The Happiness Patrol

Doctor WhoThe Doctor brings Ace to the planet Terra Alpha, a planet whose dark secrets are barely concealed by a thin coat of bright, playful colors. The megalomaniacal Helen A keeps her subjects happy by enforcing happiness itself – any public display of grief, doubt or disapproval are punishable by summary execution. Ace, with her almost permanent scowl, is quickly arrested by the Happiness Patrol, while the Doctor meets a fellow alien named Earl Sigma and has a near-fatal encounter with the robotic, psychotic Kandyman. A census representative from Earth has uncovered evidence that Helen A’s regime has caused the unspecified “disappearance” of thousands of people. The Doctor has one night to stir a revolution in the streets of Terra Alpha…but Helen A’s downfall may be caused by someone closer to her than she expects.

Order the DVDwritten by Graeme Curry
directed by Chris Clough
music by Dominic Glynn

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Sheila Hancock (Helen A), Ronald Fraser (Joseph C), David John Pope (Kandy Man), Harold Innocent (Gilbert M), Lesley Dunlop (Susan Q), Georgina Hale (Daisy K), Rachel Bell (Priscilla P), Richard D. Sharp (Earl Sigma), John Normington (Trevor Sigma), Tim Barker (Harold V), Jonathan Burn (Silas P), Philip Neve (Wences), Ryan Freedman (Wulfric), Mary Healey (Killjoy), Steve Swinscoe, Mark Carroll (Snipers), Tim Scott (Forum Doorman), Annie Hulley (Newscaster)

Broadcast from November 2 through 16, 1988

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though it’s incoherent in places, I have a soft spot for The Happiness Patrol, mainly because of its simple message – happiness can’t be enforced. I couldn’t agree more, and though many fans railed against the seemingly childish trappings of this story, they were almost necessary to tell a story with such an elementary psychological center. There’s also a scene in which the Doctor single-handedly talks two snipers out of their urge to kill, a defining moment – in my mind, at least – of the seventh Doctor’s character. Dominic Glynn also provides a fantastic musical score, darting back and forth between the blues-driven harmonica theme that opens the story and the carnival-like theme for the Kandyman. It’s a shame that Glynn’s music for this story has never been released.

At the same time, The Happiness Patrol just as often lacks clear direction because of the numerous distractions – the Pipe People (whose processed voices are almost impossible to understand), the omnivorous Fifi, and a few seconds of backstory for Gilbert M which seem like they should’ve occurred two episodes earlier. There’s also the incongruous sight of the Doctor jamming with Earl Sigma while Ace is in great danger elsewhere. Had the story been told with more directness, The Happiness Patrol would probably be much more fondly remembered today, but it still nets my recommendation.