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on 5 May 2009
It's interesting to see how these 80s Doctor Who serials have polarised the opinions of fans since they were released on VHS/DVD and subsequently re-evaluated. I actually struggle with this one as it really does have the pantomime feel that the show was (usually) unfairly labelled with from 1980 onwards. There is no way one can defend the risible 'Kandyman' - particularly his ridiculous voice - and the makeup is so over the top it just looks silly.
There are some good moments; the Pipe People are classic DW oppressed peoples but are not really explained properly or given enough to do, whilst Ronald Fraser and Harold Innocent provide a great moment as they elope in an escape shuttle at the end.
Criticising this story is like shooting fish in a barrel, but we fans are duty-bound to find some good in every show - and it's far far better than 'Time and the Rani', in my opinion the series' true nadir.
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on 10 August 2017
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on 6 March 2003
Watching 'The Happiness Patrol' now, almost 15 years after it was originally broadcast, what stands out is the cleverness of it all. The evidence indicates that a lot of work, on several levels, went into constructing a story often accused of being poorly made and tacky. It may have had a low budget, but it doesn't suffer from it; and any 'tackiness' is clearly ironic, working within the context of the narrative. There are occasional moments when a detail of the production makes you wonder if they couldn't have thought things through a bit more, and occasionally the editing is over-zealous, cutting a scene a little too short, and lessening the effect of a punchine or a dramatic speech. But these are minor problems, and they do little to spoil the enjoyment of a thoroughly ambitious and engaging Doctor Who serial.
Sylvester McCoy is on top form, and the Doctor has too many good lines to list; one glorious moment sees him turning the questions back on the questioner, Trevor Sigma, while another is his confronation with two guards (a classic Who moment). There are two lapses: the first, at the end of episode one, where McCoy really doesn't manage pull off a plausible reaction to the Kandy Man's threat; and the second, a moment where he tries to sing the blues, and just looks silly. The latter, however, is saved by the context of the scene, where atmospheric and subtle support is given by Richard D. Sharp, playing Earl Sigma, a wandering medical student, who happens to be an ace player of the blues harmonica.
The score of 'The Happiness Patrol' is, of course, one its very best traits. Layered on top of the usual incidental music is a carefully judged combination of blues guitar and harmonica playing. In tune with the score is the set design, mixing together (with no lack of irony) the hard-edged industrial paintings of Fernand Leger, imagery from Lang's 'Metropolis', and the colour pallete of a children's sweet packet. Of course, as we know, good set design in 1980s Doctor Who stories was often ruined by boring, flat lighting. Pleasingly, that is not the case here. Moody and atmospheric film-noir (albeit full-colour-film-noir) lighting of the street and pipe scenes makes for one of the best looking Doctor Who stories ever made. One of the scenes to benefit vastly is the cliff-hanger to episode two. From a shot of a member of the happiness painting 'RIP' (in pink) onto an execution poster, the camera slowly pans to focus on the Doctor, eyes in shadow, looking part-anxious, part-highly-dangerous toppler of evil regimes; the shot is held for a second or two, and then the music surges in. A cliff-hanger to beat all cliff-hangers.
It is not only McCoy who is well served by the production team. The Kandy Man is one of the most sinister evil scientists to ever grace Doctor Who, and "I am a Kandy Man of my word" is one of the silliest, coolest lines to ever have been uttered (in Doctor Who, and in television drama more widely). And the success of 'The Happiness Patrol' is embodied in this villain: the combination of silly farce and frightening evil; the willingness to wildly juggle audience emotions, making the viewer question their responses to characters. Few Doctor Who stories can claim a scene with as much pathos as that where Helen A. falls down and weeps at the sight of her dead pet, having stated only that love was "over-rated". The same Helen A. who is sublimly ridiculous in appearance, and who habitually utters such lines as "I'm happy you're glad", with a straight face. It is a rare script that is able to pull the tricks that Graeme Curry's script is able to pull here.
