The Price of Paradise
One of the best Doctor Who stories in a long time, The Price of Paradise is a shining example of good science fiction with a strong foundation to it. There may have been other "worlds run by computer" stories before, but the sheer loss of humanity presented in Paradise makes one pause to think. Some frightening parallels can be found in this story and what many people are saying is happening to society today. Sheri Devine really gets to shine as Dara in this story. The Doctor, pretty much being regulated to the background for most of the story, allows Dara to have all the fun bits. We also get to see Dara as more than just fluff, being able to hold her own quite well as both a rebel leader and when persuading Hesson of his own humanity. (8/10)
The Price of Paradise is a brilliant story! Even though it reminds me slightly of a cross between The Sun Makers and Four to Doomsday, it gains an identity of it's own.
First of all, the acting was brilliant. The tones/accents of some of the characters' voices makes it easy to determine exactly who is who. Even though it's quite obvious that Sheri Devine (Dara/Felina) provided the voices for some of the (other) female Retros, it still seems as though there were several actresses in the studio!
It was a great idea to have a Doctor Who story in which a single computer can control an entire community. One day, the situation is bound to occur in real life. A nice glimpse into the future!
Unfortunately, Peter Hinchman (Comdr. Mark Triyad) makes no appearance in the second or third episodes. He only appears at the beginning of Part One, and towards the end of Part Four. Some writers, like Robin-Mary Manseth, just couldn't find suitable situations to put Comdr. Mark Triyad's character into. Due to this, I cannot really review his acting.
To finish off with, The Price of Paradise is certainly a great addition to the entire Doctor Who community. If I personally had a choice to make one of these DWADs into a visual adventure, this would definitely be in my list for consideration!
I'd recommend this one to anybody!
"The Price of Paradise" was the best written and produced story of the trio [which I had listened to]. A very traditional story of the Doctor helping the underdogs and a supercomputer which doesn't understand humanity. Good acting all round and excellent production values.
Fan Groups are notorious for producing their own Doctor Who adventures. In most cases, there is more enthusiasm than quality. In this case, however, it is the exception to the rule.
I had been surfing the Internet when I stumbled upon a web site devoted to Doctor Who Audio Dramas. It included a list of available stories which had some interesting story lines. Costing only blank tapes and return postage, I decided to give them a try. Now my only question is when can I get together more tapes so I can get more of their stores.
The current audio version of the Doctor is described as in his forties (in appearance), about six feet tall, black hair beginning to grey. He seems to be going through a second childhood and is easily distracted. He wears a magician's outfit (although his enthusiasm for magic is not matched by any real talent -- unlike the Pertwee Doctor!).
The Doctor is accompanied by two companions. The first one is Mark Triyad, a Commander in Starfleet. (Yes, sort of a Star Trek universe crossover, but the Enterprise is thankfully absent from the stories.) He is a veteran of many a battle in the ongoing Zylon war. A brilliant tactical man, but short on the diplomatic graces. (Picture the Brigadier wearing a Star Cruiser uniform, and you begin to get the picture.)
The second companion is Dara Hamilton, a nineteen year old college student described as "spunky, who rushes in where angels fear to tread." She apparently talks a good game, but is not nearly as brave as she thinks.
All well and good, but what about the stories? Well, let me give you an example.
The Price of Paradise, a four episode story, is a prime example of the quality of the product.
The story itself reminded me of a cross of The Marca Terror and Paradise Towers. Both were set in utopian surroundings (well, they were supposed to be utopian). Both had a dark secret. Both had to be stopped.
What I enjoyed most of the story was the underlying moodiness. At one point, people were cheerfully waiting to be "erased" (a nice term for being killed), simply because they were ordered to do so. Rather typical of the Whovian utopias, but nonetheless believable.
Not surprising, giver her personality profile and her function as a companion, Dara gets caught up in the tangled web of the system. Needless to say, she doesn't quite fit in (the last thing any paradise needs is someone who is an individual and can think for themselves). Barely escaping erasure, she aligns herself with the resistance (there's always some malcontents, no matter where you go).
Also not surprising, the Doctor is mistaken for an authority figure (there is something about him that does that, no matter where he goes!). What was surprising is that he is found out, and rather quickly at that. He is sent for "reeducation", and the exchange between him and his captors is rather amusing. It goes without saying that the Doctor manages to put things to right, but there are enough surprises in this story to make it worth a listen.
