The Happiness Patrol

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149[1]The Happiness Patrol
Doctor Who serial
Directed byChris Clough
Written byGraeme Curry
Script editorAndrew Cartmel
Produced byJohn Nathan-Turner
Music byDominic Glynn
Production code7L
SeriesSeason 25
Running time3 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast2 November 1988 (1988-11-02)
Last broadcast16 November 1988 (1988-11-16)
← Preceded by
Remembrance of the Daleks
Followed by →
Silver Nemesis
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The Happiness Patrol is the second serial of the 25th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in three weekly parts on BBC1 from 2 to 16 November 1988.

The serial is set on the Earth colony world Terra Alpha. In the serial, the alien time traveller the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) starts a rebellion against the planet's ruler, Helen A (Sheila Hancock), a woman who seeks to eliminate all unhappiness on the planet.


The Seventh Doctor and Ace visit a human colony on the planet Terra Alpha, to investigate its strangely joyful facade. There, they discover that a secret police force known as the Happiness Patrol are roaming the streets, hunting down and killing so-called 'Killjoys'. Their leader is Helen A, who governs the colony and is fanatically obsessed with eliminating unhappiness. Also in her employment is the Kandy Man, a grotesque, sweet-based robot created by Gilbert M, one of Helen A's senior advisers. After discovering the Patrol painting the TARDIS pink, much to Ace's disgust, she and the Doctor are arrested by Patrol member Daisy K. The Doctor is suspected of being a spy while Ace is taken to be recruited to join the Happiness Patrol.

While in the Waiting Zone, The Doctor and Ace meet an unhappy guard, Susan Q, and Earl Sigma, a wandering harmonica player. They become allies to the Doctor and Ace after they escape, along with the native inhabitants of Terra Alpha, the Pipe People. They work together to overthrow the tyranny of Helen A by supporting public protests of unhappiness, encouraging the people to revolt, and attempting to expose Helen A's population control programme to Trevor Sigma, an official galactic census taker.

The first to be disposed of is Helen A’s pet Stigorax, Fifi, a rat-dog creature used to hunt down the Pipe People, as it is crushed in the pipes below the city when Earl causes an avalanche of crystallised sugar with his harmonica. Then they destroy the Kandyman in a flow of his own "fondant surprise" which had previously been used to execute the Killjoys. Realising that she cannot defeat the Doctor, Helen A attempts to escape the planet in a rocket, only to discover that the rocket has already been commandeered by Gilbert M and Joseph C, her husband. Angry at their betrayal, she tries to flee, but is stopped by the Doctor. He tries to teach her about the true nature of happiness, as he believes that it can only be understood if counterbalanced by sadness. Helen A, refusing to listen to the man who helped topple her regime, sneers at him and says she'll do it all over again. But when she discovers a dying Fifi emerging from the sewers, she rushes over to it and collapses into tears. Knowing that she has finally felt some sadness of her own, the Doctor tells Ace, "'Tis done," and they leave Helen A to mourn.

As the TARDIS is being repainted its natural blue color, the Doctor and Ace bid farewell to Susan Q and Earl, who plans to repair the damage caused by Helen A by singing the blues. The Patrol finishes painting just as they leave. Before leaving Terra Alpha and the colony behind them, the Doctor says to Ace, "Happiness will prevail," hoping that the people and Helen A will now understand what it's like to be truly happy.


Working titles for this story included The Crooked Smile.[citation needed] The production team considered transmitting this story in black and white to fit with its intended film noir atmosphere.[citation needed] A fan myth holds that the third episode was supposed to be animated, but this was never the case.[2] The entire serial was shot in studio in July and August 1988.[3]

Helen A was intended to be a caricature of then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[4] Hancock stated that she "hate[d] Mrs Thatcher with a deep and venomous passion".[3] In 2010, Sylvester McCoy told the Sunday Times: "Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered". The Doctor's calls on the drones to down their tools and revolt was intended as an allusion to the UK miners' strike (1984–1985).[4] Most of this element was eventually toned down.[citation needed]

