, wall scrawl is graffiti, unalive... ya de ya de ya de... this is the stuff that makes you cringe. Unfortunately Paradise Towers is littered with it. And speaking of litter, didn't the machine that they used in Sontaran experiment, Terminus and Mysterious Planet get a big make over as a rubbish collectory thing! It's amazing what a lick of paint and some cardboard can do... yep, they're not hugely impressive... although the legs hanging out the back of them is a nice little touch.
Which leads to another problem - the script doesn't know if Paradise Towers is meant to be serious or tongue in cheek. On one hand you have the ludicrously bureaucratic Caretakers, but then on the other hand you have all these people getting eaten. On one hand you have these little old ladies being played for laughs... but then for no apparent reason they eat people?
I guess on a Dr Who budget (especially in the late 80s) realisation is going to be tough... and to be fair the dinginess of the hotel was done well... but there are two things that are just, well, shit. What the hell was that creepy crawly thing in the pool? It had nothing to do with anything... and looked crap. If it was just an excuse to get Mel into a bikini, then it would have been fine, but she wore a one piece... and we didn't even see her legs... so it was just crapola! And secondly, two bits of fluoro wire kind of bent into the shape of eyes, doesn't make an effective monster... and Kroagnon was supposed to be human anyway I thought??
Performance wise, the Kangs are done nicely... despite their dialogue. And I do really like the Doctor in this - especially at the end... which is quite moving... dealing with the loss is almost like a modern day RTD story really. And OK, the big one... Richard Briers. Watching this performance did bring back a lot of good memories. At first I thought they were Mr Men related - but no, I think they were Noddy related... I'm sure Briers used to narrate Noddy... and the voice he used (for some reason) was the voice of the goblins! I don't know why he was played like this - I'm guessing it was to get the "comic book" look... but it kind of sums up Paradise Towers well... there's a lot of good stuff going on in the character - but somehow it's being played for laughs.
I guess a review of Paradise Towers can't not mention the music... it sounds like it was put together in 5 minutes... and what do you know, it was! It's not so much the choice of music that I don't like, it's the editing... it's rough and doesn't match up in places... ouch!
And that's the whole thing... there's a lot of good stuff, but for some reason it look and sounds silly, when it doesn't need to... still, it's a new way forward...
A kind 4/10