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Recap / Doctor Who S24 E2 "Paradise Towers"

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"'No cause for panic'? Two of my next-door neighbours have just disappeared down the waste disposal chute!"

Production code: 7E

The One With… the killer swimming pool.

Written by Stephen Wyatt. This four-episode serial first aired from October 5—26, 1987.

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 bizarre anarchy, inhabited by colour-themed girl gangs called "Kangs", rampaging janitor robots, cannibalistic old women, a lone quixotic draft-dodger, rule-obsessed caretakers led by their tinpot dictator the Chief Caretaker (who takes fashion advice from Adolf Hitler), and the disembodied mind of the block's Ax-Crazy architect. Who is HUUUNGRY!

This was the first script commissioned by Andrew Cartmel (he inherited the previous script from his predecessor) and contains the first hints of his new vision for the show. Writer Stephen Wyatt would return the following season with "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy" and, much later, its prequel/sequel "The Psychic Circus".

Many years after it was aired, a Spin-Off sequel comic, Paradise Towers: Paradise Found was published in 2021 by Cutaway Comics, featuring what happened to the Kangs (who now have considerably less '80s Hair). The same year also saw the publication of Build High for Happiness, an anthology of short stories inspired by the serial.


  • '80s Hair: The Kangs, and of course Mel.
  • 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 Passageway & 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 Kang: 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 won?
    • 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.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Tabby and Tilda, in the classic British "Two middle-aged ladies who just happen to live together"invoked mould.
  • 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.
  • Author Appeal: Writer Stephen Wyatt says he had been a big fan of the Hartnell and Troughton eras, but had stopped watching around the time of his A-levels, so he had no knowledge of, or interest in, the complex mythology of the Time Lords, and just wrote a story where the Doctor showed up on a strange world like he had enjoyed when he was a kid.
  • 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 Bad: Kroagnon.
  • 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. Double subverted when he successfully manages to pull the trope off later in the story, just in time to save Mel from Tilda. Triple subverted, however, since instead of doing anything useful he immediately launches into his pompous "putting Paradise Towers to rights!" spiel without actually noticing the situation, 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 when he finally gets around to helping Mel isn't incredibly competent.
  • Black Comedy: As might be expected from the result of essentially wondering what would happen if the Doctor was plonked down into a children's television version of a J.G Ballard novel.
  • 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: How the Doctor escapes from the Caretakers, though with completely made-up rules as he's banking on his captors revering a rule book that they've never actually read. His assumption's correct.
  • Break Them by Talking: The Doctor gives this lecture 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.
  • Camp: Despite the serious tone of the story the serial contains a Cargo Cult of teenagers who spend all of their time playing a high stakes game of tag, a group of cannibal senior citizens who try and eat one of our main characters, a group of Fascistic controllers who are so incompetent it's clear that they're only in power because they have the keys to the building, killer cleaning robots, killers pool cleaning robots, and a man named Pex who runs around pretending to be a big hero despite being a massive coward. It's up to the viewer whether the camp detracts or enhances from the experience.
  • 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."
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Kangs. (The colours are the three primary colours, which are also the colours of the three main British political parties.) Possibly a subversion, given that, although they are certainly colour-coded, there is no actual difference between the three groups of Kangs.
  • Continuity Nod: Interestingly, averted. This is the first story in literally years not to reference or rely on a previous story. The Continuity Porn years of Eric Saward were well and truly over.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The titular condominium has crumbled into a Judge Dredd-style Dystopia After the End, though some still put on a cheery facade.
  • Draft Dodging: Pex was called up to fight in the Great Off Screen War, but instead stowed away on the ship carrying the children and old folk to Paradise Towers. He is universally reviled by all of the inhabitants of the Towers.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Even Pex is smart 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.
  • Elevator Buttons Mash: The Kangs do this, and the protagonists get stuck in an elevator they've done it to while fleeing from the monsters.
  • 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.
  • Fairytale Motifs: The cannibal Rezzies are a reference to Hansel and Gretel.
  • 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.
  • Fattening the Victim: Mel is fed up by the Rezzies Tilda and Tabby, who then reveal themselves as cannibals who plan to eat her. This is a Fridge Logicinvoked moment as the Rezzies are supposed to have turned to cannibalism due to lack of food, raising the question of where Tilda and Tabby obtained the food they are using to fatten Mel.
  • Forbidden Zone: The basement is off-limits under penalty of death.
  • Free-Range Children: The Kangs are clearly supposed to be this, Dawson Casting aside.
  • Future Imperfect: Played with; the Rezzies and the Caretakers are undoubtedly very strange, but it's mainly the Kangs — feral children who've grown up without adult supervision or any kind of education about the outside world — who suffer the most from this. Their greetings are basically corrupted, over-dramatised versions of the game of pat-a-cake, and their entire society is based around what is essentially a massive game of capture the castle.
  • Future Slang: A major feature of the Kangs' dialogue. Ice-hot, Doctor, ice-hot!
  • Godwin's Law of Facial Hair: The Chief Caretaker is shown wearing a toothbrush mustache to reflect the Nazi inspirations for the Caretakers.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: The Chief Caretaker sports a toothbrush moustache in keeping with the Putting on the Reich costuming of the Caretakers.
  • Grand Theft Me: Kroagnon on the Chief Caretaker.
  • Graffiti Town: One of the biggest offences 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 beginning of Episode Three, 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.
