Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor)
I remember saying to Graeme [Curry], yeah, yeah, making it an attack on Thatcherism, totally. Then, of course, we’d soft pedal, saying no, no, of course it’s not like that. Then Sheila Hancock, without anybody saying anything to her, totally latched on to it and just played it like Thatcher. So Graeme and Sheila would go to conventions together and someone would ask if Happiness Patrol was an attack on Thatcherism and Graeme would feel obliged to waffle for a bit, knowing he might get me into hot water if he said yes, then Sheila would say ‘Of course it was!’ [Laughs]
So, of course it was. But nobody intended it to be that and nothing more. We didn’t want to produce something that could only function in its period.
The Kandyman was meant to look like a stick of candy rock or something, but the designer did a fantastic job, creating this liquorice allsorts man instead. There was a certain amount of trepidation that this might invite all sorts of litigation, but thankfully it didn’t. It was a wonderful idea but I could understand higher-ups being worried.
The problem with suits like the Kandyman had, it completely masks their features. If you give them very witty lines, like the Kandyman did have, they kind of get lost. The characterisation gets lost. Graeme did a nice, subtle job on the Kandyman. He was a very black, comic character.
The Happiness Patrol had this sinister aspect of taking all these childish things and made them dangerous, the sort of thing that gets used mentioned unfavourably in Parliament.
A comics writer I’ve always admired is Alan Moore and when I first got on the show, I tried to get him on board. I actually spoke to him on the phone but he was too caught up in other stuff. But one thing he said about Doctor Who was that it was scariest when it poked into dark nursery corners. That was harking back to the Hartnell years, but The Happiness Patrol tried to probe those corners too. The Kandyman was a figure of fun yet he was totally homicidal, and he had sweets that can kill you. That sort of thing.
It came about because I’d read a radio play by Graeme called Over the Moon, which was about football, of all things. But I could tell from it that the guy could write. So I got him in and asked for story ideas. It was painful at first, he’d keep coming up with stories but we couldn’t get one to click. He’d just about given up hope of ever doing one. We went all through the same thing with Robin Mukherjee.
Finally Graeme came in one day, slumped in a chair in the office, and said: ‘What about a planet where everybody has to be happy, and if they’re not, they’re executed.’ Bingo! He’d done it! There were torments and rewrites to come, but the story was on.
All the while we were working on it we just called it The Happiness Patrol to have something to call it. Eventually we had to come up with a proper title, so Graeme called it The Crooked Smile but John said. ‘For God’s sake, call it The Happiness Patrol.’
Fans always wanted the show to be dark and punchy, and as soon as they heard about a story was called The Happiness Patrol, they formed preconceptions about it. Another problem was a lot of the costumes and the elements were this kitsch holiday camp thing, presented as sinister, but I think some fans lacked the irony to see beyond the surface, to see it was this horrible concentration camp.