Chapter 134. Doctor Who – Paradise Towers (1988)

Synopsis: The residents of Paradise Towers have divided into factions: The caretakers tackle their duties with strict adherence to an insanely restrictive rulebook; the youngsters have formed warring gangs vying for supremacy; the oldsters are supplementing their diets with unspeakable things; … and then there’s Pex, a lonely, frightened boy trapped in the body of a brave hero. But Pex isn’t brave – he’s a cowardly cutlet.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Last of the Yellow Kangs
  • 2. No Visitors
  • 3. Tea and Cakes
  • 4. The Chief
  • 5. This Way and That
  • 6. Brainquarters
  • 7. Come into My Parlour
  • 8. The Illustrated Prospectus
  • 9. The Basement
  • 10. The Pool in the Sky
  • 11. Kroagnon
  • 12. Farewells

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This is the first book not to be published as a hardback – the ‘library editions’ were dropped due to falling sales.

Notes: Paradise Towers is, as the back cover first confirms, a man-made planet, accessible via space-faring ships. The Doctor also refers to ‘Mel’s Earth’, and Mel compares Pex’s performance to Karate experts ‘back on Earth’, spelling out that this isn’t her world – although it’s still unclear whether or not the inhabitants originally came from there. The Yellow Kang confirms something that’s fudged on TV, that the Kang wars are not to be taken seriously, they are just games. She’s alone now, after a period of returning to the Yellow Kang Brainquarters to depreciating numbers of her fellow Kangmates. Streets named in the story are Sodium Street, Potassium Street, Nitrate Street, Sunrise Square and Fountain of Happiness Square. 

The young caretaker has only recently taken on his patrol beat, replacing an older caretaker who was (according to the Chief Caretaker) ‘assigned to other duties’ and never seen again. The Kangs are around 15 or 16 years old and they remind Mel of Samurai warriors. The Rezzies are dressed in clothes made up of colourful patchwork (and Mel notes that Tabby has very sharp teeth like a rat). Pex is much more the traditional action hero than we get on screen. He’s not tall, but ‘an imposing figure with a rugged jaw, piercing eyes and a powerful, muscular body’. He has a tattoo on his neck, he wears a ‘commando-style outfit’ and his voice is ‘deep and strong’. Despite all this, Mel still recognises that he’s putting on a show and is an outsider from all of the sub-groups in the Towers.

The Chief is of ‘middle height’ and his uniform was once grand but is now ‘somewhat faded and dusty’. He’s not a vain man and considers his looks to be unimportant. He has a  ‘sallow complexion and drooping black moustache’, and ‘ bloodshot but alert eyes’. The Chief isn’t keen on fresh air or exercise, regarding such activities as ‘futile, even actively harmful’. Pex tries to ward off the Blue Kangs with martial arts poses before they ridicule him. While watching the Paradise Towers prospectus on the videoscreen (or ‘Picturespout’, as the Kangs call it), the Doctor responds to the boasts of the prospectus narrator by thinking he’d rather spend a night locked in a hotel with the Daleks than live here. The Kangs are amazed to learn that there are other worlds without Rezzies or Kangs and are keen to hear about them from the Doctor. The Blue Kang leader is called ‘Drinking Fountain’. Viewed by Kroagnon on the Chief Caretaker’s screen, the Doctor’s face is said to look ‘strange’ and ‘intelligent’, but also ‘impish and insolent’.

Cover: The Doctor looms large as a robot cleaner passes walls strewn with graffiti. It’s a bold composition from Alister Pearson that has a similar basic layout to some of Achilleos’ greats, but with a more photorealistic approach.  For those that are counting, this is the first cover to feature the ‘current’ Doctor prominently in the artwork since Creature from the Pit in 1981 (aside from the photographic covers, the Fifth Doctor appeared within a montage for The Five Doctors and there’s a smudge in the sky representing the regeneration on The Caves of Androzani). This would appear to be down to McCoy himself being impressed by Pearson’s artwork and the way he captured the actor’s likeness. We’ll be seeing a lot of his work from now on…

Final Analysis: This really does the job very well, creating an entire literal world out of the limited sets we saw in the televised episodes. Scenes have been moved around or joined together, avoiding the more frenetic chopping about on telly. It also helps to be able to read the dialogue and make better sense of the sometimes quite convoluted mixed-up phrases of the Kangs. Wyatt also delves a little deeper into the strange relationship between the Chief Caretaker and his pet, making it more explicit that the Chief is being controlled by Kroagnon without his knowledge. He has been ever since he discovered his ‘pet’ in the basement of the Towers. While this explains the ‘how’, it doesn’t seek to justify the ‘why’. The Chief Caretaker was simply a weak man from the start, obsessive and callous, which just made him an easy vassal for the Great Architect to steer and manipulate. Paradise Towers is the perfect proper introduction to this Doctor, toppling an entire society in just a few hours, and Wyatt presents him as almost Holmesian, piecing together clues and improvising effective escapes and solutions from items he finds lying around him.