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The Happiness Patrol

Reviewed by Murray Jackson

This story has had fans here and overseas confused! Was it good or was it rubbish? Well, personally I thought it was rubbish. After watching a classic like Remembrance of the Daleks this story confused, bored and annoyed me. Why do a rip-off version of 1984? I mean it's four years out of date already. Was it a rip-off of 1984? Of course it was. A repressed society, secret police, confinement and torture for non-conformers - what more proof do you want? But what really annoyed me was that this was another planet full of poeple with silly haircolours. It was the Kangs all over again. You will remember the Kangs hair came in red, blue, and yellow. Well, get this, the girls on this planet come complete with hair that's designer pink. Laugh? - Hell, I nearly had a hernia. Wiping away the tears from my eyes and reaching for the pure oxygen I was set off into further paroxysms of mirth when the villain shambled on the scene. He's called the Kandyman and he's made out of (no, don't laugh, you won't stop) Licorice allsorts! You may have thought Kronos looked silly in The Time Monster or the Creature in The Creature from the Pit but this was surely the silliest thing I'd seen since they showed turtles mating on Our World. Only my laundryman will know how hilariously stupid I found it. By now I was weak with exhaustion having brought on my asthma from too much laughing and I'm afraid I couldn't take one more scene of it seriously. Another good laugh was Fifi, a carnivorous muppet which would have looked more at home on The Magic Roundabout. If they wanted ludicrous why didn't they sellotape a couple of Spock ears on some lousy mutt instead?

After the laughter came the anger and the confusion. I was confused as to how they followed up a great story with a turkey like this one. I was angry because after eight years JNT still employs writers and directors who feel they have the next Python series on their hands and decide to make their segment as zany as possible. For Gods sake, entertain us with drama. If we want comedy we'll watch Billy Connolly or Robin Williams or tell each other dirty sexual jokes. How long before Doctor Who has a laugh track or guest stars like Alf? The Happiness Patrol was not really funny/ funny, it was stupid/funny. At least McCoy and Aldred were okay. As for me, I'm boycotting licorice allsorts!!!

Reviewed by Ken Tod

I found The Happiness Patrol to be more or less what I expected, although not brilliant. The Kandyman character was superb, pity he came to a sticky ending. However, I do feel that these OTT stories need to be toned down to enable the programme to retain its credibility. I rate this story third equal of the season.

Reviewed by Craig Young

The next story in the 25th season was The Crappiness Patrol - oops, sorry, typo, that should read The Happiness Patrol. I have my theories about this one; they involve overdosing on ecstasy, listening to too much acid-house rock or possession by Douglas Adams. Whatever the reason, on the surrealist Terra Alpha, the tyrant Helen A. rules the planet with an iron fist soaked in saccharin. The set design and costuming would have made Colin Baker's outfit feel it was not alone in the cosmos (as we all hoped it was). The Patrol prowls around looking for enemies of the state (anyone who's depressed) - a certain paranoid android should keep well away from this world. I really did try to like this one. I have nothing against surrealism, I could have taken Helen A. and the Patrol by themselves - but then I saw the ludicrous, bad-tempered Kandyman (sentient glucose??!) and Fifi the killer ferret (Helen's beloved pet) and I knew there was no hope. And as for fondant surprise as a mode of execution... well, anyway, thankfully this story only lasted three episodes.

Reviewed by Stephen Murray

The story is bound to upset you but don't worry, be happy. Forget it you're going to want to cry after seeing this toothache. Don't get me wrong though, it's not all that bad. Apart from the fact that the dialogue must have been invented by Helen A's pet horror Fifi and that the costumes and hairdo's will make you want to throw up, it will either make you laugh or want to cringe behind the sofa. The Kandy Man was hilarious (some good scenes here) - the whole story must have been dreamt up while munching on a packet of licorice allsorts. It was fairly predictable and stupid. A good idea, but as usual that's not enough to carry it through. It's about time that the BBC stopped all this crappy experimentation and went back to the soul of the programme. They can do it, it just seems to be that after 25 years they can't be bothered anymore.

Reviewed by Richard Scheib

Doctor Who meets Willy Wonka - I can't think of a more ghastly concoction - in a plot reminiscent of one of my favourites, The Sun Makers. There are depths that this plumbs at times that make the 'Great Vegetable Rebellion' episode of Lost in Space look like a classic. The last few seasons have introduced a decided element of farce into the proceedings as though the producers, actors and writers could no longer be interested in taking the series seriously, and when a production team lose respect for their show things become very sad indeed. If there was a sharp sense of black humour or incisive satire to underline it, it could be made bearable, but when one looks at the robot made of lollies which the Doctor is able to disable with lemonade and the female army with neon pink hairdos and then realise that one is meant to be laughing at it, things become rather embarrassing indeed. The farce so unbalances the proceedings that the society never seems believably constructed.

There are aspects which occasionally rise above the proceedings - a black man who plays a mean blues harmonica, some Cyberpunk inspired set backgrounds (sadly lost by their unconvincing studio-bound construction), a nicely played face-off encounter between McCoy and two guards, a nicely moralistic end for the villainess. But these elements are like trying to sift through turds to find gold and The Happiness Patrol best be written off as yet another failure.

Reviewed by Wendy Toynton

There's only comment looming in my mind about The Happiness Patrol - I'm not happy with it (I hope Helen A. didn't hear that!). The story was incredibly corny, totally implausible and utterly loony. There were a lot of unnecessary plot lines, which weren't completely tied up. One example of this were the underground dwellers, who seemed to be only there for the purpose of saying "Rad". I hate Rad. Radical sounds much nicer, and a lot less trendoid.

Probably the most revolting thing about The Happiness Patrol was the colour. The screen was filled with objects that were a horrible, grotty shade of pink. I realise that the colour scheme was probably meant to make everyone feel like vomiting, but I think they went overboard when they painted the TARDIS.

Parts of The Happiness Patrol were funny, including the death of Silas P, and the under-used Kandy man. It would have been much more interesting if Fifi and the underground dwellers had been left out. Perhaps the Doctor and Ace could have found out what was happening at the Candy factory for themselves. I'm surprised that Helen A. didn't make 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' her national anthem.

This item appeared in TSV 12 (March 1989).

Index nodes: The Happiness Patrol