The Brigadier invites the Doctor to the grand opening of the Parakon Corporation’s space-themed amusement park, Space World. The Doctor, expecting to see fabricated exhibits and faked “creatures” on display, is astonished to see what seem to be actual alien life forms from other worlds – clearly, the Parakon Corporation’s reach extends far beyond the Earth. But Lethbridge-Stewart’s interest is fixed upon an unsolved murder on Space World’s grounds. Chairman Freeth and Vice Chairman Tragan, the operators of Space World, are doing their best to cover up the death, even if it means eliminating an employee who knows what really happened. When Sarah Jane Smith – always in search of a story – stows away aboard Tragan’s spacecraft, the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Sarah’s rookie photographer Jeremy embark on a quest to save her – a quest that will lead to a world whose fate hangs in the balance…and whose fortune is steeped in the blood of innocent bystanders.
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Harold Innocent (Freeth), Peter Miles (Tragan), Maurice Denham (President), Richard Pearce (Jeremy Fitzoliver), Jane Slavin (Onya), Brian Hall (Grebber/Reporter), Jillie Meers (Clorinda/Secretary General of the U.N.), John Harwood (General Commanding UNIT/Professor Mortimer Willow), John Fleming (Odun/Patrol leader), Jonathan Tafler (Captain Waldo Rudley), Emma Myant (Greckle), Michael Onslow (Rasco Heldal), David Holt (Medan/Hunter), Philip Anthony (Yallett/Officer of the Day), Andrew Wincott (Radio voice/Crestin/Bill/Ambulance man), Dominic Letts (Nobby/Kitson/Wilkins/Soldier), Julian Rhind Tutt (Guard/Rance/Board member/Echolocation operator/Lexan), Trevor Martin (Kaido/Guard 2/Custodian of data store/Jenhegger)
Originally broadcast from August 27 to September 24, 1993
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
Review: Though many audio-only Doctor Who adventures preceded the current crop of excellent full-cast dramas from Big Finish Productions, BBC Radio’s 1993 adventure, The Paradise of Death, may be the one which was the most influential. Paradise, written by former Doctor Who TV producer/writer Barry Letts (who, along with script editor Terrance Dicks, was responsible for the tone of the Jon Pertwee years of the show), takes the form of a five-episode adventure, complete with pre-requisite cliffhangers and closing music for each episode.
In comparison to the Big Finish releases, Paradise is comparable in sound quality, though the story becomes quite muddled in places. The five-parter closely adheres to the traditional structure of Pertwee era TV adventures, complete with lots of getting captured, escaping, running away, and getting captured again. (A little hint: if the above sequence of events, played out repeatedly, gets old on TV, you can only imagine what it’s like in a radio/audio format.)
The late Jon Pertwee spent the first three episodes sounding extremely old – and he was at the time, of course – but his performance for the first half of Paradise was riddled with the stuttering and stumbling that was more characteristic of the first Doctor, not the third. On the other hand, Lis Sladen and Nick Courtney slip effortlessly into their old characters, and it is those two actors to whom I give the most credit for keeping Paradise afloat. Guest stars Peter Miles (who appeared on Doctor Who during the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras, and has also put in an appearance on one of the more recent Doctor Who Audio Adventures) and Maurice Denham (who appeared in Colin Baker’s first story) are very effective in their roles as well. You can never go wrong with the sinister-voiced Miles as a baddie.
What exactly gives me the picture of Paradise as a bit muddled? We start out with a theme park which is quickly left behind at the end of episode two and not revisited again (and ultimately, no explanation is ever given as to whether or not Space World is any threat to Earth, what part it plays in the Parakon Corporation’s schemes, or what becomes of it). A B-plot concerns itself with Vice Chairman Tragan’s attempts to do away with Waldo Rudley, the captain of the Presidential Guard, though this story thread really doesn’t lead anywhere. Hints of a society which seems to be loosely based upon Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” on the planet Parakon are dropped, and aren’t followed up on very adequately…it’s as if the writer had a new idea each time he started a new episode, and had to explore each new idea that came along – to the detriment of the complete exploration of the previous episode’s central theme.
This is a bit of a surprise when one considers that the aforementioned writer is none other than Barry Letts, the TV show’s producer for virtually the entire Pertwee era. Letts’ hand in the script is evident in many places, namely the almost formulaic Pertwee era storyline of Doctor-uncovers-massive-corruption-and-takes-it-upon-himself-to-stop-it. Another Letts trademark is the Doctor’s righteous indignation at the common citizen’s plight while the rich get richer and the government gets fatter and covers everything up. Not that these things are bad…but they all combine to make The Paradise of Death a story that could just as easily have been told on television.
Despite this, I can recommend Paradise as the late Jon Pertwee’s penultimate turn in the role of the Doctor, and one of only two outings for the actor in an audio format. For fans of the third Doctor’s reign, Paradise is quite a treat. This title has just been reissued by the BBC in a two-CD set not unlike Big Finish’s Audio Adventures (which gives me the impression that the BBC is hoping to ride the coattails of the newer audio series with the reissue of Paradise and The Ghosts of N-Space).