Mel wants to go swimming so the Doctor takes her to a tower block called Paradise Towers where there is reputed to be a fantastic pool. When they arrive they discover that the place is far from being the superb leisure resort they had expected - it is run-down and dilapidated.
The hallways are roamed by gangs of young girls known as Kangs; the apartments are inhabited by cannibalistic old ladies, the Rezzies; and the building is managed by a group of dictatorial caretakers, presided over by the Chief Caretaker.
- Commentary – actress Judy Cornwell, writer Stephen Wyatt, special sounds supervisor Dick Mills and moderated by Mark Ayres
- HORROR ON THE HIGH RISE – DOCTOR WHO composer Mark Ayres presents a look at the making of DOCTOR WHO - PARADISE TOWERS. With actors Richard Briers, Howard Cooke and Catherine Cusack, writer Stephen Wyatt, script editor Andrew Cartmel and replacement score composer Keff McCulloch.
- Continuity – continuity announcements from the story’s original transmission.
- Girls! Girls! Girls! – The Eighties – three actresses who played companions in the 1980s – Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton – discuss the trials and tribulations of being a DOCTOR WHO girl. Introduced by Peter Purves.
- Coming Soon – a trailer for a forthcoming DVD release.
- Radio Times Listings in Adobe PDF format.
- Programme subtitles + Subtitle Production Notes.
- Photo Gallery – production, design and publicity photos from the story.
- CASTING SYLVESTER – JIGSAW producer Clive Doig explains his relationship with Sylvester McCoy and his role in the actor’s casting as the Seventh Doctor.
- DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES - deleted and extended scenes from the first edit of the story.
COMMENT Spoliers ahead
DOCTOR WHO – PARADISE TOWERS is, as you might expect, not my favourite McCoy story, and it seems that the majority of fans think the same, but with this 2011 DVD release will the story garner an new appreciation.
Trust me, I'm a DOCTOR WHO fan, it will.
Honestly, it will.
The “value added material” seems to try hard to allow fans to reassess the merits of Stephen Wyatt’s debut story, and, I have to admit, as I listen/watch to the cast & crew (including Script Editor, Andrew Cartmell) discussing the genius and production of PARADISE TOWERS I am more sympathetic toward it. It was experimental for 1987 but watching it in 2011 you'll find it comparable to the NEW SERIES from BBC WALES.
It marks the beginning of the “McCoy-Cartmell” era, giving viewers a glimpse of a more restrained, “darker” incarnation of the Doctor. At times, McCoy’s performance is joyously mesmerising (see episode 2’s arrest of the Doctor pending execution) – serious and comedic in equal measure. Sounds very familiar? The Eleventh Doctor by Matt Smith.
Recorded in 2010, under the generous stewardship of Mark Ayres, the DVD STUDIO COMMENTARY may seem to lack the gravitas of McCoy or Langford but it is nonetheless highly entertaining, informative and intelligent. Stephen Wyatt's contribution is key to the commentary’s success; erudite, revealing, honest and very witty. Secondary contributions from Judy (Maddy the Rezzie) Cornwall and Dick (Sound Effects for PARADISE TOWERS) Mills are brief but equally valuable.
On the plotline of PARADISE TOWERS, Mark Ayres: High concept for DOCTOR WHO.
On the set-dressing list, Stephen Wyatt: The list said “Fully operative rat”. I think it was a quite happy rat.
On the development and origin of the Kangs (Kid Gangs), Stephen Wyatt: All the men have gone off to war and the Kid Gangs have now grown up in the weird world surviving as the best they can.
Mark Ayres: So I assume all the baby boys were retained to be trained up as soldiers to fight the war.
Stephen Wyatt: So they were all sent off except this caretaker who had flat feet.
Mark Ayres: …and Pex who stowed away.
On the set designs, Mark Ayres: The designer, Martin Collins, did a great job at this but its still a studio bound DOCTOR WHO.
On writing for the lead character even though he had not been cast at the time, Stephen Wyatt: He’s a generic Doctor. We were finding out way with the Doctor with this episode.
On receiving feedback, Mark Ayres: There’s also a Memo from October 1987; “Many thanks for next Monday’s episode of DOCTOR WHO which I thought was absolutely first rate”. Who do you think that was from?
Stephen Wyatt: Jonathan Powell. They like it.
Stephen Wyatt: Dos that count as a rude comment that had to be cut out?
Mark Ayres: No, that’s great.
On PARADISE TOWERS, Mark Ayres: Despite its comedic playing the themes are very dark.
Stephen Wyatt: Yes, absolutely. DOCTOR WHO had got very bland. Scary DOCTOR WHO is what people want.
On the Rezzies, Stephen Wyatt: Very Hanzel and Gretel.
On Bonnie Langford, Stephen Wyatt: A real trooper. Very helpful. The problem was that Mel had no character backstory whatsoever. So, it was just Bonnie. So that was a problem from the start; you had a Doctor who hadn’t been cast and a companion with no personality.
