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Margaret Thatcher’s husband runs away with the baker’s apprentice and the indigenous species receives zero reparations

For reasons irrelevant to the story, the Seventh Doctor and Ace go to Terra Alpha, a human colony where the prevailing government decree is “don’t worry, be happy”, or else! The pink-wigged, laser-cannon-wielding ladies of the Happiness Patrol enforce this law, treating glum dissidents to either death by fondant drowning, or recruitment into their ranks, which usually involves death by laser.

Head pink wig, Helen A has her partner whipped, her pet dog trained to murder the rat people living in the sewers (oh, yeah, there are rat people), and a head executioner in the guise of Bertie goddamn Bassett in an act of bizarro satire gone astray. Doc and Ace must now team up with a random blues harmonica player to prevent this society from practising its presumably democratically chosen laws.

Here's what we think of C153 The Happiness Patrol

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

1.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.3

Here's what we think of C153 The Happiness Patrol

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

1.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.3

Here's what you think 11 Responses to “C153 The Happiness Patrol”
  1. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    Can you just execute me, because I was miserable the whole time watching this.

    Nearly every character and event were unbearable and none of it really gelled together.

    The music and the creature effects/costumes, such as Fifi and those rat people, were impressive. Other than that there was little I actually liked, though I could appreciate the attempt being made to try something unique.

    Overall this story earns 2.5 pretty decent harmonica solos out of 5.

    Steven from Canada

  2. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    There’s a weird artificiality to this story which in another story would go against it but here I think it works. It fits the fakeness of Helen A’s world as an exaggerated view of the 80s where things are fairly shit but you have to pretend they aren’t. The subtext isn’t particularly hidden with this one; remember this is firmly the era of Section 28 and we have two men going off together at the end…

    Susan Q is played by Lesley Dunlop who was Norma in Frontios while Trevor Sigma is John Normington who was Morgus in The Caves of Androzani. A little different. The Kandyman is actually a really good creature with the OTT-ness fitting the rest of the story, even if it did get them in trouble with Bassett’s. McCoy is in good form especially in the scene with the snipers. Ace blows stuff up which is always good though apparently forms friends very quickly. I think this one works well as a three parter, though I did notice some jumps when rewatching. I suspect there are a few deleted scenes (there some are on the DVD). I think this adversely affects part one the most, especially the scenes with Ace and Susan Q.

    Interesting music with the rather haunting harmonica setting the tone. The ending does seem a little quick but I like that the Doctor doesn’t need to do anything to Helen A. She defeats herself in many ways.

    3.8/5 Red Hot pokers through candy

    Cheers

    Kieren

  3. Olli Raven | @FoggyDrWho

    Hello again!

    So, to The Happiness Patrol then. Some terrific sets here, and indeed a terrific setting. At long last we get a makeover for the TARDIS exterior not by repairing the chameleon circuit, but simply with a new paint colour. I do so adore the confectionary-based wordplay in this one too.

    I harbour similar sentiments towards the scene in which The Doctor calls an armed guard’s bluff by daring him to use his weapon. I guess you can afford to be that badass when the worst-case scenario is you’ll end up lying on the floor for a few minutes and then wake up as that bloke from Withnail & I.

    Ace plus the rest of the incidental cast are fine as well. I do enjoy the ‘WANTED’ poster cliffhanger.

    The Kandiman is a fun and well-voiced character but the realisation of his design is just Bertie Bassett in practice, isn’t it?

    The other villain, Sheila Hancock’s not-Mrs T and her animatronic pet, in contrast, fall slightly too far into OTT territory for my liking.

    What of the central conceit of having to pretend you’re happy all the time? Yes, there are parallels with the political situation there, but the fact that the punishment is supposedly death exaggerates the satirical point being attempted a smidge too much for my liking, plus it couldn’t be applied consistently across the whole story else the tone would become grating.

    The extended scenes on the DVD allow the story a tad more room to breathe. The version of the serial as broadcast perhaps moves things on a little too briskly at times.

    Overall 3.1 Pink-covered liquorice aniseed sweets

    Oli Raven
    (Insta: @FoggyDrWho – might get around to reviewing ‘The Daleks’ one of these months… )

    P.S. Thanks for responding to my previous P.S. in the comments below the Remembrance review, but I have to point out I’m not “Olli” – the double ‘L’ has a very different pronunciation here in Wales!

  4. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Greetings Leon P and Jim Sigma!

    You look unhappy about something

    It surely can’t be this story?

    Likes

    The premise – a side swipe at the then Thatcher government – it’s a great idea on paper at least of a totalitarian state where sadness is forbidden.

    The cast – especially Sheila Hancock help bring the story to life. Helen A’s reaction to Fifi’s death is brilliantly done.

    Beefs

    The sets – it’s so obviously in a studio – it’s terrible!

    WTF is it with the JNT era for having slow moving go-karts? Seriously I can walk on my hands faster!

    The Kandyman – it’s exactly shit like this that made me stop watching when I was a kid. You could have had literally any other kind of character but no we get Bertie fucking Bassett!

    Why does the patrol kill Sias P? Surely, they recognise him?

    Why isn’t the forum doorman arrested for being miserable?

    Overall. What was a great idea on paper, is let down by the execution. By no means terrible it just could have so much better. The sets suck, the Kandyman sucks but the cast do their best. Despite all its flaws though I do quite enjoy it (just not as much as Michael Ridgeway obvs!!).

