Saturday, 23 December 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol Part Three

Madame de Gaulle was said to have been lunching with the American ambassador at the time of her husband's retirement when she was asked what she was most looking forward to in the years ahead.

She thought for a moment before announcing boldly "a penis."

A startled hush fell over the table until the former president leant over and said "my dear, I think it's pronounced 'happiness'."

Fifi lives! She is covered in comedy bandages and being looked after by Mrs Thatcher, but Fifi is alive! I am happy about that, not least because I don't think it would be a good message for the BBC to send out to its viewers that they can solve their problems by blowing up the Prime Minister's pets.

Trevor comes to tell the Doctor that he is leaving Terra Alpha and shows him a long list of everybody Mrs Thatcher has had "disappeared" (killed), just in case we had forgotten how much of a baddy she is since watching part two.

The Doctor has a microphone and sings a song (in a French accent for no reason) and Earl plays the music to go with it. He has a plan and says
"Everything is beginning to fall into place."
The Happiness Patrol arrive and are about to shoot the Doctor, but he acts so happy that they get confused and don't shoot him. The demonstrators join in and the Happiness Patrol end up pointing their pewpewpew guns at each other because they're the only ones who aren't acting happy. This allows Ace and Susan Q (her friend, who is at long last named out loud for our benefit) to escape from them (again) (again) (again).

Mrs Thatcher and her husband Joseph C hear an announcement:
"Happiness will prevail. Chaos in Forum Square. Fighting has broken out in the ranks of the Happiness Patrol itself. Happiness will prevail."
This is the first of several things that we are not shown happening but are told have happened by way of Public Exposition Announcements.

Fifi goes to chase some more aliens in the pipes, despite how well that went for her in the last episode. Fifi is a silly doggy, but she is cute and cuddly.
The Doctor, Earl and Ace go in the pipes with the aliens and join in getting chased by Fifi. The Doctor and Earl play music to make the studio set fall on Fifi and so Fifi gets squashed and they all get away.

Next the Doctor and Ace visit the Kandyman (again, at least for the Doctor). They take it in turns to troll the Kandyman so he doesn't know which one he wants to kill first until he tosses a koin to help him decide.
"I'm finding this rather tiresome. Heads or tails, Doctor?"
"Tails. Well?"
"That would be telling."
Oh what a giveaway. I think that particular line of dialogue has let the manny out of the bag with regards to the writer's influences for this story. The Doctor and Ace use the Kandyman's own kitchen utensils and ovens (which are a Health & Safety nightmare, fortunately for them Mrs Thatcher's regime has no use for such Political Korrectness) against him until he runs away and escapes into the pipes. The aliens then get into the Kitchen and they turn the "fondant surprise" upon the Kandyman.

By now there is a full scale revolution against Mrs Thatcher going on off-screen, which we only get to hear about from the announcements. These always begin by saying "happiness will prevail" even though they go on to announce that things are going very badly for the strong and stable Happiness Patrol.

Mrs Thatcher tries to act as though nothing is wrong in front of her henchmannys, though secretly she is preparing an escape shuttle. Except in the next scene Gilbert M and Joseph C steal it and fly away in the shuttle without her.

To celebrate their victory, Earl plays his music over the loudspeakers. Mrs Thatcher hears it as she tries to run away, but the Doctor meets up with her (again) for them to have a final confrontation.

"You can't get away, Helen A."
"There's a scheduled flight in an hour. You can't stop me, Doctor."
"Oh I know I can't. But it's not me you're running away from."
"Who is it, then?"
"Yourself. That's why you'll never escape."
"They didn't understand me."
"Oh, they understood you only too well. That's why they resisted you."
"I only wanted the best for them."
"The best? Prisons? Death squads? Executions?"
"They only came later. I told them to be happy, but they wouldn't listen. I gave them every chance. Oh, I know they laughed sometimes, but they still cried, they still wept."
"Don't you ever feel like weeping, Helen A?"
"Of course not, Doctor. It's unnecessary. And those that persisted had to be punished."
"For the good of the majority. For the ones that wanted to be happy, who wanted to take the opportunities that I gave them."
"What were these opportunities you gave them? A bag of sweets? A few tawdry party games? Bland, soulless music? Do these things make you happy? Of course they don't. Because they're cosmetic. Happiness is nothing unless it exists side by side with sadness. Two sides, one coin."
"You can keep your coin, Doctor, and your sadness. I'll go somewhere else. I'll find somewhere where there is no sadness. A place where people know how to enjoy themselves. A place where people are strong, where they hold back the tears. A place where people pull themselves together."
"Where there is no compassion."
"Where there is control."
"A place where there is no love."
"I always thought love was overrated."

And then Mrs Thatcher... Oh, it seems she is not actually called Mrs Thatcher in this, she is called Helen A. I am a silly cat. I can't understand why I thought she was Mrs Thatcher.

And then Helen A sees Fifi, who goes

This makes Helen A sad. It makes me sad too. Poor Fifi, all she wanted to do was nom things.

With that the plot is all over, or as the Doctor says:
"'Tis done."
Ace paints the TARDIS blue again (although to be fair that is the first time we have seen it being painted blue in this story), and the final exchange is, of course:
"Will they be all right, Professor?"
"Happiness will prevail."

The Happiness Patrol is one of the most savage and scathing attacks against authoritarian governments ever seen in Doctor Who (and that means ever seen full stop), and so it remains as politically relevant today as it was in 1988.

The final confrontation between the Doctor and Helen A is the heart of the matter, in which the Doctor exposes her for what she really is: she does not want mannys to be happy, she wants them to act as though they are happy no matter what her government does. To keep any sadness on the inside. To keep quiet. To conform.

Like all tyrants who pretend to democracy, she claims she is acting "for the good of the majority" and therefore that means anyone who disagrees must be in the minority, and can be portrayed as a handful of remoaning killjoys out to sabotage "the will of the people" - which in turn justifies any actions to

The Doctor is the moral polar opposite of Helen A. He recognises that the appearance of happiness is not the same as real happiness, and that enforced conformity does not equal approval. He knows that the mannys of Terra Alpha are not free until they can choose for themselves whether to be happy or sad, whether to agree with Helen A or to oppose her, and in their confrontation he pushes her until she admits this too.

At the end of their dialogue it is revealed that Helen A knew this all the time, but still chose to do what she knew to be wrong, and then when she cries for Fifi - and by extension herself - it is because under the fa├žade of happiness Theresam A was the most unhappy of them all.

In the end, happiness does prevail.

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