Friday, 26 July 2013

Who@25: The Happiness Patrol (Part Three)

Originally Broadcast 16th November 1988

Written by: Graeme Curry

In a nutshell: Helen A keeps up the pretence of happiness as her government crumbles around her.

Review: I’m interested in seeing how this episode will end, because narratively it should resolve with everyone on the planet being miserable and sadness being restored to a natural state. But then that isn’t exactly a great ending, is it? What I also struggle to come to terms with is Helen A, because I don’t really see her as a bad guy to be overthrown.

I don’t want to get bogged down in all the politics and I don’t have a clue what party I side with, but I don’t agree with overthrowing Helen A. The way things are being run is clearly wrong, yet the way she’s being portrayed is as a ‘nice guy’. I feel that’s why Curry is really trying hard to shoe horn in the disappearances storyline, so we know why she must suffer. I love seeing her unhappiness start to creep out across the episode though. Hancock is playing her as a bit fake through this episode, especially.

And unless I missed the memo, I still don’t get what these rats are in the pipes or why they’re helping the Doctor beyond the reason Fifi is attacking them, but even then they don’t know the Doctor is against Helen A. I can’t describe how bad Fifi looks, but I can’t help but feel saddened when he’s underneath the falling sugar cane though. Poor little thing!

The Kandyman doesn’t make an appearance until just over halfway through this episode and it’s definitely a mistake. I’d forgotten all about him, despite his fantastic and beautiful costume. It seems like Helen A just phones him up after she runs out of ideas, which makes up thirteen minutes, so what can she do with the last ten but phone the Kandyman? Although it’s worth it as it’s a great effects shot when the furnace is burning toward him.

I’m not sure how far discussions and plans got with this episode, but I think it’s widely known the episode was at one stage planned to be screened in black and white to give it more of a noir feel. This would have been awful! There’s so much vibrant and eye catching colour all over the place, most painfully in the Kandyman’s costume, that it would’ve been a shame to lose all these visuals. What is so awful though is when Helen A presses a button for the onscreen ‘futuristic’ computer to flash “escape shuttle ready for takeoff”. How cheap is that?

The final showdown between Helen A and the Doctor is tremendous and heartbreaking and amazing. I really do feel for Helen A and I agree with her, she must’ve started out good but she just got a little sidetracked along the way. I feel sorry for her misguided view and even more sorry for her when she discovers Fifi. Everything she just argued against has all blown up in her face in a couple of seconds. It really is heartbreaking and, for me, one of the most emotional moments in Who. The jazz music finally fits the programme as well as we zoom out on the sad scene. The episode should’ve ended here though, rather than go for the upbeat ending, it ruined the ending for me.

But this second serial is another really strong one and worthy of a celebratory series. I can’t express how much I’m loving this series with two completely different yet very strong stories. I said at the end of Remembrance how much I want this level of excellence to keep going and I’m praying it continues again now. I can’t remember how many years it had been in the 1980s since there was a run of three or more consecutively perfect stories. Could there be a run here? I hope so…

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