THIS STORY TAKES
"THE HOLLOWS OF TIME"
AND "POINT OF ENTRY."
PJ HAMMOND &
END OF TERM
BIG FINISH 'LOST
RELEASED IN MARCH
The Doctor and Peri
visit Targos Delta to
check in on old friend
only to discover that
he has vanished.
THE PROFESSOR was
last sighted taking
a shuttle to the
holiday resort of
Paradise 5, then
never seen again.
is piqued. They must
investigate, but they
must do so stealthily.
Peri will go under-
cover, while the
Doctor hides in the
paradise 5 holds
a terrible secret
beneath the white
marble and golden
trimmings. The mute
Cherubs have a TALE
to tell. And the
Elohim are coming.
What troubled me going into Paradise 5 was the fact that it had been dropped
in favour of Terror of the Vervoids - one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories in any medium. Someone, somewhere must have made the call that Pip and Jane Baker could produce something better than PJ Hammond’s story, and this “something better” ultimately proved to be one of the series’ lowest points. This being the case, how could Paradise 5 possibly be worth its salt?
Well, having now listened Big Finish’s rendition of Paradise 5, and also having done a bit
of reading about its origins, I can safely say that the aforementioned, Hawaiian shirt-clad someone couldn’t have been more wrong. Paradise 5 isn’t merely “better than Terror of
the Vervoids” (which in isolation, would’ve been the weakest praise that I’ve ever offered) - it’s bloody impressive.
I understand that Parts 9 to 12 of The Trial of a Time Lord had originally been allocated to David Halliwell and Jack Trevor Story, who had intended to contribute two episodes apiece. Story’s story (I couldn’t resist…) was centred around the idea of a man playing a saxophone inside an empty gasometer, whilst his collaborator proffered Attack of the Mind, which went through a number of drafts before the writers were decommissioned on the say-so of BBC Head of Drama Jonathan Powell, who found their work to be “too peculiar.” Christopher H Bidmead was then commissioned to plug the gap with a story that he would eventually call Pinacotheca, but his scripts were rejected by script editor Eric Saward.
It was at this point that “bastion of British television writing” PJ Hammond stepped into the breach with End of Term, the story that would eventually become Paradise 5. According to
a recent interview with Vortex, Hammond pitched his story in just two days, and the script
for the first episode and a full synopsis then followed within a fortnight. But alas, the Doctor Who’s ever-fickle producer John Nathan-Turner elected to pull the plug for reasons all of
his own, instructing Saward to tell Hammond that they were “unsure” of the story. And so for almost twenty-five years Paradise 5 languished as one complete episode and an outline for another three, until Lost Stories producer David Richardson and stalwart Big Finish scribe Andy Lane swept into turn it into the lavish, full cast production that we have the pleasure of enjoying today.
The resultant production surprised
me by being incredibly Whoish.
Given that its original writer has
been responsible for a brace of
Torchwood’s more outlandish
offerings, and that, by his own
admission, he isn’t all that keen
on aliens, the last thing I expected
was a narrative spanning as many dimensional planes as it does planets. Hammond’s plot concerns shady goings on at galactic holiday camp Paradise 5, where a number of holiday-makers (most of whom had their holidays booked for them…) have vanished without a trace. Amongst the missing is the Doctor’s friend Professor Albrecht Thompson, which inevitably prompts the Time Lord to instigate a good old-fashioned investigation…
Now it would be dismissive of me to call Lane’s script an adaptation, because it’s demons-trably much more than that – he had to effectively build the story from the ground up, drafting an entirely new first episode; reworking what had already been written by Hammond in the 1980s; and, most notably, forging a wholly original conclusion. Accordingly, it is to his credit that Paradise 5 has a very smooth finish. Indeed, had I not done my homework, I would have had no idea as to its complicated origins.
Lane does an especially good job of taking what is essentially a Melanie Bush story – and
a carrot-juice drenched debut story at that– and making it work for Peri Brown. If anything, Paradise 5 is such a strong outing for the young American that it feels a little divergent. An aural successor to Planet of Fire’s infamous bikini sequence is one thing, but examining the character’s botanical studies and straight A grades in an attempt to rectify the “indignities heaped upon her” following her first story does scream out that this is no longer an authentic 1980s script - it’s a good one.
In fact, I believe that this is the first of the Lost Stories to significantly depart from the original writer’s storyline. I don’t think that anyone will be lamenting Big Finish’s choice to abandon the redundant trial scenes and, Bonnie Langford’s availability notwithstanding, I applaud the decision to make this a Nicola Bryant story and conserve the continuity of this Lost Stories ‘season’. Interestingly though, Paradise 5 does see the range abandon the Season 22-style extended episodes in favour of a return to the traditional four-part format, as the serial would have been produced had it formed part of The Trial of a Time Lord as originally conceived.
The production itself, much like its four forerunners, feels resplendently retro. All the same, I can’t help but wonder whether I’d still form this view were it not for Simon Robinson’s totally outmoded electronic score, which infuses every scene with a distinct 1980s feel, taking the listener back in time faster than a Type 40 TARDIS. Lane’s reworking of the story is certainly refined enough not to stand out as a regular monthly release were it not drowned in the Lost Stories’ paraphernalia.
Turning to the cast, it is Nicola Bryant that dominates the proceedings, although old Sixy’s performance is as proficient and as polished as ever. Alex Macqueen (The Inbetweeners, Outnumbered) also stands out as Paradise 5’s deliciously camp overlord, Gabriel, as does James D’Arcy as his hard-hearted partner in crime, Michael. It’s never explicitly stated, but these two guys are clearly a couple in every sense of the term, yet they couldn’t be any more comically contrasting. They’re a delight to listen to.
Helen Goldwyn also does a remarkable job here, not just as Stella and Bella – two unrelated individuals who just happen to look and sound the same! – but as most of the mute Cherubs. Speechless creatures resolutely should not work on audio – that’s why see seldom hear from the Autons in this medium – yet the Cherubs are conveyed flawlessly right from their very first scene. In itself, the sound design paints a very convincing picture of chubby little halflings, but once Goldwyn and her cohorts have thrown their innocent babble into the mix, the unfortunate creatures really come alive.
But for all its colour and spectacle, Paradise 5 is ultimately a grim and cheerless tale that reflects on the futility of war and death. The final episode’s reveal as to the nature of the Cherubs is especially wounding, effectively setting the stage for Colin Baker’s unusually quiet concluding ruminations, and leaving the listener with a satisfyingly bitter taste. And
so, if you’re looking for sunshine and a happily ever after…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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