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Recap: Doctor Who S25 E2 "The Happiness Patrol"
I can hear the sound of empires toppling.
—The Doctor

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon, on the subject of happiness and joy. No, really.

The Doctor and Ace visit the human colony planet of Terra Alpha, where unhappiness has been outlawed, and people who can't keep a smile on their face at all times have a tendency to... disappear.

While the Doctor befriends a blues-playing tourist named Earl and Ace meets her Girl of the Week Susan Q, the TARDIS gets a nice pink makeover from the Happiness Patrol. Everyone gets thrown into prison a few times over. Well, into the "waiting zone", that is — because a happy place like Terra Alpha couldn't possibly have prisons. They also meet the Kandy Man (who bears a striking resemblance to the advertising mascot Bertie Bassett — not deliberate, but the BBC got in trouble from Bassetts all the same), a psychotic killer robot made of candy, whom the Doctor defeats in a Curb-Stomp Battle by sticking its feet to the floor with lemonade. The underground Mole Men and the working class join in the battle against the current regime as well, as does a hapless interstellar census bureau employee, after the Doctor runs circles around him intellectually.

The Doctor goes a bit too far in his investigations, though, and soon comes face-to-face with a very powerful gun. In a rather serious scene for what's otherwise the most perfectly camp episode in a while, he dares the gunman to shoot him point blank, which causes a Heel Realisation in the soldier and leaves the Doctor able to continue his staged uprising. It all culminates in a sort of song-and-dance number, with the Doctor proclaiming that the oppressed working class people are really tremendously happy and therefore can't be arrested. The Happiness Patrol is very unhappy about this turn of events. So the Doctor tells them that they should now logically arrest each other for being glum. Which they promptly do.

The local dictator, Helen A (who bears a striking resemblance to Margaret Thatcher — deliberate, Word of God would later say) decides to get the hell out before her society comes crashing in on itself. Sadly for her, her gentle husband runs away together with Kandy Man's creator, and the two make off with the only escape pod. And her mutated rat-dog-thing Fifi is killed using The Power of Blues. Helen breaks down crying, realising perhaps for the first time that happiness isn't everything.


