Review of Doctor Who ‘Paradise Towers’ (Series 24)

Neela Debnath

doctor 300x219 Review of Doctor Who ‘Paradise Towers’ (Series 24)In the run up to the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in November 2013, Neela Debnath with the help of BBC DVD, will be reviewing one story from each of the previous 31 series of the show. Each review will offer readers a snapshot from every series of ‘Doctor Who’ and celebrate the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world.

We have a new Doctor and this one is a funny little man in the form of Sylvester McCoy. After much criticism, Colin Baker was unceremoniously fired from Doctor Who and the part was recast. Baker departed in the final part of The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe. He chose not to come back to film the regeneration sequence in the following series.

Sylvester McCoy stepped onto the Tardis in Time and the Rani when an evil Time Lady known as the Rani attacked and critically injured the Doctor, forcing him to regenerate into the seventh incarnation.

Peri (Nicola Bryant) made her last appearance in Mindwarp, where she was abducted by a creature known as Kiv. The Doctor initially thought Peri was dead but discovered she was alive and married to a warrior monarch called King Yrcanos of Thoros Alpha.

The Doctor has a new companion. Computer programmer Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford) joined the show in series 23’s Terror of the Vervoids. However, she had apparently been travelling with the Doctor for some time before this, but the audience is never shown her first ever adventure with him. Through wibley wobbly timey wimey stuff, the Doctor met Mel before she met him and vice versa. She is like the original River Song. There’s even a similarity in the names: Mel/Mels/Melody Pond.

Paradise Towers is a four-part serial which sees the Doctor and Mel visit a renowned apartment complex, so that Mel can take a swim in its fabled pool. Upon arrival they find a rundown block of flats, where groups of girls known as Kangs run amok, Rezzies stick to their apartments, and the policing force of Caretakers fail to do their jobs properly. On top of this people are mysteriously vanishing and something evil is lurking in the basement.

The story takes inspiration from many works, including Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. The influence of Burgess’ book and Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation are apparent. This dystopian world is gritty and unforgiving, with its brutalist architecture and graffiti.

What I loved about this story was the presence of so many strong female characters. The Kangs and Rezzies are all female and they make up for Mel’s sheer childishness. Unfortunately, Mel is even worse than Peri as companions go. She certainly has a pair of lungs on her and she shrieks her way through this serial. It’s disappointing and the polka dotted affair that she traipses around in is dire.

Aside from the Doctor and the Chief Caretaker (Richard Briers), the only other prominent male character is Pex (Howards Cooke), who is rather pathetic. He is mocked by the Kangs for his cowardice and spends most of his time trying to show off his strength by breaking things. In some respects Pex reminded me of Rory Pond in Nu-Who, they even look alike.

There’s something Soviet about this society, particularly the Caretakers – their uniform even has a Cold War look to it. By 1987 the West was trying to build ties with the Soviet Union and the old Communist regime was starting to decay. Interestingly, the dystrophy of an old regime seems to be reflected in the state of affairs in Paradise Towers.

Briers appears to have taken inspiration from Basil Fawlty’s ‘don’t mention the War’ scene from Fawlty Towers. It’s even been taken a couple of steps further with his Adolf Hitler look. All of this emphasises how cruel Paradise Towers really is.

Doctor Who writers always produce incredible dystopias and Paradise Towers is no exception. There is also lot of comedy to this serial as well which is great and brings balance to the dark subject matter. Writer Stephen Wyatt has produced a marvellous story. The details are wonderful, particularly the seemingly harmless old ladies Tilda (Brenda Bruce) and Tabby (Elizabeth Spriggs), who turn out to cannibals. They are probably the best thing about this serial. The thought of being netted by an old lady’s crocheted shawl is hilarious and a brilliant piece of television. But the production values let the story down as usual. The robots look like they have been made from abandoned portable toilets while the sets look a tad shaky. It all works on paper but just doesn’t deliver visually.

DVD & image credit: BBC

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  • TheRoastNewt

    Good review.

    I enjoyed it myself, but there’s no doubt that it was a little silly in its execution. The main issue was its production values which were very low at the time, but I think that given what they had to work with, they did a very good job. It’s quite a disturbing story under the surface. Probably my favourite from series 24.

  • spectre77

    Mel rocks. One of the problems with Who is not enough Mel. My favourite companion. She’s beautiful, and has a sweet, kind, cuteness about her. She’d be just the kind of person you’d want around to pick you up after a few tough scrapes. She’s brave, in her own way, as is not afraid to act as the Doctor’s equal (imposing Six’s exercise and diet regime). She should’ve been in more serials.

  • JohnPReid

    JG bollards high rise was an influence here too

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