Friday, December 14, 2012

7E3 - Paradise Towers 3

Doctor Who likes to pat itself on the back sometimes for predicting, or at least hypothesizing, that the Prime Minister of Great Britain would, in the near future, be a woman when the Brigadier addressed the female PM on the phone in Terror of the Zygons, a story that aired four years before Margaret Thatcher became the first woman PM. Amazingly, Doctor Who has a similar bout of prescience in Paradise Towers when The Doctor innocently watches a Paradise Towers sales video on what appears to be a DVD, almost ten years before such things went on sale to the general public. It might not quite be the iPads and mobile phones that various incarnations of the Star Trek franchise predicted, but as Doctor Who fans, we'll take what we can get.

This is, at times, a grim episode. Watching the cannibalistic Rezzies prepare to carve up Mel should be downright terrifying, but then such scenes are instantly juxtaposed with frivolous scenes with caretakers quoting rule books and Richard Briers beginning his rehearsals for his part as the villain in a 1987 Christmas pantomime production. The overall tone of things is exemplified my Mel's actions this episode. She's actually pretty good at asserting herself, instigating a plan to get to floor 304 where she previously arranged to meet The Doctor. She and Pex have issues with the elevators and with the cleaners, and they seem genuinely frightened by their ordeal. Yet when they finally do reach the top floor, all Mel can think about is going for a swim.

Keff McCulloch's score doesn't help matters much. I'm not here to dump on McCulloch's much-maligned musical machinations. His output was a product of the times, even though Keff's stuff is more akin to pop music than it is incidental music. He also had to write this score in the course of a week after the original score by David Snell was rejected, so I find it easier to excuse the fact that McCulloch's eventual score is little more than many variations of the Doctor Who theme (and quoting a programme's main theme was another thing in vogue in the mid-to-late-80s). However, McCulloch's predilection for orchestral hits and digital hand claps deflates any dramatic intent that he might have had. Thanks to the DVD release of this story, we can hear the original score that David Snell was fired for, and you know what? It is terrible. Monophonic and monotonous. Given the options, we got off easy with Keff. Count your blessings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

7E2 - Paradise Towers 2

Well, that was a nice nap. Everyone doing well?

The scene where The Doctor tricks the two guards watching him has always been one of the more notable scenes in Sylvester McCoy's era in Doctor Who. Most fans think it's just silly, but in watching it again for the umpteenth time, I find that it's actually one of the first scenes that exemplifies McCoy's Doctor. The Seventh Doctor has always had an iconoclastic streak, but here he sits between his watchers and proceeds to go off on the rule book which all the Caretakers devote their lives to adhering to. The Doctor isn't just taking a frustrated swipe at a silly rule book, he's attacking a way of life.

When he sees that he can get away with pouring considerable scorn on the rule book, he realizes that he can use the book, along with his cunning, to get out of his current situation by making the guards release him as opposed to engineering an escape himself. (The guards must have remarkable faith in the book to accept the word of a prisoner about what's written in it, mind you...).

McCoy's Doctor could be summed up with two main characteristics: rebellious and manipulative. These sound like bad aspects of his personality, but The Doctor uses these qualities for good. Interestingly, and not to sully any potential things I might say about The Happiness Patrol, but compare this scene in Paradise Towers to the one in Happiness where The Doctor convinces two members of the hit squad to throw away their guns. While they are very different in tone, The Doctor uses similar techniques to his advantage. He doesn't stand up to authority in either case, he stands out from it. Standing up to authority would get him smacked down. Standing out gives him the advantage.

The dark, manipulative Doctor that more overtly took root in Season 25 and blossomed in Season 26 has his genesis much earlier on his tenure than commonly thought.