Again, and I’m going for the cliche (but it’s fact), lighting seems to be the biggest enemy. Any menace of the tower block is made redundant by over~lit corridors at every turn. But there’s more to blame. The cast are uniformly appalling. Girl “gang” (more like troupe), the Kangs, come off as an immensely irritating bunch of gals who wouldn’t make it into an Am~Dram production of Annie. The rest fare no better with some truly abysmal performances throughout.
But this is where one may want to skew how Paradise Towers is viewed. If you take these heightened performances – the Rambo~esque Pex and Richard Briers’ Hitler~lite Chief Caretaker are just two examples – and the pantomime production, the four~parter can be looked upon as an expressionist, almost Brechtian~style show. The reality of the situation cannot be taken seriously, in an emotional level (or even believable), but the concoction of whimsical and overpowering characters with childlike production values can result in a more interesting view.
I’m not saying, for one moment, that this was the original intention, but the story does indicate how out of touch with the time Doctor Who was. It’s also a prime illustration that the BBC would broadcast anything as long as it filled a slot (despite the writer’s own admission that he was making it up as he went along). Again, Paradise Towers has its fans, I know this, but I sincerely hope this is the very last time I have to subject my eyes and brain to it.
The main documentary, Horror on the High Rise, is a marvelous feature looking at the story’s genesis and the ongoing production issues. As evidence to the story’s failure, those involved clearly demonstrate there was no clear voice guiding this mis~step – everyone (from cast to crew) having a different idea as to how to portray the tale. Particularly amusing are some comments from Andrew Cartmel, who uses phrases like “urban realism” (describing an attack on Mel) and “nuanced” (when chatting about Brier’s performance). I don’t wish to sound harsh, but I think he’s slightly delusional about this story.
I think it’s a pity that the makers of the docco didn’t think to film in an actual high~rise to add to the claustrophobia (though I’m sure they probably did and it was a financial consideration). And despite some the absence of McCoy and Langford, the contributors do a fine job of keeping the history of Paradise Towers alive. My only beef, if you pardon the expression, is that presenter Mark Ayres is a little too meek and slightly pedestrian; never really revealing any personality – the complete opposite of such a brash and arrogant story.
Casting Sylvester is another neat little interview with Clive Doig (Jigsaw producer), wonderfully put together with a most amusing title sequence. Much has already been said about McCoy’s casting but another view (and overwhelming positive) is a welcome addition. Also included are some deleted and extended scenes which are purty much in tone with the rest of the story but it’s great to have these excellent reference materials included. Special mention must also go to the Production Notes – incredibly funny (and informative, of course). Keep an eye on them each time Pex appears, great stuff.
As usual, the extras make even the “worst” Doctor Who story worth purchasing. And whilst the commentary lets the side down, in that respect, Paradise Towers is a fascinating release. It documents the show in a troublesome time, trying to change but, ultimately, remaining the same. Alternatively, you can have a few drinks and “enjoy” the actual story itself, or even lots of….