Chapter 146. Doctor Who – The Happiness Patrol (1990)

Synopsis: Helen A presides over the colony of Terra Alpha to ensure her citizens are happy. She even has a squad of enforcers to guarantee that everyone complies and her factories create sugary treats created by her chief scientist, the mysterious Kandyman. Yet some people – killjoys – will insist on being miserable! Helen A has very clear policies for such behaviour. The killjoys must not spoil things for the majority. Happiness will prevail.

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Fifteen.

Background: Graeme Curry adapts earlier drafts of the scripts from his own 1988 serial.

Notes: The killjoy at the start of the story has lost her husband and son to the ‘disappearances’; she responds to Silas P’s approaches after he gives her hope of joining the resistance. It’s the Doctor who suggests a triceratops in his discussion about dinosaurs – Ace can’t remember their names. Conversely, the Doctor doesn’t appear to know what ‘lift music’ is. They discover the Kandy Kitchen, attracted by sweet smells in the air, and briefly explore. Ace went to a pantomime with her parents when she was a child and had been disappointed when she saw backstage to see the artifice that Terra Alpha now reminds her of.

The Happiness Patrol use jeeps to travel through the city and they are each equipped with ‘fun guns’ and bomb detectors. Helen A is the governor of Terra Alpha. Once a year, on Liberation Day, she addresses the population from Forum Square, where she’ll ‘inspect the Happiness troops and lead the singing of the patriotic song’. Trevor Sigma met Gilbert M on a previous visit to the planet, where he failed to interview ‘a certain person’: The Kandy Man differs significantly from his appearance on telly:

He was tall and powerfully built, dressed in a white lab coat and white trousers. He wore red-framed spectacles and a red bow-tie. Several red and white striped pens protruded from the pocket of his coat. His skin was pale and was covered with a soft white powder. As he moved towards them there was a soft, sucking sound as his feet touched the floor.

Later, we’re told that his teeth are black. 

Harold V’s brother, Andrew X, is the man we see on TV being executed. He’s a political writer who managed to get his work published under a pseudonym on nearby Terra Omega, where his nomme-de-plume became something of a celebrity. Terras Alpha and Omega had only ceased their long and bloody war relatively recently and an Alphan agent on Omega eventually uncovered Andrew X’s identity. He was imprisoned for six months prior to his execution, which is officiated by Joseph C while wearing a rainbow-coloured cap. A glowing skull on a shelf in the Kandy Kitchen signals to the Kandy Man to begin the execution. While chopping strawberries, the Kandy Man cuts off his own thumb, which he has to put back on himself. Helen A’s pet, Fifi, is a Stigorax, a species native to Terra Alpha that has been hunted to extinction; Fifi is the last survivor. Helen A captured the vicious creature on ‘the foothills of the mountains of Claffam’ and the pair ‘liked each other instantly’. The Doctor recognises the species and is surprised by the relationship between Helen A and her savage pet.

Susan Q tells Ace that she used to have a collection of old records, but now only one survives, ‘Lucille’ by Big Joe Turner (which does indeed contain the lyrics ‘I woke up this morning’). When this disc was discovered, she was demoted. Young girls are press-ganged from remote areas of the planet into auditioning for the Happiness Patrol. Susan Q had been a singer and dancer before she was press-ganged and had scored the highest ever marks in her audition. It’s now one of her duties to coach audition hopefuls. The noise made by the Kandy Man’s feet sticking to the kitchen floor reminds the Doctor of a visit to Peru where he heard the sound of leeches being removed from human skin. After being captured by Daisy K, Ace is presented to Helen A, where she encounters Fifi and discovers that Susan Q has been arrested. 

Sugar beets grow naturally on Terra Alpha, which makes it a valuable resource for exporting as none of the other colony planets have natural sugar. Generations ago, huge processing factories were built, with a labour force consisting of dissidents, who became known as drones. As the drones became more politically aware, one of their leaders began to speak out against conditions, a charismatic poet called Edward Z; when he ‘disappeared’, the drones began to organise protest marches that slowly came closer to the main city. The indigenous Terra Alphans are the Alpidae; Wences is an Alpida who, like Wulfric and the rest of their people, was forced underground to live off the sugar deposits in their pipes (hence why Helen A calls them ‘pipe people’). The Doctor apparently taught ‘a youthful Houdini’ how to escape from being tied up.

