London, 1953: the day before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II sees a record increase in television ownership, but there are strange things happening in houses with new televisions, and people are disappearing…

Cast and Crew

David Tennant as the Doctor
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
Maureen Lipman as the Wire
Ron Cook as Magpie
Jamie Foreman as Eddie Connolly
Debra Gillett as Rita Connolly
Rory Jennings as Tommy Connolly
Margaret John as Grandma Connolly
Sam Cox as Detective Inspector Bishop
Ieuan Rhys as Crabtree
Jean Challis as Aunty Betty
Christopher Driscoll as Security Guard
Marie Lewis as Mrs Gallagher

Written by Mark Gatiss

Directed by Euros Lyn

Originally aired on the 27th of May 2006 on BBC One in the United Kingdom.

Synopsis

London, 1953: the day before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II sees a record increase in television ownership, but there are strange things happening in houses with new televisions, and people are disappearing…

High Points

  • Rose’s comments on the Union flag.
  • Pretty much everything Maureen Lipman said.
  • The Doctor turning the tables on DI Bishop.

Low Points

  • Despite her being a high point, there were just a couple of points where Maureen Lipman overacted a tad.
  • On occasion, Eddie descended a bit too far into stereotype.

The Scores

Sucking the life out of people through their televisions… didn’t we see that in Batman Forever? This is significantly better-handled than that though, and has a nice fresh shine on it. Four out of six for originality.

The effects were a problem, as there was the difficult task of showing people without faces. It seems they went for the postprocessing option, which at times looked excellent and at times looked like someone had sat on the smudge tool in Photoshop. The same for the life-sucking effect as well. The red lightning was rather nice though. Three out of six.

A very nice story. It’s good to see that the TARDIS isn’t entirely accurate still, despite the occasional precise landing we’ve seen recently. The enemy’s motivation becomes clear and understandable, and there’s a nice simple line between good and evil. We don’t always want this of course, but it’s very suitable this week. Seeing Mark Gatiss on the credits at the start gave me high hopes, as from last series we know he’s a good writer. He did not disappoint. Five out of six.

I was wondering if I should criticise Jamie Foreman’s acting, but I think that was just excessively stereotypical characterisation, and he did what he was asked to do very well. Maureen Lipman cannot really be faulted; again it looks more like she’s doing what she was asked to do and doing it perfectly. Six out of six.

There’s not a huge amount of emotional response here. The evil television thing is a little scary, but too overblown to really feel like it could happen. I found myself getting more involved in the situation of the Connolly family — which, come to think of it, may well have been the intention. Four out of six.

Period production is difficult, but they did pretty well. Alexandra Palace looked as it might have done during its heyday, and I didn’t notice any modern buildings creeping into any background shots, although some of the masonry paint in the Connellys’ street looked a bit too modern. The music is classic Doct Who stuff, and deliciously inappropriate at points. Four out of six.

Overall, a very enjoyable yarn, but I can’t help thinking that it could’ve benefited from a bit more length. Five out of six.

The Idiot’s Lantern (a good title, actually) receives a grand total of thirty-one out of forty-two.