Recap: Doctor Who S24 E2 "Paradise Towers"
"'No cause for panic'? Two of my next-door neighbours have just disappeared down the waste disposal chute!"
The Doctor and Mel decide to go and visit a famous housing project (because it has a nice pool), but it turns out that all of the fit adults left years before to fight a war. The block has devolved into a bizarre sort of anarchy, inhabited by color-themed all-female youth gangs called "Kangs" who use crazy terminology, rampaging janitor robots, cannibalistic old women, rule-obsessed security guys led by a guy who looks suspiciously like Adolf Hitler
, a lone quixotic draft-dodger, and the disembodied mind of the block's Ax-Crazy
- Affably Evil: Tilda and Tabby are so courteous and welcoming to passers-by, until they break out a knife to butcher the guest with, and then dinner's on to cook. It's a creepy affability, however.
- After the End: Implied; the inhabitants of Paradise Towers refer to some kind of massive war happening which forced them to take refuge in Paradise Towers, and it's pretty clear that they've been forgotten about and abandoned by the outside world.
- Air Vent Passage Way & Tunnel Network: The Kangs utilize air ducts, rubbish chutes, and manholes to move about unnoticed.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Blue Kangs try to seize the Reds' "brain-quarters" (read: fort) in the slums, only to earn a stern rebuke from the Doctor.
Blue Kangs have got into their Brainquarters and won the game! Blue Kangs are best! (cue shrill shouting match.) Doctor:
Please! Please! Please! This is no time for games!
The future of Paradise Towers is at stake! We must all work together
! You've got to help us, do you understand? Blue Kang: (narrows eyes)
But Blue Kangs have
- Exploited by the Doctor in the climax. Pex lures the Chief/Kroagnon straight into the Red Kang's HQ, where the gang has prepared an ambush. Pex, along with a bundle of TNT, tackles the Chief into the entry chute, killing them both.
- Apocalyptic Log: Graffiti art shows the Cleaner's telltale claw dangling over the fuzzy head of a Kang — a warning to others.
- The Apunkalypse: The Kangs are a G-rated version.
- Ax-Crazy: Kroagnon.
- Bad Boss: The Chief Caretaker secretly arranges for some of his own men to be fed to his 'pet' in the basement. And that's before he's possessed by Kroagnon and starts wiping them all out.
- Badbutt: The Kangs are a gang, yes, but they're a child gang of Capture the Flag players.
- Badass Bandolier: Pex wears one. It doesn't help.
- Barehanded Bar Bending: Pex, who is proud of his survivalist skills and dismayed at Mel's refusal of his services, snaps a lightpost from the wall and bends the metal with his hands.
Mel: (deadpan) Pex, if you could bend that back into shape and put it back where it came from, you might be more use. But you can't, can you.
- Big Damn Heroes: Subverted by Pex, who has a habit of showing up and trying to save the day (usually with a fair bit of property damage involved) even when there's no danger whatsoever. He successfully manages to pull the trope off later in the story, just in time to save Mel from Tilda. It's still played with, however, since from the look on his face when he realises what he's stumbled into he clearly wasn't expecting to have to be an actual Big Damn Hero, and his response isn't incredibly competent.
- Bland-Name Product: Fizzade
- Book Ends: The Doctor begins and ends the serial politely doffing his hat to what appears to be some kind of disused water pipe.
Melanie: No, Doctor.
The Doctor: Well, you never can tell.
- Bothering by the Book/Talking Your Way Out: How the Doctor escapes from the Caretakers.
- Breaking Speech: The Doctor gives one in the Regulation 13 Appendix 2 Final Conversation with the Chief Caretaker.
- Busman's Holiday: Mel came here to see the pool, and by God, she's going to swim in the #@&%ing pool.
- Cargo Cult: The Kangs have grown to revere the appliances and rubbish lying around the complex. Just the mere act of the Doctor popping the lid on a soda causes them to scatter. (As they've not been taught to understand vending machines.)
- Catchphrase: He's Pex, and he aims to put the world of Paradise Towers to rights.
- Catchphrase Interruptus: "I'm Pex, and I aim to—" "Yes, I know, put Paradise Towers to rights."
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: the Kangs. (The colors are those of the three main British political parties.) Possibly a subversion, given that, although they are certainly color coded, there is no actual difference between the three groups of Kangs.
- Dumbass Has a Point: Even Pex is Genre Savvy enough to know that the clean, well-maintained swimming pool is probably rigged.
- Dumb Is Good: Pex is the only boy left in the Towers, and firmly entrenched against the Caretakers. Too bad he's dumber than a slab of toast.
- Enemy Mine: All the warring factions have to pull together against the threat of Kroagnon.
- Evil Old Folks: Tilda and Tabby, certainly. It is suggested that not all the Rezzies are quite as bad, however:
Maddy: [When the Kangs object to an alliance] I know that we residents have not always been as neighbourly as we might have been, but some have been worse than others. And the worst have gone... down the waste disposal chute.
