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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Paradise Towers


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 18 July 2011

Following Mel’s request for a bit of a swim, The Doctor takes her to Paradise Towers which is renowned for its pool. On arrival things are not as they should be, the Towers are in a state of advanced decrepitude and the humans have split themselves into competing and mutually hostile groups. The residents have turned to cannibalism to survive. The remaining young girls have formed themselves into gangs, the Kangs, donated by the colour blue and red, the yellows having all been undead. Over these groups are the caretakers, whose sole job appears to be hunting the Kangs. What could have gone so wrong and is there anything that the Doctor can do to help before one or other of the factions kill him...?

Paradise Towers was the second Sylvester McCoy story from season twenty-four. The show was directed by Nicholas Mallet and written by Stephen Wyatt. The show consisted of four episodes and was originally transmitted between 05 and 26 October 1987.

From my original memories, this was a pretty awful story, so I was interested to see if this impression had changed over time.

The story was written as a generic affair, so there is little of McCoy’s humour which would come to denote his time as the Doctor, even so he is able to add the odd ad lib which points to a much more interesting incarnation.

Towers is very much a child of its time and budget restrictions. The musical score, at that time, was electronic. It seems we had all discovered synthesisers and were happy to use them for pretty much everything. The soundtrack has a very naive quality about it, often when someone points there is a ‘bam’ for emphasis, followed by a couple more for good luck. It really is a matter of whether you like this approach, personally I couldn’t have been more happy when the show dropped this particular approach.

So, the nascent Doctor is finding his feet, with the much, fan abused, Bonny Langford, who honestly wasn’t that bad. The main thrust of the story is the Doctor finding out how this society had degenerated so badly, before the inevitable boss battle at the end. We can have the usual discussion about the lack of budget and its impact on the show, but any long-time fan has grown a callous hide against wobbly sets and slow moving monsters.

The show was notable for its main guest star in the form of Richard Briers, a lost time fixture on comedy serials. As the chief caretaker he plays his role both broad and Shakespearian, which can often seem at odds with the mostly inexperienced cast. The biggest weakness in the show is the pseudo slang that the Kangs speak, presumably there to show the disintegration of a culture, or the independent growth of a youth culture. This had worked very well with Alex in A Clockwork Orange, here it just sounds a little silly.

The picture is treasonable, considering the age of the show, presented in its original aspect ratio, 4:3 with a two channel audio. The disc has English subtitles and technical subs.

The disc’s extras kick off with a full length audio commentary with Judy Cornwell, Stephen Wyatt and Dick Mills, moderated by Mark Ayres. Its fine but repeats much of the material found in the extras.

Horror on the High Rise (34 min, 05 sec) is the bulkiest extra, being the usual in depth making of feature, this time fronted by Mark Ayres. Next we have a selection of deleted and extended scenes (7 min, 55 sec), the usual continuity pieces (3 min, 55 sec). Girls! Girls! Girls! (21 min, 45 sec) is, without doubt, the best extra as it has Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton talking candidly about their time on the show. What was refreshing about this round table discussion is the honesty from the actresses, not only about their experiences but also about their feelings about the show now and then. I would like to see more of these in later releases.

Casting Sylvester (3 min, 48 sec) takes a short look at how Sylvester McCoy got the job as the Doctor. The disc wraps up with the usual Photo Gallery, Radio Times Listings and the Coming Soon for The Sun Makers.

The show’s failings are in the translation of the original writers imagination into the cash short Doctor Who, though some of these could have been avoided. Stephen Wyatt recounts how all the males had gone to war, so the idea was to have the Caretakers being made up of the fat and decrepit. What the show actually gave him was a bunch of fairly fit men, which destroyed one of the central ideas.

Re-watching it again, it’s not as bad as I remember, except the soundtrack. Like most Who, at the time, a bit more time and money would have made a huge difference.


Charles Packer

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