Saturday, 26 March 2016

Story 149 - The Happiness Patrol

In which the Doctor and Ace decide to pay a visit to the planet Terra Alpha. The Doctor has heard some disquieting rumours about this Earth colony. They encounter the all female Happiness Patrol, and learn that sadness and misery are outlawed here - on pain of death. They also meet a pair of off-worlders, who have Sigma suffixes to their names. Earl Sigma is a young blues harmonica player, whilst Trevor Sigma is carrying out a census. From him they learn that thousands of people have disappeared since his last visit. The Happiness Patrol paint the TARDIS pink, as blue is a colour associated with depression. The Doctor and Ace are held at a waiting zone by the Patrol. They meet a man named Harold V, who once wrote jokes for the colony's ruler, Helen A. He is killed by a video game machine. The Doctor and Ace escape and split up. He and Earl Sigma make their way to the Kandy Kitchen, where they are confronted by the Kandy Man. This robotic creature looks as if he has been manufactured out of giant sweets. With him is his creator, Gilbert M. The Kandy Man is a psychopath, who creates fondant treats which can kill.

The Doctor and Earl escape by using fizzy lemonade to stick the Kandy Man's feet to the floor. Ace, meanwhile, has met a disaffected member of the Happiness Patrol - Susan Q. Both are captured and informed that they will be forced to participate in auditions at the Forum. Unsuccessful candidates face death. The Doctor is able to rescue them and they take refuge in the tunnels which run beneath the city. These are home to rodent-like bipedal creatures - the Alpidae. They were the original inhabitants of the planet, forced underground by the coming of the Earth colonists. Helen A has a pet Stigorax named Fifi. These are savage canine creatures. Helen A sends Fifi into the tunnels to flush out the Doctor and his friends. Earl uses his harmonica to cause sugar stalactites to collapse on top of it.

A demonstration is planned, by workers from outside the city. Helen A sends a pair of snipers to attack them. The Doctor challenges them to kill him. They can kill anonymous figures at a distance, but not when forced to look them in the eye. The Doctor then starts to undermine the Happiness Patrol. He acts very happy indeed so that they cannot arrest them - which makes them miserable and so guilty of the very thing they persecute. As the colony starts to break down, Helen A decides to flee. The Kandy Man takes to the tunnels, and the Alpidae flood them with boiling sugar, destroying the cyborg. Helen A finds that her consort, Joseph C, has run off in her private escape shuttle with Gilbert M. The Doctor confronts her and she insists that she was right in forcing people to be happy. A dying Fifi crawls from the tunnels, and Helen A breaks down in tears - finally realising the importance of sadness as part of a range of emotion.

This three part adventure was written by Graeme Curry - his only work on the programme - and was broadcast between 2 - 16th November, 1988.
It is an all studio affair, its filming going to make the other three-parter, Silver Nemesis. Everything about the story reminds you of a comic book world. The city looks like a stage set. All the action seems to take place in a single night. The costumes are over the top - with the Happiness Patrol wearing clothes, wigs and make-up that are far too young for the generally mature ladies who make up the unit. The Kandy Man is a crazed Bertie Bassett. Performances can be a little over the top as well. This all makes things look unreal - which is not a bad thing. The artifice works. What Helen A is doing here goes against the natural order of things. You cannot force people to be happy all the time. Helen A is clearly inspired by the then current British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Most of us saw this at the time, but the media took until only a couple of years ago to get the hint. Many also see a gay parable. Gilbert and Harold are quite camp characters, and run off together at the end.
Gilbert is played by Harold Innocent, and Harold by Ronald Fraser, a veteran comedy actor. Main guest artist is Sheila Hancock as Helen A. There are two returnees to the show - Susan Q is Lesley Dunlop, who had appeared in Frontios; and last seen as Trau Morgus in The Caves of Androzani, John Normington is Trevor Sigma. Richard D Sharp plays Earl Sigma. Two of the Happiness Patrol - Daisy K and Priscilla P - are Georgina Hale and Rachel Bell respectively.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Kandy Man informs the Doctor and Earl that he likes his victims to die with a smile on their faces...
  2. The Doctor arrives at the Forum where Ace is due to audition, and sees the doorman painting the letters "RIP" over a picture of the last performer...
  3. Ace paints out the last of the pink on the TARDIS exterior. She asks the Doctor if he is alright, and he replies that "happiness will prevail"...

Overall, rather a good little story. It all looks artificial, but this actually works in the context of the story. A great cast. This comic-book bizarre feel is what Andrew Cartmel wanted for the series.
Things you might like to know:
  • The working title for this story was "The Crooked Smile". This becomes the name of the Killjoys' newspaper.
  • Director Chris Clough wanted to film this story using unusual camera angles, and wished it to be made in black & white. When Sylvester McCoy learned about this after the event, he wishes that Clough had got his way. He was unhappy with the stagey sets.
  • Clough provided Fifi's modulated roars.
  • And his wife is the public address voice.
  • Confectioners Bassetts were not all pleased with the realisation of the Kandy Man, and wrote to complain to John Nathan-Turner. The BBC responded that no offence was intended, and assured Bassetts that the character would never be used again. 10 years before, Bassetts had been very pleased with the programme, as they are the manufacturers of Jelly Babies.
  • The Kandy Man was originally scripted as a doughy-looking man in a lab coat and big red glasses. He was supposed to be a scientist's brain transplanted into a marzipan body.
  • The Kandy Man never did return, except in prose. Bizarrely, Count Grendel of Tara employs him in his plans to seize the throne once again. Some fans should never be allowed near a type-writer...
  • Earl Sigma was originally going to be a trumpeter. Richard D Sharp couldn't actually play the harmonica, so it gets dubbed on after.
  • Andrew Cartmel found himself on Newsnight a couple of years ago to talk about the Thatcher allusions in this story. As I mentioned above, this was obvious to us watching at the time of first transmission, but no-one in the media was really paying attention then.
  • In 2011, the then Archbishop of Canterbury mentioned the story in a sermon when talking about "happiness".
  • Look on-line and you'll find some photos of the Kandy Man with a slightly different face design. The metal brackets which look like a moustache and beard were added to hide the actor David John Pope's features. Some scenes of the character without the brackets can be glimpsed in the finished programme - namely when the Kandy Man is in the pipes.
  • The Pipe People have old Saxon names. The term Alpidae comes from one version of the script, plus the novelisation. It doesn't get used on screen.
  • The writer originally wanted more of the Forum to be shown - with lethal outcomes to failed talent acts. This idea was already intended to be a big part of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, so was left out. Curry did get to address some of his pet hates - like lift music.
  • If it hadn't been for the Seoul Olympics, this story would have closed the 25th season.

No comments:

Post a Comment