Serial 7L:
The Happiness Patrol


Terra Alpha is under the steel fist of Helen A and her executioner, a sadistic robot made out of sweets called the Kandy Man. Joy is perpetual on Terra Alpha, because to be unhappy invites the wrath of Helen A's crack police force, the Happiness Patrol. Allying themselves with Terra Alpha's repressed natives, the Pipe People, a former Happiness Patrolwoman named Susan Q and blues player Earl Sigma, the Doctor and Ace must end Helen A's reign of terror.


Already a singer and an award-winning journalist, Graeme Curry also wanted to break into screenwriting. His football drama Over The Moon placed first in a London-area competition, for which one of the judges was Tony Dinner of the BBC Script Unit. Dinner encouraged Curry to send his prizewinner to various script editors within the BBC, including Doctor Who's Andrew Cartmel, who was attempting to build a new stable of writers for his programme. They met in February 1987, but while Curry was invited to pitch ideas for Doctor Who, he soon became discouraged as he struggled to develop something appropriate.

Finally, during the summer, Curry suggested an adventure set on a planet where unhappy people are persecuted. Cartmel liked the idea and helped the writer develop it as a commentary on both modern-day superficiality and the policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government -- as embodied in the form of the dictator Helen A. Curry was also amused by the notion of the Doctor arriving on a planet, and striving to make the populace unhappy. Briefly, the storyline was referred to as The Happiness Patrol, but by the time the first episode was commissioned on September 3rd, it had become “The Crooked Smile”. This would be the studiobound three-part entry for Season Twenty-Five, which meant that Curry had to ensure that his world of Terra Alpha could be realised entirely as a collection of sets.

Graeme Curry and Andrew Cartmel agreed that the anti-Thatcher spirit of The Happiness Patrol should be toned down

Two early notions for “The Crooked Smile” quickly fell by the wayside: in Curry's original conception, muzak was heard all over Terra Alpha (emphasising the fake, antiseptic nature of Helen A's society) and the action took place over several weeks as the Doctor gradually contrived to bring down the government. With the action now unfolding over just one night, it was decided to have a strong throughline of blues music, since there was concern that the muzak might be too annoying and distracting. These changes began to take hold as Curry worked on his last two scripts, which were commissioned on September 30th. Helen A's regime would now be starting to crumble prior to the Doctor's arrival, while Cartmel also agreed with Curry that the anti-Thatcher spirit should be toned down. During the autumn, Nathan-Turner encouraged Curry to resurrect The Happiness Patrol as his story's title.

There were various other amendments as Curry worked on his adventure, now designated Serial 7L. A prison area called Arcadia, complete with dozens of fruit machines and an elaborate go-kart game which the captives would be forced to play, was replaced with the simpler Waiting Zones. In the Forum, the Doctor and Ace were forced to entertain the audience or be executed; this was excised because it was felt to be too similar to elements of another Season Twenty-Five story, The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. Susan Q was tricked into helping Ace escape, rather than doing so willingly. The snipers were originally called Stan S and Sid S, then David S and Alex S, although ultimately neither name was used onscreen.

The director assigned to The Happiness Patrol was Chris Clough, who would also be handling the location-only Silver Nemesis. It was Clough and Nathan-Turner who decided to completely reinvent the visual look of the Kandy Man. In Curry's scripts, the Kandy Man was basically human in appearance, albeit moulded out of sugary materials. Clough and Nathan-Turner wanted his robotic nature to be more obvious, and so make-up designer Dorka Nieradzik -- using Michelin Tires' seminal Bibendum mascot as inspiration -- put together an outfit which looked as though it were literally composed of giant sweets. Meanwhile, cast as Earl Sigma was Richard D Sharp. The character had been written as playing a trumpet, but when it was learned that Sharp had no experience with the instrument, this was revised as a harmonica, since it would be less conspicuous that the actor was simply miming along to the soundtrack.

The Kandy Man was written as basically human in appearance, but the production team wanted his robotic nature to be more obvious

Recording on The Happiness Patrol began in BBC Television Centre Studio 3 with the start of a three-day session on July 26th, 1988. Clough found that the “exteriors” erected in the studio were cumbersome to work with, severely limiting his ability to plan interesting camera angles. To compensate, he wanted to give the adventure a film noir feel by using various off-kilter perspectives, as in the 1949 Orson Welles classic The Third Man. This idea was vetoed by Nathan-Turner, who worried that the technique would be too disorienting. The sets for the streets and the Forum square were in use on all three days, together with the Waiting Zones on the 26th and 27th, and then the pipes on the 28th. For the Pipe People, it was thought for a time that they might be achieved using puppets; eventually, however, eight child actors were hired to play the roles in costume. Conversely, Fifi was actually several different puppets. The idea of employing an actor was dismissed because Nathan-Turner wanted Fifi to be comparatively small.