In the story, the Doctor sings "As Time Goes By", sung by Dooley Wilson in Casablanca. John Normington played Morgus in The Caves of Androzani, and later appeared in "Ghost Machine", an episode of Torchwood. Lesley Dunlop previously played Norna in 1984's Frontios and Harold Innocent would go on to appear in the 1993 radio serial The Paradise of Death.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [5]
1"Part One"24:512 November 1988 (1988-11-02)5.3
2"Part Two"24:489 November 1988 (1988-11-09)4.6
3"Part Three"24:2516 November 1988 (1988-11-16)5.3

Bassett's complained over the similarity between the Kandy Man in this story and their trademark character. The BBC agreed not to use the Kandy Man again.[citation needed]

Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern awarded The Happiness Patrol a full five stars and described it as a "clever and funny satire" and praised the acting and political commentary.[3] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave The Happiness Patrol five out of five stars, calling it a "minor masterpiece". He commended the irony, social commentary, and McCoy's acting.[6] Authors Graeme Burk and Robert Smith included The Happiness Patrol in their 2013 book Who's 50: The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die.[7] For GamesRadar+ in 2015, Will Salmon included The Happiness Patrol among "The strangest Doctor Who stories", describing it as an "infamous Sylvester McCoy story" that "is actually rather good, but there's no denying its peculiarity [...] There's lots of interesting stuff going on beneath the surface of this story: anti-war speeches, Orwellian oppression and protests against Section 28. There's little doubt that, nearly 30 years later, it's still one of the most iconoclastic Doctor Who stories ever. And one of the oddest."[8]

In his book Doctor Who: A British Alien?, which explores the series' use of science fiction allegory and metaphor, Danny Nicol questioned the serial's claimed anti-Thatcherism agenda, stating, "The part of Helen A was played by Sheila Hancock in a way which served to remind the viewer of Margaret Thatcher, leading to the serial being seen as a satire on the Thatcher governments. Yet Helen A's policies—death squads, executions and the extensive state establishment of sugar factories—bear no relation to Thatcher's, making claims of a Thatcher metaphor less convincing."[9] In The Discontinuity Guide, Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping identify a gay subtext to the story: "there's entrapment over cottaging, the TARDIS is painted pink, and the victim of the fondant surprise is every inch the proud gay man, wearing, as he does, a pink triangle."[10] The story ends with Helen A's husband abandoning her and leaving with another man.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon, on the subject of happiness and joy.[11] Marc Sidwell has described it as an expression of national unease at rave culture.[12]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The Happiness Patrol
AuthorGraeme Curry
Cover artistAlister Pearson
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
15 February 1990

A novelisation of this serial, written by scriptwriter Graeme Curry, was published by Target Books in February 1990. Adapting his scripts rather than the televised version, Curry's book includes scenes cut during editing and his original envisioning of the Kandy Man with a human appearance, albeit with powdery white skin and edible candy-cane glasses. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by Rula Lenska was released by BBC Audiobooks in July 2009.

Home media[edit]

The Happiness Patrol was released on VHS on 4 August 1997, by BBC Worldwide. It was then released on DVD on 7 May 2012 alongside Dragonfire as part of the "Ace Adventures" box set.[13][14] This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 119 on 24 July 2013.


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the four segments of The Trial of a Time Lord as four separate stories and also counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this story as number 153. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Happiness Patrol – Details
  3. ^ a b c Mulkern, Patrick (17 September 2012). "Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol". Radio Times. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b Adams, Stephen (14 February 2010). "Doctor Who 'had anti-Thatcher agenda'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  6. ^ Sinnot, John (19 May 2012). "Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol". DVD Talk. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  7. ^ Graeme Burk; Robert Smith (2013). Who's 50: The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die. ECW Press. p. 285. ISBN 9781770411661.
  8. ^ Salmon, Will (15 September 2015). "The strangest Doctor Who stories". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  9. ^ Danny Nicol (2019). Doctor Who: A British Alien?. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 276. ISBN 978-3319881133.
  10. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Happiness Patrol". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  11. ^ Williams, Rowan (24 April 2011). "Archbishop of Canterbury's 2011 Easter Sermon". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  12. ^ Sidwell, Marc (21 August 2014). "Who's back: The Doctor is the unexpected freedom fighter our civilisation still needs". City AM.
  13. ^ DWM 433
  14. ^ "DVD Schedule Update". Doctor Who News. 5 March 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2013.

External links[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]