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Review — Happiness Patrol

First Published:
Unknown fanzine, co-edited by Bill Edmunds of New Hampshire

Publish Date:
Early 1989

Comments:
Yes, I still maintain the only good thing Chris Clough ever did was the Cybermen-chase-Ace scenes of Silver Nemesis. Otherwise, stay away!

I was exposed to several months of Happiness Patrol bashing before I actually saw the story. The main gripe, of course, was the Kandyman, and the ridicule it brought to Doctor Who. Having now seen Happiness Patrol, I can state with conviction that is not the Kandyman that drags this story down, but the directing and script.

Chris Clough… the name brings groans to most Whovians’ lips. This story turned to be generally his standard fare, though I must admit he almost had his lights right at last. We are treated, yet again, to a plethora of head and shoulder shots, single camera following, and horrible action shots. The latter is by far my greatest complaint. In all too many of the swift action scenes, such as when the Doctor and Earl meet the pipe-dwellers, or when a pipe-dweller saves Ace from the Waiting Place, Clough skips from camera to camera to make us think a lot is happening. All this really does is confuse and disorient us. Also, the editing was hardly the best. I never realized how fast pipe-dwellers and the Doctor could move! One much-needed exception was Fifi’s death scene. Augmented by brilliant incidental music, it was a very powerful scene and should have ended the story.

’It’s too happy’ ‘He is obviously a spy…’ ‘That red-hot poker will cut through you like a knife through butterscotch!’ Happiness Patrol has brought with it some of the worst dialogue for years, which loses it much of the credibility the story could have captured. Worse yet, many happenings were left "up in the air". While it was easy enough to surmise what was happening, it remained very disconcerting. The TARDIS painting scene and the pursuit of Ace after she is freed by Susan Q are two examples of this. Incidentally, if you think about it, all the Doctor did of major consequence was fry the Kandyman and save Ace from the Happiness Patrol auditions. Did this get the people of Terra Alpha to rebel, or what? The entire script was very loose, proceeding at a slow pace. Although we saw the Doctor infiltrating, there was never any hint that the people were rebelling till the end, and then only in the form of news reports.

Now, my final major whining paragraph. I found it hard to take the Happiness Patrol seriously (the patrol itself, not the story). Weird hair, clown make-up and "fun guns" all combined to make the patrols seem rather silly, not menacing and oppressive as they should have been. While they needed to be happy-looking, they didn’t have to be clownish. The pipe-dwellers were stock characters, and we never even got a good look at their faces! (who can we thank for that?) Having got all that off my chest, I can turn to the positive aspects of the story — yes, they exist — and some of my trivial comments.

The Doctor and Ace were great! Ace is a very believable character and acts realistically. Thank goodness we now have a companion that doesn’t just scream, cringe and say ‘What do we do next, Doctor?’. Her interactions with the Doctor are very enjoyable and natural. If she were to stay ‘as long as they want me’ she might be around quite a long time! The Doctor, unlike in Season 24, finally was an active and involved person rather than being a passive onlooker. The balcony scene finally showed his full potential. However, the scene where he saves Ace from the Happiness Patrol auditions was, to put it bluntly, embarrassing.

The sets were generally very good, although looking suspiciously like the ones from Paradise Towers. That, along with the dim lighting, gave a very claustrophobic feel to Terra Alpha. The Kandy Kitchen was the exception. It was far too brightly lit, and should have been done in darker, richer shades. There’s no reason for a robot to want it this garish anyway. It should have had more things bubbling away as well. The incidental music was pretty good, but used sparingly. The blues, though good, were a little overused.

Now, my trivial statements. Why should the news reports announce unhappy news? Why did the Kandyman stop the flow once he was free? Who cares about Helen A’s scrapbook? The Waiting Zone’s go-cart sound was horrific — surely they could have dubbed it over? Earl’s blow to Silas P’s shoulder was wimpy! Sweets that kill?! In a somewhat more serious tone, this story reminded me of the Drahvins and the Rills.

And finally, the Kandyman. I am going to put my head on the block and say I rather liked him. At the end of the first episode his menacing hand really made me notice his hidden power. The lemonade trick was too easy, though, and his whining, though entertaining, detracted from his rating as a monster and killer robot. The first lemonade scene suffered because the script tried to show the Doctor forcing the Kandyman to splash lemonade, when it was really just luck.

In conclusion, I found that Happiness Patrol was not the complete failure it seemed doomed to be. It didn’t look cheap and had some great acting. But the script and directing sunk a very interesting plot to the ranks of lower Doctor Who. But not, I hasten to add, to the very bottom.

Ratings

Script: 1.0
Direction: 1.0
Acting: 1.5
Originality: 4.0
Sets: 3.0
Costumes: 0.5
Monsters: 1.5
Special Effects: 1.0
Music: 3.0
Overall: 1.5
TOTAL: 41%

End of Review

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who reviews available here:
Benny Adventure: Beyond the Sun
Benny Adventure: Deadfall
Benny Adventure: Ghost Devices/Mean Streets/Tempest
Benny Adventure: The Sword of Forever
Fanzines: Mag Bag #1
Fanzines: Mag Bag #2
Fanzines: Mag Bag #3
Fanzines: Mag Bag #4
Fanzines: Mag Bag #5
Fanzines: Mag Bag #6
Fanzines: Mag Bag #7
Fanzines: Mag Bag #8
Fanzines: Mag Bag #9
Fanzines: Mag Bag #10
Fanzines: Mag Bag #11
Fanzines: Mag Bag #12
Missing Adventure: Dancing the Code
Missing Adventure: Downtime
Missing Adventure: Invasion of the Cat-People
Missing Adventure: Lords of the Storm
Missing Adventure: Scales of Injustice
Missing Adventure: Shadow of Weng-Chiang
Missing Adventure: System Shock
New Adventure: Bloodheat
New Adventure: Death of Art
New Adventure: Dimension Riders
New Adventure: Eternity Weeps
New Adventure: Falls the Shadow
New Adventure: Legacy
New Adventure: No Future
New Adventure: Sleepy
TV: The Curse of Fenric
TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
TV: The Happiness Patrol
TV: Season 25 Review
TV: Season 27 Review (the 2005 return)
TV: The Twin Dilemma
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index


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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Wed, 20 Apr 2005.