An important scene, worth noting, sees Joseph C. and Gilbert M. discussing the loss of the Kandy Man. It is funny and sad and perfectly timed (Fraser and Innocent are excellent throughout), and it has a peculiarly British feel to it. However, it is important because part of the exchange addresses the notion of 'the self', stating that although Gilbert M. made the Kandy Man's body, "his mind was very much his own". This notion is picked up again when the Doctor speaks to Helen A. in the finale of episode 3. "You can't get away, Helen A." says the Doctor to the escaping Dictator, because to escape Helen A. must escape from herself. The problem with nasty people, we are told, is that they are too concerned with other people to see the tragic flaws inherent in themselves; they are too concerned with "control" to consider "compassion"; their sense of the individual, of the self, is lost as they concern themselves more and more with the ebb and flow of the masses. The encounter is a simple and elegant end to a beautiful story.
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on 6 March 2003
Watching 'The Happiness Patrol' now, almost 15 years after it was originally broadcast, what stands out is the cleverness of it all. The evidence indicates that a lot of work, on several levels, went into constructing a story often accused of being poorly made and tacky. It may have had a low budget, but it doesn't suffer from it; and any 'tackiness' is clearly ironic, working within the context of the narrative. There are occasional moments when a detail of the production makes you wonder if they couldn't have thought things through a bit more, and occasionally the editing is over-zealous, cutting a scene a little too short, and lessening the effect of a punchline or a dramatic speech. But these are minor problems, and they do little to spoil the enjoyment of a thoroughly ambitious and engaging Doctor Who serial.
Sylvester McCoy is on top form, and the Doctor has too many good lines to list; one glorious moment sees him turning the questions back on the questioner, Trevor Sigma, while another is his confronation with two guards (a classic Who moment). There are two lapses: the first, at the end of episode one, where McCoy really doesn't manage pull off a plausible reaction to the Kandy Man's threat; and the second, a moment where he tries to sing the blues, and just looks silly. The latter, however, is saved by the context of the scene, where atmospheric and subtle support is given by Richard D. Sharp, playing Earl Sigma, a wandering medical student, who happens to be an ace player of the blues harmonica.
The score of 'The Happiness Patrol' is, of course, one its very best traits. Layered on top of the usual incidental music is a carefully judged combination of blues guitar and harmonica playing. In tune with the score is the set design, mixing together (with no lack of irony) the hard-edged industrial paintings of Fernand Leger, imagery from Lang's 'Metropolis', and the colour pallete of a children's sweet packet. Of course, as we know, good set design in 1980s Doctor Who stories was often ruined by boring, flat lighting. Pleasingly, that is not the case here. Moody and atmospheric film-noir (albeit full-colour-film-noir) lighting of the street and pipe scenes makes for one of the best looking Doctor Who stories ever made. One of the scenes to benefit vastly is the cliff-hanger to episode two. From a shot of a member of the Happiness Patrol (a band of pink haired ladies, cracking down on those not happy) painting 'RIP' (in pink) onto an execution poster, the camera slowly pans to focus on the Doctor, eyes in shadow, looking part-anxious, part-highly-dangerous toppler of evil regimes; the shot is held for a second or two, and then the music surges in. A cliff-hanger to beat all cliff-hangers.
It is not only McCoy who is well served by the production team. The Kandy Man is one of the most sinister evil scientists to ever grace Doctor Who, and "I am a Kandy Man of my word" is one of the silliest, coolest lines to ever have been uttered (in Doctor Who, and in television drama more widely). And the success of 'The Happiness Patrol' is embodied in this villain: the combination of silly farce and frightening evil; the willingness to wildly juggle audience emotions, making the viewer question their responses to characters. Few Doctor Who stories can claim a scene with as much pathos as that where Helen A. falls down and weeps at the sight of her dead pet, having stated only that love was "over-rated". The same Helen A. who is sublimly ridiculous in appearance, and who habitually utters such lines as "I'm happy you're glad", with a straight face. It is a rare script that is able to pull the tricks that Graeme Curry's script is able to pull here.
