Doctor Who: Paradise Towers (1987)

Representing the best and worst of 1980s Who, this has a solid setting - derived from Ballard's High Rise, or maybe that Adventures of Don Quick episode The Higher, the Fewer - and a lot of inventive detail (especially in language) but still gets let down by a repetitive plot, excruciatingly bad electronic music (including an extended riff on the theme tune to fill in one gap) and a guest cast who play it as pantomime when it ought to have a horror-comic edge.

Paradise Towers is a supposedly ideal community (it won a lot of design awards) that has fallen into grim disrepair and savagery because its architect hated the way people cluttered up and ruined his designs. We meet the Kangs, colour-coded girl gangs (in New Romantic/punk outfits and hairdos) who rant a speech ('ice hot fabshions') inspired by A Clockwork Orange or maybe Year of the Sex Olympics, and the rezzies, nice little old ladies who are also chatty cannibals while the caretakers act like sit-com martinets (Richard Briers' tache evokes Blakey of On the Buses rather than Hitler) and killer robots ('cleaners') haunt the 'carrydoors' and rooftop pool. In the end, Briers is possessed by the architect, which gives him a pasty face and a different moustache - then easily defeated by a former coward who aspires to be the building's heroic protector.

McCoy takes his hat on and off too much, but is settling into the role - while Bonnie Langford is driven to her worst display of principal boy declaiming to keep up with the other overdone performances. The problem is that script demands to be overplayed, just not at this monotonous, nobody-bothers level. The art direction is fine, down to the graffiti (wallscrawl) on the TARDIS, and for once the setting demands the BBC's claustophobic corridors and overbright décor.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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