Well written scripts. Credible acting. So what is there not to like? Well, there is one thing that bothers me. Like a lot of amateur productions, there have to rely on existing music/sound effects. Normally this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, they are quite obvious in where they are getting their material. For instance, there is a number of instances where the opening music from the original Star Trek series (you know, the one where you normally see the Enterprise swooping past). The one regeneration scene I experience was simply the Logopolis regeneration scene. A little more subtlety would be in order.
However that is simply a case of me trying very hard to find something to criticize. As I said before, I have got five stories, and play to order a few more.
How long will this last? I don't know. As long as the stories are there and the enthusiasm remains, we will have some fans producing audio adventures. I hope these particular fans are enthusiastic for a long time to come.
The TARDIS arrives on a rural-looking planet and the Doctor and Dara explore a domed city over the hill. The highly regimented, automatic society rubs them both up the wrong way, and they are mistaken for a high official and a moving target respectively. When they try to shake things up, the computerized Processor that runs the society takes the Doctor's arguments totally the wrong way and ends up believing that the society will be a lot more efficient if you took out the human element, and thus decides to slaughter the population. As you do. Before the Processor can destroy the city, the Doctor uses the TARDIS to block all the sunlight over the city, cutting off the solar power system and saving the city. The Doctor and Dara return to the TARDIS with Mark and take off, leaving a bunch of clueless humans with no idea how to cope without a computer to fend for themselves on an abandoned planet before they twig what a crap deal they got out of it.
The Price of Paradise heralds in a new era of the Doctor Who Audio Dramas. There is no more outright plagiarism of stories, sampled dialogue, and a concerted effort to make something new instead of “improving” already existing stories. The new Doctor and Dara are highlighted at the plot, establishing and reestablishing their character traits, and the story itself boasts a moral message, unlike the last few stories. What's more, it follows the curious tradition in Doctor Who that a new Doctor's second story will always be a story that could have featured William Hartnell's Doctor – a thought provoking, slower-paced story often dealing with strange worlds and societies, sometimes in historical Earth: The Highlanders, The Silurians, The Ark in Space, Four to Doomsday, Vengeance on Varos, Paradise Towers, Storm Warning, The End of the World, New Earth, etc. Unfortunately, this refreshing mindset does not mean the story itself is perfect. The sound quality is very poor, and the plot itself is poorly-thought out.
Ostensibly based on George Orwell's 1984, The Price of Paradise follows one of the themes in the novel – that a utopian society without war, famine or suffering is not necessarily a place of sweetness and light. Just as Orwell's society declared war on a mythical enemy to unify society, and made the people apathetic so they could not suffer desire, the domed city in Paradise removes all individuality from its people so they become part of a machine that keeps them all alive. However, this is by no means a new idea in Doctor Who, particularly the works of Robert Holmes. In The Mysterious Planet, the robot Drathro runs an underground city of 'units' that are regularly culled to keep their numbers exactly at five hundred on the logic that water resources can only supply five hundred, despite the fact that water exists on the surface. The Sunmakers similarly showed a world where humanity was worked slowly to death in a tax-based society, with the Doctor and his companion joining an underground resistance movement that overthrows the sole ruler. There are near identical scenes where the companion whips up a rebellion to rescue the Doctor who is trapped in a brain-alteration centre. Probably the most original twist in The Price of Paradise is that the Processor is not some alien monster manipulating events for his own ends, but just a computer built by the very people it is programmed to rule. There is no hidden agenda or corruption, just the original ideals of the people.
However, this does lead to the major flaw in the story. The inhabitants of this planet willingly chose to live under the Processor, and have done so for centuries. If they know no other life than the one they live in now, then where does the idea of rebellion come from? In The Sunmakers it was demonstrated the humans are kept passive by chemicals, and even this is ineffective so the idea that people would suddenly realize the horror of their lives and want to change it was justified. It is not as if Dara's presence changes them, since Retros have been active for years before her arrival. Worse, Dara's sudden poetic love of freedom and nature comes totally out of the blue, so it is hard to take her speeches to the work units in any way seriously. If she doesn't believe it, why should we?
