Saturday, May 12, 2012

Doctor Who-The Happiness Patrol
                 I don't think Doctor Who is thought of (in the same way Star Trek is) as a program that has a specific social vision . Because it takes place all across time and space,it basically offers up thought provoking ideas rather than a social/political agenda. On occasion however the show has offered up serials that do make some kind of sociopolitical point in a very science fiction manner. Because so much of Doctor Who is about wit and occasional satire it works very well. Especially when you have someone in the role of the doctor with the comedic talents of Sylvester McCoy. This episode aired about midway through the McCoy's second season as the seventh doctor. Since this episode was aired in the late 80's,it seemed a good story for the show to do at that particular time was one that had to do with an opposite type of dystopian society.

                 In the episode the Doctor and Ace arrive on a human colony in the future where they find a group of candy stripped people known as the Happiness Patrol. Turns out they are a philosophically contradictory group of shock troops lead by self imposed colony leader Ellen A,who as it turns out is making anyone who doesn't act publicly happy (known here as killjoys) "disappear". With the help of a disgusted Ace,the curious doctor and a blues harp player in the shadows named Earl Sigma they discover this is accomplished by highly toxic confections created by an unusual android known as the Candyman. By pointing people in this society in the direction of their own hypocrisies the doctor,Earl and Ace are able to restore a level of cultural balance to the colony.

               Although the character of Ellen A possesses certain personality traits of than current UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,this story really points a lot more to the concept of joy as more an aspect of free will than a societal directive. The characters are only happy when the hypocrisy of the Happiness Patrol and Ellen A is revealed. There's also the hint that the men of this society are well aware of the enforced emotional classism of the society and are not in approval. McCoy is rousing in this episode,from manipulating his adversaries with his clever wordplay down to playing the spoons with Earl Sigma and at one point singing off key. The spirit of the blues,in playing away ones sorrows is a constant metaphor in the story. There's also an excellent 46 minute bonus where writers and directors of the show debate the sociopolitical messages of Doctor Who as a whole. One of my favorites of the series and one which I see as very underrated and misunderstood.
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