Another in the series of Doctor Who audio plays that star Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as his companion Peri, bringing to life on CD stories that were written for the show back in the 1980's but which for various reasons never got to screen.
Paradise 5 sees the time travellers go to visit an old friend, only to find he's gone to paradise 5, a space station that functions as a luxurious holiday resort, and then disappeared. The Doctor and Peri head to the station to investigate. The place is run by a man called Gabriel. Little humanoid creatures called Cherubs do the menial work. People are vanishing. And strange creatures are being seen.
Can the Doctor and Peri find the secret of Paradise 5?
Originally written for the 1986 trial of the a timelord season and featuring Bonnie Langford as Mel, the script has been rewritten by another writer to remove all the courtroom scenes that the trial season had, and to add in Peri in place of Mel as Bonnie Langford wasn't available to reprise the role. And they've also created a new opening episode that makes the story stand on it's own with no need for the trial format.
And a very good job they've done of it. Because this story works really well on audio. The plot isn't anything special but all the extra little details of the story are good enough to make you unconcerned about that. Peri spends a lot of time investigating on her own and this allows for her to have some very strong scenes of character. And wear costumes that you can but visualise in your mind's eyes.
Excellent villainy comes the wonderful double act of Alex Macqueen as Gabriel and James D'arcy as his right hand man Michael. The two play off each other ever so well and the former is more than a match for the doctor in the use of language and big words.
The best thing about this though is the length of the episodes. The previous stories in this range have all been long two parters, but this one has four episodes, two each on a disc, ranging in length from twenty six to thirty minutes approx. It makes them much better paced.
Not the greatest story ever by a long shot, but one that's well above average and a very enjoyable listen.
There are interviews with cast and crew on the end of each disc - worth listening to for an interesting insight into the writing process that goes into the lost story range - and a trailer for the next story in this range at the start of disc one.
This is the fifth of the productions from Big Finish in which stories written for Colin Baker's sixth Doctor on TV, but were never made, are finally brought to life.
This, for me, has been the highlight of the series so far. The Doctor and Peri are trying to investigate the disappearance of an old friend of the Doctor's, on the luxury holiday resort of Paradise 5, a floating space station. Peri goes undercover as a stewardess, whilst the Doctor creeps around behind the scenes. It is soon clear that all is not well, and something very untoward is happening to the guests.
This story starts off as a decent mystery, and evolves into an entertaining adventure as things start to hot up. There is a decent script, originally intended for the `Trial of a Timelord' season, which works well on audio. The cast members gove it their all, and provide memorable and interesting characters, especially Michael and Gabriel, the two people who run paradise.
THis is an entertaining release, and one that I am glad has seen the light of day at last. Well done Big Finish, more like this please!
This is part of the series of Lost Stories produced as full cast audio dramas by Big Finish. These are stories which, for various reasons, were written, or had story ideas drawn up for various Doctors in the tv series, but were never made. Big Finish have released nearly 30 of these Lost Stories so far, and they’re a brilliant chance to hear stories that we might have seen on tv, had circumstances been different; and a great opportunity to hear stories of their time, written for the Doctor of the time. This one is the fifth release in the first series, and features Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, and Nicola Bryant as Peri.
The story was originally storylined in 1985 and was planned to be a part of the Trial of a Time Lord series. It would have been in the slot which became Terror of the Vervoids, and was originally intended to feature Mel as the Doctor’s companion. The story was written in this form by P J Hammond. Gary Russell suggested Paradise 5 as one of the Lost Stories releases, and the changes to the story that were required were done, brilliantly well, by Andy Lane. The first episode was rewritten completely by Lane, and the Trial elements were removed. The second and third episodes remain largely the original work of Hammond, and the fourth episode was written to the main elements introduced by Hammond, but with a few other elements introduced by Lane to bring the story to a bit more of an up-to-date ending. Also, of course, Mel’s character was changed to Peri in the story, which I think works tremendously well. Peri’s character gets a lot to do in the story, and for a lot of the time is quite independent of the Doctor, and it’s nice to get that element in this type of story for Peri.
The Doctor and Peri are travelling to Targus Delta to visit an old friend of the Doctor’s, but he has gone on holiday to the resort planet of Paradise 5. But why has he not come back from there? The Doctor is determined to find out what happened to Professor Albrecht Thompson, and Peri goes undercover to work on Paradise 5, while the Doctor smuggles himself in there to investigate behind the scenes. But working out what’s going on on Paradise 5 may be beyond even the Doctor’s sleuthing skills. And who are the Elohim?
This is a brilliant story. It is not a story where the Doctor turns up, finds various factions at war, and solves all their problems. It is very much a story where the Doctor is on a highly personal and highly important quest, to find his old friend. Peri, although rather unwilling to be involved at first, soon gets right into the mystery, and of course under all the bluff and bluster of the Sixth Doctor’s rather bombastic character at this stage of his incarnation, she is concerned enough to want to help the Doctor.
