“Paradise Towers” is an adventure of the twentyfourth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1987. It follows “Time and the Rani” and it’s a four parts adventure written by Stephen Wyatt and directed by Nicholas Mallett.
The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford) are looking for a pool and land in the Paradise Towers, which are supposed to be a luxury high-rise building. However, they immediately realize that the place is deteriorated.
The two travelers meet a gang of girls and realize that the Paradise Towers are still inhabited but have turned into a sort of urban jungle. There’s the Caretaker Corps but their strict observance of the rules doesn’t really help the situation.
This DVD edition has a good amount of extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Billings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure episodes alternative audio track by its author Stephen Wyatt, actress Judy Cornwell and sound effect designer Dick Mills moderated by Mark Ayres.
Horror on the High Rise. A documentary about the production of this adventure.
Deleted and extended scenes. Some scenes cut partly or completely in the editing of this adventure.
Continuity. BBC announcements about this adventure.
Girls! Girls! Girls! – The Eighties. Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton talk about their experience as the Doctor’s companions in the 1980s.
Casting Sylvester. Producer Clive Doig talks about his relationship with Sylvester McCoy and his role in his casting as the Seventh Doctor.
Alternative Soundtrack. An option to watch this adventure with an alternative soundtrack, composed but not used.
Producer John Nathan-Turner was looking for new writers and Stephen Wyatt, after working as an author for theater and radio, had just started extending his services to television. At that time, Andrew Cartmel had just become “Doctor Who” script editor and started discussing possible screenplay ideas for the show with Wyatt. An inspiration was found in the novel “High Rise” by J.G. Ballard, set in a skyscraper that initially is luxurious but the microcosm that formed inside it slowly degenerates.
When Stephen Wyatt started writing the script, the actor who would play the Seventh Doctor had yet to be cast. When Sylvester McCoy was announced, the author’s task was facilitated because he had already seen him act so in the Doctor’s characterization he had some reference besides the actor’s audition tape and John Nathan-Turner’s directives.
In “Paradise Towers”, the Doctor and Mel arrive in the Paradise Towers when the society inside it has already collapsed. The novel that inspired this adventure has dramatic tones, the script stresses the element of parody of society. The Towers’s Caretakers, and their leader with a Hitler-style mustache, are incompetent men who strictly follow a rule book. Pex, convinced he’s a sort of defender of justice in the Towers, is a parody of American action heroes like the ones brought to the big screen in those years by Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The real threat in the Towers is supposed to come from cleaning robots that sometimes even eliminate people, a mysterious behavior that is explained during this adventure along with the connection with the Chief Caretaker. The problem is that they’re not threatening, above all because of their slowness that forces their victims to offer themselves to the robot that must kill them. With the budget available for the production of the classic “Doctor Who” series they could do no better, another case in which the consequent limits led to results lower than those hoped for with moments of involuntary comedy.
Things went a little better with Tilda and Tabby, two elderly women living in an apartment in the Towers. You understand that they practice cannibalism to remedy the shortage of proper food. Cannibalism couldn’t be explicitly mentioned in a program like “Doctor Who” but the indirect reference is enough to offer one of the very few moments of “Paradise Towers” in which a genuine sense of threat can be felt.
After his forgettable debut, the Seventh Doctor starts showing the side that was developed later, especially in subsequent seasons. The problem is that scenes such as the one in which he easily deceives the Caretakers who were supposed to keep him prisoner only end up being a childish comedy that helps neither the Seventh Doctor’s development nor this adventure.
Even trying to avoid a comparison with J.G. Ballard’s novel, “Paradise Towers” ends up having far too often a farcical rather than a satirical tone. In my opinion the overall result is passable but has more flaws than merits. The extras in the DVD edition are perhaps better than this serial so I recommend buying it if you want to have the complete collection of the classic “Doctor Who” series.