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Oh my darling Clementine...

June 14th, 2007 (08:39 pm)

...I've eaten six of you this evening, and it's well past supper time.

I don't remember having had a summer cold as bad as this. I feel much better back in Woodstock, but it does mean that I am missing the last DSoc meeting of term. So I can't give a detailed reaction to The Happiness Patrol, as I'd hoped. I can recall a conversation with my English teacher at school when the story first went out. He thought the story was "terrible". Anxious to defend a series which most of my contemporaries regarded by that stage with derision, I pointed out the political allegories and the experimental elements such as the Kandyman. "I know," he replied - and as a Green Party activist I'd assumed that he'd sympathise with the political agenda I'd perceived in the serial - "but it was still terrible." He explained that the elements didn't work together in his eyes to create a coherent argument. I suspect that I'd find that he was right.

I never got round to finishing my review of The Krotons and The War Games. One of the impressions I wanted to share regarding the latter was that, although the War Chief, as one of the Doctor's own people, might seem in theory to be the more powerful, the War Lord is clearly the more effective operator. This is probably not news to a lot of fans, but it's never struck me before how while the War Lord is aloof and mostly cool - making his flashes of anger all the more striking - the War Chief is emotional and perhaps delusional. I suspect that, were he to become supreme galactic ruler (and in this story 'galaxy' seems to be the largest unit the programme can conceive, and it might as well mean 'universe'), he would sit in his war room secure in this knowledge and cheered by occasional acts of subservience from easily cowed corners of the cosmos, while most of his subjects got on without him. The War Lord, on the other hand, represents systematized dictatorship; he can manipulate the paranoia of his underlings to get what he wants. To qualify an argument put forward by Miles and Wood in About Time - Volume Two, it's not so much that the War Lord and his fellows are counterparts to the Time Lords (where the Time Lords control time, the 'War Lords' - a largely forgotten mistake from early Who historiography - control war) but that 'time' and 'war' are the elements by which they exercise lordship over the galaxy/universe, or propose to. The aliens' long-term plan seems to be to replace the Time Lords; the War Chief's secret is that he isn't able to give his colleagues the technology they think he possesses.

Comments

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 15th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
Cold Tea

He explained that the elements didn't work together in his eyes to create a coherent argument. I suspect that I'd find that he was right.

When I first saw The Happiness Patrol, as an analytical teenager, I thought it was great. At that age, and that time (1997, IIRC) it seemed to 'prove' that Doctor Who was worth taking seriously.

More mature viewings have shown it to be a mixed bag. As with many Cartmel stories, the loose, runaround nature of the plot means that it does not stand up well to repeated viewing. It certainly has moments of greatness. It also has moments of laughable failure.

Other Cartmel era stories string different, unrelated elements into a coherent whole a lot better than this (Greatest Show, Ghost Light, Fenric). I'd suggest that the director might be the important factor. Alan Wareing was a lot better at making Cartmel style stories work than most of his peers.

Certainly the anti-Thatcher rhetoric in Patrol doesn't go anywhere beyond (uncomfortable sexist) caricature. The striking workers barely feature, there's no mention of unemployment or privatisation (the factories on Terra Alpha are state-owned, unbelievable if this is supposed to represent late eighties Britain), no attempt to satirise aggressive foreign policy.

in this story 'galaxy' seems to be the largest unit the programme can conceive, and it might as well mean 'universe'

Sixties Who science strikes again...