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Horror on the High Rise with the Seventh Doctor and Mel
If you ask me what I think of ‘Paradise Towers’ nowadays compared to when I first saw it on DVD in 2011, I would say, “Ice Hot, Doctor! Ice Hot!” I know that was the tagline used for my DVD review, but it’s a really fitting thing to say to express how much ‘Paradise Towers’ is a guilty pleasure for me!
I greatly enjoyed watching ‘Paradise Towers’ when I first saw it on DVD in 2011 and I still enjoyed watching it on Blu-ray in 2021! Admittedly, it’s not the greatest ‘Doctor Who’ story ever made and sometimes it’s rather difficult to take the story seriously with the bouts of comedy it has throughout.
Despite the overdose of comedy, this is a fun story to watch. It has a pretty plausible plot and it features lots of clever concepts and ideas in it. The ideas aren’t well executed enough, but I’m able to enjoy the story to appreciate what those ideas are trying to be about and how they’re delivered.
‘Paradise Towers’ is a four-part adventure by Stephen Wyatt, a newcomer to the show. Although ‘Time and the Rani’ was the first story of Sylvester McCoy’s first season in ‘Doctor Who’, in many ways, ‘Paradise Towers’ is where it starts for Andrew Cartmel being the script editor of the TV show.
Andrew Cartmel commissioned Stephen Wyatt to write for the show after he read a non-‘Doctor Who’ play he did called ‘Claws’. When asked for ideas on a potential ‘Doctor Who’ story, Stephen came up with a ‘High-Rise’-styled story based on the 1970s dystopian thriller novel by J. G. Ballard. 🙂
I’ve not read ‘High Rise’ as a book and I’ve not seen the 2015 film yet, but it’s intriguing how Stephen Wyatt came up with the idea for a ‘Doctor Who’ story. Andrew Cartmel approved of the idea and they set about crafting the story. This eventually became ‘Paradise Towers’ with the Seventh Doctor.
After doing ‘Paradise Towers’, Stephen went on to write another Seventh Doctor adventure called ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’. I prefer ‘Paradise Towers’ over that story. Stephen would later write a Big Finish audio sequel to the two TV stories he did in the 1980s called ‘The Psychic Circus’. 🙂
At the time ‘Paradise Towers’ was made, the TV show was under immense pressure from the BBC. Sylvester of course had a rocky start in ‘Time and the Rani’. ‘Paradise Towers’ is where you could say the Seventh Doctor era was starting to find its feet, especially in terms of blending the light and dark.
This ‘Doctor Who’ story was directed by Nicholas Mallet. Nick Mallet previously directed ‘The Mysterious Planet’ segment of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ season with Colin Baker. He would later go on to direct ‘The Curse of Fenric’ with Sylvester McCoy in Season 26. I like how he directed this story.
In the adventure itself, the Seventh Doctor and Mel visit the high-rise tower block called Paradise Towers somewhere in the future. It’s never made clear whether this story takes place on Earth or not. It’s open to interpretation, but I’d like to think it is on Earth or on some future human colony. 😀
Mel wants to have a swim in the large swimming pool at the top of Paradise Towers. Apparently the TARDIS’ swimming pool was leaking. Probably caused by the Sontarans from ‘The Invasion of Time’! 😀 Also weird that Mel seems obsessed about visiting a swimming pool in this ‘Doctor Who’ TV story.
When the Doctor and Mel arrive, they find the place a shambles, Dirt and grime has worn over the years and there are graffiti wall-scrawls in the corridors of Paradise Towers. The tower’s inhabitants are also in disarray. They include the Caretakers, the Kangs, the Rezzies and a young man called Pex.
As the story progresses, the Doctor discovers that something’s terribly wrong with Paradise Towers. People are being picked off one by one in the adventure. They’re killed and taken away by the robot Cleaners to be eaten by Kroagnon, a creature in the basement who keeps going “HUNGRY!!!” a lot. 🙂
The Doctor finds there’s more to this derelict tower block than it seems. Determined to solve the mystery of the Great Architect who’s been missing for years, the Doctor and Mel try to unite the people of Paradise Towers to overthrow Kroagnon who wants to clean the tower of its ‘human filth’.