There are only two small groups of males in the Happiness Patrol, one team who are unarmed and physically strong, another consisting of snipers – two of whom are David S and Alex S. The snipers do not get along with each other and are fighting when the Doctor arrives. The Doorman at the Forum is called Ernest P. Susan Q and Ace both appear together on the poster outside the Forum. Priscilla P knows one joke, involving the word ‘polygon’ and the phrase ‘a dead parrot’ – she mangles the delivery deliberately to entrap Forum attendees into becoming drones in a remote sugar refinery. Helen A watches an old Earth sitcom involving a middle-aged woman, a man with no trousers and a vicar. Susan Q urges Ace to ‘look cute’ for their act at the Forum, but en route and under Happiness Patrol guard, they come under fire by a drone who’s taken control of the sniper’s discarded gun; Daisy K shouts directions to ‘Lucy O’ and ‘Jane M’ to provide covering fire. 

Seeing the peeling and cracked paintwork on the Forum, the Doctor is reminded of Venice at the end of the 20th century, ‘before it slid slowly into the sea’. Gilbert M leads the patrol that intercepts Daisy K’s miserable squad, who declares ‘Weltschmerz!’ – clearly happy to witness Daisy K’s misery. Back on his home planet Vasilip, Gilbert M had enjoyed a ‘friendly rivalry’ with another scientist, Seivad. When the pair were sentenced to death, they fled their home but were traced down by a vigilante who left Seivad for dead. Seeking refuge on Terra Alpha, Gilbert M’s true identity had been uncovered by Helen A, who forced him to build her a ‘monster’. He used the only resources available, which was how the mind of his old friend Seivad ended up encased in the sickly body of the Kandy Man, ‘his mind twisted with anger and injustice’. In the morning light, Helen A’s regime at an end, Ace suggests they pursue Gilbert M and Joseph C, but Susan tells her it’s not worth it as the Kandy Man had been the real danger. 

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover positions a stern Doctor at the top of a textured triangle (possibly a letter ‘A’), with Fifi underneath. The texture of the triangle is the same as the Kandy Man’s face on TV. Very clever.

Final Analysis: Sylvester McCoy has often said that he’d wished The Happiness Patrol had been made as a film noir and coincidentally, that’s how I saw it on transmission, consigned to a portable black-and-white TV. In the novelisation, without the distraction of the slightly too artificial sets and gaudy costumes on telly, Graeme Curry successfully builds a believable world, where decisions made generations in the past have led to the present situation. The flawed logic of Helen A’s obsessions seem much more credible, where the paranoia in the aftermath of war has turned already restrictive politics into a terrifyingly oppressive regime that’s ripe for toppling. Curry doesn’t dwell on describing our central heroes, assuming the reader already knows who Ace and this Doctor are, but it’s the focus on smaller details, like this depiction of Helen A’s palace, that help to create a sense of the scale of an entire civilisation on the brink of collapse:

In common with most Alphan buildings, from the outside it looked as if it had seen better days. The Doctor could see that once it would have been most imposing, as it was a large building set back from the street. But now the garden wall was crumbling and the whole edifice needed a coat of paint. A couple of the attic windows were broken. 

All of the enforcers of this corrupt regime are shown to be grumpy, frustrated and angry – a far cry / smile from the mandatory happiness they try to inflict on the general populace. 

I do have to wonder why The Kandy Man is so radically different to his TV counterpart; is it just a case of the author reinstating his original scripted intentions or if he were dodging the issues about the similarity of the TV version with the mascot of a disgruntled confectioner. Alister Pearson’s pencil sketch for the cover had originally included a portrait of the Kandy Man but the finished artwork represents him merely as a bubbled background detail, so clearly someone was mindful of Bassetts’ complaints. Even so, Ace calls him a ‘pimplehead’, an insult that doesn’t match the book version of the Kandy Man.

Chapter 144. Doctor Who – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1989)

Synopsis: The Psychic Circus has travelled the universe and amassed many fans over the years. Now, it has settled on the planet Segonax, where it has fallen on hard times while under the influence of a malign power. As visitors compete for the approval of the audience, the Doctor has to overcome a major obstacle – Ace’s deep hatred of clowns…

Chapter Titles

  • Overture
  • 1. Beginners
  • 2. Welcome to Segonax
  • 3. Captain Cook
  • 4. The Hippy Bus
  • 5. The Psychic Circus
  • 6. Nord’s Finest Hour
  • 7. The Well
  • 8. The End of Bellboy’s Dream
  • 9. That Old Devil Moon
  • 10. Kingpin
  • 11. The Gods of Ragnarok
  • 12. Positively Last Performance
  • Coda

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial. This followed Silver Nemesis on TV, so this was the last time that a pair of stories was released consecutively.