An important scene, worth noting, sees Joseph C. and Gilbert M. discussing the loss of the Kandy Man. It is funny and sad and perfectly timed (Fraser and Innocent are excellent throughout), and it has a peculiarly British feel to it. However, it is important because part of the exchange addresses the notion of 'the self', stating that although Gilbert M. made the Kandy Man's body, "his mind was very much his own". This notion is picked up again when the Doctor speaks to Helen A. in the finale of episode 3. "You can't get away, Helen A." says the Doctor to the escaping Dictator, because to escape Helen A. must escape from herself. The problem with nasty people, we are told, is that they are too concerned with other people to see the tragic flaws inherent in themselves; they are too concerned with "control" to consider "compassion"; their sense of the individual, of the self, is lost as they concern themselves more and more with the ebb and flow of the masses. The encounter is a simple and elegant end to a beautiful story.
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on 6 March 2003
Watching 'The Happiness Patrol' now, almost 15 years after it was originally broadcast, what stands out is the cleverness of it all. The evidence indicates that a lot of work, on several levels, went into constructing a story often accused of being poorly made and tacky. It may have had a low budget, but it doesn't suffer from it; and any 'tackiness' is clearly ironic, working within the context of the narrative. There are occasional moments when a detail of the production makes you wonder if they couldn't have thought things through a bit more, and occasionally the editing is over-zealous, cutting a scene a little too short, and lessening the effect of a punchline or a dramatic speech. But these are minor problems, and they do little to spoil the enjoyment of a thoroughly ambitious and engaging Doctor Who serial.
Sylvester McCoy is on top form, and the Doctor has too many good lines to list; one glorious moment sees him turning the questions back on the questioner, Trevor Sigma, while another is his confronation with two guards (a classic Who moment). There are two lapses: the first, at the end of episode one, where McCoy really doesn't manage pull off a plausible reaction to the Kandy Man's threat; and the second, a moment where he tries to sing the blues, and just looks silly. The latter, however, is saved by the context of the scene, where atmospheric and subtle support is given by Richard D. Sharp, playing Earl Sigma, a wandering medical student, who happens to be an ace player of the blues harmonica.
The score of 'The Happiness Patrol' is, of course, one its very best traits. Layered on top of the usual incidental music is a carefully judged combination of blues guitar and harmonica playing. In tune with the score is the set design, mixing together (with no lack of irony) the hard-edged industrial paintings of Fernand Leger, imagery from Lang's 'Metropolis', and the colour pallete of a children's sweet packet. Of course, as we know, good set design in 1980s Doctor Who stories was often ruined by boring, flat lighting. Pleasingly, that is not the case here. Moody and atmospheric film-noir (albeit full-colour-film-noir) lighting of the street and pipe scenes makes for one of the best looking Doctor Who stories ever made. One of the scenes to benefit vastly is the cliff-hanger to episode two. From a shot of a member of the happiness patrol painting 'RIP' (in pink) onto an execution poster, the camera slowly pans to focus on the Doctor, eyes in shadow, looking part-anxious, part-highly-dangerous toppler of evil regimes; the shot is held for a second or two, and then the music surges in. A cliff-hanger to beat all cliff-hangers.
It is not only McCoy who is well served by the production team. The Kandy Man is one of the most sinister evil scientists to ever grace Doctor Who, and "I am a Kandy Man of my word" is one of the silliest, coolest lines to ever have been uttered (in Doctor Who, and in television drama more widely). And the success of 'The Happiness Patrol' is embodied in this villain: the combination of silly farce and frightening evil; the willingness to wildly juggle audience emotions, making the viewer question their responses to characters. Few Doctor Who stories can claim a scene with as much pathos as that where Helen A. falls down and weeps at the sight of her dead pet, having stated only that love was "over-rated". The same Helen A. who is sublimly ridiculous in appearance, and who habitually utters such lines as "I'm happy you're glad", with a straight face. It is a rare script that is able to pull the tricks that Graeme Curry's script is able to pull here.
An important scene, worth noting, sees Joseph C. and Gilbert M. discussing the loss of the Kandy Man. It is funny and sad and perfectly timed (Fraser and Innocent are excellent throughout), and it has a peculiarly British feel to it. However, it is important because part of the exchange addresses the notion of 'the self', stating that although Gilbert M. made the Kandy Man's body, "his mind was very much his own". This notion is picked up again when the Doctor speaks to Helen A. in the finale of episode 3. "You can't get away, Helen A." says the Doctor to the escaping Dictator, because to escape Helen A. must escape from herself. The problem with nasty people, we are told, is that they are too concerned with other people to see the tragic flaws inherent in themselves; they are too concerned with "control" to consider "compassion"; their sense of the individual, of the self, is lost as they concern themselves more and more with the ebb and flow of the masses. The encounter is a simple and elegant end to a beautiful story.