Tropes

  • Amazon Brigade: The Happiness Patrol.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Helen A is finally forced to confront her sadness upon the death of her beloved pet. However, her government is overthrown and the people are free to experience whatever emotions they damn well want, happy or sad.
    • In any other series this would be a Downer Ending, the force keeping everyone happy is gone and misery prevails. Naturally Doctor Who turns it on its head.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Susan Q disarming Daisy K.
  • Bond One-Liner: As it's immediately after the vicious execution of a political prisoner, done as a Kick the Dog.
    • Combined with Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Deconstructed; the members of the Happiness Patrol keep coming out with these just before or after they kill someone, but they're all uniformly unfunny, half-witted things like "Have a nice death!" or "You look unhappy about something!" that only serve to further reinforce what smug, sociopathic and terrible people with awful senses of humour they are.
  • Bound and Gagged: In episode 2 Ace is briefly gagged for saying "Up the Killjoys!"
    • And Priscilla P in Episode 3.
    • And Daisy towards the end.
  • Bothering by the Book: The Doctor arranges for the protesting killjoys to gather en mass in Forum Square, knowing that this will trigger a crackdown from the authorities, and two teams of the Happiness Patrol are sent to terminate the killjoys with prejudice. When the first team gets there, however, the killjoys have taken off their dark clothes, cast aside their sombre moods and are merrily laughing it up — and thus are no longer killjoys, meaning the Happiness Patrol can't touch them. And to really sweeten the cake, when the second team arrives they find the first team milling about confused, glum and generally acting like killjoys — and promptly arrest them.
  • The Chessmaster: The Doctor manages to orchestrate the complete collapse of a ruthless despotic society over the course of a single evening.
  • Comically Missing the Point: At one point, the Doctor comes across an undercover Happiness Patrol agent who makes a rather cruel game of provoking Hope Spots in killjoys he comes across before revealing his true identity with a business card. When he pulls this on the Doctor, upon learning the agent's identity the Doctor cheerfully remarks that the agent might be able to pass on a message to Helen A for him.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor tells Ace that the Brigadier once saw a triceratops in the London Underground. He also mentions again that Theta Sigma was his college nickname.
  • Covered in Gunge: In a decidedly non-comedic version — Helen A's favourite execution method involves large quantities of hot strawberry fondant, either suffocating you or scalding you to death.
  • Crapsaccharine World: No one really believes in the Sugar Bowl, though.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Chris Clough voices Fifi.
  • Culture Police: The eponymous Patrol. A rather creepy use of the trope, as they go beyond enforcing any kind of culture...
  • Custom Uniform: When she first appears, Susan Q is one of a group of Happiness Patrol mooks, but she's wearing the more elaborate wig of a speaking character.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Disappearance".
    • Also, when Helen A meets with Trevor Sigma and the Doctor, she coyly informs Trevor that she's adopted the Galactic Census Bureau's recommendations on "population control"... but not it's guidelines. Trevor is too naive to pick up on the euphemism, but the Doctor is not impressed. He later confronts Helen A as she's arranging an execution and throws the euphemism back at her:
    The Doctor: Population control?
    Helen A: Look, who are you?!
    The Doctor: [Furious] And which member of the population are you attempting to control today?
  • Defector from Decadence: Susan Q.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The story has generated a lot of discussion about the political meanings and agendas behind a lot of what's going on, particularly concerning 1980s politics and gay rights among others; Helen A and her cronies are stand-ins for Margaret Thatcher and her government, a young woman describing her realization that she was "unhappy" is played as if she was coming out of the closet in another sense, and so forth.
  • Dystopian Edict
  • '80s Hair: Like you wouldn't believe.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even Daisy K, herself a willing and eager stooge of Helen A's regime, considers Priscilla P an out-of-control fanatic.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: They don't appear, but Ace seems to believe this; at the beginning of the episode she's excitedly begging the Doctor if they can go see some.
  • Evil Chef: The Kandy Man.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The "happy" characters' actual jokes are limited to sadistic mockery of the people they're killing and torturing.
    • Lampshaded with the "prize" for winning the slot machine in the Waiting Zone — a poorly delivered joke from Helen A — which the Doctor thoroughly deconstructs with respect to its sheer awfulness.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Kandy Man. He considers himself a confectionery artist even though his talents are used more for executing dissidents.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Terra Alpha is clearly starting to fall apart at the seams when the Doctor gets there, but he manages to press the right buttons to bring down Helen A's government entirely.
  • Fascists' Bed Time
  • Film Noir: Despite the gaudy nature of Terra Alpha, the 'outdoor' scenes of the story are all filmed in a consciously film-noir style, with lots of long, dark shadows all over the place. A couple of the male characters wear long coats and wide-brimmed fedoras as well. Reportedly the episode was originally planned to be in black and white.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Fluffy Tamer: Helen A truly loves her snarling pet Fifi.
  • Fluffy the Terrible
  • Glurge Addict: Helen A.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: And if you're not happy, you get the death penalty.
  • Heel-Face Turn: After bonding with Ace over their taste in music, Susan Q deliberately lets her escape, and from then on is on the Doctor's side.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Kandy Man is ultimately killed by the very execution method he was in charge of.
    • Also, after Susan Q disarms Daisy K by Blasting It out of Their Hands.
      Doctor: Who taught you to shoot like that?
      Susan Q (points to Daisy K): She did.
      Doctor: Thank you, Daisy K.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: The story is very easily interpreted as a gay rights allegory. The TARDIS gets painted pink, Ace and her Girl of the Week had to have some rather Les Yay lines cut just to get past the BBC censors, and the story ends with two men running off together.
  • Implicit Prison: The waiting areas are specifically NOT prisons ... but step over the line that marks the edge of the area, and "you're a dead man".
  • Lady Land: A subtle example (at least relatively, given many examples of the trope); most of the characters with power and authority in the story are women (the Happiness Patrol, for example, is composed primarily or entirely of women), and it's heavily suggested that Terra Alphan society is biased in favour of women instead of men; at one point the two male snipers gripe that women always get the better jobs — and guns. It avoids most of the usual "utopian Author Tract" tropes usually associated with the trope, in that Terra Alpha is hardly a better place because the women are in control instead of the men.
  • Killer Robot: Made of candy.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better: Gilbert M all but says this about people who think confectionery is easy.
  • Love Hurts: Between Helen A's ruthless Stepford Smiler persona and determination to be utterly happy at all costs, and her strangely bitter-yet-wistful retort upon the Doctor's accusation that her perfect world is a world without love that "I always thought love is overrated", it's implied that something like this might be lurking somewhere in Helen A's backstory.
  • Low-Speed Chase: The Patrol's go-karts don't seem to travel much faster than walking pace, which makes the sequence where the Doctor and Ace steal one in order to escape slightly ridiculous.
  • Mad Artist: The Kandy Man is a mad culinary artist.
  • Motive Rant: Helen A delivers one at the end during her confrontation with the Doctor.
  • My Card
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Helen A is basically a sci-fi Stepford Smiler version of Margaret Thatcher.
  • One-Letter Name: All the Terra Alphans have a personal name followed by a single letter indicating their social rank.
  • Police State
  • The Power of Blues
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Seventh Doctor continues his grand tradition of beating his enemies down with speeches that deconstruct their flaws and weaknesses, firstly with the sniper he confronts on the rooftops, and then finally Helen A herself.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Gilbert M. and Joseph C. Together.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The use of letters as surnames recalls Josef K in The Trial.
    • Ace relates the plot of Mark Dinning's "death disc" song "Teen Angel".
    • Susan Q, the Happiness Patrol member who does a Heel-Face Turn, is probably named in reference to Dale Hawkins's R & B song "Susie Q".
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Priscilla P
  • Stepford Smiler: An entire culture of them, led by a Margaret Thatcher No Celebrities Were Harmed who enforces this way of life with the death penalty.
  • Take Me to Their Leader
  • Talking Your Way Out: Faced with an enthusiastic sniper, the Doctor simply goes up and demands that the sniper shoot him, end his life; the sniper gives up. It's a CMOA, but it also ends up making the Doctor look more a little... creepy — both snipers are really unnerved at the end. Creepy or not, however, the Doctor still talks a fanatic into doubting and rejecting all his convictions under the space of a minute while having a gun pointed at him the whole time, which is impressive to say the least.
  • Thoughtcrime: Policed by the Happiness Patrol.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: All the Terra Alpha characters. Gilbert M and Joseph C take theirs off while running away together, which doesn't actually make it any less homoerotic.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Helen A is clearly struggling with things but manages to hold on with stiff (yet happy) upper lip more-or-less maintained until she discovers her pet dog Fifi, the only thing she has ever loved, is dead.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Kandy Man can be rendered immobile with a quick spray of lemonade to his feet.
  • You Gotta Have Pink Hair: Helen A and The Happiness Patrol.


Doctor Who S25 E1 'Remembrance of the Daleks"Recap/Doctor WhoDoctor Who S25 E3 'Silver Nemesis"

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