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Paradise Towers

Production Code: 7E

First Transmitted

1 - 05/10/1987 19:35

2 - 12/10/1987 19:35

3 - 19/10/1987 19:35

4 - 26/10/1987 19:35

Plot

Mel wants to go swimming so the Doctor takes her to a tower block called Paradise Towers where there is reputed to be a fantastic pool. When they arrive they discover that the place is far from being the superb leisure resort they had expected - it is run-down and dilapidated.

The hallways are roamed by gangs of young girls known as Kangs; the apartments are inhabited by cannibalistic old ladies, the Rezzies; and the building is managed by a group of dictatorial caretakers, presided over by the Chief Caretaker.

The latter is in thrall to the disembodied Great Architect Kroagnon, the building's creator, who is using giant cleaning machines systematically to kill all the occupants as he considers that they are spoiling his creation by living there.

The Great Architect eventually manifests himself by taking over the Chief Caretaker's body, but the Doctor and Mel join forces with the Kangs, the Rezzies and Pex - the only young man left in the complex - to defeat him. Pex, however, is apparently killed in the struggle.

Episode Endings

The Chief Caretaker greets the Doctor and apparently believes him to be the Great Architect. The next moment, however, he tells the Deputy Chief to kill the Doctor.

Mel pays a second visit on some Rezzies named Tabby and Tilda. The two old ladies at first seem friendly, but then Tilda ensnares Mel in a crotcheted shawl and Tabby threatens her with a toasting fork. Mel screams.

The Doctor and three Kangs - Blue Kang Leader, Bin Liner and Fire Escape - watch as the Chief Caretaker is 'processed' by Kroagnon, currently in the form of a large machine in Paradise Towers' basement. They turn to run, but one of the robot cleaners grabs the Doctor by his throat and starts to throttle him.

The fight against the Great Architect has resulted in everyone working together, assuring a better future. The Doctor and Mel say their goodbyes. The Doctor has been made an honorary Kang. They leave in the TARDIS, the wall beside which is marked with some red and blue 'wallscrawl' and the slogan 'Pex Lives'.

Roots

J. G. Ballard's High Rise.

Albert Speer's architecture.

Monty Python 's architects sketch (a design for a deadly but beautiful block of flats drawn up by a man more used to designing slaughter houses).

Lord of the Flies.

Arsenic and Old Lace.

Ever Decreasing Circles.

Terry and June (the rezzies).

Brazil.

2000 AD.

A Clockwork Orange.

Rambo.

Hansel and Gretel.

The Inbetweens going off to war, leaving the Youngsters and the Oldsters behind, is reminiscent of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

With regard to his 'ice hot' fashions, the Doctor says 'Clothes don't maketh the man'.

Dialogue Triumphs

Fire Escape : "Red Kang eye-spy says we can't go through usual carrydor. Blue Kangs out and lurking."

Bin Liner : "And the yellow?"

Fire Escape : "No yellows. All unalive now."

Chief Caretaker/Great Architect : Attention all robotic cleaners. Attention all robotic cleaners. At last Kroagnon can leave the basement prison they trapped his bodiless brain in. And return in this borrowed body to the corridors and lifts of his own creation. They buried me away because I wanted to stop them using the Tower. And now you and I will destroy them.

Bin Liner : "Hail Pex. Hail the unalive who gave his life for the Tower. In life he was not a Kang, but in death he was brave and bold as a Kang should be."

"Are these old ladies annoying you?"

"No"

"Are you annoying these old ladies?"

Continuity

Paradise Towers, designed by Kroagnon, otherwise known as the Great Architect, won many awards in the 21st century. Kroagnon was also responsible for Golden Dream Park, the Bridge of Perpetual Motion and Miracle City.

He didn't want Miracle City to be 'contaminated' by humans, but was eventually forced out. Those who did move in were killed by devices he had left behind.

Paradise Towers was on its way to becoming an equally deadly building when its people exiled Kroagnon's brain to the basement. When those of fighting age left to go to war, only the old, the young and a group of caretakers were left behind.

