On the planet Terra Alpha, bright fluorescent lights and garish candy-striped colors abound. The population constantly displays happy smiles. There's no sadness on Terra Alpha. Anyone feeling remotely glum disappears. Quickly. Having heard disturbing rumors, the Doctor and Ace arrive to topple the entire regime overnight. But they haven't reckoned upon the varied punitive measures enforced by colony leader Helen A. There are many delicious ways in which to vanish on Terra Alpha: you can be hunted down by the omnipresent Happiness Patrol or mauled by Helen A's ravenous pet Fifi. But those especially unlucky few will find themselves entertained in the sweetie factory manned by Helen A's psychotic henchman… the Kandy Man. This time, Happiness will prevail.]]>
Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol (Story 153)
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(May 08, 2012)
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The basic premise is that the Doctor and his companion Ace arrive on a planet where sadness has been banned, and is punishable by death. The planet is ruled by the insane dictator Helen A, who is an obvious parody of Margaret Thatcher. (Amusingly, British journalists didn't notice the Thatcher parallel until 2010, when "The Happiness Patrol" was exhumed and re-examined by the media, and became briefly controversial.) Helen A's chief henchman is a robot, made of candy, who kills dissidents by drowning them in syrup.
Does all this sound a bit grotesque, perhaps even ridiculous? Well, it is ridiculous, of course. But for those who agree with the left-wing politics of this serial, and can enjoy its peculiar brand of dark humor, there is much to appreciate here. Indeed, I quite like the gutsy social commentary in the script, and I think it's still very relevant. Meanwhile, some of the serial's perceived weaknesses -- false-looking sets, over-the-top acting, and a general campy atmosphere -- become more acceptable, and perhaps even appropriate, when you view them through the lens of political satire.
As for the DVD itself, it's one of the best single-disc Doctor Who editions to come along in a while. It includes a making-of special that intelligently examines the serial's politics and production strengths/weaknesses, as well as an extensive collection of extended and deleted scenes (the highlight of which is a much better introduction scene for the character Susan Q).Read more ›
Meanwhile on the planet itself the Doctor encounters Trevor Sigma a Terrian census taker is on the colony to see the numbers of those on the planet are kept up and also to ensure that proceduers are kept up to regulation. A visting medical student who enjoys the harmonica and is trapped on Terra Alpha until he can find a way to escape and get back to Earth. Ace also meets a young happiness patrol memebr who wants nothing more then to be sad, but fears what would happen if the rest of her sqaud ever finds out the truth. Also strange beings seem to be watching from the shadows and seem to be waiting for something to happen.
Can the Doctor stop Helen A, her spies, the happiness patrols, The Candy Man and even Fifi and try to sort out the colony so no one has to keep smiling forever? Or will those that are on Terra Alpha live in the grip of fear if they show anything but happiness? So check out "The Happiness Patrol" to find out.
There's the script for example. Graeme Curry's script takes the Doctor Who cliché of citizens vs. an evil government and turns it into something more. This story famously was the subject of a tempest in a teacup scandal back in 2010 for the fact that it was a satire of Thatcher's Britain with Shelia Hancock's Helen A being based on her. That element is present without a doubt and it's easy to detect for anyone familiar with Thatcher and her politics from Helen A's slogans to the drones being told to down tools (a reference to the infamous miner's strike of 1984-85) but there's more to the story than that. There's elements drawn from tyrannical governments from around the world including references to an entire village being raised to the ground and mass disappearances similar to events in Chile and Argentina. The titular Happiness Patrol, once you move beyond the colorful outfits, calls to mind elements of Soviet secret police and intelligence organizations from members turning on each other (including an informant being pinned with a medal only to be executed). All of this mixing and matching of elements forms only a part of the script though.
For into this, set on a colony world centuries in the future, Curry also throws in a larger moral message.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This story is so smart, culturally relevant and savvy, even by millennial standards. While the original episode may have been making commentary on 80s British politics, there are... Read morePublished 1 month ago by charmingred
he Happiness Patrol is an odd story. It's a dystopian tale, but with bizarre elements such as the Kandyman and the pink-clad Happiness Patrol. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Adam Graham, Superhero and Detective Fiction Author
An ok could have been better need a lot a chance but had potential with a better writer.Published 11 months ago by Pete
The Happiness Patrol is an OK serial, I haven't seen so many classic Doctor Who stories in years and years but because
of the 50th Anniversary I am making up for lost time and... Read more