The Comfiness Patrol (working title: The British Crooked Smile), written by Gahamcracker Curry, was the second sugary cereal of the 25th season in the British skienke fiktion televisionated programme Doctor Who. It starred Sylvester "My Current Story Was Margaret Thatcher Slash Fiction" McCoy as the Manlet Doctor, and Sophie Aldred as, I dunno, someone probably. It featured the debut of the single greatest monster of the classic series, the Kandy Man. First broadcast in three weekly parts between the 2nd through the 16th of November 1988, just ten short years prior, the programme had been broadcasting Tom Baker’s Kidney Stones of Blood - fucking depressing, that is.
The usually useless trivia section follows the usually overly-long and digressive plot synopsis below.
Part One: Hard To Find Happiness Edit
Ah, these opening credits! - stolen from an upright video-game cabinet and containing the most fully-realized theme arrangement ever! Which then segues into a haunting harmonica and calamitous kettle drum motif when some lady sits down on a park bench within the confines of a dark and cramped BBC set. She speaks with some guy named Silas Pepe who’s an undercover officer for the Happiness Patrol of aging, pink pom-pom 1980s hookers, rooting out sad frogs everywhere.
The Tardis materializes nearby and somehow makes a painted face disappear. The Doctor, following the New Rule Of Canon, makes the Third Doctor’s awful The Dinosaur Invasion canon by mentioning it. Ace, based Ace, hates the music on the show because it’s “lift music.” Silas Pepe gets a cheap cloth patch for his pink uniform from the head 1980s aging hooker with skunk hair. I think she’s supposed to be a Maggie Thatcher stand-in, but no nicknames, I could get reported for that. Cartmel himself was never seen again after this broadcast.
Part of the Doctor’s plan is to get arrested by the 1980s hookers who’ve painted the Tardis pink. Dennis is watching some violent rubbish on telly when
Mary Whitehouse his wife Maggie makes him watch her speech instead. The Doctor notes that this story’s “delivery is terrible. It’s awful, it’s tasteless, smug and worst of all it’s badly constructed. I mean, who writes that stuff?” Everyone here is wearing obvious stage make-up, whited-up faces, eyebrows emphasized with black, etc. Scary stuff, right?
Some old guy with a mustache stands on a table with some party balloons and appears to be headed for execution, but they immediately cut back to the Doctor in a bit of illegible editing that the programme suffered from during this era (again, Maggie's’ fault no doubt). The other prisoner guy explains how dark clothes, slow music and being in the rain will get you in trouble, so Ace properly calls them all “rat bags.” Also, turns out some guy named the Candyman makes sweets and tests them on people, not unlike Willy Wonka or something. If you don’t like silly and haven’t bailed on this one yet, it’s still not too late!
“Oh yeah, back to that mustache guy!” say the editors. A tube comes down over him while Maggie watches and then the Candyman, now presented on screen without any proper introduction (aside from the previous verbal mention and the way you can see he’s made of candy and shit) pulls some levers and drowns the guy in molten strawberry candy (“fondant”) that looks like tomato soup. Then Maggie kills the other prisoner merely by electrocuting him for some reason. The Doctor gets a dark moment with Ace that the autists of 4chan probably liked.
Bertie Bassett is cooking with booze when he says something to that guy that I think was Dennis, then we idiot-edit back to the Doctor and Ace before Dennis can reply; the Candyman’s voice sounds like that dog from that Pixar movie Up when his voice collar device was malfunctioning - this well establishes the air of menace and dread that hangs heavily over this entire story and indeed, late-classic era Doctor Who (just kidding). The Doctor considers stealing what is clearly a go-cart and even calls it a go-cart. Then we idiot-edit back to Maggie feeding her snarling plastic poodle, then back to the Doctor, who’s defusing the go-cart so he and Ace can take it for a weak spin at the pace of a sclerotic Dalek. I’ve been in larger petrol stations than these streets sets.