Notes: The approach of the advertising satellite is written in the present tense. Ace is hunting for a new batch of nitro-9 that she recently concocted but is now missing from her rucksack. The Doctor monitors the approaching satellite on the ‘observation screen’ and tells Ace that the TARDIS has a few levels of defence – all of which the satellite bypasses. The satellite lands in the Control Room (hurrah – Wyatt uses the proper name!) and sprouts eight legs to position itself nearer the console. The view of Segonax projected onto the screen shows the circus tent in the middle of a ‘beautiful, lush, green meadow’. The Doctor believes that the founders of the Psychic Circus originally came from Earth. 

‘Nord the Vandal of the Roads’ is a thick-set man, with ‘big muscles, large tattoos, masses of black leather clothing, a brutal unshaven face and a fearsome Viking-style crash-helmet’. When we first meet Captain Cook, he’s delivering a lecture to Mags about the planets Treops and Neogorgon; the latter was where he encountered ‘a whole valley full of electronic dogs’ heads submerged in mud’, which he assumes was a ‘primitive burglar alarm system’. The buried robot begs to be released in a sweet voice, until Ace and Mags get close, when it turns nasty, shouting threats, gnashing its teeth and firing lasers in all directions. Captain Cook, with Mags in tow, drives off and briefly abandons the Doctor and Ace, until they are reunited at the site of the abandoned bus. The bus reminds Ace of when she was a child, when her Aunt Rosemary used to tell her about the Beatles and the Swinging Sixties. 

Nord is given a strongman costume to wear for his act. Whizzkid asks for autographs from the Chief Clown, Morgana and the Ringmaster – which is what propels them into submitting him as a contestant.

By the time Ace first sees Bellboy, his hair is almost white and she suspects he might have received an electric shock. Ace is said to be unable to cope with ‘deep emotion in other people’ and Bellboy’s trauma over Flowerchild makes her feel uncomfortable. She’s ‘never been so close to such naked grief before’. She briefly considers stealing Nord’s bike to help her escape from the circus, but realises it’s useless as Nord didn’t fix the valve properly.

There is a small team of ‘makeup clowns’ who prepare each contestant for the stage – though they allow the Doctor, Mags and the Captain to enter the ring without making them change their costumes. The robot clowns seal Morgana and the Ringmaster into boxes and then when they’re opened, they contain smaller boxes, which contain even smaller boxes until the final two boxes are opened and revealed to be empty. The chief caretaker’s hearse crashes into the Stallholder’s cart, which gets entangled in the limousine’s wheels (on TV, it merely comes to an abrupt halt as she blocks the way). The Doctor has apparently ‘always enjoyed juggling’. His act for the Gods of Ragnarok includes fire eating and a bed of nails. The stallholder claims to have seen the final end of the Psychic Circus, as did everyone else on Segonax as a huge wind scattered leaflets for the circus for miles around.

Cover: Alister Pearson paints a smiling Doctor in the blue sky above the Circus marquee as the three Gods of Ragnarok sit in judgement.

Final Analysis: Stephen Wyatt approaches the TV scripts methodically, delivering a straightforward adaptation with a few minor changes to scene order. The value he brings to the text is a deeper insight into the regular characters: it’s quite a brave thing to show Ace as emotionally under-developed, unable to react appropriately to Bellboy’s grief ; and we get a greater sense of the Doctor’s frustration at being tricked twice because he’s focusing all his attention on the mystery that’s at the heart of the Psychic Circus. The highlight of the TV episodes was the transformation of Mags into a feral beast and it’s beautifully realised here:

The moonlight was working its awful transformation. The hands had grown longer and hairier. The nails had turned to claws. The eyes were becoming blood-shot and savage, the face darker and more bestial, the hair like fur. And, worst of all, the mouth. Mags was slavering now. Huge teeth sprouted in her gums. Her tongue lolled hungrily. Then she snarled, baring her terrible fangs. This was no longer Mags: this was a werewolf. And if the Captain had his way, the werewolf would kill the Doctor.

It’s also interesting that, while she’s under the effects of the moonlight, Mags is described as ‘the werewolf’ except where the Doctor tries to connect with Mags to calm her atavism. A solid story well told.

