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Paradise Towers

Reviewed by Murray Jackson

Words fail me when I come to describe this story. Initial reactions to it in Britain were that it was 'weird'. Well it runs deeper than that - it is not only weird - it is abominable. So where does it go wrong? For a start, there are too many characters. In Part One we meet the decidedly immature Red and Blue Kangs, Pex the un-allied, Tabby and Tilda the Rezzies, and the Caretakers, a bunch of uniformed morons walking around with an all-important rulebook, supposedly keeping order. With all these characters running around it's like the inside of a shopping mall: crowded, chaotic, and full of dummies. Most of the leads struggle with their parts. The Kangs really do come across as a bunch of giggling schoolgirls, and I can't believe Stephen Wyatt gave them names like 'Fire Escape' and 'Bin Liner'. Is Doctor Who made nowadays as a deliberate insult to the average fan's intelligence? Bonnie Langford has reached new depths with her portrayal of Mel - she has the acting talent of a deep-sea sponge. There are some bright performances, however. I enjoyed Howard Cooke's Pex, whom I thought was the most interesting of the characters. I also liked Clive Merrison as the Deputy; it was nice to see someone taking his part seriously.

I have yet to make up my mind about McCoy as the Doctor though. He didn't have much to in this story. I liked his humour, but I feel this could be reinforced with a more apparent intelligence. Special mention must be made of Richard Briers. As the Chief/Kroagnon, he turned in the most inept performance I've had the misfortune of seeing. He grossly misunderstood what his role demanded, and turned in a performance only Bonnie Langford would be pleased with. He was totally miscast for the part. The idea for the story was good, but the characterisations and light-hearted approach of the production team ruined it. I suppose Wyatt could yet give us a good story, but this one was too rough about the edges. The set design was the outstanding feature of this story. It's one of the only times I've noticed such a detail to have outshone the story. The music, however, was too glittery and pop-like for my liking. To sum up, lousey casting, production and direction fouled up Paradise Towers. It is a good example of the childish path Doctor Who is taking into pantomime. The signs are present - a new production team and a fresh outlook are needed.

Reviewed by Michael Mayo

Paradise Towers can be described as a bad attempt at full-scale comedy. A measured overdose of comic acting and bad dialogue is evident in this awful adventure. Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker plays his part well, but sadly just doesn't fit in with the Doctor Who format, but neither does the story! The other caretakers especially the Deputy Chief, played excellently by Clive Merrison, were deliberately similar to cartoon policemen, i.e. always quoting the rulebook, and behaving like general twits. The Kangs were no better, and were as stupid as they looked. Visually, the story was terrible too. The sets didn't look particularly futuristic, and neither did the props. The scene in Part One where Pex breaks down a cardboard door was simply ludicrous, as were the robotic cleaners. They were supposed to be cleaning robots, yet they were armed with a drill and a circular saw but no actual cleaning equipment. However, there were some good points, even if the parts were poor, and perhaps it was this that pulled the story out of the mud. The scene at the beginning of Part Three where Tilda and Tabby are about to eat Bonnie Langford and get pulled down the waste disposal unit was excellent, and Richard Briers was best in Part Four when he was taken over by the Great Architect. All in all, another terrible story worthy only of 3/10. If this is any indication of the 25th Season, then I won't be looking forward to it.

