‘The Happiness Patrol’ is a strange mix of political comment (the character of Helen A is a not so subtle parody of Margaret Thatcher, the
minister when the story was first broadcast) and plain surrealism (the Kandyman
certainly ranks high in the list of the Doctor’s more unconventional enemies).
It was first broadcast in 1988, and starred Sylvester Mccoy and Sophie Aldred
as the Doctor and Ace.
It was hardly the first time that Doctor Who had drawn parallels with real world political issues, with the ‘Monster of Peladon’ commenting on the Miner’s Strikes that took place during the 1970’s. However ‘The Happiness Patrol’ is known for having a particularly strong political message. Aside from the clear parallels with Margaret Thatcher mentioned above, the story has also been claimed by some as a metaphor for gay rights, with the TARDIS painted pink and the finale of the story involving Helen A’s husband leaving the planet with another man. The story also examines dictatorships.
Some elements of the story maybe aren't as successful or well received as the political subtext. Channel 5 named the Kandyman’s appearance as “one of the fifty most shameful TV moments” in 2005. Clips from the story were also used during the 40th anniversary celebrations to showcase Verity Lambert’s point that Doctor Who had gone into decline during the 1980’s. However, I don’t need Helen A to force me to be happy when watching this story, because I like it! Even if the Pipe People are a bit rubbish.
We will be watching 'The Happiness Patrol' on Wednesday night. The bar opens at 7.30pm GMT and we press play at 8.00pm GMT. Looking forward to seeing you all there.