I enjoyed how Stephen Wyatt created the world of Paradise Towers. Like I said, some of the ideas aren’t well-executed enough in the story, but the ideas are more interesting and exciting compared to how Pip and Jane Baker delivered their ideas in ‘Time and the Rani’. It was very fascinating to see.
I like how the story’s setting is built up during the tale when we’re introduced to people like the Kangs, the Rezzies and the Caretakers. The people of Paradise Towers are in disarray since they’re groups of people divided from each other. No-one can understand why people are being killed off. 😐
It’s also intriguing how the history of Paradise Towers gets unravelled in the adventure. The Doctor learns piece-by-piece about what’s going on in the tower block from meeting the Kangs and the Caretakers. The resolution of what the Doctor uncovers is handled reasonably well in terms of the writing.
Understandably, there is an overdose of the sitcom feel featured throughout this story, but so long as you can get your head around the comedic absurdness that’s going on, you have the makings of a great story here. At least I was able to overcome the comedic aspects featured whilst I watched this.
I enjoyed Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in this adventure. At this point, he’s not quite the manipulative Seventh Doctor we would get to know in the later stories of his era as he’s only just started. There’s also a sense of him being toned down in terms of the clown aspects featured in ‘Time and the Rani’.
Sylvester still delivers a really good performance here and he does become Doctorish when he interacts with the Kangs and the Caretakers. He’s also Doctorish in gathering the people of Paradise Towers together by the story’s end to stop Kroagnon. It’s an aspect I expect to see in watching the Doctor. 🙂
I found it funny when the Doctor doffed his hat to a pump upon arrival in Paradise Towers. Mel goes “No, Doctor!” and the Doctor replies, “Well, you never can tell.” I’’s just so amusing to see, both on arrival and leaving Paradise Towers. I also liked the Doctor’s scenes with Richard Briers’ character. 🙂
It was funny when the Doctor managed to fool the Caretakers, including the Deputy Chief Caretaker, who were guarding him as he quoted a fake rule from their rather slim rule book. I can’t believe they fell for that trick. It’s something the Doctor shouldn’t be able to get away with, but he does superbly.
I found Bonnie Langford as Mel okay in this adventure. I’m afraid Mel screams a lot in ‘Paradise Towers’. It’s what she seems to be remembered for when watching her in the TV series. Mel is certainly better as a character in the Big Finish audios. I’m happy she’s been given that development.
In the ‘Paradise Towers’ story; I like how Mel gets separated from the Doctor and she has her own adventure. This is when she’s meeting the Rezzies like Tilda and Tabby and when she meets Pex. Mel doesn’t get to reunite with the Doctor until ‘Part Four’ as they agree to meet at the swimming pool.
It was quite disturbing when Mel was threatened by Tilda and Tabby in the story after they’d been so nice to her. It must have been frightening for children to see that by the end of ‘Part Two’ and especially when Tilda threatened Mel with a knife in ‘Part Three’. There were complaints about that.
I liked it when Mel shared scenes with Pex in the tale. Mel does find Pex annoying at first, especially when he tries to show off his muscles. Gradually, Mel forms a bond with him and comes to see that Pex isn’t a coward in the end. Still odd that Mel’s obsessed with swimming in the swimming pool. 😀
Especially when the pool is filled with a yellow robot crab that tries to drown her. 😀 Anyway, we meet the Caretakers in Paradise Towers. They’re a group of military-like guards who ‘take care’ of the conditions of Paradise Towers. This differs from the original concept Stephen Wyatt had of them.
Originally, the Caretakers were meant to be older and less fit. They abide by their rulebook which looks more like the Highway Code. 😀 When out in force, the Caretakers are usually led by the Deputy Chief Caretaker. They sort out the Kangs and they capture the Doctor a couple of times here.