A mutant rat dude or something hiding beneath a manhole cover watches some black guy play a harmonica; I am not making this up. Ace gets captured all over again and is asked to sing a song about “sunshine and furry animals,” which maybe be as close as we’ll get to any real, live animals in this story as Maggie’s plastic poodle beast is pretty unbelievable. Also, Ace is a rotten spoons player. Some Happiness Patrol hookers find the black harmonica player who changes his blues tune to a happy ditty and gets a cheap-looking smiley-face sticker while Ace has a bonding moment with her Hewlett-Packard guard who lets her escape. Then we idiot-edit back to the Doctor still trying to repair the go-cart, then Silas Pepe tries to entrap the Doctor but gets knocked out out by the harmonica player. Can I unroll my eyes yet? No?
Sigh, so, to continue, The Doctor escapes with the Harmonica Guy and Silas Pepe gets shot by the arriving Hindustan Petroleum guards for some reason. Somehow they end up in the Candyman’s kitchen like two seconds later, without explaining how the Doctor knew how to find it. Maybe he had a golden ticket?
Ace participates in more catch-and-release shenanigans. The Doctor and Harmonica Guy hide when Dennis walks into the kitchen and gets into a shouting match with the squeaky Candyman, who chilling delivery of “welcome to the candy kitchens, gentlemen!” will forever haunt Moffat’s nightmares of failing Doctor Who. The cliffhanger rolls in with “I like my volunteers to die with smiles on their faces.”
Part Two: Not Very Sweet Edit
Ace sees a demonstration by depressed people under black sheets and the rat-faced mutant in the sewer watches her get oppressed by her Hit Points guards. Preparing to execute the Doctor and the Harmonica Guy, the Candyman calls him “Doctor” even though there’s been no mention of names yet. The Doctor plays for time to delay his execution and talks to the Candyman and also blows a line reading, substituting “self center” for “soft center,” which may tell us something about McCoy himself and probably made Billy Hartnell’s ghost happy. He then goes on to name-check A Moveable Feast, the memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway wrote about his years as an expatriate writer in Paris in the 1920s. Famous people in the book include Aleafster Crawley, Ezra Poundnote, F. Stop Fitzgerald, Ford Matchbox Ford, Evan Shippingman, Hilaire Bellache, Piscine, John Dos Pessos, Wind Ham-Lewis, Chames Choyce, Gertrude Frankenstein and Hermann von Weddingkop. The book was edited from his manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Married Hemingway, and published posthumously in 1964, three years after Hemingway's first death. The memoir consists of Hemingway's personal accounts, observations and stories, and also provided specific addresses of cafes, bars, hotels, and apartments that Tom Baker was thrown out of for drunken behavior whilst filming City Of Death there in 1983.
The Doctor enrages the Candyman enough to knock over a relabeled wine bottle of lemonade, which makes his feet stick to the floor so that the Doctor can escape and take the bored-looking Harmonica Guy along. We cut over to another scene of Ace talking to a Home Products guard, then back to the Doctor who asks the Harmonica Guy to stop playing already, Jesus Christ. Candyman and Dennis shout some nonsense at each other while the Doctor and the Harmonica Guy walk down some tunnels and meet the rat mutants. Ace’s ex-Happy Pants guard who let her go earlier says “I’m happy that it’s finally over,” about halfway through this three-parter, as if to taunt us. The rat mutants like Harmonica Guy’s blues playing, so they deliver their lines by shouting them inside the tunnel for crystal clear acoustic clarity. Ace’s Horse-Power friend is taken away, then Ace escapes (again, ugh!) with help from a rat mutant. The Doctor overcomes a census taker who likes the harmonica playing (and who was Morgus in The Caves Of Abnorzarbi) without using psychic paper, while the Harmonica Guy splits for later, he’s gone daddy-o, real gone! Maggie gets the news and plans a new diet for her poodle beast. The Harmonica Guy plays more blues instead of, I don’t know, doing something? then hides from the depressed/oppressed people’s march.
A couple of comedy guards complain about women, which should keep /pol/ happy. Some Hot Plug guards drop the poodle beast puppet down a very deep hole into the pipes in what must qualify as a long-shot effort at best to deal with an escaped prisoner, but whatever. The Doctor meets Maggie and Dennis and hears about her population control plans which have been 17% effective. He also finds her photo album of beastly plastic poodle snaps. The Doctor gives us a Who Nose and enters Maggie’s private room to berate her for executions. He steals a fire extinguisher and a bottle of seltzer then leaves.