On the make-up design, Stephen Wyatt: I hate those (Kang) wigs.
On Richard Briers, Mark Ayres: He was wonderful but he does play it up.
Stephen Wyatt: What Richard has is that he’s got a fantastic sense of pace and tone.
On the Rezzies, Judy Cornwall: I love the idea of old ladies being horrible. Have you ever been pushed off a bus by an old lady?
Mark Ayres: Oh, yes.
On the Police Box prop, Stephen Wyatt: This was the only time I ever went inside the TARDIS. I don’t know if I can say this but it smelt a bit of “wee”.
Judy Cornwall: Well, it’s a long journey.
On Pex’s neck mark, Judy Cornwall: Do you think one of the Rezzies bit him?
On the design of the Cleaners, Stephen Wyatt: They look like a bottle opener.
Mark Aryes: Rather big bottles.
Judy Cornwall: Similar to daleks, aren’t they? They must be cousins.
On editing stories, Stephen Wyatt: John Nathan-Turner was good at cutting an episode without “notes”.
Mark Ayres: He was astonishing. Very generous.
On the Great Architect plotting, Stephen Wyatt: This is where we hit some of the dodgier bit of the script.
On Nick Mallet (Director), Stephen Wyatt: Very gentle, very easy to work with. Very professional.
On story telling for younger viewers, Judy Cornwall: Children love anything bloodthirsty.
On the concept of the Rezzies, Stephen Wyatt: I had a meeting with John Nathan-Turner about the Rezzies, and he said, “The Rezzies are cannibals, aren’t they?” And I said, “Yes, and they’re lesbians as well”.
Dick Mills: A double whammy.
On the destruction of the Cleaner by the Rezzie’s blanket, Dick Mills: It can still see through the crochet.
The remaining “value added material” on this single disc is, as you would expect, brief but thoroughly worthwhile.
The main documentary, HORROR ON THE HIGH RISE is truly insightful, and with Mark Ayres guiding us through the trials & tribulations of making PARADISE TOWERS it remains focussed and intelligent. The only “beef” I have is that the camerawork is highly dubious – sloppy.
The author cites JG Ballard’s novel, HIGH RISE as an influence for this story’s conception - a view of society in isolation that is in decline and decay – whilst Ayres surmises that it may echo Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL with hint of LORD OF THE FLIES with, Wyatt adds, Pex a parody of the over-muscled “buffoon” vigilant in RAMBO.
Perched in the Keeper of Traken’s chair, Richard Briers make a welcome appearance to admit that the Chief Caretaker was an eccentric part, a mix of his previous role, Martin Brice (EVER DECREASING CIRCLES) and Adolph Hitler that John Nathan-Turner did not care for; “He thought I was sending it up…” As did we.
The inclusion of THE DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES is for the real aficionados. It is testament to the skill & professionalism both Nick Mallet and Stephen Wyatt that there is so little “cutting room floor material”.
Getting Sarah Sutton, Sophie Aldred and Janet Fielding in a room and pointing a camera at them for hour (probably) is genius, and the result is nothing short of spectacular in GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!
There are so many gems to highlight and I don’t want to spoil it for you but here’s a few:
Janet Fielding: I didn’t understand the relationship with the camera.
Sophie Aldred: They said, “Could you shave your arm pits, please?”
Sarah Sutton: I don’t blame DOCTOR WHO for ending my career.
Added to those Fielding recalls a time at an American-based convention when I fan described her legs as “sturdy but beautiful”, and that she admits that she “didn’t like my small taste of fame. A continual Peeping Tom.
Whether a PENSIONERS! PENSIONERS! PENSIONERS! version with Carole Ann Ford, Jean Marsh, and Deborah Watling would be as successful is debatable but one with a 1970s version with Louise Jameson, Caroline John and Lalla Ward would be worth a DVD’s £20.42 cost alone.
Sadly, CASTING SYLVESTER is a horrendous waste of precious moments of life on this planet that you will, if you watch it, never get back. Ignore and clip your toenails instead as it will add more value to your life.
The COMING SOON trailer is for DOCTOR WHO – THE SUNMAKERS.
The DVD contains the usual RADIO TIMES LISTING PDF, indispensable on-screen information text, photo gallery but concludes with an opportunity to listen to the four-parter with David Snells’ rejected incidental music score. Whilst there should be a health warning – the DVD cover should display an ear with blood liberally streaming from it – before you choose this option. It would even challenge a Vogan.
Overall, DOCTOR WHO – PARADISE TOWERS is a revelation, and, whilst I have yet re-watch the story without the commentary track, I feel that Wyatt’s script has been wholly misunderstood over the intervening decades and if it was to be produced by BBC WALES for the Eleventh Doctor it would be positively received.
Obviously, it was before its time.
Time to revisit and embrace it.