7 years ago
Earl plays a C on his harmonica. It starts a sympathetic resonance in the pipes that stretch under and through the regime on Terra Alpha, like the arteries in a body. What flows in these arteries is sugarly gloop, the outpourings of the Kandy Kitchen. It fills the regime with the glucose it needs to survive. And the regime uses it to kill dissidents or refuseniks or men wearing pink triangles, drowning them in sweetness. Earl's note causes the encrusted, crystallised, fossilised sugar coating the insides of the pipes to crack and fall. Tonnes of the stuff falls on top of Fifi, Helen A's savage attack dog and beloved pet. She sent it into the pipes to kill the Doctor and the Pipe People, the surviving aboriginals on her colony.
"Happiness will prevail," says the artificially fruity voice on the colony tannoy system, "Factory guards are joining forces with the drones to destroy the Nevani sugar beet plant here in sector six. We will keep broadcasting."
This is a revolution. The killjoys are marching and demonstrating, and having their own melancholy parties in subversion of the rules. The factories are falling to strikers. Even the aboriginals are getting in on the act. And, as in 'The Sun Makers', you know the revolution is really happening when it even gets on the news.
"It's only one factory, Daisy K," says Helen A, dictator of Terra Alpha and obvious Thatcher analogue, "I've built over a thousand." (Not that much like Thatcher then. She didn't build up manufacturing industry; she calculatedly decimated it.)
"What about the reports of riots?," asks Daisy K, "And public unhappiness?"
Oh for the days when things like the Poll Tax (which, like so many things, now looks like gnat's piss by comparison) used to cause good, healthy, necessary riots.
Helen A wants to use her best, most fanatical enforcer... but it turns out that she's already been detained in her own Waiting Zone (they don't have 'prisons' on Terra Alpha, there being no need for unhappy places in the best of all possible worlds). So instead, Helen A asks Daisy K to...
"Get me the Kandyman."
"You're not unhappy about something?" asks Daisy K, noticing the cracks in Helen A's ideological purity when her own self-interest is threatened... just as Thatcher cried for herself when someone subjected her to the strictures of the marketplace of ideas.
"GET ME THE KANDYMAN!"
The Kandyman answers his telephone.
"Kandyman," he says. (This bit makes me gurgle with pleasure every time. It's so arch.)
He's an evil Bertie Basset. Bassett himself is a PR image, an advert, an avatar of a company, a promotor of consumption, the friendly face of capitalism who cheerily encourages kids to shovel sugary shite into their mouths so his puppetmasters can make a profit. The Kandyman is all this and an accretion of various manifestations of authority. He's the state torturer of a dictator, a killer brand, a manifestation of the confected malnutritious psuedo-delights of consumer capitalism reconfigured as a psychopathic sadist... and he's a tool, a machine, a commodity fetishised into life, alienated labour (he is the product
of the labour of Gilbert M) that confronts his creator as hostile and alien power. And he's a bureaucrat. He might even be Gilbert M's mother, or his 'nagging' wife. (I wouldn't put it past a story like this, which harnesses the Planet-of-Women trope to rather dunderheaded effect, sometimes looking like a reactionary whinge about 'reverse sexism'.)
Helen A tells the Kandyman to get the Doctor - at any price.
"That won't be necessary," simpers the Kandyman viciously, "he's just dropped in."
The Doctor and Ace harry the Kandyman into his own pipes, where he is consumed by his own torrents of monosodium glutamate, flavouring and preservative.
Terra Alpha is a Stalinist 'paradise', i.e. everyone pretending to be deliriously happy... or pretending that they're pretending... and pretending that everyone else is pretending... while surrounded by corruption, decay and authoritarian brutality. As in 'The Macra Terror' and 'The Sun Makers', 'Happiness Patrol' combines open anxiety about capitalism with a doggerel-Orwellian story about totalitarianism. It may be because of the influence of Kneale/Cartier's TV version of Nineteen Eighty-Four
, and the appeal of the Orwellian aesthetics, that this mode got embedded in the show. But the anxiety about capitalism is already built-in to Orwell's satire. He knew that 'really existing socialism' (i.e. Stalinism) was a kind of state capitalism (though his grasp of this was intermittent, and instinctive rather than theoretical). But he knew that Big Brother's Oceania was just a shabbier, nastier, more intense version of capitalist, imperialist, class-ridden Britain.
This same elision allows Doctor Who
to notice the fundamental synergy and compatibility of Stalinism and 'market Stalinism', of authoritarianism and neoliberalism. Helen A likes Silas P's "enterprise and initiative" as a murderer of dissidents. He's aiming for the top in this meritocracy. All he has to do is stamp on people on every rung of the ladder. Thatcher admires 'law and order' while sponsoring covert warfare and police attacks against striking miners. And don't forget about the "moaning minnies", the whingeing lefties always complaining. The "enemy within". Killjoys, in other words.
That's why the smiley face of 80s Acidhouse was such subversion when it started: it was libertarian Thatcherism taken at its smiling face value.
Share on Facebook