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DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Happiness Patrol

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One of the latest Doctor Who releases is Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol. In this three-part serial, The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) arrive on a planet where everyone is happy. The music is happy; the clothing is happy; even the police are happy. They’d better be, or the villainous Helen A. (Sheila Hancock) will get rid of them. In fact, even the dreary blue TARDIS isn’t happy enough, soon being painted pink to fit in!

The incessant joy is enough to make anyone suspicious, and The Doctor isn’t just anyone. He soon meets up with Trevor Sigma (John Normington), a census worker tasked with figuring out why the population of this planet is dropping rapidly. Does it really make sense that people would move away from happiness, or that happiness would continue if many are dying? Not really, but then, Helen A. doesn’t exactly give anyone a choice in the matter.

Of course, it isn’t long before The Doctor and Ace are captured. This is OK, though, because it gives them the chance to find out what is really going on. Ace is taken away and made to join the Happiness Patrol, the planet’s version of a police force. The Doctor goes to the Kandy Kitchen, where a robot called The Kandy Man (David John Pope) serves as executioner, employing all sorts of creative methods to murder people.

It also isn’t long before our heroes make a couple of allies. There’s Susan Q. (Lesley Dunlop), a guard unhappy with her situation, though she doesn’t dare show it to certain company. Also, Earl Sigma (Richard D. Sharp), a Blues musician, which doesn’t exactly fit the profile of what Helen A. allows. Even better, The Doctor and Earl find the Pipe People, residents hiding below the surface. With them, they can raise a rebel army to take on Helen A.!

It will come as no surprise that The Doctor and his companions win in the end. This time, it isn’t about killing or capturing anyone, but rather, teaching Helen A. the true value of sadness. How can joy be appreciated if there is nothing to measure it against? It’s a sobering lesson for Helen A., and a little preachy for the audience, but it’s still a fun ride.

Lest one think “The Happiness Patrol” is all fluff, there is actually some allegory to be found. Helen A. is modeled on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom the Doctor Who people were not fans of, and the underground dwellers are meant to echo a real life miners’ strike. It may be caricature, but at least there is reason behind the madness.

As has become the norm, “The Happiness Patrol” has plenty of extras. There is an audio commentary with the actress who plays Ace, script writer Graeme Curry, editor Andrew Cartmel, director Chris Clough, and composer Dominic Glynn, all being moderated by Toby Hadoke. There are also twenty-three minutes of extended and deleted scenes, almost a whole extra episode’s worth!

“Happiness Will Prevail” takes viewers behind the scenes of “The Happiness Patrol.” “When Worlds Collide” outlines some of the political issues covered in this serial, giving more insight into allusions and viewpoints. This is quite interesting, really bringing a whole other layer to the story.

Additionally, there is the expected photo gallery and PDF materials, as well as isolated music, so fans who wish to can enjoy the soundtrack without the dialogue getting in the way.

“The Happiness Patrol” has been remastered. Like other classic Doctor Who releases, it looks better than ever! Luckily, this serial comes from 1988, so it probably didn’t require as much work as older installments. But the results are satisfactory.

Buy Doctor Who – The Happiness Patrol, now on DVD.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com