Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol

The Doctor Who episode “The Happiness Patrol” provides a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek exploration of the nature of happiness and of society, at times functioning as a parable, at other times engaging in wicked satire – as when the dictatorial ruler of the colony, Helen A, herself responsible for requiring happiness of the population, speaks of the importance of carrying on and maintaining a stiff upper lip, only to break down and weep at the death of her dog-like pet Fifi. A parody of a well-known British stereotype that some do indeed seek to embody, while others around the nation have borne little or no resemblance to it – just as in the episode.

In the course of the episode, the TARDIS gets painted a more cheerful color, and death by candy is avoided more than once.

But while some elements might seem silly, once one recognizes that one is dealing with satire and spoof, poking fun rather than creating a realistic world, then one can see that at times the episode gets quite profound.

In the end, the Doctor argues that happiness can only be appreciated in contrast with sadness, and he suggests that Helen A is running from herself.

This episode is the second one in which the Doctor mentions his nickname in college, Theta Sigma.

Happiness will prevail!

  • Andrew Crome

    Weird, I was just thinking about “The Happiness Patrol”  today! It actually made news about two years ago when the production team revealed that the episode had been a satire of Thatcherism (although it’s unlikely that this was news to anybody who’d watched it ), produced as part of an agenda designed to “bring down the government”. More randomly, it also turned up in a Rowan Williams sermon last year (http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2011/04/doctor_who_thing_of_the_day_th_6.html).

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Andrew, we both think about Doctor Who so often that it isn’t too surprising that sometimes we’ll both be thinking about the same episode! :-)

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Happiness is living with appreciation about what one has in the present. Happiness is not a pursuit, unless one is unhappy about something in the present, then there can be an honest evaluation of what one wants to change to bring about a better environment for oneself/others. Happiness in this sense is a choice about life and its situatedness. I may not have everything I’d ever dreamed of, but, what I do have I am grateful for.

    I have not watched these programs, but I hope that what I’ve shared has value as it does represent real life apart from science fiction or biblical “truth”…..


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