- False Reassurance: The Chief Caretaker initially hails the Doctor, believing him to be the Great Architect, with an awed, admiring speech about how the Great Architect will fix the place up, Set Right What Once Went Wrong and generally make everything better for everyone. Then:
Deputy Chief Caretaker: So what do we do with him now then, Chief?
Chief Caretaker: Kill him.
- Fake Defector: Pex manages to convince Kroagnon that he's betrayed the others in exchange for a way out.
- Fanservice: Averted — despite eventually getting her swim, we never see Mel below her shoulders while she's in the pool.
- Forbidden Zone: The basement is off-limits under penalty of death.
- Future Slang: A major feature of the Kangs' dialogue. Ice-hot, Doctor, ice-hot!
- Genre Savvy: Knowing the Doctor can't tear himself away from an apocalypse once he's seen it, Mel makes plans to rendezvous at the pool if they "get separated." The Doctor huffily agrees, adding, "we've only just arrived. There's no need to start worrying yet!" (arrows whiz by his head)
- Grand Theft Me: Kroagnon on the Chief Caretaker.
- Graffiti Town: One of the biggest offenses in this town is vandalism, owing to the Caretakers' futile mission to keep everything pristine. The "wall-scrawls" are the handiwork of the Kangs. Since no surface in Paradise Towers is safe for long, the parked TARDIS gets covered in spray paint.
- Great Offscreen War: The backstory of Paradise Towers suggests that the current occupants are refugees from a massive war, mainly the elderly and the children, who were housed in Paradise Towers as a refuge while the able-bodied were sent off to fight, and the Caretakers are the maintenance / security team based there to take care of things until the war ended. It's heavily implied that they've been completely forgotten about by the outside world over the years.
- Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Pex is a knucklehead who kicks in doors, while the Kangs all carry crossbows.
- Heel-Face Turn: The Deputy Chief Caretaker and the surviving Rezzies throw their lot in with the Doctor and the Kangs when Kroagnon shows up and starts killing everyone. The ending suggests that everyone's going to try and work together from now on.
- Hoist By Their Own Petard:
- By the end of episode two, Kroagnon has grown impatient to the point of openly abducting the Rezzies from their homes. As the old ladies prepare to stuff Mel in the stove, the Cleaner's giant claw smashes through the garbage disposal and grabs Tabby by the neck, yanking her through it. Tilda stupidly runs toward the sink and gets nabbed, too.
- When the estate residents all convene at the pool, Kroagnon switches on his security feed and tries listening in. Unfortunately for him, the Architect had previously forbidden the cameras to look in on swimmers.
- Hypocrite: The Deputy Chief Caretaker, despite being devoted to enforcing and following the rulebook, is clearly not as familiar with its contents as he should or claims to be, or the Doctor wouldn't have been able to outwit him with an invented rule.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Tilda and Tabby lure in the unsuspecting for this purpose.
- I Meant to Do That: Pex tries this when it becomes clear that in 'escorting' Mel through Paradise Towers, he's actually leading them in circles. Mel's not buying it:
I've been trying to confuse anyone who might be following us. It's part of the training. Mel:
Does your training include confusing yourself
at the same time? Pex: I'm not confused!
- Informed Attribute: The swimming pool of Paradise Towers is supposed to be so beautiful that it's practically a work of art in and of itself. When we finally see it, it doesn't look any more impressive than the kind of swimming pool you might find in a mid-range travel motel.
- Killer Robot: The "Cleaners". Large, roving trash collectors that are ostensibly employed to collect rubbish and scrub graffiti. These days, the Cleaners are dismembering people under the Chief's guidance. Gives a new meaning to the phase "taken to the cleaners."
- Lawful Stupid: The Caretakers insist on doing everything by the book, even when common sense would suggest otherwise. They do start appreciating the value of a more flexible approach in the last episode, though.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Hinted at by the Red Kangs' handles for each other. These girls probably glanced at signs around the slums and took their names from those, not realizing what they mean. What self-respecting gangster calls themselves "Bin Liner"?
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Villainous version. The people who imprisoned Kroagnon in the basement apparently with all he needed to take control of the Cleaners and possess a new body.
- Lost Technology: A downplayed example; one of the ways the Doctor gets the Red Kangs on his side is by showing them how to use a soft drink vending machine that's been in their base of operations all the time without them realising what it is or what it can do.
- Mad Artist: The Great Architect, Kroagnon, who designed a series of amazing buildings but gradually became increasingly fixated on the idea that they'd be ruined if people were allowed to actually live in them.
- Malevolent Architecture: Kroagnon was on the point of turning Paradise Towers into this when his clients caught him at it and imprisoned him. His previous project Miracle City did end up like this. It was a miracle anyone got out alive.
- Miles Gloriosus: If Pex is what passes for an action hero around here, we're in trouble.
- Missed Him by That Much: Mel and the Doctor pass through the same corridor looking for each other within the space of a few minutes in the second episode.
- Mistaken for Special Guest: The Doctor is initially mistaken for a "Great Architect" whom no one has seen in the flesh.
- Mole in Charge: The Chief Caretaker is heading the investigation into why the Cleaners are murdering people under the Chief's instructions.