The TARDIS swimming pool was leaking and has been jettisoned. There is, according to the Doctor, a spectacular pool on the planet Griophos, although it is for the exclusive use of the Gulmeri, flesh eating octopi. At the end of the adventure the Doctor is given a blue/red scarf and made an honorary Kang.

Location

Paradise Towers, 21st century

Trivia

There are guest star roles for well known actors Richard Briers, Brenda Bruce, Elizabeth Spriggs and Judy Cornwell.

The caretakers' unusual salute is formed by raising the horizontal palms of their hands to rest on their top lips.

Julie Brennon, who played Fire Escape, was at the time married to former companion actor Mark Strickson.

Technobabble

The Robotic Self activating Megapodic Mark 7Z cleaners have oxymotive blades. The Doctor describes an antique phone as a splendid piece of audioarchitectonicalmetrasynchosity. Kroagnon 'transplants' his brain into the Chief Caretaker's body via corporal ectoscopy.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy

Melanie - Bonnie Langford

Bin Liner - Annabel Yuresha

Blue Kang Leader - Catherine Cusack

Chief Caretaker - Richard Briers The voice of the Great Architect in Parts Two and Three was provided by Richard Briers.

Deputy Chief - Clive Merrison

Fire Escape - Julie Brennon

Maddy - Judy Cornwell

Pex - Howard Cooke

Tabby - Elizabeth Spriggs

Tilda - Brenda Bruce

Video Commentary - Simon Coady

Yellow Kang - Astra Sheridan

Young Caretaker - Joseph Young

Crew

Director - Nicholas Mallett

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Costumes - Janet Tharby

Designer - Martin Collins

Incidental Music - Keff McCulloch

Make-Up - Shaunna Harrison

OB Cameraman - Alastair Mitchell

OB Cameraman - David Hunter

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Frances Graham

Production Associate - Anne Faggetter

Script Editor - Andrew Cartmel

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Henry Barber

Studio Sound - Brian Clark

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Keff McCulloch

Visual Effects - Simon Taylor

Writer - Stephen Wyatt

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

A lovely basic idea, somewhat thwarted by its uncertain tone and presentation. The caretakers look like rejects from the Village People, and when they say 'All hail the Great Architect' they have their hands under their noses in clear tribute to Basil Fawlty. There is a degree of semantic cleverness ('taken to the cleaners', 'brain quarters', 'cowardly cutlet', etc ), and much mockery of the rule bound caretakers, but it just doesn't quite work.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'In an attempt to portray a microcosm of society in a state of moral and social decay, Paradise Towers had a great deal more potential for examining social issues than was realised. Although the script is imaginative, it is far from flawless, and although there are touches of style and a few noteworthy performances, the overall impression is one of a missed opportunity for a much better story.' Paul Scoones' summation, in TSV 50, dated February 1997, is pretty close to the mark.

Writer Stephen Wyatt's debut contribution to the series, based in part on J G Ballard's novel High Rise, does indeed have a lot to recommend it. On one level - as exemplified by the Kangs' unusual names and distinctive vocabulary - it has a pleasingly fresh and imaginative fantasy quality to it, but on another it does clearly have some more serious things to say about issues such as inner city living and social decline.

The subject of urban architecture and its impact on the people who have to inhabit it was in fact quite a topical one in the UK at the time of the story's original transmission, owing to some controversial remarks made on the subject by Prince Charles, but opinions differ as to whether or not Wyatt was in any way influenced by this, and similarly as to whether or not he intended the different groups of Kangs, with their signature colours of red, blue and yellow, to represent the country's three main political parties.

The scenario he presents is actually somewhat reminiscent of that seen in Terry Gilliam's surreal 1985 film Brazil: a bizarre, pseudo-fascist society in which the authorities mindlessly enforce a welter of nonsensical rules and regulations - a case of bureaucracy gone quite literally mad.

The story has a quite poignant and moving ending, too, with the 'cowardly cutlet' Pex being the only one brave enough to stand up and fight alongside the Doctor and losing his life as a result (or apparently so, as Wyatt has said in interviews that the 'Pex Lives' graffito in the final shot is intended to hint that he might have survived after all).