For me, the highlight of this adventure is the special guest star performance of Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker! I love Richard’s performance as the Chief Caretaker. Mind you, I would have cast him in a more suitable role such as Mr. Adams in my Fifth Doctor adventure ‘The Railway of Time’. 🙂
Richard Briers is well-known for starring in BBC sitcoms and dramas such as ‘The Good Life’, ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’. After doing ‘Paradise Towers’, Richard would go on to appear in the ‘Torchwood’ Series 2 episode called ‘A Day In The Death’. He was good in that episode.
With the Chief Caretaker as a character, there is an element of Martin Bryce from ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ meeting Adolf Hitler in Richard Briers’ performance. This I could see, especially when he says “Oh dear, oh dear!” and goes prickly in abiding by the rulebook. Those rules can be very elaborate. 🙂
I love the cliffhanger moment at the end of ‘Part One’ when he tells his fellow Caretakers that the Doctor happens to be the Great Architect. It’s difficult to take Richard seriously in that moment when he says “Kill him!” I know he’s out of place in this story, but I can’t help but love watching it. 😀
Mind you, the cliffhanger moment only half-works. I was expecting the Great Architect to be revealed as an evil version of the Doctor, hence why the Chief Caretaker seemed to think the Doctor was the Great Architect at the end of ‘Part One’. A shame that didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.
I enjoyed Richard’s performance as the Chief Caretaker in the story’s first three episodes. Unfortunately by the time we get to ‘Part Four’, it does go downhill. Richard still delivers an entertaining performance, but he had to be turned into a zombie by the time ‘Part Four’ came along.
This is when Kroganon takes over the Chief Caretaker’s body and possesses him. Richard does a strange Shakespearean-like performance, which is really over-the-top. I couldn’t help laugh for the wrong reasons. I should have taken him seriously as Richard gives his all doing a zombie performance.
But it’s really difficult not to laugh when he’s doing the zombie performance. Mind you, I can’t blame Richard for trying since it’s difficult to play a zombie on the right levels. He should have toned it down when he did. I know he got into trouble with producer John Nathan-Turner over his performance. 😀
Clive Merrison guest stars as the Deputy Chief Caretaker in this adventure. I’ve seen Clive Merrison in quite a number of things outside ‘Paradise Towers’. He was also in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ with Patrick Troughton and in ‘The Contingency Club’ with Peter Davison. 😀
He was also in 1977’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ with Michael Horden and in 1985’s ‘A Pocketful of Rye’ with Joan Hickson. I enjoyed Clive’s performance as the Chief Caretaker in this adventure. It’s clear he’s enjoying himself and trying not to laugh whenever he’s having his scenes with Richard Briers. 😀
The story also features the Kangs. They’re like a group of girl gangs storming about the tower block, looting and getting to find out what’s going on in the place. The Kangs are divided into colour groups – the Red Kangs, the Blue Kangs and the Yellow Kangs. However, there’s one Yellow Kang left in this.
In fact, the Yellow Kang played by Astra Sheridan is killed off early as she screams at the start of the story. 😀 It’s bizarre that the Kangs don’t know anything about boys, especially as there’s just one Pex in Paradise Towers. This all happens to be a gender-reversal of the boys from ‘Lord of the Flies’. 😐
The Kangs have strange names given to them, especially the Red Kangs. There’s Annabel Yuresha as Bin Liner and Julie Brennon as Fire Escape. Incidentally, at the time this story was made, Julie Brennon was married to Mark Strickson (the actor who played Turlough in the ‘Doctor Who’ series).
Catherine Cusack who plays the Blue Kang Leader doesn’t have a name in the story, which is odd. Nisha Nayer also plays a Red Kang in the story, albeit uncredited. Nisha Nayer would go on to play the Female Programmer in ‘Bad Wolf’/’The Parting of the Ways’ with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor.
The Kangs happen to have their own slang words such as “Ice Hot!” (which is my favourite) and “Build High For Happiness!” Distrusting of the Doctor and Mel at first, the Kangs soon unite and help the TARDIS duo to stop Koragnon in his evil plans and make sure that nobody comes out ‘un-alive’. 🙂
The story also features the Rezzies (also called Residents) of Paradise Towers. Most of them are old ladies who make tea and cake when in their homes. I would have thought there would be more residents in Paradise Towers and that they would vary from old to young and male to female here. 😐
The Rezzies include Judy Cornwell as Maddy, who I was delighted to see, having seen her play Daisy in the sitcom ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. Incidentally, I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Paradise Towers’ signed by Sylvester McCoy at the ‘London Comic Con Spring 2022’ in February 2022 and by Judy Cornwell at ‘The Capitol II’ convention at the Arora Hotel, Gatwick, in May 2017.
