Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Paradise Towers (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
Becaues there's been a lot of debate about Paradise Towers, Happiness Patrol and Web Planet, I'm posting some reviews of each one. Enjoy!
Both of Stephen Wyatt's script contributions to Doctor Who concern closed systems and the people who inhabit them. Along the way, Wyatt uses the closed system to make some bits of commentary and wry observations about groups of people. In Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Wyatt examines the state of Doctor Who and its fandom at the shows 25th anniversary. In Paradise Towers, Wyatt makes observations on the general status of the world and how it's become comparmentalized to the point that we value rules, regulations and our own corner of the world more than we actually value getting out and working together as a whole community.
It's interesting to see Doctor Who get into a bit of social commentary (and in Greatest Show's case get in a few much needed jabs at the fandom) but it's too bad that while Paradise Towers does offer up a lot of social commentary, there's not the same strong story behind it that Wyatt will display a year later with Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
The Doctor and Mel journey to the advertised luxury community of Paradise Towers -- primarily to find the pool for Mel to swim in. Upon their arrival, they discover that the towers have fallen into disarray and the residents have divided upon into separate communities -- girls called Kangs, the rule-bound caretakers and cannabilistic rezzies. The towers fell into disarray after the Great Architech Kroagnon built the towers and wanted to maintain them as a perfect shrine to his own genius. Some of the younger residents fought against him and put his disembodied consciousness into a machine in the basement that the Chief Caretaker is now beholden to and is feeding residents to. As the Doctor arrives, he finds out that Kroagnon is looking for a way to escape and take back the Towers, saving them from the "human filth" inhabitiing them.
There's a lot of things that work in Paradise Towers and a lot of things that don't.
The biggest difference between this story and Time and the Rani is simply how much more comfortable McCoy appears to be in his role as the Doctor. Yes, it's not yet really defined as the seventh Doctor that we will come to know and (in some cases) love in seasons 25 and 26, but it's a step forward. It would be very easy to assume that the Doctor knew of Paradise Towers' decay and wanted to investigate and that's why he led Mel to information about the pool being there. McCoy does a nice job throughout and seems very settled on the role. Heck, he even makes running down corridors from metallic monsters seem a lot more interesting than it should be.
There are also some well-drawn characters. Wyatt does a good job of creating some interesting characters. The Chief Caretaker and his minions are memorable, if only for having to repeat the rule book as often as they do. The Kangs work well enough as an idea -- though why there are blue, yellow and red Kangs in never fully or satifsactorily explained. Also of interest (at least initially) is Pex who figures himself a hero, but doesn't quite have the stomach for it.
Add to this a rather interesting premise to the story -- disemodied evil seeks body (an homage to Brain of Morbius at the least) and you've got what could have been a real feather in the cap of the McCoy years.
Instead, what you've got is a story that isn't as good as the sum of its parts.
A lot of this is simply due to miscasting.
The JN-T years trend of casting actors because of their big name recognizability value instead of casting them because they're suitable for the role is seen in its fully glory here. Two words: Richard Briers. Don't get me wrong -- Briers is a superb comedian and does comedy well. But here in Paradise Towers, he's just out of his depth. His Chief Caretaker is meant to be menacing in a Hilter type of way but just comes off as pendantic and silly. And his transformation into the Great Architect Kroagnon is just plain embarassing. The one good thing I will say about his work -- his body language works well. The scenes with the newly restored Kroagnon skulking down corridors and dragging his leg work well because it makes you believe that the Great Architect is learning how to control a human body again.
The next glaring error is Pex. A lot of this has to do the character arc Pex is given. It's not surpising that Pex has a secret and won't share it. It's not a huge shock that he's actually afraid but overcompensating. And it won't take too much to guess that in the end, it will be Pex who saves the day, thus ensuring that in his death, he was the hero he always dreamed of being in life. Been there, done that. But I could accept that character if the part were better portrayed. As it stands, Pex is not that interesting and, at times, embarassing.
But the biggest acting drawback is Bonnie Langford. She seems to feel completely uncomfortable in the role of Mel. There are some rather cringe inducting moments -- such as her almost annoying perkiness in the corridors with Pex, her hamming it up while eating with Tilda and Tabby and her screaming every four or five scenes. Honestly, I think we might all have fonder memories -- or be more willing to forgive -- of Mel had it not been for this story.
But despite all of that, Paradise Towers is still a step forward for the McCoy years. It's not as cringe worthy or ill-advised as Time and the Rani. It's not great Who by any means, but it's more enjoyable. It's well directed considering how really limited the sets are (a limitation can be turned into an asset if you work hard enough -- again, just see Greatest Show). And the music is decent enough, if not quite on par with the scores that have come before or that we'll hear later. Paradise Towers is pretty much middle of the road in terms of quality for the McCoy years. It's a good step foward, but again, the best is still yet to come...
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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