    • The Doctor's escape from the caretakers uses their obsessive adherence to the rules against them, since he is both able to acquire a copy of their rulebook as his last request and then is able to make up a convincing-sounding rule about them standing down in order to slip out.
  • 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:
    Pex: 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?
  • 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, and is supposedly Kroagnon's crowning glory and ultimate achievement. 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.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: After reluctantly agreeing to join forces with Pex and the Rezzies, the Kangs state that never ever under any circumstances will they ever work with the Caretakers whatsoever. Cue the instant appearance of the Deputy Chief Caretaker, sheepishly wondering he and the other Caretakers can join their gang as well.
  • 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."
  • Large Ham: Richard Briers as the Chief Caretaker. Even John Nathan-Turner thought he was too over-the-top.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Only one member of the Yellow Kangs is left alive by the time the Doctor and Mel take an interest in the Towers, and she buys it two minutes into the story.
  • 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. His solutions to this problem turn out to be a bit... genocidal.
  • 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. He does redeem himself, though.
  • 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.
  • The Missing Faction: The last of the Yellow Kangs dies in the opening scene.
  • 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: The Doctor escapes custody by fabricating some rules to some jobsworth night watchmen.
  • Never Say "Die": Rather than "dead", the Kangs say "un-alive".
  • Noodle Implements: What a cleaning robot needs with a drill is a question best unanswered.
  • Novelization: The serial's writer, Stephen Wyatt wrote the novelization.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The police organization is hilarious, insisting on using their long designations every single time they need to address anyone, and quoting the rule book every single time they did anything.
  • 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 Godinvoked, 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.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Implied. Some of the surviving residents come up with a method to trap Kroagnon stating they've caught rats in the same manner. This may also explain Tabby and Tilda's cannibalism- whilst there are clearly enough supplies of non-perishable food for tea and biscuits (or the odd can of pop), there's not much fresh meat around.
  • The Remnant: The Caretakers' uniforms are just as filthy and rumpled as the Kangs' gang colours. By this point, there aren't even that many of them left, and their ranks grow slimmer as the Cleaners pick them off.
  • Reverse Psychology: Notice how the Doctor, when making up his rule about the caretakers standing down and basically letting him escape, prefaces it by spending a lot of time protesting to them about how the rule is absolutely absurd, he can't even read it out because it's so ludicrous and he doesn't actually expect them to obey it...
    The Doctor: [Chuckling] Yes, I know, I find it extraordinary! I don't expect you to do it.
    [He taps the rulebook meaningfully]
    The Doctor: [Serious] But it is in there.
  • Screaming Woman: True to form, Mel is one when confronted with the swimming pool robots. Before that, we have the last Yellow Kang just before falling victim to the Cleaners.
  • 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.
    Deputy: I know it's against the rulebook to say this, but I suppose these are exceptional circumstances...
    Doctor: They could be described thus, yes.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The idea of a massive housing project being so ill-designed that it turns its residents into warring tribes with cannibalism, murder and general anarchy aplenty had previously appeared in the JG Ballard novel High-Rise.
    • Kroagnon seems suspiciously like a semi-anagramatic villainous parody of Howard Roarke from The Fountainhead.
    • Also Monty Python's Flying Circus with "The Architects Sketch," about a man who designs an apartment block that's more in line with a slaughterhouse.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Pex.
  • Star Scraper: Paradise Towers is implied to be this.
  • 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" crossed with an over-elaborate mutation of the game "pat-a-cake". The Red Kangs teach it to the Doctor. However, they refuse to extend the welcome to Mel (a female) until she picks a colour to join. Mel, sensibly, does not identify with any colour.
    • 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.
    Chief Caretaker: 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..."
  • Take That!: Kroagnon is a satire of architects who seemed to design elaborate projects that thought of and took into account everything except the people who were actually supposed to live in and use them, a spate of whom had arisen throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Kroagnon possessing the Hitler-imitating Caretaker could also be an allusion to the fact that most of these architects were proponents of Brutalism, an architectural style heavily associated with totalitarianism.
  • Teaser-Only Character: The last of the Yellow Kangs appears in a single scene at the beginning of the story to establish the threat that wiped them out.
  • 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".
  • This Is a Drill: A drill is one of the tools turned weapons that the caretaker robots are armed with.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: While the tri-colour Kang gangs take their game very seriously, they have a rule against making each other "un-alive".
  • 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. Nope, she isn't and she does. 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.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Stephen Wyatt based his story in part on the J.G. Ballard novel High-Rise, which depicts a luxury apartment building which descends into savagery.
  • 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.
  • World of Action Girls: The Kangs are all female and despite not being malevolent (they claim not to kill people and it's implied their behaviour is some sort of ritualised game) are armed and (excepting the end) show a great deal more bravery than the coward Pex. Even when Mel has a brief Damsel in Distress moment in the swimming pool, she has to borrow his gun to shoot the robot trying to kill her.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Chief used the Cleaners to wipe out the Yellow Kangs, feeding their remains to his "pet" in the basement.
  • You Are Number 6: All the junior Caretakers are referred to by their numerical designations, including stroke-marks (/).



Video Example(s):


Doctor Who (1987)

Arriving at and leaving Paradise Towers. Because you never can tell...

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