The story ultimately focuses on Dara over the Doctor, who spends most of the story arguing ethics and semantics with the Processor, becoming a very generic incarnation after the first episode which emphasized his new eccentricities and character traits. This decision could be forgiven if it had made Dara more likeable and interesting than the shallow self-obsessed brat of her first two stories, but she remains that way in any scene where she's not ranting about free will. One can only wish Mark had been in the story, as his natural desire for military order would have been an interesting counterpoint – it's hardly fair for a computer to justify a society. If a companion had felt some approval for the status quo, there would not only have been real fireworks, but also brought this 'dystopia' closer to home. As it stands, all Mark does is cause the plot to slow down so it can be explained all over again.
Since every effort is made to make it clear this society is not on Earth, not made by humans, and what's more, created by individual choice, the 'nightmare of tomorrow' angle of The Price of Paradise falls flat.
Personal Appreciation: **
At least they're not completely plagiarizing stories any more.
Following his departure from Gallifrey, the Doctor parked the TARDIS in the vortex and spent fourteen days straight trying to master magic tricks in his bedroom – he's not very good, his rabbits are breeding out of control, and he's made the fizzy drinks machine disappear (but not reappear). He also locks off the TARDIS control to give him exclusive control to the time machine (he seems to have had a reflux of paranoia about his companions after they fell for the Master's appalling acting). His ego hasn't dwindled too much, as he considers himself to possess the finest brain in the universe. He has also got a (new?) sonic screwdriver on his person, plus some jelly babies, slinky, yoyo and wonderlust. The new Doctor has a taste for Martian slime eels, chocolate cake, buttered popcorn and strawberry sundaes. The last time he dozed off, he was watching the House of Parliament in an uproar. His determination to get to Earth seems an excuse to get rid of Dara so he can concentrate on the art of illusion. He worries he's getting old and practices breaking into TARDIS locks (maybe he loses his key a lot).
Dara's bored rigid after spending two weeks trapped in the TARDIS, and that might explain her continued *****iness to the Doctor and pretty much everything he says and does. She hates sweets and prefers apples, celery and nectarines. She believes in being rude to strangers to get attention and is one of those 'whinge at everything when events turn nasty' girls. She binge-eats on the nights before exams and learned self defense after an ex-boyfriend kept groping her (too... much... information...). The Doctor is out and out disgusted at her leading a rebellion movement, though it could just be amazement that the airhead was able.
Mark is on the verge of going stir-crazy and attempts to pilot the TARDIS back to his own time period of the twenty-fifth century. He spends the adventure resetting the TARDIS systems and probably knows more about them than the Doctor. He seems to miss the 'old' Doctor a bit. Still, no accounting for taste.
The sound quality on this is awful... either that or someone was frying chips during the recording.
The Harp of Rassilon? What the **** is the Harp of bloody Rassilon doing here? And Orac as a hand scanner and Nerva Beacon laser guns? Sontaran Scavanger drones and Fizzade dispenser units? These incidental noises are more interesting than the story... and is that Jeff Coburn as the doomed retro?
“And never know where I'd been until the end of time? I'd never sleep at nights!” Yay. More stolen dialogue. Surely there are other words to describe this?
The Processor... camper than a row of tents each containing Julian Clary. I could cope, but his voice is so badly distorted, I can only make out the archness, not the dialogue.
Right. Even aside the fact of Warren's sudden, inexplicable desire for freedom, we have to accept that there were no warning signs whatsoever and not even his best friend noticed?
“I'm going to run!” Dear ***, Dara, shut the **** up and run!
Why can't anyone pronounce 'rations' properly? 'Ray-shuns'?!
The appearance of Ghost Light incidental music here will, in future stories reach the point where thirty seconds of music is stretched out for whole episodes. Meantime, there's still an effort to focus on Season 18 tunes to keep a kind of melodic continuity, before Curse of Fenric overloads, but apparently one of the cast provided some original music... oh, all right, I'll go back to listening to the ****thing.
“Your orange sky looks a little weird, but I guess that's the way you do things here...” SHUT UP!
Vague interest is aroused during the back-and-forth cutting between the Doctor and the Register and Dara and Hesson, effectively carrying on one conversation. Pity that Dara's eloquence is totally out of character and her erudite suggestion at reshaping society... do many selfish teenage ******* do that?
Why is it whenever the Doctor is speaking about a hypothetical human's destiny, it's always about a man?
