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The Chief Caretaker Serial 7E:
Paradise Towers

Working Title: Paradise Tower.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush).

Plot
Deciding to take a holiday, the Doctor and Mel go to Paradise Towers. Upon their arrival, however, they find the famed complex in ruins. It transpires that, long ago, the adults all went off to fight a war and never returned. Now the only ones left are the Kangs, riotous gangs of teenaged girls; the Rezzies, cannibalistic old women; the Caretakers, who ostensibly look after the Towers; and the cowardly Pex, who had been too scared to go off to war. But another entity also lurks in Paradise Towers: Kroagnon, the building's architect, who has taken mental possession of the Chief Caretaker and the cleaning robots in an attempt to rid his creation of human life forever.

Production
In late 1986, with Andrew Cartmel's appointment as Doctor Who script editor still weeks away, it was left to producer John Nathan-Turner himself to find writers for Season Twenty-Four. Nathan-Turner was reticent to use many past Doctor Who authors, especially since many of them were closely connected with previous script editor Eric Saward, with whom Nathan-Turner had had a much-publicised falling out. Further, the stories in recent years had come under such fire that it only made sense to try to distance the new season as much as possible. To this end, Nathan-Turner paid a visit to the BBC's script unit, where he encountered a young writer named Stephen Wyatt. Wyatt's work to date had mainly been in the theatre, but he had also recently been commissioned to write a dark comedy entitled Claws for BBC Radio. Nathan-Turner asked Wyatt to submit an idea for Doctor Who.

Being unfamiliar with post-Sixties Doctor Who, Wyatt viewed episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord and, based on this, developed a serious storyline which made heavy use of the programme's backstory. By the time this was submitted, Cartmel had joined the production office, and he was unimpressed by Wyatt's offering. Cartmel was familiar with Claws, however, and suggested that Wyatt develop something more along those lines. Eventually, Wyatt and Cartmel decided to use the JG Ballard novel High-Rise -- a parable on middle-class existence about a skyscraper whose tenants descend into pseudo-tribal warfare -- as inspiration. On January 30th, 1987, Wyatt was commissioned to write episode one of Paradise Tower; shortly thereafter, the serial gained its full title of Paradise Towers.

Like Pip and Jane Baker, who wrote the preceding adventure Time And The Rani, Wyatt was at first burdened by the fact that Sylvester McCoy had not yet been cast as the Seventh Doctor. Fortunately, when this announcement finally did come, Wyatt remembered that he had seen some of McCoy's theatrical performances, which aided him in writing for the new Doctor. Cartmel, meanwhile, was generally happy with the way the scripts were developing, but was uncertain about the absence of a traditional Doctor Who "monster". To remedy this, the role of the cleaning robots was augmented, and Wyatt also added a mutated creature living in the Paradise Towers pool. When Nathan-Turner voiced concerns about how effectively this could be accomplished, it was changed to an aquatic version of the cleaners.

The director assigned to Serial 7E was Nicholas Mallett, who had previously handled the first four episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord the year before. Mallett's principal difficulty was in finding an appropriate actor for the role of Pex, envisioned by Wyatt as a muscle-bound moron to parody such popular American heroes as Sylvester Stallone's Rambo. Unfortunately, no British actors of appropriate age and build were available, and so Nathan-Turner suggested that Mallett turn the concept completely on its head, by casting a small, slender actor who was clearly not the physical specimen Pex made himself out to be. With this in mind, the part eventually went to Howard Cooke. There were two days of location work at Elmswell House near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, beginning on May 21st. This was followed by five tightly-scheduled days in the studio: two days beginning on Thursday, June 4th followed by a three-day block from Wednesday the 17th.

By this point in time, Nathan-Turner had essentially abandoned his 1980 decree that all Doctor Who incidental music be composed in-house by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. For Paradise Towers, freelance musician David Snell was commissioned to score the four episodes. Nathan-Turner, however, became increasingly more concerned as Snell's work progressed, fearing that it was too dull and repetitive. Finally, after viewing the completed serial, the producer decided on September 11th to reject Snell's composition. The musician was aghast, having been unaware that Nathan-Turner had any misgivings about his work, and offered to rescore as much of the programme as necessary free of charge. Nathan-Turner, however, had already asked Keff McCulloch to step in and hastily put together a replacement score.

Unusually, Paradise Towers suffered one edit after its original BBC transmission. BBC1 Controller Michael Grade had determined after the fact that an episode three scene in which a thrown knife becomes embedded into the wall of Tilda and Tabby's apartment was too violent, despite the absence of any complaints for the public. At Grade's request, Nathan-Turner reedited the offending sequence for the purpose of repeats and international sales.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 5th October 1987 7.34pm 24'33" 4.5m (88th) 61%
2 12th October 1987 7.38pm 24'39" 5.2m (84th) 58%
3 19th October 1987 7.36pm 24'30" 5.0m (79th) 58%
4 26th October 1987 7.35pm 24'21" 5.0m (93rd) 57%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writer Stephen Wyatt
Director Nicholas Mallett
Designer Martin Collins
Costume Janet Thurby
Incidental Music Keff McCulloch

Principal Guest Cast: Julie Brennan (Fire Escape), Richard Briers (Chief Caretaker), Brenda Bruce (Tilda), Howard Cooke (Pex), Judy Cornwall (Maddy), Catherine Cusack (Blue Kang Leader), Clive Merrison (Deputy Chief Caretaker), Elizabeth Spriggs (Tabby), Annabel Yuresha (Bin Liner).

Novelisation: Paradise Towers by Stephen Wyatt (book 134), December 1988; cover by Alister Pearson.

Video Release: Paradise Towers, episodic format, October 1995; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 5686) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1379) formats available; cover by Colin Howard.

Rankings: 127th (57.44%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 152nd (49.55%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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