Reviewed by Nigel Windsor

Paradise Towers is definitely this season's like-it-or-loathe it story. The script is purely allegorical, with some well crafted characters (Pip and Jane take note!), and is rich in black comedy and pathos. It's not the first time a pertinent sociological issue has featured in a Doctor Who story, but I have to say in Paradise Towers it works quite well. The architects who designed the massive tower blocks in Britain during the great post-war rebuilding period are even today accused of destroying communities, replacing them with soulless living quarters where drug-taking, vandalism and a whole host of social problems are rife. The charge against the architects is that they didn't allow for the people who were going to live in them. If you latch onto that vital point, you'll begin to understand what Paradise Towers is all about. It's a very novel and original script full of on-screen details and niceties that are all too easily missed - this is a story where it pays to keen your eyes and ears open. Its strength is definitely in its ingenious plot, although the director, Nicholas Mallett, cannot be said to do it justice. Mallett, instead of letting the black comedy take its own course, injects slapstick with the subtlety of a brick. The result is very much a send-up and an over-the-top production - a criticism levelled many times at the Graham Williams era. It reaches a nadir in Part Four when Briers goes completely over the top and his characterisation of the 'villain' is reduced to a laughing stock. Some scenes suffer from bad direction, and as a result are painful to watch. I'd even go as far as to say that something as straightforward as the editing is quite dodgy as well! Like all stories, it has its good points of course; particularly noteworthy are the visually impressive robotic cleaners and a well directed drowning sequence in all its Jaws glory. Having weighed up all four episodes, I would conclude by saying that Mallett misreads the script, and wastes this opportunity of making a Doctor Who story of any worth. However, given the strength and integrity of the script, Paradise Towers would make a first-rate novel. Stephen Wyatt makes an excellent debut into the world of Doctor Who and his next contribution is eagerly awaited!

Reviewed by Paul Scoones

I won't be the slightest bit surprised if Stephen Wyatt confesses to be disappointed with the way his story was made into a television serial. For I believe that under the juvenile nonsense that characterises this story, there lurks the remnants of what appears to be an exciting and innovative story that has been severely mucked around with by the production team. I am of course giving Wyatt the benefit of the doubt in this matter - he could actually have intended this story to work out just the way it did. However the factors that sabotage this story are strongly apparent throughout this season; the pantomime comedy, poor acting, sloppy direction, irritating music, unbelievably poor sets and props, etc. I believe, sadly, that this is a new style of Doctor Who, but it is one that I find myself unable to come to terms with.

Other reviewers before me have already pointed out the faults in the production of this story, and rather than reiterate those points, I shall concentrate more on the script and plot of Paradise Towers. However I would like to point out that Sylvester McCoy was so much better in his second story. I prefer him to Colin Baker, and he behaves quite a lot like Troughton, consciously or not. I'm thinking especially of the scene in Caretaker Control where he tricks the guards into allowing him to escape; this was a performance where I could not help but be reminded of the Second Doctor. Melanie, however, was as obnoxious as ever. Wyatt obviously didn't know what to do with her, judging by the amount of time she spent running all over the towers. Her obsession with having a swim in the tower-top pool accorded some suspension of belief - the Doctor is lost somewhere in the towers, and for all Mel knows he could be injured or dead, yet she goes for a swim!

Wyatt is perhaps a clever writer - he provided us with only scant clues as to what was going on outside Paradise Towers at the time. It seems there has been a large-scale war on Earth, and the people in the towers have been put there for safety, refugees from the war. The males have all been conscripted, trained and sent to fight in the war, all with the exception of Pex, who has been lucky enough to evade this. The society inside Paradise Towers in on the downhill slide from a high degree of technological dependency to more primitive and instinctive survival patterns such as the Kangs' hunting games and the Rezzies' cannibalism. They have been completely cut off from the outside world, which has been quite possibly devastated, and perhaps in a subconscious reaction to this frighteningly awesome possibility, they have lapsed into degrees of insanity. The Caretakers live their lives out of a rulebook, Pex is determined to put the world of Paradise Towers to rights, etc. The degeneration is so far advanced that the Kangs are struck by complete wonderment at the demonstration to them of something as commonplace (to us) as a coin-operated fizzy drink can dispenser. Wyatt is making a statement about the ever more highly organised and technology dependent society we are striving for in the late 20th century. In some ways, it is Orwellian. There are also sub-themes such as obeying rules laid down by others without question, and the extent of rivalry in the face of a far greater threat. Wyatt actually resolves very little - the immediate problem of the cleaners and the computer is solved, but many other domestic problems remain. There is plenty wrong with this story, but those who say there is nothing of merit in Wyatt's debut are sadly missing the wood for the trees.

This item appeared in TSV 6 (April 1988).

Index nodes: Paradise Towers
Reprinted in: Special Reprint Edition