“Happiness will prevail.”
I’m happy the Happiness Patrol is arriving on DVD… if I didn’t say that a group of gun touting gals would blow me away. I’m no killjoy. Actually, it’s not too bad with the production commenting on political elements while masking them in sci-fi garb. Just watch out for the usual lack of budget.
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) arrive on Terra Alpha to discover a society with Muzak piped in and sadness against the law. The repressive Helen A (Sheila Hancock) rules the planet with a happy yet iron fist, along with her companion Joseph C (Ronald Frasier) and her monstrous pet Fifi.
If you’re not gunned down by her Happiness patrol you might meet a more hideous fate with the Kandy Man (David John Pope) and his assistant Gilbert M (Harold Innocent) using you as an ingredient in his candy kitchen. The Doctor and Ace discover allies in the subterranean pipe people and set about to spoil Helen A’s day.
It probably helped that I watched The Happiness Patrol after Dragonfire. I still found some of the production sporting the usual BBC hallmarks: get it done fast and cheap. The Terra Alpha sets reek of the stage and those go-carts could be overcome by a slow walking Happiness Patrolee. Not to mention that it seems episode one has some jagged edits, the special features has nearly an episodes worth of deleted scenes but these abbreviated three parters probably contribute to that somewhat.
The not-so-hidden political commentary probably elevates it a bit past those seams. Sheila Hancock certainly appears to be having a helluva time aping Thatcher. McCoy also seems to fit a bit better than in Dragonfire and Ace also plays well. Some of the supporting players also make good with their short bits (Frasier and Innocent).
The Kandy Man is both silly and a bit unnerving. His costume is very Gingerbread Man (also resembling some Brit confectioner so much that the Beeb had to promise that he’d be a one off villain) but that the uses killjoys as ingredients is pretty chilling. That shrill voice also unnerves but being subdued by lemonade is a bit naff.
The Happiness Patrol is presented in fullscreen. Special features include a commentary with Aldred, writer Graeme Curry, script editor Andrew Cartmel, composer Dominic Glynn, and director Chris Clough, a pop-up trivia track, an isolated score, the 23 minute “Happiness will Prevail” making of, 23 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, the 46 minute “When Worlds Collide” about the political subtext, a photo gallery, and the Radio Times Listing on DVD-ROM.
The Happiness Patrol filled me with more happiness than Dragonfire did. Sure there are still some problems but I was more able to sugarcoat them than with the other episode. Sometimes a decent idea overcomes a less-than-stellar presentation. You also get the usual sweet special features that always make an episode seem more delicious.
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