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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol (1988/BBC DVD)

Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol (1988/BBC DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Episodes: B-



Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as the Doctor’s 7th incarnation ran from 1987 - 1989, and while many regard these episodes to be some of the poorest in the show’s long history, the strange quirkiness of “The Happiness Patrol” (story no. 153) packs in enough fun, surprises, and solid performances to make it worth the watching.  First aired from November 2 - 16 in 1988, these episodes also feature Sophie Aldred in the role of Ace, the Doctor’s tough female companion. 


As so often occurs in the Who canon, the Doctor and Ace arrive on a strange planet to find trouble.  This time it’s a human colony on the planet Terra Alpha, where the pair encounter a disturbingly happy society.  With jaunty music playing everywhere and a planetary police force calling themselves the Happiness Patrol, it soon becomes apparent that the planet’s overlords are out to enforce a kind of nauseating, unnatural joy.  Garbed in bright pink and purple uniforms, these gaily colored but still jack-booted thugs hunt down and slay so-called 'Killjoys', those individuals who have the temerity to show any sadness.  Even the TARDIS endures a pink repaint to avoid undue attention.


While poking about the planet, the Doctor and Ace meet the various players that make up the principal cast of this three episode arc.  Helen A (Sheila Hancock) acts as the planets arbiter of happiness, controlling the Happiness Patrol and setting them on anyone who shows sadness or worry.  She also has a very cool rat-creature depicted by an amazing puppet.  The robotic Kandy Man (David John Pope) might be one of the most ridiculous looking villains in Who history, but Mr. Pope’s voice talents help to pull the zany look off and convey a measure of absurd menace.


Working it from different angles, the Doctor and Ace soon begin to unravel Helen A’s totalitarian rule of joy on Terra Alpha.  Veteran character Richard D. Sharp puts in an excellent performance as galactic Blues man Earl Sigma, and morose tones of his harmonica soon have the planet’s denizens dancing to a new tune.  In the end the Doctor manages to convince the principles that happiness is empty when it cannot be juxtaposed against sadness.


Plenty of extras make this a great disc for collectors and Who completists.  The usual bevy of commentaries and featurettes provide additional insight into writer Graeme Curry and director Chris Clough’s intent with this weird tale.  Deleted and extended scenes only add to this additional content. 


Like most of Mr. McCoy’s Doctor stories, “Happiness Patrol” will not go down as a highlight in the show’s history, but it gets the job done.



-   Scott Pyle


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