Saturday, 12 October 2013

Paradise Towers

The Doctor and Mel meet the Red Kangs
Steve Wyatt’s first Doctor Who tale, the rather odd ‘Paradise Towers’, suffers from a number of issues especially where the production doesn’t really deliver on the concept the way it could have be realised. It seems to me a few alterations here and there and the story could have been quite good, almost watchable! But instead we have a director and guest villain who have not taken it as seriously as it should have been taken, corridors which are far too wide and these ridiculous ‘cleaners’ – robotic machines that are killing people where the actors all have to grab the claw and ram it against their neck to make it look like they are threatened. Very embarrassing stuff.
The Red Kangs
The direction is without pace or urgency at times. Nick Mallet’s second go as director has brought along with it some of the issues of his first outing, ‘The Mysterious Planet’, which lacked energy at time. It’s a very different story, and I think with a different director and perhaps designer on hand, it could have been a lot better. Some elements are good. The casting is a bit up and down. Richard Briers chose a way to play the Chief Caretaker which was amusing, but when he became a zombie-fied Kroagnon, the Great Architect, I’m afraid he lost me completely, and it seems everyone else. But the issue stretches beyond Richard Briers, who was after all a very good actor.
The Chief Caretaker meets.... what is that?
Actors continuously make the comic choice rather than the straight one. It becomes monotonous. The concept of the rule book was under-played mostly, except for the scene when the Doctor instructs the care takers to let him escape which was beyond silly, a weak piece of writing. Andrew Cartmel from the start wanted to make the show darker, but setting a story in some dark corridors does not maketh a story dark. There’s no real sense of menace conveyed. Down in the basement is where the mind of Kroagnon lives for three episodes. It’s represented by a lot of smoke and some colourful neon lights.

Tabby and Tilda are ready for dinner!
Then we have the great pool in the sky. It’s a pretty glum pool to be honest. Mel keeps talking it up even when she gets there and it clearly sucks. It’s just someone’s rooftop pool in London. I wanted to know more about the community, where they came from, who they were. I respect the choice of the writer not to reveal all, because I don’t think you always need to, but the fact that a whole community was living in Paradise Towers was interesting. It appeared they never left the towers – weren’t they able too. Where was this building? In the middle of nowhere, or in a city? These are the sort of questions I really wanted answered.
Whilst Richard Briers is best forgotten, and Howard Cooke who played Pex was pretty dreadful, I loved both Tabby and Tilda, the two old ladies who want to eat Mel (who again screamed at absolutely nothing) played by Elizabeth Spriggs and Brenda Bruce. They seemed to get the story, and it seems one of Wyatt’s complaints (see the DVD) is that actors and directors weren’t getting his vision – hence the miscasting of Pex who is neither funny nor convincing. I also really enjoyed Clive Merrison as the Deputy Chief Caretaker. Yes, he also camped it up but not in a way which made me think I was watching an actor camping it up, if that makes any sense.
A cleaner
Sylvester McCoy was certainly better and more assured this time around, however there were several awkward moments, especially in exchanges with the Red Kangs in episode one where everything looked very uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the comic nature of the other performances, but he doesn’t seem to be pushing the comedy basket nearly as hard in ‘Paradise Towers’. Thank goodness for that!
Pex leads the possessed Chief Caretaker to his doom...
The Kangs are an interesting creation, girl gangs roaming the towers and playing games. The costumes are good, if extremely 1980s. The costumes for the whole story are very well done. However again I have to complain that they Kangs all look carefully  designed and constructed, they don’t look dirty at all, despite the towers being so filthy.
Finally, the music deserves special mention, because it is so hideous. Keff McCulloch, ye of a very strange name, has an 80s sound but not good 80s. It’s so loud and jarring throughout. It’s utterly dreadful and I think not since ‘The Leisure Hive’ has the music been so noticeable. In fact ‘Paradise Towers’ might be even worse, making it the all time worst! It’s an offence to anyone who has ears.
In summary, ‘Paradise Towers’ is a story which with more time and work put in, and much stronger and deliberate direction, could have been a lot better than what we got. BUT – far superior to ‘Time and the Rani’.

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