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Horror on the High Rise
“Ice hot, Doctor! Ice hot!”
I’ve enjoyed watching ‘Paradise Towers’! Okay, it’s not the greatest ‘Doctor Who’ story ever! Sometimes it’s difficult to take seriously with bouts of comedy and the ideas weren’t executed really well. But this is a fun story and has a pretty plausible plot and lots of concepts and ideas thrown in it.
‘Paradise Towers’ is a four-part story by Stephen Wyatt from Sylvester McCoy’s first season as the Doctor. The show at the time was under immense pressure, since Sylvester had a rocky start in ‘Time and the Rani’. But ‘Paradise Towers’ is the story where the Seventh Doctor era begins to find its feet.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Paradise Towers’ signed by Judy Cornwell, who played Maddy in the story, at ‘The Capitol II’ convention in Arora Hotel, Gatwick, May 2017. I had a nice chat with Judy, sharing how I enjoyed her in ‘Paradise Towers’, ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ and in ‘A Murder Is Announced’.
In this story, the Doctor and Mel visit this high-rise tower block called ‘Paradise Towers’ somewhere in the future. The place is a shambles, as dirt and grime has worn over the years. The tower’s inhabitants are in disarray, divided into the Caretakers, the Kangs, the Rezis and someone called Pex.
With people being picked off one by one and taken away by robot cleaners to be eaten by a creature in the basement, the Doctor learns that something’s wrong and there’s more to this derelict tower-block than it seems. He’s determined to solve the mystery of the Great Architect missing for so long.
I liked how Stephen creates the world of Paradise Towers in this. Some ideas aren’t well-executed, but they’re enough. I liked how the setting is created with the towers’ people in disarray and divided into groups and no-one seems to know and understand why people are being killed off one by one.
There’s a history about Paradise Towers that gets unravelled, as the Doctor learns from the Kangs and the Caretakers piece by piece on what’s going on. Sometimes there’s an overdose of the sitcom feel, but get your head around the comedic absurdness and you’ll have the makings of a good story.
I enjoyed Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in this. He’s not the manipulative Seventh Doctor in later years, as he’s only just started. But he gives a really good performance and becomes very Doctorish when interacting with the Kangs and the Caretakers, as he gathers the people together to stop Kroagnon.
I enjoyed the Doctor’s scenes with Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker. It was funny when he manages to fool the Caretakers guarding him prisoner by quoting their rule book. I can’t believe that they fell for it. It was funny when the Doctor tipped his hat off to a pump from the story’s beginning.
Bonnie Langford as Mel is okay for me. I’m afraid Mel does scream a lot in this story and that’s all she seems to be remembered for. Mel is certainly better in the Big Finish audios. I liked how Mel gets separated from the Doctor and that she has her own adventure when she’s meeting the Rezis.
It was quite disturbing when Mel gets threatened by Tilda and Tabby in the story. I liked it when Mel shares scenes with Pex. Mel finds Pex annoying at first, but gradually she forms a bond with him. It’s so odd though that Mel is keen to visit Paradise Towers, just to see and swim in the swimming pool.
The Caretakers are group of military-like guards who ‘take care’ of the conditions of Paradise Towers and they abide by their rulebook. When out in force, the Caretakers are usually led by Clive Merrison as the Deputy Chief Caretaker, when sorting out the Kangs and when sent out to capture the Doctor.
For me, the highlight of this is Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker. I love Richard’s performance in this story as he’s well known for appearing in sitcoms/dramas including ‘The Good Life’, ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’. He would appear later on in the Series 2 episode of ‘Torchwood’ called ‘A Day In The Death’.
There’s an element of Adolf Hitler and Martin Bryce from ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ with Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker. I love that cliff-hanger moment that he has with the Doctor in ‘Part One’. It is difficult to take him seriously, but I liked Richard’s performance in the first three episodes.
But by ‘Part Four’, it goes downhill. The Chief Caretaker gets turned into zombie, as Kroagnon takes him over. Richard does this strange performance which is really over-the-top. I couldn’t help laugh for the wrong reason. But to be fair, it’s so hard to play a zombie and I can’t blame Richard for trying.
There are also the Kangs! Red Kangs! There’s also the Blue Kangs as well as the Yellow Kangs except for the last one who screams and gets killed at the start of the story. The Kangs are a group of girl gangs storming about the tower block, looting and getting to find out what goes on within the place.
The Kangs have strange names such as Bin Liner and Fire Escape. The Blue Kang Leader doesn’t have a name oddly. The Kangs have their own slang words such as “Ice Hot!” (my favourite) and “Build High For Happiness!” They help the Doctor and Mel to stop Kroagnon and see that nobody gets ‘unalive’.
There’s also the Rezis of Paradise Towers. They include Judy Cornwell as Maddy, who I was delighted to see from ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. There’s Brenda Bruce as Tilda (who I’ve seen in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ with Sarah Sutton) and Elizabeth Spriggs as Tabby.
Tilda and Tabby welcome Mel with tea and crumpets and they seem really friendly. But by the end of ‘Part Two’, there’s this frightening cliff-hanger where Tilda and Tabby hold Mel captive with a net over her head. Even for a comedy-filled story like this, this must have been frightening for the kids.
And of course there’s Howard Cooke as Pex; a muscular young man determined to ‘put Paradise Towers to rights’. He seems to like showing off his strength since he keeps bashing down doors into the Rezis’ homes. But it turns out Pex is a coward as he tends to run away at the first sight of trouble.
In the story, there are robot cleaners that patrol the corridors of Paradise Towers. These robots I feel weren’t scary enough. The design looks pretty bizarre, as they don’t seem to be very threatening and can only move one arm in a restricted movement. They trundle a lot without any sense of urgency.
And there’s Kroagnon, the once Great Architect who lives in the basement of the tower block. This creature has purple glowing eyes that don’t look very realistic and it keeps saying “Hungry!” The Chief Caretaker delivers ‘food’ for his pet before Kroagnon reveals its scheme to destroy that ‘fleshy filth’.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a making-of documentary called ‘Horror on the High Rise’ with cast and crew interviews, presented by Mark Ayes. There are deleted and extended scenes from the story, continuity announcements and there’s ‘Casting Sylvester’ interview with Clive Doig.
There’s a commentary with Judy Cornwell; writer Stephen Wyatt and special sounds supervisor Dick Mills; moderated by Mark Ayres. There’s also an alternative music soundtrack option for ‘Paradise Towers’ by composer David Snell to enjoy and there’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy.
There’s a photo gallery of the story and there’s a ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF of the story. The highlight of this DVD for me is the ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!: The Eighties’ discussion with Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton who talk on the trails of playing a ‘Doctor Who’ companion during the 80s.
There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Sun Makers’ with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson.
‘Paradise Towers’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that I’ve immensely enjoyed. There’s a sense of it being too comedic with over-the-top performances. But I enjoyed the ideas and the world of ‘Paradise Towers’ that Stephen Wyatt had created, since it’s an interesting story. Not the best, but certainly lots of fun!
‘Paradise Towers’ rating – 8/10
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