Oh, dear, ***! THOSE RETROS! That's the worst collection of reactionary dialogue, Australian accents and stilted acting I've heard since... Kath & Kim! THIS IS BAD! And then they rip off Rodan's nervous breakdown from The Invasion of Time.
Oh. How thrilling. The Doctor just happens to have in his pocket a white noise generator which just happens to totally defeat the Processor and so just happens to resolve the cliffhanger in five seconds flat. No wonder the universe's credulity snapped at this point in The Webs of Time...
“No one's seen the Processor in forty years!” Now, is ANYONE going to be surprised to discover that the Processor is just some kind computer program? Then he starts going “I am all around you, I am the Computer!” straight out of The Green Death... I GIVE UP!
That Manager's Gaelic accent is so thick he seems to be talking in tongues.
Oh ***. A crap Dalek voice...
“They multiply faster than Tribbles!” I never thought I'd say this, BUT SHUT UP, MARK! You're a hardened battle soldier and you can't even put down a few rabbits? YOU WUSS!
Preposterous Plot Points:
Dara wants celery so much she wanders off from the Doctor without even realizing it? Then she blames him for everything and threatens to kill him and make stew out of his rabbits? Maybe it's not preposterous and actually characterization, but that still makes it preposterous we're supposed to like her!
How come the Retros, confined to the under city and eating rats, just happen to be able to randomly spot the Doctor with the Register off screen when it is convenient for the plot? Why do the Retros, so focussed on free will, immediately choose Dara as their leader? A young girl who has only lived in their world for a few hours and doesn't even know her way around? They're giving this ignoramus complete control?! Is it because deep down they miss being bossed around by clueless dictators?
They don't know about 'visitors', 'outside', 'fun' or even 'parents'. They have no idea about any other type of life they could live. Yet, somehow, they keep wanting to rebel.
Hesson somehow knows what a watch is, without being told, five seconds after he notes he's never ever seen anything like it ever.
This incredibly advanced technology is unable to reboot a computer after a power failure? Get real!
The closest thing to gratuitous use of a title is:
DARA: Quite literally, Paradise.
DOCTOR: But at what price?
There was a time before this was a Cyberman catchphrase:
GUARD: Stop or be deleted!
Dehumanizing in bad. Sorry, was that too subtle? Try again -
DOCTOR: Sleeping, eating, exercise, what? Everything planned and regulated down to the smallest detail? Unit One Four Nine Dash Eight Two Seven will sleep for seven point three hours then eat a hearty six and a quarter pound breakfast? Then he will work his allotted time, rest when told, sit up, stand down, breathe, blink and sneeze two and a half times a day. Is that it? Day in and day out, week after week, like a robot – until someone switches him off?
REGISTER: His needs are met.
DOCTOR: But what about his wants? Where is it in your itemized plan, your methodical program, that any consideration has been given for fun?
REGISTER: “Fun”? What is fun?
through control can there be order, and without order I could not
fulfill my function and meet their needs. Therefore, it is in the best
interests of the community that they be controlled.
DOCTOR: (SIGHS) That's the trouble with computers – no matter how sophisticated are, they still only think in black and white. I admit you've undertaken a noble task, Processor, but in the end it's an impossible one. Human needs extend beyond just mere survival. The spirit, as well as the body, has needs that must be fulfilled. That need is ever-expanding; fulfill it, and it will grow to need more. When it comes down to it, humans need to need. Feed him for a day and he'll want food for a week. Give him a task and he'll need a more challenging one. Ad infinitum. It's a never-ending process.
PROCESSOR: But then how does a human find fulfillment?
DOCTOR: He doesn't! He continues to grow in different directions for all his existence, needing... wanting...
PROCESSOR: It is my function to fulfill the human needs.
DOCTOR: You can't – a human will need for all his life. Strictly speaking, the only time a human needs no more is when he has no needs. That's when he's dead, really.
PROCESSOR:...thank you, Retro. I believe you have aided me to fulfill my function.
DOCTOR: Oh, think nothing of it. (TWIGS) Now, wait a minute, I was speaking philosophically! You can't—
PROCESSOR: It is my function to fulfill the needs of the community. That is my prime function. To fulfill the needs of the community is to ensure they no longer have needs to be fulfilled. Thanks to you, I can now fulfill that function.
DARA: Doctor... the Processor is...
