The second story of season 25, is a little odd, but a lot of fun. That is thanks to the continually layered performance of the Doctor (McCoy). The Happiness Patrol was penned by Graeme Curry and ran from 2 to 16 November, 1988.
The TARDIS, carrying Ace (Sophie Aldred) and the Doctor arrive on Terra Alpha in the 24th century. It’s a strange world where sadness is against the law. A law that is enforced by the Happiness Patrol. Those guilty of breaking it can be sentenced to death, in a river of molten candy by the robotic executioner, Kandy Man (David John Pope).
The planet is ruled over by Helen A. (Sheila Hancock) and she rules her happiness with an iron fist.
But there is a rebellion. The Killjoys fight against the twisted government rule, and the Doctor and Ace soon find themselves helping the planet’s inhabitants fight their oppressive leader.
Of course events lead to nothing but trouble for the two travellers. Ace finds herself at odds with the Happiness Patrol, while the Doctor confronts the troubling robot killer.
I’m a little unsure on this one. I think if there had been some night shoots on location, making use of cobblestone English streets to give it a bit of a noir look, it may have looked better. This one is blatantly shot in the studio. There’s also the design for the Kandy Man – it’s just a silly look, a robot created from candy? I don’t know about that one.
There is, apparently, a bit of a political commentary running through this story as Helen A. is, supposedly, a riff on Margaret Thatcher.
I do like seeing the Doctor paired up with a musician. Trevor Sigma (John Normington), who’s predilection for the blues could get him in serious trouble with the Patrol finds himself at the Time Lord’s side.
The subterranean Pipe People, the planet’s original inhabitants, also ally themselves with the Doctor.
The Pipe People are an interesting design, a bit like bipedal mice, and the masks the actors wear to bring the creatures to life are one of the highlights of the story in my opinion. They and the interesting puppet that is Helen A.’s carnivorous pet, show that there is some sharp design going on for the show, but the budget they had prevented them from doing all they could have.
Ace is, quite possibly, the best Companion to come along in a long time, and I love when she’s around. Aldred brings her character to life in a great way, and she has a pep and verve that previous Companions didn’t have. I’m glad she’s travelling with the Doctor.
Next time the Doctor and Ace encounter Silver Nemesis (I wonder what/who that could be…).