Paradise Towels, lol!
Many Doctor Who monsters are allegorical representations of the things mannys are afraid of, translated into a form in which they can be scary but within the safe limits of televisual entertainment. For example, most alien invasions of Earth in Doctor Who represent the fear of manny civilisation being invaded by a more technological and militarily advanced civilisation, against which they would have no conventional defence. This goes all the way back to the first such story of its kind, H G Wells' War of the Worlds.
Many of these fears are irrational, such as the Cybermannys original portrayal as a society where the (then new) science of organ transplantation had been taken to the extreme. But Paradise Towers contains a monster that is made all the more scary because it is based on a very real and rational fear: the fear that the Dark Lord Hoover wants to nom us all!
The Cleaners are obviously based on Hoover, with even the name being a shortened variation on "Vacuum Cleaner", Hoover's non-brand name. Because of this I have called in Scary Cat, the bravest and scariest of my cat friends, to assist me with this review.
Paradise Towers is the second story of season 24. It stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel. It starts with a teaser scene of a manny, a Yellow Kang, being chased by voices through dimly lit carrydoors. Scary Cat, like me, is impressed with the sets and the lighting, we think it is effective in establishing the atmosphere of a dangerous place. Scary Cat even compares it to the sets used in Sapphire & Steel's first and second stories in terms of having a character all of its own.
The voices leave the Yellow Kang and for a moment she thinks she is safe, but then something else gets her in classic monster fashion! We do not see what it is yet.
The dark and dirty sets of Paradise Towers contrast with the clean and bright interior of the TARDIS, where the Doctor and Mel are. They are on their way to Paradise Towers with Mel looking forward to it. In a satire of many holidays, the anticipation will turn out to be better than the real thing. When the TARDIS arrives they go outside and immediately see it is a mess.
There is a scene with a Caretaker who has a maths name, and he is scared to be in this. This serves to build up the tension in the episode. Meanwhile the Doctor and Mel meet the Red Kangs. They claim that Red Kangs are best, which is obviously not true because cats are best!
The Red Kangs capture the Doctor and Mel and two of them establish themselves as important characters by giving their names - Bin Liner and Fire Escape - while the other Red Kangs do not. The Doctor makes friends with them by copying their movements and accompanying incidental sound effects.
We get our first glimpses of the Cleaners when we see one that has nomed the Yellow Kang and has her in its bin. Then we see them ambush the Caretaker from earlier - one sneaks up behind him while he is watching another one and he gets nomed. Clever Cleaners.
We hear the Chief Caretaker giving the exposition to us that he is sending the Cleaners to nom mannys so that they can give noms to his "little pet". I don't know what kind of pet it could be, but I don't think it could be a cat. At least I hope not.
According to Fire Escape, as well as Kangs and Caretakers, there are also Old Ones in Paradise Towers, which piqued Cthulhu's interest in this episode. But Bin Liner decides they have given enough exposition about Paradise Towers to the Doctor and Mel and so capture them again. This is a bit inconsistent, but never mind as then the Caretakers come and capture the Doctor while the Red Kangs and Mel run away.
Mel gets separated from the Kangs and meets Tilda and Tabby. "Tabby" may be a cat name but they are not cats, they are mannys and residents of Paradise Towers. It is really obvious to us that they want to nom Mel, but Mel doesn't know that yet. She just thinks they are friendly mannys who want to give her noms.
The Doctor sees pictures on the wall of a Cleaner catching a Kang. He sees it as a significant clue, reminiscent of when he saw the pictorial history of the aliens in Colony in Space, but the Caretakers don't think it is important.
Pex meets Mel.
Mel meets Pex.
Pex burts in through the door. He is a manny who puts "the world of Paradise Towers to rights."
On the internets I have seen some criticism of Bonnie Langford's acting as Mel, but one look at the way she wordlessly reacts to Pex's introducing himself would surely silence any critics. This is a moment of light relief as Pex rescues Mel even though she doesn't know she needs rescued, and Tilda and Tabby complain that Pex has broken their door down three times before.
We see the Chief Caretaker, who is played by Richard Briers in a Hitler moustache (so we know he is an obvious baddy). He mistakes the Doctor for "the Great Architect" and seems pleased to meet him.
"No need to tell me, I know who you are. We have been waiting for this momentous visit for so many years. You are the man who brought Paradise Towers to life, the visionary who dreamed up its pools and lifts and squares, and now you have returned to your creation. You will make all those dilapidated lifts and rise and fall as they've never done before. All signs of wallscrawl will disappear from the corridors of Paradise Towers. The floors will gleam and the windows will shine, and will be made as new. Fellow Caretakers, do you know who this is? This is the Great Architect returned to Paradise Towers. Bid him welcome. All Hail the Great Architect, all hail!"
He then says they should kill him, for both an instant reversal and cliffhanger ending in one.
This ends the episode on both peril for the Doctor and an intriguing mystery - why should they be pleased to see him and want to kill him at the same time?
Part one gets Paradise Towers off to an excellent start, introducing the characters, setting and situation in a great way. The central mystery - why has Paradise Towers become so dark and dangerous - is laid out well, and although it is a little bit heavy with the exposition at times, we only get to know part of the backstory now and plenty is kept back, either to be revealed in the later episodes or for us to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps.
The Cleaners are an exceptionally scary monster for Doctor Who, although fortunately they are not as scary as the real Hoover! Still, I am glad I had Scary Cat here with me to help me be brave... I cannot see the TV screen from behind the sofa. I may be a long cat but I am not that long!