At ‘The Capitol II’ convention, I had a nice chat with Judy, sharing how much I enjoyed her in ‘Paradise Towers’ as well as ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. I’ve also seen her as Miss Marple in a 2015 theatre production of ‘A Murder Is Announced’. I’m very pleased I’ve seen Judy in real-life in a play and at a convention.
The story also features Brenda Bruce as Tilda and Elizabeth Spriggs as Tabby. I’ve seen Brenda Bruce before in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ where she played Aunt Dahila in Series 1. She also played the White Queen in the 1973 BBC production of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ with Sarah Sutton as Alice. 😀
I’m glad Sarah mentioned that when watching her in the ‘Behind the Sofa’ item for ‘Paradise Towers’ on the Blu-ray. Elizabeth Spriggs has had a varied acting career over the years, starring in productions such as the 1994 BBC TV production of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ and the 1995 film ‘Sense and Sensibility’.
Tilda and Tabby welcome Mel into their home with tea and crumpets. They seem really friendly at first in ‘Parts One and Two’. But by the time we come to the end of ‘Part Two’, the frightening cliffhanger happens where Tilda and Tabby hold Mel captive with a net over her head and use a toasting fork. 😮
Again, even for a comedy-filled ‘Doctor Who’ adventure such as this, this must have been frightening for kids. Audiences, fans and critics complained that Season 24 was too comedic. Check this story again and you can see how frightening the end of ‘Part Two’ is! I’m still terrified from watching it. 😀
And of course, there’s Howard Cooke as Pex, a muscular young man who’s determined ‘to put Paradise Towers to rights’. He seems to like showing off especially in terms of his strength as he keeps bashing doors down into Tilda and Tabby’s home. 😀 He also bends a lighting unit before Mel.
Apparently, Pex is meant to be a parody of the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone-type of characters seen in action films like ‘Commando’ and ‘Rambo’. This I could see, especially when Pex seems to be dressed up like Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone whilst watching him here.
Now, I admit, I’ve not seen that many Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone movies…
Timelord007: “Shame on you, Tim!”
WilliamsFan92: “I’m surprised you’ve not seen those films yet, Tim!”
I know, I know. I’ve a lot to catch up on. I’m sure I’ll get around to watching those films soon.
But the point I’m trying to make here is, wouldn’t it be funny if Pex spoke with a fake Austrian accent like Arnold Schwarzenegger or tried to impersonate Sylvester Stallone when talking to Mel? Because, quite frankly, I didn’t pick up on the Schwarzenegger/Stallone parodying in Pex whilst I watched him!
An intriguing aspect in Pex is that he turned out to be a coward, since he tended to run away at the first sight of trouble. He’s like a 7-year-old boy in a man’s body. This I enjoyed and I appreciate what Howard Cooke tried to portray. I like how Pex’s character’s progression developed towards the end. 🙂
This is especially when Pex made the self-sacrifice by the story’s end as he and the Chief Caretaker possessed by Kroganon went down the chute with the explosives going off. I had a tear in my eye when the Kangs performed their funeral ritual for Pex at the end and everybody gathered to attend.
The story also has the robot Cleaners patrolling the corridors of Paradise Towers. I didn’t think these robots were scary enough. Their designs are pretty bizarre and they don’t seem to be that intimidating and threatening. At their fronts, they seem able to move one arm in a restricted manner.
They also lumber and trundle a lot without any sense of urgency when delivering the dead bodies Kroagnon wants to eat. Keff McCulloch’s incidental music for the story sometimes felt intimidating when you watch the Cleaners, but other times the music could be quite jolly and rather out-of-place.