DOCTOR:...going to destroy the city.
A totally credible conversation between two men who have grown up in a
mechanised society with absolutely no concept of any other way of life -
WARREN: Look at us! Herded around like cattle, told to go here and do this and be that... The dogs have it better than us! I tell you, I'm thinking about going... RETRO!!!!!
HESSON: You can't be serious?!?
WARREN: Be quiet! I am!
WARREN: I'm sick of being nothing more than a cog! I'm a human being! An individual!
HESSON: But Warren, you're fed, clothed, taken care of, every need you have is fulfilled! The retros have none of that! Here, we have life!
WARREN: This isn't life! It's existence!
HESSON: It's the way it is!
WARREN: Not for me!
DOCTOR: I, sir, do not have a program!
Well, not since 1989...
PROCESSOR: It is the heart and soul of our community. It is what defines us. Take a look around you. It is through the program we are all able to live in harmony with each other and with nature. Through the program, everyone's needs are met... It is true that some units tend to stray from the program. We make all efforts to bring them back...
Mark notes the welcome mat at the Doctor's room:
MARK: “Do not disturb. This means you. Go away.”
HESSON: I've never seen an object quite like that before.
DOCTOR: What? This? Oh, it's something I got for one of my birthdays. Can't really recall which, though.
HESSON: Who's picture is that depicted on the watch?
DOCTOR: Uh... Mickey Mouse, actually.
HESSON: Is he some great political leader?
DOCTOR: Must be. Everyone keeps comparing the politicians to him.
RETROS: Tell you what to do! Tell you what to do! Tell you what to do! Tell you what to do!
DRIVER: You are to take Felina Nine Three Stroke Seven Nine Five here and show her what to do.
HESSON: Of course. Come with me, Felina.
DARA: Will everyone stop calling me that? My name is Dara, not Felina, not Nine Three Stroke Two Million something, not whatever else you can think of! It's Dara! Dara I Wish I Never Saw This Place Because It's Going To Give Me A Stroke Hamilton!!
DOCTOR: So, tell me. Who is the leader of this rebellion the Processor spoke of?
DARA: Uh... I am, Doctor.
DOCTOR: YOU?! DARA?!? In charge of this lot?! The one who seems to have all the Managers running around in a tizzy? YOU?!
DARA: Yes, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Hah! Stealing food from a brainless nourishment unit, you call THAT a rebellion?!
DARA: I'm sorry.
DOCTOR: SORRY?! Is that what you have to say for yourself?! SORRY?! Course you should be sorry! “Rebellion”, indeed! I'LL show you how to run a rebellion!
ROLAND: You mean...
DOCTOR: Of course I mean! The Processor and his minions have been in charge long enough. It's time for a change of program.
This story has sweet FA to do with Colin Brake's The Price of Paradise starring the Tenth Doctor and Rose (which has a touch of Devinaura IV about it if anything). Other firsts for the Coburn era include body swaps before New Earth, getting friendly with Daleks before Dalek, world war two stunts before The Empty Child. There's other stuff, probably, but I dare say Big Finish has done it since. And better.
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:
- Better sound quality, for a start.
- Bring Mark into the main plot.
- Set it on Earth for the whole 'the future is now' vibe.
- Lose the rabbit angle, it's just stupid.
The Party Line:
One of the best Doctor Who stories in a long time, The Price of Paradise is a shining example of good science fiction with a strong foundation to it. There may have been other “worlds run by computer” stories before, but the sheer loss of humanity presented in Paradise makes one pause to think. Some frightening parallels can be found in this story and what many people are saying is happening to society today. Sheri Devine really gets to shine as Dara in this story. The Doctor, pretty much being regulated to the background for most of the story, allows Dara to have all the fun bits. We also get to see Dara as more than just fluff, being able to hold her own quite well as both a rebel leader and when persuading Hesson of his own humanity.
The Awful Truth:
A story that ditches Mark and focuses on Dara over the Doctor and makes us hate her more. Whoopee. All in all, there's nothing particularly exciting or original here, but the straightforward plot has a freshness to it that the DWADS have been lacking for a while. Certainly The Price of Paradise is nothing special, and its ending where the TARDIS crew wipe out civilization and leave the survivors with rabbits to use up what little food available, is not exactly uplifting. The Price of Paradise? The Sunmakers did it better.
Last updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2008