This is a story which has the 1980s written all over it – the financial world of Targus Delta, the high-flying executives, the stress-free holiday resort and the promise of Paradise, the extravagant décor and the luxurious lifestyle offered on Paradise 5, even the characters of Michael and Gabriel (brilliantly played by James D’Arcy and Alex Macqueen); they all really evoke a feeling of the big, brash 1980s, which is in itself rather funny juxtaposed as it is with the alient world environment being presented, so far in the future. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are absolutely fantastic in their roles, and Colin has nailed perfectly the rather brash and grandiloquent style of his early incarnation; but with a heart of gold, as we know he has, underneath the outer gaudy shell and arrogance. A wonderful story, and what a great opportunity that we now have to be able to hear this lost gem.
Paradise 5 is an ultra-exclusive orbiting holiday resort so perfect that none of its guests ever want to leave - and none ever do... 4* (4 episodes, 2 CDs, 100 min)
The Doctor and Peri arrive there undercover, in search of the Doctor's friend Prof. Albrecht Thompson, last seen heading to Paradise 5 for a three day break - three months ago. Peri is working in the immaculate, white, gold and marble `front of house' as a hostess (thanks to some faked references) while the Doctor spends the first half of the story `backstage' in a drab, grimy environment of staff rooms, corridors and service ducts.
That contrast is a deliberate metaphor for the story; this `paradise' that offers beautiful and even ecstatic experiences to its guests has (of course) a grimy secret behind the façade. Unfortunately, I thought it was also an unintentionally good metaphor for the Lost Story `Paradise 5'; an attractive, authentic mid-1980s story written with great characters, dialogue and wit and brilliantly acted. But behind this attractive façade, I found the plot ultimately uninspiring - although this only became apparent after the `reveal' in episode 4.
So first, the `heavenly' aspects, which I thought were five-star quality. P.J. Hammond's script has been completed by Andy Lane so well I couldn't tell which part was by which writer until after listening to the documentary tracks. The characters and their dialogue are excellent and very witty and the beautifully depicted, `no expense spared' resort of Paradise 5 is, like most such resorts, slightly tacky in spite of (or because of) all the gold and marble trimmings.
The first three episodes promise a great deal and deliver on both the comedy and an atmosphere of lurking menace, of `something' out there in the darkness of space and something else in the shadows of the space station and within the spirit-enhancing "paradise machine". There's a wealth of clever touches in the writing, which is full of angel and devil references and uses three tunes that are connected with fairies in some way. (The Doctor sings a song from `Iolanthe' - an operetta about fairies in love with humans; a victim of the `paradise machine' hums `The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy' and manager Gabriel sings the start of a song about hobgoblins - a dark side of the same mythology.)
The Doctor is very well written and Colin Baker is superb as usual if rather underused for the first half of the story which he spends `backstage', making contact with the curious little `cherubs' who do the unskilled work and receiving a cryptic warning to `Beware the Elohim', with a great cliff-hanger for episode 3 that I certainly didn't see coming.
In many ways this is Peri's story as she leads the investigation as the undercover `hostess'. Nicola Bryant has an excellent story in a role which now looks like a total send-up of what has been described as the "something for the dads" role for 1980s `Doctor Who' female companions and their costumes. Peri's hostess job includes tight white thigh boots and swimming, bikini-clad, in a `heavenly aquarium'... sometimes audio is not enough... (!) It's very funny at the expense of 80s sexism and allows Peri to get close to the guests - who seem a mostly obnoxious lot, all sent to `paradise' at very short notice by their family or colleagues and all travelling alone...
There are a handful of other hostesses, but the real powers on Paradise 5 are manager Gabriel and his reclusive technical wizard Michael. Alex Macqueen steals the show as the slightly camp, word-spinning Gabriel, matching even the Sixth Doctor's flamboyant phonations and with James D'Arcy providing the perfect foil as the introverted and definitely unpleasant Michael; two brilliant guest performances of evil characters with a certain flair, even to the very end...
However, for me the end of the story is the problem which pulled the plot down to a disappointing three-star level and meant I couldn't give more than four stars overall, despite the splendid adornments of performance and wit. Gabriel and Michael have, for evil ends, set up a fraudulent `paradise' which is an obvious parody of parts of Judeo-Christian iconography, even (as the Doctor discovers) down to a `Garden of Eden' and the serpent within. Such behaviour of course results in their fall, literally as well as symbolically and that's all good, but the finale seemed sadly lacking in some ways.
I can't explain the rest without SPOILERS, so if you want to stop reading now, I'm sure you'll enjoy a visit to `Paradise 5' - perhaps even more so if you aren't tempted to expect too much depth from the plot, which finally seemed quite shallow for all its glittering surface. I suppose that's also an allegory in its way but I'm fairly sure it wasn't intentional. 4*
(There are documentary tracks at the end of each disk and the CD booklet has interesting writer's notes and cast photos.)
