Review [DW]: “Paradise Towers”

24×2. Paradise Towers
Writer: Stephen Wyatt
Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: The Doctor and Melanie arrive at Paradise Towers, a would-be luxury apartment building that has fallen into disrepair, and find themselves under threat from the bureaucratic “Caretakers,” cannibalistic “Rezzies,” and a mysterious presence in the tower basement that turns out to be Kroagnon, the Towers’ misanthropic designer.

Review: The creative team behind “Paradise Towers” certainly deserve credit for creating a unique setting – there are few scenes in this serial that could be mistaken for another Doctor Who installment. The Kangs, Pex, the Caretakers, and the Rezzies form an effective ensemble cast, and even if most of them aren’t the most complex characters ever to have graced the screen, their idiosyncratic slang and differing agendas add up to a compelling picture of a decaying society that has long since stopped playing by what most of us would consider sensible or civilized rules. The Doctor’s role, as the one who sorts out the various conflicts and rallies the inhabitants together to stop Kroagnon’s murders, is perhaps predictable but nonetheless effective: a relatively conventional narrative isn’t necessarily a bad thing when we’re still getting to know this new incarnation, and the script thankfully dispenses with the misquoted aphorisms that quickly wore out their welcome in “Time and the Rani.” Where the serial isn’t so successful is in explaining exactly how this bizarre situation arose in the first place; all we learn that the children and elderly were sent to the Towers when a war broke out and that Pex fled there to avoid the hostilities. But why did the Chief Caretaker continue “feeding” people to Kroagnon for so long, and what made him think that Kroagnon was some sort of “pet” who needed to be appeased? Couldn’t he and the other Caretakers – or anyone else – just walk out the door, or are they somehow trapped in the Towers? For that matter, just who or what *is* Kroagnon? He’s presumably at least somewhat intelligent, and yet he’s portrayed as a dehumanized monster, at first appearing as a voice that only bellows “hungry!” before taking over the Chief Caretaker’s body, and the Doctor never seems to consider trying to reason with him before deciding to lure him into a death trap. This is an imaginative serial, but its slim backstory and underdeveloped character motivations prevent it from being an entirely successful one.

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

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