Famously inspired by High Rise by JG Ballard, Dr Who and The Kangs, also known as Paradise Towers, was a significant story for me in my relationship with Doctor Who, as it was the one where I decided to stay down the pub instead of going home to watch the final episode, so I never found out how the story ended until it came out on DVD.
As someone who had been watching the show since The Sea Devils, in 1972, by 1987 this wasn’t just a variation of the same show, a different iteration of essentially the same thing but with a different Doctor, different production team and production values appropriate to the time in which it was made. No, this was a show that was masquerading as Doctor Who, a kids show about the adventures of a Time Lord, no longer was it a show about the adventures of a mysterious traveller in Time and Space known only as “the Doctor”. Doctor Who was no longer a drama, and for me, the end started here.
This is another of our revisitations of McCoy’s first season, the first edit of this story being one of my “Who On Helium” edits as that was the only way I could watch McCoy’s first season without putting a brick through the telly. Bonnie Langford is the female Adric and I remember her as Violet Elizabeth Bott in Just William and, if you were around for that, you will know that the phrase “spoiled brat” was invented just for her.
To be fair, I’ve never met BL and I’m sure she’s a nice enough person who’s struggled to shake off VEB her entire career but Mel is incredibly irritating and JNT’s worst ever piece of stunt casting. So, to enable people like me to actually watch anything from McCoy’s first year, the whole thing got cut to the bone and speeded up – nobody else was taking things seriously, so I saw no reason why I should either. In both that and this final version, Mel vanishes from the narrative when the caretakers capture the Doctor and doesn’t appear again until the Doctor and the Kangs reach the pool.
All she does is bugger about with the equally annoying Pex and get menaced by a couple of cannibalistic grannies. So no Tilda and Tabby, which is a shame but they don’t advance the plot, they just provide some black humour and a lovely dark variation on Arsenic and Old Lace in a story that sits pretty squarely in Monty Python territory.
And whatever show Richard Briers thinks he’s in, it’s certainly not one where the Chief Caretaker is sinister. He may be the Solon to this story’s Morbius, but that’s where the similarity ends. Kroagnon isn’t a malevolent brain in a jar in the basement, he’s just a couple of neon tube eyes. If ever there was a story that could have been completely different under a previous production team, it’s this one – just think how much better this would have been under Graham Williams, never mind Hinchliffe-Holmes!
Pex is another problematic character, a cowardly muscleman might seem like an amusingly Python-esque idea on paper, but there’s no way you can execute that on screen and have him be a character the audience are engaged with. He’s a twit and nobody cares if he lives or dies, which completely undercuts the end scene where the Kangs honour his memory. If we had seen him fighting against his fears, and if we had an inkling into why he was so afraid, then we might have had some sympathy for him. As it is, we don’t care about him, and a character you don’t care about is a character that’s been drawn up wrong – all future wannabe Who writers take note!
For this new version I also took the opportunity to restore a few of the Extended and Deleted scenes from the DVD, and including them required a couple of additional music cues, sourced from Disc 7 of the Fiftieth Anniversary Collection. These extras on the DVDs are a bit like the stories themselves, sometimes you can see exactly why things didn’t make it on screen and others it’s a shame that they didn’t!