Thursday, 25 July 2013

Who@25: The Happiness Patrol (Part Two)

Originally Broadcast 9th November 1988

Written by: Graeme Curry

In a nutshell: The Doctor visits Helen A and the Kandyman.

Review: I’m not really getting what these ‘underground rats’ are that have been glimpsed once or twice. They feel like the weakest part of the script purely because I don’t get why we’re following them. Back to the Kandyman and the idea of him killing people by giving them pleasure they can’t handle from sweets is just so funny and somehow makes sense too. As is the idea his heart is referred to as his ‘soft centre’. Some of the puns do fall a little flat thought, like McCoy’s “sweet dreams” quip. I almost feel like every line is a pun of some kind, but I think it’s mainly down to the delivery from the actors and the silliness of the plot’s surface.

Daisy K saying how her being sent to death is the first thing she’s been happy about for ages is a very striking remark and it brings me to one of the most controversial parts of this storyline and that’s Thatcherism. It’s no secret in 2013 that Helen A was based on Margaret Thatcher but I was surprised to read that the director thought this from the script and tried to make it less obvious. However Shelia Hancock also got the same from the script so acted it like she was Thatcher. I think it’s a very clear portrayal and the entire plot shares a lot of similarities with the 1980s. Despite not being born until 1990 and being less than acceptable in my knowledge of politics, even I can spot a lot of likenesses. But does that make Joseph C Dennis? Or is that Fifi?

I feel like something is missing from this episode but I can’t put my finger on it. It’s certainly not as strong as the opening instalment and I’m still highly enjoying this storyline, I just feel this episode didn’t exactly further too much. The world of Terra Alpha has been developed and we’ve learnt more about the people and the rules. Part of the problem could, perhaps, be that the sets don’t feel big. Since the beginning we’ve just been spinning between three or four sets and that could be why this episode feels small.

The episode ending is good because it’s different. It adds to that feeling of Thatcherism somehow, giving the episode a real sense of a community that doesn’t work and Sylvester has that face JN-T always dreamt of in the Colin Baker years; he knows how to look scared and bemused as the theme tune kicks in to begin the closing credits!

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