Mark Gatiss

Doctor Who (2005) s02e07 – The Idiot’s Lantern

I had high hopes for this episode. Higher hopes. Between writer Mark Gatiss, who wrote something last season and I didn’t hate it because I don’t remember his name, and director Euros Lyn, I figured it would be fine.

I just didn’t predict it’d be such a middling fine.

Once again the Doctor (David Tennant) can’t control his space and time ship and he and Rose (Billie Piper) find themselves unexpectedly in fifties London. Why is the time period important? Unclear. It’s set during the Queen’s coronation but it’s just a detail and completely unrelated to the main plot of mind-controlling televisions, which are the precursors to face-sucking-offing televisions. It’s a very unaware “Made in Britain” joke.

Tennant and Piper—shockingly, Noel Clarke does not make an appearance immediately after whining his way off again last episode—team up with teen Rory Jennings to save his gran, Margaret John. They don’t just have to contend with the face-sucking TV maker, a game Ron Cook, they also have to deal with Jennings’s absurdly asshole fifties dad Jamie Foreman. Foreman seems like a bit of a stunt cast, but he’s not any good in the part and no one seems to know how to deal with him being shorter than most of the rest of the cast so when he’s yelling at his family, he’s like yelling up at them.

I mean, not to be anti-short people but they needed the character to be consistent as a shorter bully than a taller bully.

Maureen Lipman plays the presence on the television who’s trying to get all the faces sucked off. It’s unclear why.

At one point, Tennant finds himself in a warehouse of faceless people and it’s immediately familiar because it’s already been an action beat this season.

At one point this episode, Piper—who’s having a crap season as far as character development goes—gets replaced by a red shirt copper, Sam Cox.

I’m not sure if the episode’s a success in Gatiss’s mind or a failure but it’s far more concerning if it’s the latter.

“Who”’s gone from being Tennant holding it up to Tennant the only one surviving in the rubble.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e03 – The Unquiet Dead

So the time and space machine is imprecise? Is that a “Doctor Who” thing? They bumble through the time? Because this episode is supposed to be Billie Piper getting to see nineteenth century Christmas in Naples or someplace but instead they end up in Cardiff (Cardiff gets a lot of deriding this episode); so can Christopher Eccleston just not fly the TARDIS?

Because the viewer already knows they’re not going to Naples because the zombies are in Cardiff. This episode’s about Charles Dickens (a wonderful Simon Callow) getting his proverbial groove back thanks to Eccleston trying to stop a bunch of zombies from doing their thing, as they reincarnate in a funeral parlor run by Alan David and Eve Myles.

There’s a forced twisty plot—writer Mark Gatiss does a low fine job but it’s all about the actors so it doesn’t matter—and nice direction from Euros Lyn. Piper bonds with nineteenth century Myles, who can’t imagine being a lady of the future and whatnot. Myles is great. She can’t help but be overshadowed by Callow, who’s so good as Charles Dickens, Zombie Hunter, they should’ve given him a spin-off.

The problem with the episode’s the finish, when Eccleston and company don’t seem to realize they’re at fault for all the tragedy. Their bad advice. Though it seems much more like Gatiss’s fault.

We get to hear some more about both Piper and Eccleston’s past—she’s got a “big bad wolf” in her personal history (Myles is psychic, which the episode uses well as it builds to a plot point) and Ecclestone’s alien race, The Time Lords, apparently hurt some noncombatants in the Time War, or something.

Piper gets to show some agency but it’s not well-written agency, so it’s a false step.

The first half is much better than the second, though Callow makes it more than worthwhile. Myles is still good, just not good enough—given the material—to hold the thing up. Callow does, however. Overall, it’s fine, if a little pat.

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