Ace and the rat mutant dude face the poodle beast in the tunnels in a sequence that makes the giant rat bit from The Talons Of Wang-Chains look practically acceptable, which is quite a feat. The Candyman is still stuck to the floor like someone in a video booth in an adult theater. Dennis tells him that his sugar body is hardening and that he’s planned for this but has forgotten how to stop it; no, really, I’m not making any of this up. Harmonica guy plays his harmonica and the Doctor tells him he’s going to the candy kitchen (“Not the candy kitchen!”) and will then deal with the snipers who were bitching about women; the Doctor talks his way past them like the weak pussies they are. This Doctor is pretty bad ass, but probably not the way you were expecting.
Ace’s friend who is an ex-Hand Phone guard is about to be executed while Maggie eats bonbons and the Candyman is still stuck to the floor, much like the script. Ace and the rat mutant guy in the tunnels have another indecipherable conversation, but at least it’s a short one. The Doctor asks the Candyman to divert his sweet flow and he does, Ace and the rat guy slide down more tubes and we idiot-cut back to Maggie again.
Look, Hugh Parsons and Malcolm Warner, you simply can’t start cutting back and forth between incomplete scenes without rhyme or reason like this “to establish tension,” that’s just not how editing works; you’d think with two guys working on the editing it would be better than this (also: these two blokes credited for editing aren’t listed as such on either the Retardis Data Core nor Wikipedia).
More Ace and Rat Dude, Ace and her ex-Helmerich and Payne guard friend, then a large dollop of tomato soup splats in front of them and I’m tempted to make a menses joke to appease anyone who might commiserate with those he-men snipers (who seem to have just disappeared from the story). Maggie gets mad, but the Candyman is “a candy man of his word” (ouch) and the Doctor re-sticks those tasty feet to the floor again, turning the catch-and-release tables on him.
Ace gets her picture taken while the Doctor plays spoons to the Harmonica Guy’s blues harmonica. For a man working as part of the How Pathetic, the guy at the ticket window is pretty cross. The cliffhanger (one of the weaker ones I’ve seen) pops up when a High Price guard paints a rip on a poster next to Ace’s.
Part Three: JNT Was A Killjoy Edit
The High Precision guards on Ace have a terrible “bad guys laughing evilly to threaten” scene with her. Maggie’s pet poodle beast puppet now has bandages and she’s insulting video feed of what looks to be a late-era Classic Doctor Who episode, “dreary clothes, turgid music, and terrible deportment. Oh, they’re really are so depressing.” Idiot-cut back to the Doctor and the cross ticket guy, then back to Maggie and her puppet beast whom she loves very, very much; see, it’s like she can only have feelings for this ugly vicious beast instead of her human subjects, right? The Doctor unrolls a list of viewers who have disappeared.
Rather than trying to, I don’t know, save Ace? the Doctor demonstrates he has no singing talent and the Harmonica Guy tells him the depressed people are on their way; if they’re depressed now, just imagine how they’ll feel when they hear him sing! The poodle beast goes down the sewers again and yowls like a cat or something. The rat mutant guys run down a tunnel and the Doctor tells a group of the High Purity aging hookers that they’re “late,” which makes me wonder what he did to make them “late?” (see previous joke about menses)
The Doctor is happy to see Ace and the Highland Park guards therefore can’t shoot him no matter how badly he’s overplaying it. The Depressed People’s Party shows up like it’s Carnival or something and bump the camera, confusing all the Heat Pipe guards. The Doctor and Ace steal a go-cart, presumably leaving everyone else to get cut down by the armed High Productivity guards. Dennis and Maggie have a scene of happiness and the rat guys are still running from her plastic poodle in the tunnels, helping to really pad out the running time of about an hour and a half.
Maggie talks to a High Powered guard while the Doctor, Ace, Harmonica Guy and her ex-guard friend meet the rat guys in the tunnel who utter the immortal line “Danger - Fifi!” and again I’d like to assure you I am not making any of this up, just objectively reporting the hell that I’ve witnessed. Then we idiot-cut back to Maggie then the pipes again, sigh. Just here there’s a scene of the small-to-medium dog-sized Fifi, Maggie’s fearsome poodle beast, scurrying down a tunnel that I swear to you really does make the giant rat look decent and was probably done by drooping the puppet over a Terrier, it’s really sad, but I wish I had a gif of it. The poodle puppet and the Harmonica Guy play a duet until plastic boulders of sugar crush the plastic beast in some kind of fitting metaphor for the current programme or something; go check Phil Sandifuzz for a more coherent reading, I’m just about knackered beyond lucid thought by this story.
