Summary: The Doctor and Mel go to Paradise Towers, a massive relaxation with a great wonderful commercial bragging about its pool and facilities. Upon showing up, though, they find it worn down and filled with Kangs (girl gangs), Caretakers (all male, all authoritarian), Rezzies (all seen on camera are female and old), and cleaner robots hell-bent on wiping out the human scum in the hallways. An absolutely absurd, but delightful, adventure.
BLOT: (31 Mar 2011 - 03:53:16 AM)
"Paradise Towers". Doctor Who Serial 145. Seventh Doctor: Sylvester McCoy.
The Doctor and Mel are going to Paradise Towers (Mel wants to swim in the pool), some massive residential resort built in the 21st century*. Interspersed with their arrival we see a young woman, dressed in yellow, flee down a corridor as other women shout at out her. About the time that chase is given up, a shadow falls over her. Then we get a young man, a caretaker, and a similarly bad fate happens to him. Mel and the Doctor arrive, and are soon accosted by a group of women in red, who identify themselves as Red Kangs, and enact bizarre rituals with bizarre modes of speech. Paradise Towers is now a dump, a wasteland of trash-filled hallways and gang graffiti. As they poke a little deeper, they find a new ecosystem of of Kangs (the colorful girl gangs, Red and Blue with the last Yellow just wiped out) and Rezzies (all pictured are old women who stick to themselves) and Caretakers (men in black suits who dispense the regulations and the law) and Pex (a muscled idiot who fancies himself a hero). Friendly-looking but deadly robots, designed initially for cleaning, prowl up and down the hallways collecting human trash for disposal. It is at the brink of collapse, in the last days, and the Doctor is caught up in the goofiness as his penchant.
Now, if you have any fancy ideas about this being a sensible or normal story, you have to drop them. I know the eco-system doesn't make sense. You know it. Let's move on. Even if all this breakdown has happened in only a decade or two (the Rezzies were "oldsters" before they were dropped off, and they don't look older than 60-70), and a fair number of the young men became Caretakers, wouldn't there be at least some boy gangs for those who didn't like authority? Or were young men all whisked off to war (with certain exceptions)? There are tons of questions about sustainability. But let's drop them. Let's say, you have this colorful Doctor adventure with Red, Blue, White, Black, and Paisley factions and some are working together, somewhat, and some are not. It is a collapsing moment, in which the whole thing is thrown into contrast, and in the midst of the strangeness and surreal plot (any worse than "The Mind Robber"? no, of course not...) you get little gems like the Kangs speaking in strange sing-songy playground language that is never precisely dumbed down or explained away, and Richard Briers as the chief caretaker mixing some variation of a fascist dictator with Basil Fawlty. Pex's overexuberant bravado is puppy-dog appealing and the Rezzies sly sinisterisms are likewise a treat. Who cares why there are bulkhead style doors in a residential hallway, just look at the weird googly-eyed horrors straight out of a toy-store!
Except it does have problems not so easily summed up by the surreality. Mel, a computer genius with eidetic memory, a Zoe Heriot style character, is played off [again] as a running, ditzyish red-head who screams a lot and then decides her big plan is to go up to the pool, despite everything, and take a swim while waiting on the Doctor to extricate himself from whatever trouble he is in. Even if she does take charge in a couple of key scenes, there is nearly nothing for her as a character here. Why have a young, female companion in a story with young, independent female gangs; and then have the Doctor be the one who does anything worthwhile with them? Speaking of the pool, why is the great pool in the sky, a roof pool for a 300+ story building, only about half-Olympic size if that? Budget I get, but there are other ways that could have been handled better.
On something of a side note, this is the second story in a row where questions of appeasement and cowardice are addressed, with the ultimate answer being "Buck up and fight!".
Final score? I'm going to have to say Good. Inexplicable and one of the oddest in the oeuvre [to that point], but with so many little delights. The kind of story that just about only the Doctor could go through.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: March 2011