When we first see Kroagnon, the once Great Architect of Paradise Towers who lives in the basement, he happens to be a creature with purple glowing eyes that don’t look very realistic and he keeps saying “HUNGRY!!!” a lot. The Chief Caretaker delivers him food and calls him his pet during the tale.
It was funny when the Chief Caretaker referred to himself as ‘Daddy’ when talking to his pet, sounding like Martin Bryce quite a bit in the tale. 😀 I’m surprised the Chief Caretaker didn’t realise his pet was Kroagnon the Great Architect before it possessed him in order to destroy the filthy flesh.
Apparently, the story was originally meant to be scored by composer David Snell. I’ve heard pieces of the original incidental music by David Snell and found it intriguing to listen to. The director Nicholas Mallet was happy with David Snell’s score, but producer John Nathan-Turner wasn’t happy.
Instead, Keff McCulloch was asked to compose the incidental music of ‘Paradise Towers’, having come off from doing ‘Delta and the Bannermen’. A shame that David Snell’s original score never got utilised for ‘Paradise Towers’, but thankfully you can hear the original score for the tale on DVD and Blu-ray.
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was the making-of documentary called ‘Horror on the High Rise’, which is presented by Mark Ayres and features behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There were deleted and extended scenes from the story; some BBC continuity announcements from the story; and the ‘Girls! Girls! Girls! – The Eighties’ discussion between Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred who talk about the trials of playing a ‘Doctor Who’ companion during the 1980s (which was the highlight of the ‘Paradise Towers’ DVD for me 😀 ). There was the ‘Casting Sylvester’ interview with Clive Doig (which is now included on Disc 1 of the Season 24 Blu-ray box set) and a photo gallery of the story. There was a mono sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Judy Cornwell, writer Stephen Wyatt and special sounds designer Dick Mills, moderated by Mark Ayres; and the alternative music score option for ‘Paradise Towers’ by composer David Snell to enjoy. There was also an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There were PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story and there was a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Sun Makers’ with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson.
On Disc 3 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 24’ Blu-ray, the original four-part TV version of the story, the ‘Horror on the High Rise’ making-of documentary, the mono sound audio mix option; the DVD audio commentary, the alternative music score option, and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The deleted and extended scenes from the story; the photo gallery and the info-text commentary option for ‘Paradise Towers’ have been updated for 2021 on the Blu-ray. The BBC continuity announcements have also been updated into BBC trailers and continuity announcements for ‘Paradise Towers’ on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Paradise Towers’ with Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel) and Sophie Aldred (Ace) as well as Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and Janet Fielding (Tegan) as well as Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) and Michael Jayston (The Valeyard). There’s also ‘The Doctor’s Table’ with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Sophie Aldred and Clive Merrison. There’s an ‘Open Air’ interview with Richard Briers; some TENCON convention panel footage with Julie Brennon and Mark Strickson; an audio archive interview with director Nicholas Mallet; and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ with Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford (taken from ‘The Deadly Assassin’ DVD). There’s also a brand-new 5.1 surround sound audio mix option for the story to enjoy and there’s an isolated music option by Keff McCulloch.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are production documents and scripts for the story including four rehearsal scripts and four post-production camera scripts. Sadly, the ‘Girls! Girls! Girls! – The Eighties’ discussion isn’t included in the Season 24 Blu-ray box set.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 24’ Blu-ray, there’s the extended version of ‘Paradise Towers’ to enjoy. There’s also some location footage and some studio footage from the making of the story to enjoy. There’s a mono sound audio mix option and a 5.1 surround sound audio mix option for the extended version of ‘Paradise Towers’.
‘Paradise Towers’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve immensely enjoyed watching on DVD and Blu-ray. There is a sense of the story being too comedic with the over-the-top performances featured in it, but the ideas contained within the world Stephen Wyatt created for ‘Paradise Towers’ are enjoyable.
It’s a fascinating story indeed. Not the best, but it has lots of fun in it! I especially enjoyed Richard Briers’ performance as the Chief Caretaker in ‘Paradise Towers’. His performance might be out of place with what else that’s going on in ‘Paradise Towers’, but I can’t help but love his performance. 🙂
‘Paradise Towers’ rating – 8/10
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