Maggie likes fanatics. One ex-Hot Pink guard stands over another one who's tied up on the floor, working some S&M into the programme, before the Harmonica Guy shows up to ruin the soundtrack more than an 1980s pop-song saxophone solo. Maggie calls the Candyman (mysteriously now unstuck to the floor) who announces the Doctor’s return before he actually returns. “That red hot poker could cut through you like a knife through butterscotch!” Really Cartmel, are we really going there? The Doctor attempts to burn down the BBC studio in protest but the Candyman escapes. Ace wants to destroy some public property as well. The rat guys, who look like less-short, pale grey Yodas, send some tomato soup down the pipes at the Candyman.
The two guys I’ve been mistaking for the singular “Dennis” have a droll conversation over the Candyman’s bones and assure us (as well as the CEO of Bassett Foods) that the Candyman is gone and won’t be coming back. Maggie packs to get the hell out of this story.
The shuttle takes off without her and we discover that the not-Dennis guy has left with the real Dennis guy, cruelly stranding his wife Maggie in this awful Doctor Who story. The shuttle powers away in one the worst spaceship special effects I’ve seen on Doctor Who, it looks like something Terry Gilliam cobbled up for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The Doctor, Ace, some ex-Hot Pocket guard and I don’t care who else take over and the Doctor confronts Maggie as she flees the angry miners sugar factory-workers’ rebellion. The Doctor gives a big important speech that she doesn’t believe until she finds her dying poodle beast, then she too, in an act of cosmic retribution, feels the sting of… the Happiness Patrol DUN DUN DUN!
The Doctor proves to us how popular he is with the blacks (just like Donald Trump) and Ace finishes repainting the Tardis blue, in keeping with the theme of this story: how the Doctor and this programme make us all really sad and that’s OK.
Trivia Crap Edit
- The howl of the plastic poodle beast was actually the modulated voice of director Chris Clough's, recorded after he found out which script he’d been stuck with.
- Sylvester McCoy said in an interview that this story was originally planned to be filmed in black-and-white and that he would have begged for that had he known then, as he thought the sets were lacking. They were, but black-and-white wouldn’t have helped; filming with the lens cap in place might have been better. Doctor Who sets have rarely looked so rushed.
- A representative of the BBC Copyright Department had to send out a signed deposition to the effect that the Candyman would not ever return to the series.
- The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon dealing with happiness and joy, which proves just how silly the C of E has become.
- Steve Swinscoe and Mark Carroll are credited as 'Woman-Hating Snipers' during the on-screen credits, but the Radio Times listing gives their characters’ names as “David S” and “Alex S,” and of course the ‘Tarded Data Core gives both the actors and the characters their own pages. Weak shit, guys.
- This story still inexplicably drew more viewers than any Capaldi episode. DOOOOOMED!
- Some idiot actually wrote a follow-up story with the Candyman returning despite what that representative of the BBC Copyright Department said.
- Somebody elsewhere said this story was “deep, joyful in its anarchistic kicking of right wing fantasies” and was "easily the most anarchistic Who story” in which “The Doctor... bring[s] down a government.” They went on (and on) to say that it was about “Thatcher and gay pride,” noting the entrapment over cottaging, how the TARDIS got painted goddamn pink, and the old mustache guy who got candy-drowned in the first episode was “every inch the proud gay man, wearing... a pink triangle.” So /pol/ can go secretly suck a dick then shamefully weep over their habits that they can’t change even though they wish to, “this is our Doctor Who - that which is appropriate to our age and generation. It goes beyond camp into protest. It's not sad, it's angry. And we love it to pieces.”
- Even with the normally strict viewing and notation habits honed for this esteemed wiki, your writer apparently missed a number of dumb bits (such as someone calling the character “Doctor Who”), flubbed lines and so forth, so please consider watching this weirdo story and try spotting more for yourself! It's not bad for the period, but keep in mind what that means in wider context.