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Gabriel and Michael are revealed as very mundane human villains, simply a couple in it for the money, removing unwanted people from Targos Delta at the request of their `unloving ones', presumably for cash, and selling them to the Elohim, presumably for more cash. Abduction and slavery are certainly extremely evil, but not a very interesting outcome for a `Doctor Who' mystery, though that was the original ending of the `lost story'. Here, another layer has been added, with the shadowy Elohim (obviously set up as `dark angels') recruiting unwilling human minds to act as cannon-fodder in a mental war being fought in their higher dimension - the `cherubs' are the sad remnants of their victims.
That's much better, but for me it was still disappointing because although "the other side" in that war do turn up just in time (as the Doctor says, "the cavalry have arrived"), they do so `off-camera' with very little sound and fury and the spiritual metaphor of the story is abandoned for modern cynicism. The Doctor, despite referring to `them' as "the cavalry", says that neither side is actually better than the other; it's not a battle of "light and dark" but just a "sordid war".
For me this was a dull anti-climax and went against the grain of the `good versus evil' morality that is the essence of `Doctor Who', or certainly was in the 1970s. Some later 1980s stories did seem desperate to deny any such concept, but without it there's something missing. The Doctor does save the lives of the latest batch of victims, but otherwise it seemed a downbeat and low-key ending to a story that promised much.
Only Gabriel and Michael's final scene gives the ending some panache. However, to have two evil characters both `coincidentally' named after Archangels is a bit of a stretch - it would have been better if they had revealed their names to be deliberately misleading aliases - and better still if they had been revealed as more than just two human criminals who "put [their] faith in the wrong side".
on 7 April 2010
I agree with Mark Heckford that this audio boasts what are arguably Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant's strongest performances as The Sixth Doctor (or 'old Sixie' as Baker calls his character). Accusations of sexism may be levelled at Peri's saucy costume, (sadly left to the imagination - one can only imagine what it would have looked like in 1985..!) and some of The Doctor's lines ("you'll look like a lovely little thing..."), however this story was written well before the PC brigade started rattling their sabres, and the chemistry between the two lead actors, as well as Andy Lane's polishing of PJ Hammond's unfinished (but very impressive) script, have resulted in an enjoyable romp cum murder mystery that has a distinct 80s flavour but which works just as well in 2010.
Any similarities between this adventure and 1986 television serial 'Terror of the Vervoids' Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord  [DVD]  are explained in the CD extras at the end of disc 1, where it is revealed that Hammonds' script was originally destined to be part of the Trial story, but was eventually omitted, before being dusted off, slightly amended, and added to the Lost Stories collection instead.
What I really liked about Paradise 5 is that the characters really get time to develop, and the shadowy alien menace is pleasingly underplayed - unusual for a mid 80s Doctor Who serial. As ever the cast is bolstered by fine support, and the eerie atmosphere that PJ Hammonds always brought to his 'Sapphire and Steel' episodes is definitely evident, albeit in restrained fashion. Overall this is a decent addition to both the Big Finish canon and the Lost Stories mini-series, and again leaves one wondering what may have been, if the show had never been cancelled when it was.
Another contribution to the lost stories range. This episode was set to take the place of Terror of the Vervoids in the Trial of a Timelord story ark. The trial scenes have (fortunately) been removed.
The original script was written by PJ Hammond (Torchwood, Saphire and Steel), the majority of Episode 2 being his script, episodes 1, 3 and 4 being completed from his notes by Andy Lane.
I must say I've generally not enjoyed what I've heard of Andy Lanes work, and do have my doubts about the conclusion, however episode 1 has a wonderfully charming Douglas Adams feel, I'm inclined to call this his best work for Big Finish by a mile.
The story takes place on a space station, paradise 5, which is offically a luxurious resort for tired executives, but all is not as it seems (well it is Doctor Who). The twists aren't particularly earth shattering but the story is entertaining (if only to prompt your imagination to visualise the lovely Nicola Bryant in a variety of revealing outfits), and has strong performances all around. As ever the music and sound effects are superb.
I would liken this story to the Nightmare Fair, a solid, but not ground breaking tale, which is a wonderful reflection of the era and a little piece of lost history. Even if it is not the deepest the performances and the wonderful way in which the 80s feel is captured make it well worth the purchase.
on 22 March 2010
Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are both at their best in Paradise 5, with a good role for Peri, and Colin giving the kind of strong performance that has made his Doctor such a success on audio. They are well supported on the acting front by a cast that includes the ever excellent Helen Goldwyn (Doctor Who and the Pirates). The story has some surprises, and a strong cliff-hanger surprise at the end of part three. Written by Andy Lane from a first episode script and scene breakdown by P J Hammond, the story does not have the Sapphire and Steel flavour that many may be expecting, and it cannot claim to among the very best concepts within the range, but it is very enjoyable, and has some lovely lines to make a Doctor Who fan smile. And if all that wasn't enough, Peri's outfits for the story include thigh-length boots, suspenders, and for several scenes a bikini. Alas, this is one story for which audio just cannot make up for what might have been! Overall a good Big Finish, well worth its price.