- More Criminals Than Targets: The Red Kangs number over a dozen, and the Caretakers half that. (And that's not even taking into account the Blue Kangs.)
- My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: How the Doctor escapes the Caretakers.
- Noodle Implements: What a cleaning robot needs with a drill is a question best unanswered.
- Ominous Multiple Screens: The Caretakers headquarters has one of these.
- Perp Sweating: The Chief Caretaker tries it on the Doctor, not very effectively. The Doctor learns far more from the conversation than the Chief Caretaker, and by the end of it they've swapped chairs and the Chief Caretaker is the one with the light shining in his eyes.
- Percussive Maintenance: Pex gets the elevator working again by simply kicking it.
- Psycho Lesbian: According to Word of God (and the novelization), both Tabby and Tilda.
- Punch Clock Villain: Apart from the Chief, the Caretakers are pretty much just the building's maintenance / security force who, with the devolving of Paradise Towers into chaos, have gone a bit weird and over-fixated on their rulebooks.
- Putting on the Reich: The Caretakers' uniforms, and the Chief Caretaker's moustache.
- Redemption Equals Death: Pex finally proves that he's not a coward when it matters, but dies in the process.
- Redshirt Army: Not the Red Kangs, funnily. The Yellow Kangs are chewed up by the Cleaners before the seral starts, with only one girl remaining. We see her legs poking out of the Cleaner's dustbin moments after a Blue Kang radios in her disappearance.
- The Remnant: The Caretakers' uniforms are just as filthy and rumpled as the Kangs' gang colors. By this point, there aren't even that many of them left, and their ranks grow slimmer as the Cleaners pick them off.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Upon being confronted with the Kroagnon-possessed (and chrome-plated) Chief Caretaker and his ranting about how the corridors of Paradise Towers are polluted with 'living flesh', it takes the Deputy Chief Caretaker less than a minute to decide that it'd probably be best to ignore the rulebook and throw his lot in with the Doctor.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Kroagnon was stripped of his body and imprisoned in the basement by the former residents of Paradise Towers after they discovered he was planning to turn the entire building into a Death Trap for his residents.
- The idea of a massive housing project being so ill-designed that it turns its residents into warring tribes had previously appeared in the J.G. Ballard novel High Rise.
- Kroagnon seems suspiciously like a semi-anagramatic villainous parody of Howard Roarke from The Fountainhead.
- Sleeves Are for Wimps: Pex.
- Strange Salute:
- The Kangs' elaborate "how do you do" ritual, which looks like a Shout-Out to the video to Adam and the Ants' "Prince Charming". The Red Kangs teach it to the Doctor. However, they refuse to extend the welcome to Mel (a female) until she picks a color to join. Mel, sensibly, does not identify with any color.
- The Caretakers' salute, which is the British playground "put your finger under your nose like a moustache to allude to Adolf Hitler" gesture.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Chief bribes a rezzie to keep mum about the Cleaner attacks, even offering her the victims' spacious apartment.
And you may rest assured there'll be no cover up
. No cover up
whatsoever....Not that I would wish to bribe you to hold your tongue in any way, but rules can be made flexible..."
- Teenage Wasteland: The war orphans of Paradise Towers have all grown into feral children; highly-superstitious, and armed to the teeth.
- Third-Person Person: The Red/Blue Kangs refuse to address themselves as "I" or "we".
- To Absent Friends: It took Pex's death for the Kangs to finally accept him as one of their own. After the dust settles, the Blues and Reds hold a funeral rite for him. We then see a brand new wall-scrawl behind the TARDIS once it dematerializes: PEX LIVES.
- The Tower: The 332-story highrise has devolved into a shantytown, with no responsible adults left to quell the madness. The only souls left are fascist goons, depraved seniors, and roaming packs of wild children.
- Too Dumb to Live: You would think that, having battled through a dilapidated tower block crawling with murderous cannibals, fascistic caretakers, teenage street-gangs, mechanised death robots and something malevolent lurking in the basement, Mel might be a tad more reluctant to get into her bathers and go for a swim in the Paradise Towers swimming pool without being a little more suspicious that there might be something nasty lurking in there as well. True enough, she gets attacked by a cleaning robot.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Cleaners eventually stop obeying the Chief's orders and begin targeting the Caretakers themselves, to his chagrin. Unbeknownst to him, the Architect has deemed all of his tenants "mobile rubbish", to be collected and incinerated.
- Very False Advertising: Mel was lured by an old advert for the newly-renovated Paradise Towers—particularly the amazing swimming pool on the 304th floor—while the Doctor looks bored to tears. He immediately cheers up once he arrives and trips over some scavenging rats, while Mel looks ready to strangle that advertiser.
- Windmill Crusader: Pex was among those enlisted into war, but snuck onto a transport bound for home along with the girls and "Olsters". Even the elderly population has a low regard for Pex, and everyone in the block refers to him as "muscle-brain" — so named for his idiotic machismo despite being a draft-dodger.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Chief used the Cleaners to wipe out the Yellow Kangs, feeding their remains to his "pet" in the basement.