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on 17 September 2000
Apparently, this story was originally to be shown in grainy black and white, in the style of a 1930's movie. As it is, it was recorded entirely on video. This gaudy and overlit tale actually benefits because of this. The almost surreal nature of the production has an almost dream-like quality, with Graeme Curry's clever story parodying Britain in the mid-eighties. The 'guest-star' policy works well in this story, with good turns from Lesley Dunlop, Georgina Hale and Ronald Fraser. The star of the show is the magnificent Candyman, an outrageous creation that alternates between being hilarious, and on occasions, truly menacing. With strong performances from Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, this 'oddball' story proves what a flexible format Doctor Who has always enjoyed, a fact successfully exploited by then-script editor Andrew Cartmel. Only McCoy's forced 'laughter' scene towards the end of the story induces feelings of embarrassment. Surely this could have been handled more convincingly. That notwithstanding, 'Happiness Patrol' is wonderful fun, and the last scene with Helen A's very real emotion on seeing her dead pet Fifi is truly moving.
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on 1 November 2002
This 7th Doctor story goes down in Who folklore for the villain of the peace.The Kandyman but more about him later.
The TARDIS deposits the Doctor and Ace on a planet where happiness is compulsory if you are not happy you die !,the leader of the planet Helen A (Sylvia Syms) doing a Margaret Thatcher impression rules along with her 'Dennis'style husband and pet poodle 'fifi'a vicious animal.The real power behind the throne however is the aforementioned Kandyman a villain unlike any other in the then 25 year history of the programme as he is the dead spit of the popular character Bertie Bassett.
I remember watching slack jawed when i first saw this 'thing' but a few years later on you think again and even on 2nd viewing you wonder......WHY ,i know it would be easy to criticise but at the time the show was going through a 'dearth of good ideas'but this was the nadir.Anyway the Doctor and Ace defeat Helen A and the Kandyman and let the people free-one great scene is Sylvester Mccoy as the Doctor persuading 2 guards to put down their guns just by talking to them and telling them how they could change the outcome.
An interesting item but if this is your first dip into Who please dont make this your first..............
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on 27 July 2000
Shelia Hancock + Bertie Bassett take over cardboard Earth colony Terra Alpha, establishing a regime in which unhappiness is illegal. The punishment? Either being shot to bits by a bunch of miniskirted babes (the eponymous death squad) or drowned in a sea of liquid candy. No probs!
The Happiness Patrol is a cheap satire on Thatch's Britain, and the excuse for a plot consists of people running around increasingly wafer-thin sets and ''Killjoys'' getting killed in very inventive ways. However, through some nice characters and performances it makes for a NB story that does have some very good scenes such as the Doc confronting a pair of snipers on a balcony overlooking the city, and the Doc's final encounter with Helen A. Pretty good stuff, but a let-down after Rememberance.
James
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on 13 March 2001
The first time I saw "The Happiness Patrol" on it's original broadcast, I was shocked. It wasn't like other Dr.Who stories, it was weird, wacky, bizarre and I HATED IT! However, when I view this story now, I absolutely love it. What a fantastic and BRAVE idea, a world where you are forced to be happy, on pain of death. The script is an absolute gem, with excellent performances all round and a dark yet wacky atmosphere. View it twice, you'll love it, maybe it doesn't have the explosions and non stop mayhem of "Remembrance of the Daleks" but is a different kind of story, one to ponder and enjoy. And did you know that Dr. Who invented THE CANDYMAN and not Clive Barker? A good buy. I only took a point off for the unrealistic studio set
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on 9 December 2006
1) It is really over-rated!

2) The Kandy man is the worst monster ever in Dr who!

3) The Kandy man is the worst monster in any TV show!

4) A great idea is ruined by horrilble camp acting!

5) It got Dr Who axed! (by turning all the last fans it had away!)
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