Chapter 143. Doctor Who – Silver Nemesis (1989)

Synopsis: Three different groups await the arrival of a meteor as it passes the Earth for the first time in 25 years: A 17th-Century witch and her servant; an army of fanatics led by an elderly war criminal; and a unit of tall, silver, cybernetic men. The Doctor has also expected the meteor’s arrival, for it contains a terrible weapon – the Nemesis. The Doctor must influence events to make sure the Nemesis falls into the right hands – but even with an Ace up his sleeve, can he defeat a player who has decided to change the rules of the game?

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eleven.

Background: Kevin Clarke adapts his own scripts from the 1988 serial.

Notes: Kevin Clarke dedicated the book to ‘DHF Somerset’, the then-chief cashier of the Bank of England, whose signature appeared on bank notes at the time. The first chapter opens with a very cheeky line:

The closer one travels towards it from the cold silent darkness of infinite space, the more the planet Earth appears as a backcloth to some small theatrical performance taking place on a limited budget. 

[See The Ambassadors of Death for more on the ‘darkness of infinite space’]. The scene at the jazz gig takes place in late summer. The musician whose gig the Doctor and Ace attend is, in the Doctor’s opinion, ‘the most exciting musical discovery since John Coltrane’ (and on screen was played by Courtney Pine). The Doctor claims to have met and influenced Louis Armstrong. The Cybermen’s henchmen are ‘twins’. By 1988, Lady Peinforte’s house has been converted into the Princess of Wales Burger Bar. The Doctor and Ace travel by TARDIS from an afternoon in late summer to the early hours of 23 November the same year, at the same point that Lady Peinforte and Richard arrive and the Nemesis statue lands. The meteorite lands inside a building site. The Cyberman’s ship is ‘disc-shaped’.

The previous time the Doctor was with the Nemesis, he was under attack by Lady Peinforte and ‘agents of the Inquisition’ (on TV he says it was the Roundheads). Peinforte doesn’t initially recognise the Doctor but quickly deduces that his face has changed – ‘The wench’s too’ (so the original Doctor had a female companion). One of the police officers who was knocked out by the nerve gas survives the attack and witnesses the Cybermen, their two controlled thugs and the statue disappear (they walk up into the space ship, which is camouflaged).

One of the skinheads wields a ‘ninja fighting stick’, which ends up being used to tie his feet to suspend him from a tree branch. The American tourist who offers Lady Peinforte a lift is called Lavinia P Hackensack of Connecticut, not Mrs. Remington of Virginia. Ace’s battle with the Cybermen takes place back at the building site where the Nemesis meteorite landed; she spends some time keeping the Cybermen distracted while the Doctor does his calculations using an abacus. The Doctor tells the Cyber Leader that he cannot hand the Nemesis statue over to him and when the Leader becomes riled, the Doctor mocks him for showing emotions and being ‘defective’. The final scene takes place in a pub garden in 1988, not Richard’s time; Ace has taught Richard how to get served at the bar and he returns laden with drinks.

Cover: The back cover text on the first edition stated: ‘This story celebrates 25 years of Doctor Who on television’. Alister Pearson painted the original and reprint versions of the cover, both of which feature a subtle swastika in the design (Pearson claimed in an interview for DWB that he started work on the original cover on Hitler’s birthday, but the interview was full of exaggerations and apocryphal tales largely for Pearson’s own amusement so this might not be true). The first cover shows the Doctor with a smirk on his face, the Cyberleader, Ace and the Nemesis encased in rock. For the 1993 reprint, Ace is in attack mode with her catapult (really impressive, this pose) on the opposite side to the Cyberleader, while a more sombre Doctor holds up his question-mark umbrella in front of Lady Peinforte’s tomb.

Final Analysis: We often find that authors who have just the one entry in the Doctor Who library tend to throw everything they have at their text. In places, Kevin Clarke gets a little purple with his prose (as the excerpt from the opening chapter above shows). It’s a shame then to reach the climax and have to reread the paragraph where Lady Peinforte joins with the Nemesis statue, as it feels like a summary of what happens on screen without any real explanation as to why it’s happening.

There was a blinding flash of radiant light as Lady Peinforte and the statue shimmered and then coalesced. The rockets fired and the statue of Nemesis was launched once again to return into space.

Seriously – what?

We realised with the TV version that the mystery surrounding the Doctor wouldn’t be answered and it was largely just one huge tease, but here it’s almost glossed over as Clarke rushes to get to the final page. There’s no additional insight into what any of the interested parties want to do with the Nemesis and as a consequence the story merely fizzles out. In some aspects, it’s a very traditional novelisation, transposing the script to prose, but without any of the additional nuances we might have gained from Terrance Dicks or any other author.