The production of The Happiness Patrol -- and Season Twenty-Five as a whole -- then concluded with a two-day block in TC8 starting on Wednesday, August 10th, with scenes in the Kandy Kitchen a major focus throughout. Otherwise, the 10th dealt with material in Happiness Patrol headquarters and Helen A's suite, plus the tyrant's addresses on the Waiting Zone games machine. The 11th then wrapped up the remaining sequences in the pipes, as well as those in the Doompipe and the execution yard. By now, it was already known that Doctor Who would be returning for a twenty-sixth season; this had been confirmed by the BBC in June, and although Nathan-Turner expected to be moved onto other projects, McCoy, Aldred and Cartmel would all be remaining on the show.

In post-production, all three episodes of The Happiness Patrol were found to overrun severely, and a number of cuts were made. These included a scene where the Kandy Man sliced off his own finger only to calmly reattach it, Susan Q revealing that she was demoted from Susan L because of a smuggled blues record, and the Doctor escaping at the start of part two only to return when he realises that Earl Sigma has been captured. Also dropped was the fondant overwhelming the Kandy Man in the Doompipe, as Clough was dissatisfied with the execution of the shot. It was only at this point that Clough's wife, Annie Hulley, was cast as the Newsreader.

On November 10th, the chairman of Bassett Foods complained that the Kandy Man infringed on his company's Bertie Bassett trademark

Having now directed six stories in three years, Clough decided that the time had come to move on from Doctor Who. He helmed episodes of programmes such as Casualty and The Bill, before becoming a producer on the latter. Clough then concentrated on producing, with his credits including Ballykissangel, Born And Bred, Skins and The Missing. The Happiness Patrol was Curry's only contribution to Doctor Who, although his novelisation was published by Target Books in 1990. He went on to write for The Bill and EastEnders, as well as the radio drama Citizens. Curry passed away on February 24th, 2019 following an illness.

Oddly, The Happiness Patrol wound up stoking unlikely controversies on two occasions separated by more than twenty years. On November 10th, the day following the broadcast of episode two, HB “Bev” Stokes, chairman and chief executive of Bassett Foods, wrote to Nathan-Turner to complain that the Kandy Man infringed on the trademark of his company's advertising icon, Bertie Bassett. After investigating the matter, Brian Turner of the BBC Copyright Department informed Stokes on November 25th that he had determined that no transgressions had occurred -- although he did promise that the Kandy Man would not be used again in future storylines.

Then, in February 2010, the anti-Thatcherite slant of The Happiness Patrol was dredged up by the media in the wake of the intense interest in Doctor Who following the debut of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. The serial's anti-Thatcherite origins were briefly dredged up as evidence of a partisan and ideological bias within the BBC; nothing came of this, however, and the would-be scandal dissipated as quickly as it had materialised.

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Seventh Doctor by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker (1998), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20527 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 680 0.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #302, “Archive: The Happiness Patrol” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #10, 13th April 2005, “Doctorin' The Tardis” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #97, August 2001, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 2nd Nov 1988
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'51"
Viewers (more) 5.3m (96th)
· BBC1 5.3m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 2
Date 9th Nov 1988
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'48"
Viewers (more) 4.6m (104th)
· BBC1 4.6m
Appreciation 65%
Episode 3
Date 16th Nov 1988
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'25"
Viewers (more) 5.3m (88th)
· BBC1 5.3m
Appreciation 65%

The Doctor
Sylvester McCoy
Sophie Aldred
Helen A
Sheila Hancock
Joseph C
Ronald Fraser
Daisy K
Georgina Hale
Priscilla P
Rachel Bell
Gilbert M
Harold Innocent
Trevor Sigma
John Normington
Susan Q
Lesley Dunlop
Earl Sigma
Richard D Sharp
Harold V
Tim Barker
Silas P
Jonathan Burn
Kandy Man
David John Pope
Mary Healey
Forum Doorman
Tim Scott
Steve Swinscoe
Mark Carroll
Philip Neve
Ryan Freedman
Annie Hulley

Written by
Graeme Curry
Directed by
Chris Clough
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Theme Music composed by
Ron Grainer
Incidental Music
Dominic Glynn
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Production Manager
Gary Downie
Production Associate
June Collins
Production Assistant
Jane Wellesley
Assistant Floor Manager
Lynn Grant
Visual Effects Designer
Perry Brahan
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Vision Mixer
Shirley Coward
Technical Co-ordinator
Richard Wilson
Camera Supervisors
Alec Wheal
Geoff Clark
Videotape Editors
Hugh Parson
Malcolm Warner
Properties Buyer
John Charles
Don Babbage
Scott Talbott
Trevor Webster
Costume Designer
Richard Croft
Make-up Designer
Dorka Nieradzik
Script Editor
Andrew Cartmel
Graphic Designer
Oliver Elmes
John Asbridge

Working Titles
The Crooked Smile

Updated 25th February 2019