Why do I watch classic Doctor
Who? The special effects are bad,
the stories are sometimes silly, and the villains can over act
awful. On top of that, it's a kid's
show. Then a story like The
Happiness Patrol comes along and I
remember why I like the program: when
you're least expecting it, the show can be absolutely brilliant. This ironic adventure hits all the right
notes with some social commentary that's definitely present but not so
to ruin the story, a creature that's so absurd as to be wonderful, and
for star Sylverster McCoy to act like a clown and have it fit in
perfectly. Going in I wasn't expecting
much, but this is a minor masterpiece.
The Doctor and Ace travel to the planet Terra Alpha since
the Time Lord has heard some disturbing things about the Earth colony
decided it was time to check them out.
They discover a bizarre place, where elevator music (or "lift
they refer to it in the show) is playing constantly, piped throughout
city by speakers placed on all the buildings.
The people seem to only eat candy, and groups of women (it's a
matriarchal society) armed with guns search the streets at night
"Killjoys" and arrest them. These groups
are the Happiness Patrols, and once you've been taken into their
rare that you're ever seen or heard from again.
What is a Killjoy? Someone who is
unhappy. On Terra Alpha it's against the
law to be sad.
The Doctor soon realizes what's wrong and decides that he and
Ace are going to sort things out that very evening.
Of course the quickest way to do that is to
talk to the leader of the planet, Helen A, but that's not an easy thing
do. He has to avoid the Happiness Patrol
first of all, and then there's Helen A's main enforcer, the Kandy Man,
made out of candy that is both the head confectioner and the state
While running around the city and dodging the Happiness
Patrol, The Doctor does manage to meet some people who help him on his
mission. Chief among them are Earl Sigma,
psychology grad student who was earning money for school by playing the
on his harmonica when he got stuck on Terra Alpha, and a bureaucratic
census-taker, Trevor Sigma. Together can
they really take down the government in one evening?
This is an excellent serial.
They were going for something different and it worked
magnificently. The social commentary is
so relevant that this story is almost subversive. Helen
A, who was patterned after Margaret
Thatcher, is a leader who will kill her own people and rationalize it
"it's for their own good." She gives
them everything they could want, she's built 1000 factories that make
pipes music through the city, and all she asks is that they always be
happy. I loved the way that cheap music,
goods, and entertainment, what we're largely feed today, is supposed to
people not only content but joyful.
The story is wonderfully ironic too, that's probably what I
liked about it the most. Here, for the
first time, The Doctor comes to a planet where the people are largely
after he's done he's allowed them to be miserable.
It's a wonderful turnabout.
I haven't seen all of Sylvester McCoy's tenure as The
Doctor, and I've been underwhelmed by what I have seen.
Up until now.
He did an outstanding job this time around, really bringing the
Lord to life and making him brilliant and dangerous but still charming
goofy. One of the best scenes occurs in
the third episode when The Doctor comes across a pair of snipers that
has sent to kill some protesters.
They're talking about guns, and which one is the best, when The
pops up. He's not afraid of them, even
though one is pointing his weapon at his chest from only a couple of
away. As a mater of fact, it's the
sniper who is scared. The Doctor isn't
resisting or fearful. Instead he's
talking about how hard it is to kill someone when they're right in
you; taking their life when you can see them up close.
He finally orders the sniper to look him in
the eye and shoot him, and instead the man hands over his gun. It's a powerful scene that McCoy plays
The show was filmed nicely too, well a lot of it was.
The 'exterior' scenes were supposed to be at
night (the whole serial was filmed on a sound stage) so the lighting
for once. The director made good use of
the shadows and the beginning of the first episode is even filmed in
of film noir movies. It's too bad that
the suits didn't like the effect and told him to stop it.
Even so, The
Happiness Patrol is a wonderful unexpected treat.
This three-part series arrives on a single DVD.
The mono soundtrack is very good. It's
clean and clear with no hiss or
background noise to take away from the story.
The dialog is easy to discern and the background music and
never overpowering. Being a mono track,
there's really not much more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and looks fine. Some scenes are a
bit soft, but generally the image is clean and the colors are fine. If you've seen the other restored McCoy era
stories, then you'll know what to expect.
The BBC does a great job with their releases of classic Doctor
Who. What other studio lavishes so
much attention on
each individual story? Having said that,
I do wish that this disc contained a little bit more in the way of
features. What's here is good, and more
than I would have hoped for had this been any other series besides Doctor Who, but this adventure deserves
a two-disc release.
The extras start off with a commentary track with actor
Sophie Aldred, writer Graeme Curry, script editor Andrew Cartmel,
Dominic Glynn and director Chris Clough.
The group is moderated by Toby Hadoke, who has the coolest job
world. It's a nice and lively discussion
that covers a lot of topics including the relatively recent uproar
serial in the UK. I'm just sorry that Sylvester McCoy wasn't
The making-of documentary, Happiness Will Prevail, runs 23
minutes and features the same people who contributed to the commentary
track. They discuss the filming and
ideas behind the story. It's quite good
and I particularly enjoyed hearing writer Graeme Curry discussing how
for the Kandy Man changed going from script to screen.
When Worlds Collide
is a 45-minute look at the political subtext in Doctor Who and how
changed over the years. One commentator
makes a very astute observation when he points out that the speech
Troughton makes at the end of the Krotons where he chastises a race for
pacifists would have come across very differently if the older William
had given the same lines as the rumpled counter culture-looking
Troughton. There's also an assortment of
extended scenes, running an amazing 23-minutes in all.
These weren't all that interesting, unfortunatly.
A lot of them were just an extra second or two
at the end of a take that didn't make it to the final cut, which
count in my book. These are worth
watching though. There are some extra scenes with Trevor Sigma that add
to his story.
The disc also comes with an optional pop up trivia tracks
that's filled with information. Some of
it is minutia, the date the episodes were filmed and ever the time that
shoots wrapped, but also background info on the supporting and
characters and it points out on screen gaffs.
These are wonderful. There's also
a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings (in .pdf format) and an
This story is magnificent, a true work of art. But,
being art it's subjective and I'm sure a
lot of people will dislike it. It's just
not the type of entertainment that mainstream audiences enjoy, but I
amazing. If you're open for something a
bit different, I'd really suggest that you give it a try.