    I award this 3.1 is fondant surprise a euphemism? out of 5

    Andy Parkinson

    @caffreys71

  5. GP Haynes | @FindingGspots (Insta & YouTube)

    Hey Everybody,

    Here is my review for “ The Happiness Patrol”

    What do you get if you cross “ Willy Wonker” with the “ Hitchers Guide to the Galaxy” with “ Paradise Towers” ?

    Something like this perhaps…..?

    The problem with this serial, much like a recent one reviewed, is that is doesn’t really feel like Dr Who!

    The Good:
    I was getting some good “Hitch Hikers” vibes with the dialogue and dark humour
    The Doctor was quite dark and mysterious in parts…I liked that a lot
    Once again, the producers at the time, managed to stretch the little budget they had, to create a unique world
    The music overall ( Except harmonica, see below )

    The Bad:

    Ace was below her normal high standard..
    Fifi puppet was awful
    Pink Tardis….just no
    The dreadful harmonica. Harmonicas, like bagpipes can sound good, very, very rarely ( Sorry bagpipe lovers )
    Bizarre script…

    The Ugly:
    The Kandy Man was just too weird…Why? Why is not just a robot? It makes little sense for him to look like he does,
    although even I admit the costume looked amazing

    While certainly not terrible, there’s just too much wrong with this to make a good watch

    Rating: 1.7 “Build high for Happi”…oh wait… “ Happiness will prevail” . Mostly because McCoy shows so many sides and has a chance to stretch his abilities

    Cheers

    GP Haynes

    Australia

  6. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Ahhh. I missed this one so I’ll just do the summary.

    5/5 killjoys force-fed deliciously deadly sweeties by a Bertie Bassett from hell.

    Check out the funky remixes of the score on iTunes!

    • Peter Zunitch

      Hey Michael, I’m not sure but I think your keyboard is broken. It seems to be stuck on the “5” key lately. Seems to have happened somewhere around the 7th Doctor’s first story. Strange that. :)

  7. Peter Zunitch

    This is indeed one messed up, trippy, over the top, twisted adventure. It’s more in style of the 2nd doctor. Land of Fiction anyone? I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would have looked at this script and thought it was a good idea. It’s totally childish…. Or is it?
    I haven’t watched this in a few decades. I hated it back then. I thought it was a grown up story, and that made me sad. I wanted adventure and mesmerizing bad guys. This has allegory. It has bureaucracy, and harmonicas, and double talk, and fun guns, and…. THAT candy guy. Younger me was right. This is for older people, not for kids. It’s not a story to make anyone happy. It’s not even about happiness. It’s about fear and control, and the system. And once you figure that out, it’s actually borderline brilliant.
    Whomever wrote this was inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Whomever directed this was a loon, and by that I mean genius with little budget. Someone had a sugar high for sure. A little too much running up and down corridors, with little substance, but what else does one do after visiting a candy kitchen. If there’s one thing to be said, in all seriousness, it’s that the acting was brilliant across the board. Bravo all. What a stage show!
    It’s still plagued with plot holes and nonsensicals, but I don’t think I’ll wait as long to watch it again. 3.3 Sweet Fifi surprises.

  8. Richie Blagg | @richiesexington

    Sooo let’s get the obvious thing out of the way yes they put Bertie Basset in an episode of Dr Who a brave move given the crap it was getting in the press for being a bit rubbish

    That aside this is a great episode giving me Vengeance on Varos and The Sunmakers vibes. Watching Doc turn up say he is going to bring them down in a night and doing so really adds to his Mythos.

    Yes it’s a bit silly but this story can handle it and it’s take on the Tory government at the time.

    Ace is settled in now and you can see the team that sees out the classic age and explains the tears in my eyes over their reunion in The Power of the Doctor

    Overall I’ll give this a 4 sugar avalanches not the way I want to go out of five

    Richie Blagg
    @richiesexington

  9. Izaak | @msmonsteradams

    If you put ‘what if Dr who was made in the eighties’ into an AI art generator, you’d get the Happiness Patrol. This serial has a creepy, nightmare energy running all the way through it, full of unsettling imagery and a bubbling, constant sense of oppression. The Kandyman stumbling down the maze of pipes, the killjoy drowned in hot fondant and the Doctor’s manic laughter stand out as creepy highlights. The heavy gray industrial feeling only slightly hidden by pink paint and uniforms is excellent at showing the thin illusion of happiness in this society, and the general hostility of the population is overtly more angry than happy, which I guess is Ok by Helen A’s Standards?

    Every side character is wonderful but none are as bonkers as the Kandyman – ‘Hurt’ie Basset – who is the perfect balance of unbelievably silly and IP theft, the hallmarks of a good Dr Who villain. Sylvester McCoy is a Doctor on the rampage, brilliantly using every non-violent trick to topple an evil regime. This is the gold standard for what the Doctor can do!

    This is a special serial that shows Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred at their peak, while speeding us through a relentlessly weird and unsettling fever dream story that you can’t focus on too hard, like watching someone else’s headache. Also the TARDIS looks great in pink! I think I love it? 4.8/5

  10. Neil | @neilandrozani & @neiljamesactor

    Greetings Jim and Leon,

    Hope this email finds you both HAPPY!

    What a great guest cast! And the music is great. I thought this was silly as a kid, but I understand the politics so much more as an adult.
    Fifi is a little dodgy but you can’t deny the heart-breaking moment when Helen A collapses in tears over her death. Also, how good is McCoy in the scene with those 2 snipers!
    A cracking story with a sexy pink TARDIS!
    Rating – 3.8

    Neil
    @neilandrozani
    @neiljamesactor

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