The second story with Sylvester McCoy playing The Doctor, Paradise
Towers could have been a great
serial. There are some interesting
concepts and a dozy of a mystery (or so I thought... more on that later)
production largely falls apart due to huge plot holes, some serious
and fairly obnoxious music.
The Doctor's companion, Mel (Bonnie Langford) feels like
going for a swim, and since they had to jettison the TARDIS pool (it
leaking) The Doctor decides to take her to the ultimate luxury
When they arrive the place looks more like a slum than five-star
accommodations. There's graffiti
everywhere, trash, and very few people.
The first inhabitants the pair run into are the Red Kangs, a
teenage girl gang who have all donned bright red wigs, that controls
areas of Paradise Towers. They're
constantly battling the Blue and Yellow Kangs, and playing tag with the
Caretakers. This latter group is a group
of bureaucratic police who try to keep the graffiti off the walls but
anything that isn't explicitly stated in their rule book (it turns out
to be a
small pamphlet for some insane reason.)
The only other group that lives in the Towers are the "Rezies"
ladies who reside in clean, doily-filled flats and are starved for
(among other things.) Oh yeah, then
there's Pex, a loner who fancies himself some sort of superhero and is the self-proclaimed protector of Paradise Towers.
As The Doctor and Mel soon find out, people have been disappearing. The entire Yellow Kang group is "made
unalive" and even Caretakers have been disappearing.
The Cleaners, robots that are presumably
supposed to keep the place in shape, have been snatching people and
to the off-limits basement.
The Doctor and Mel try to find out just what happened to the
city/building. Where are all the
people? What's in the basement? Mel soon finds out that there was a war, so
long ago that no one can quite remember, and all of the men and women
fighting age were shipped off, leaving just the children, invalids, and
strapping fit Caretakers (what? Why
didn't they go off to fight?) Of course
that leaves another question: why hasn't
anyone aged in all this time?
This serial is a case of a dark, interesting story having to
fight against bright lighting and horrible casting.
There's a lot of information about what the
serial was intended to be like revealed in the commentary track and
it's clear that this was a case of bad planning.
The first thing that noted is the bright lighting and
colorful costumes. The Kangs are a bit
dirty, but they're in red and blue and though they have weapons they
are happy and carefree. It's more like
the Lost Boys from Peter Pan than Lord of
the Flies. Toning things down would
have made the mood
much darker and much, much more interesting.
The background music, which was generally mixed way, way too
very intrusive and ruins the mood too.
Every time something suspenseful is going to happen, the blaring
discordant electronic music pulls viewers out of the moment. It was written in a week when the original
score, which is much better and available on this disc, was rejected.
The casting was just horrible too. Pax was
supposed to be a parody of action
heroes in general and Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular but the young
not-very-beefed up actor who played the role made it seem more camp
parody. The worst was the
Caretakers. When it's revealed that
everyone was fighting a war (how come The Doctor didn't know about
knew about Paradise Towers) the role of the Caretakers confused by and
thought it was part of the mystery. Why
weren't they fighting? It turns out they
were supposed to be the equivalent of 4F applicants:
The fat and sickly that couldn't make it in
the army. When they sent off the call
for actors to central casting, unfortunately they request "guards" so
what they got. Apparently no one thought
to reject them all and look for someone suitable. As
it is the whole lot of them, dressed in
shiny, tight-fitting leather, look like they've just returned from a
The single worst offender in the acting department was
easily the Chief Caretaker played by Richard Briers.
He starts off fine, quoting rules and
regulations with only a touch of inappropriate comedy.
In the last part of the show, after he's been
taken over by the villain, he hams it up and chews the scenery like his
depends upon it. Why, oh why did the
directors never tone down the villains in the later part of the classic
series? That part is really hard to
Yeah, the special effects and the monsters are horrid too
(what's with the Cleaners?? They're slow
and not the least bit intimidating, but why would 'cleaners' be
designed with a
rotating saw and giant drill??) but
we've come to expect that from classic Doctor
Who. Usually the script and
characterization can make up for that.
Not this time. Though there were
some interesting ideas in the script, they failed to materialize. I was really interested in why no one
aged. If no one, even the Caretakers,
could remember why everyone left it must have happened a long, long
time ago. The dilapidated condition of the
themselves and the fact that the Kangs have developed their own slang
as taken names from the things around them (Bin Liner, Fire Escape))
implies that it was a long time in the past.
Yet this is NEVER addressed in the show.
What happened to all the teenage boys? Why
were a bunch of juvenile girls left to
their own devices? None of these obvious
questions are answered, which makes the show fairly frustrating.
This four part series arrives on a single DVD.
The mono soundtrack is very good. It's
clean and clear with no hiss or
background noise to take away from the story.
The dialog is easy to discern and the background music and
never overpowering. Being a mono track,
there's really not much more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and looks fine. Some scenes are a
bit soft, but generally the image is clean and the colors are fine. If you've seen the other restored McCoy era
stories, then you'll know what to expect.
The BBC has come up with some nice extras for this release,
although it's a bit of a mystery why they included one with this disc. First off is a commentary track with writer
Stephen Wyatt, actress Judy Cornwell (Maddy) and soundman Dick Mills. It's really a shame that the lead actors
weren't included, but there is some interesting information, especially
the original vision of the story, that will please fans.
That's followed by a nice featuette: Horror
on the High Rise (34 minutes). This
interviews the cast and crew (though McCoy and Langford are notably
and provides a thorough examination of the adventure.
There are also several shorter video
extras: Casting Sylvester
(3 min) - where a friend of the actor talks about
how he got the job; and Continuity (4
minutes) - bumpers shown before and after the show when it was
broadcast. In addition to that
there is eight minutes worth of deleted scenes.
There's also a fun but off
feature: Girls, Girls, Girls (21 min)
Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Sophie Aldred talk about their
the show and the role of women in the series.
I'm not sure why they included that on this disc, since none of
three actresses appear in this story and the companion who is feature
the extra. In any case it's a great bit
to watch, especially when the complain that Lalla Ward could change her
every story (or even more often) while they had to stay in one outfit
of their tenure. They start to mention
why that was (Ward was living with Tom Baker) before censoring
The story also comes with an optional pop up trivia tracks
that's filled with information. Some of
it is minutia, the date the episodes were filmed and ever the time that
wrapped, but also background info on the supporting and incidental
and it points out on screen gaffs. These
are wonderful. There's also a photo
gallery, the Radio Times listings (in .pdf format) and an alternate
with the score that was scrapped. I only
spot checked it, but it seemed to work much better than what went out
This could have been a great story with a little
tinkering. The idea of a group of people
consisting of a society's castoffs isolated and living in a high rise
has a lot
of potential. There are also some dark
moments in the show, mostly ruined by the bright lighting, but they are
there. Unfortunately the missteps
outweigh the things that they got right and this story just doesn't
work. Still, it is interesting to watch
about how things might have been. And
for that reason along this show is definitely worth a rental.