The only valid criticisms that could perhaps be made of Wyatt's scripts are that they are not as well plotted as they might be and contain one or two ideas that are not fully thought through. 'It should have been possible to have established a credible community created and defined by the surroundings they are obliged to inhabit,' wrote Peter Anghelides in DWB No. 49, dated November 1987. 'But the basic premise is never properly explored, and does not stand any real examination. Why should the original inhabitants have "trapped his bodiless [brain]" in the basement in order to prevent Kroagnon preventing them from using his Tower - why not kill him? Why allow Kroagnon enough technology in his prison to allow "corporelectroscopy" and rebirth? Why put him into a prison of which he himself says: "Nobody knows my Paradise Towers better than I do"?'

Where Paradise Towers really falls down, though, is in its translation from script to screen. All too often the production seems to be working against Wyatt's intentions rather than in sympathy with them. Pex, for example, was originally intended to be a hulking, heavily-muscled character - an Arnold Schwarzenegger type - so that his initially cowardly nature would make a surprising and amusing contrast, but director Nick Mallett completely undermined this by choosing Howard Cooke, an actor of average build, to play the part.

Then there is the story's incidental music score, provided at the last minute by Keff McCulloch after the one supplied by the original composer, David Snell, was deemed unsuitable by the production team. This strident, rhythmic, very 'eighties' accompaniment is so inappropriate to the mood of the piece that one has to wonder if Snell's attempt could really have been any worse. While this can only remain a matter for speculation it is undoubtedly the case that a darker, more atmospheric score would have greatly enhanced the story's effectiveness.

It seems that director Nick Mallett decided to treat Paradise Towers as a whimsical, comic strip-style adventure. This is especially apparent in his handling of the excellent (if anything, overqualified) cast, whose spirited, mannered performances are constantly in danger of overstepping the thin dividing line between 'larger than life' and 'over the top'. In some cases this works well.

'Elizabeth Spriggs and Brenda Bruce provided delicious cameos as Tabby and Tilda before being dragged through an implausibly small hole in their kitchenette wall,' wrote Anghelides, 'and (until the scales fell from her eyes in Part Four) one could sympathise with Judy Cornwell's Maddy too'. Annabel Yuresha also turns in a good performance as Bin Liner, making her the most engaging of all the Kangs. In most cases, however, the results are less successful.

Bonnie Langford, in particular, does herself no favours in this story, as Scoones observed: 'If Paradise Towers had never been made, Bonnie Langford's contribution to Doctor Who might be remembered with considerably greater fondness... When [she is] forced to spend most of the adventure running up and down corridors with only [the] walking cliche [Pex] for company, the worst excesses of her acting are all too obvious. Langford is undoubtedly an accomplished and experienced entertainer, but she is clearly out of her depth in a serious dramatic role, dreadfully over-emphasising her lines and delivering them in [an] unchanging high-pitched breathless croak. Worse still, her bubbly enthusiasm is undaunted by the horrors she encounters. She seems to have little regard for what has come before in the story, and rarely conveys emotions appropriate to her character's situation.'

Richard Briers' outrageously overacted portrayal of the 'possessed' Chief Caretaker - which occasionally puts one in mind of the sick humour of George A Romero's zombie films, an effect no doubt unintended - is the least successful aspect of the whole story, turning the character into a laughing stock and completely negating any sense of menace that might otherwise have been present. Some commentators, however, have praised Briers' performance. Scoones, for example, wrote: 'Briers deserves particular mention for [the scenes] in which he plays the Great Architect Kroagnon inhabiting the Chief Caretaker's body. Briers adopts jerky, puppet-like body movements and a slurred speech pattern which marvellously capture the sense of a creature operating an unfamiliar body.'

This unnerving observation may perhaps provide a clue as to why Mallett directed the story in the way that he did. Hitleresque fascists, street gangs, killer robots, animated cadavers and sweet little old ladies with cannibalistic tendencies are really the stuff of nightmares, and if treated in a totally serious and straightforward way could potentially have provoked a controversy even greater than that surrounding certain aspects of season twenty-two. Even with the more whimsical approach that Mallett adopted, the story still managed to attract criticism for its use of kitchen implements in a threatening context. It seems that in the era of the 'moral majority' there was a limit - and quite a strict one, at that - to what Doctor Who could get away with.

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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