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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Paradise Towers


Author: Stephen Wyatt
Read by: Bonnie Langford
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4458 8614 5
Available 05 April 2012

Much in need of a holiday, Mel and the Doctor head for Paradise Towers: a luxury man-made planet with sparkling fountains, sunny streets, exotic flowers and a shimmering blue swimming pool. However, when the TARDIS materialises in a dark, rubbish-filled, rat-infested alley, it seems that this particular Paradise has turned into Hell! Pursued by rogue cleaning machines, authoritarian caretakers and old ladies with strange eating habits, the Doctor and Mel track down the source of the chaos to one mysterious character - the designer of Paradise Towers, the Great Architect himself...

Stephen Wyatt’s scripts for Paradise Towers contained some neat ideas, but they were let down on screen by some dodgy visuals and over-the-top acting from certain quarters. The story comes across better in Wyatt’s novelisation, which was originally published by Target Books in 1988, a year after the television version aired.

The author doesn’t make enormous changes to the plot as broadcast. Possibly the most substantial difference in the book version is the way in which he compiles the short scenes of the television scripts into longer sections better suited to the prose medium. Instances of characters talking to themselves, in particular the Doctor and the Chief Caretaker, become internalised thoughts. Other lines of dialogue are made clearer - for example, we are told that “Blank walls and cleaners!” is a Kang expletive. Freed from budgetary restraints, Paradise Towers is now an artificial planet floating in space rather than just a tower block. The Caretakers are less physically fit than their television counterparts, the idea being that all the healthy males went away to fight in a war. The Kangs wear armour made from scavenged materials, and the Blue Kang Leader is given a name.

Now presented as an unabridged audio book, Paradise Towers is once again subject to the vagaries of casting, because of course it needs a reader. Some customers may be put off when they see Bonnie Langford’s name on the front cover, especially if they haven’t heard her superior performances as Mel for Big Finish’s audio productions. Rest assured, her narration is excellent. In fact, it is astonishing. The actress provides what is possibly the greatest range of voices ever heard on a Doctor Who talking book with a single reader, including the nasal tones of the Chief Caretaker, and uncannily accurate imitations of Elizabeth Spriggs and Brenda Bruce as the Rezzies Tabby and Tilda. Her Seventh Doctor sounds rather more Scottish than Sylvester McCoy’s performance ever was, as is often the case in readings such as this. Not every voice is an impersonation of an actual cast member: Pex is given an American accent, which is a departure from the screen version, but it suits the character.

This four-disc presentation (which runs to nearly five hours) is further enlivened by sound effects and incidental music by Simon Power, some of which sounds not dissimilar to the more atmospheric moments of Keff McCulloch’s work on the television soundtrack.

Wyatt’s novelisation builds successfully on the foundations of his original scripts. Langford’s compelling reading takes the Towers to even greater heights.


Richard McGinlay

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