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The Idiots Lantern

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The Idiot's Lantern


On a rainy night in 1953, a freak lightning bolt hitting the antenna of Magpie's Electronics Store leads to a strange phenomenon: the television begins to talk to the owner, Mr Magpie (Ron Cook) in the form of a presenter (Maureen Lipman) who addresses him personally, and has a plan he must help her with...

The Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) have arrived, ostensibly to see Elvis Presley perform but startled that they're back in London instead of New York at the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. They are startled to see two men rush a man, covered by a blanket, into a car and drive away. The Doctor and Rose meet Tommy Connolly (Rory Jennings), a local boy who says that this has been happening all over their street. He's stopped by his father, Eddie (Jamie Foreman), a brutish man who threatens both his son and his wife, Rita (Debra Gillett), because he's 'respected' in this part of town and wants no part of whatever's going on. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to convine the Connolly's that he's a government official, and putting Eddie to work feeding off his patriotism, he quests Rita and Tommy about the disappearances... and about something strange that has affected Grandma (Margaret John), which has completely removed her face from her body.

The Doctor goes investigating and runs into Detective Inspector Bishop (Sam Cox), who has been looking into the strange ailment that has robbed people of their faces. To cover it up in the face of the expected press onslaught as a result of the Coronation, they've been roping up the victims and bringing them to the station. Meanwhile, Rose does her own sleuthing, ending up in Magpie's shop because everything that's happened seems to be linked to people who bought television sets from him. However, the strange creature on the television screen begins to talk to her, and soon, Rose's face has been removed from her body... and she's inside the television, crying out.

The Doctor and Bishop return to the Connolly home, where Tommy defies Eddie when he learns that his father has been turning people in for the "good" of their neighborhood. They make their way to the Magpie shop, where the Doctor discovers the truth about what's happened to Rose, and confronts the evil image on the television screen. It calls itself the Wire, an alien who escaped execution by transforming itself into pure energy, and it has come to Earth to reconstitute itself... but it will need a massive amount of human energy in order to do so, which will be provided by the many television sets the reluctant Magpie has issued. Bishop is robbed of his face by the Wire, but the Doctor and Tommy to attempt to stop Magpie and the Wire from using a portable device to turn the Alexandra Palace broadcast tower into a receiver, which the Wire can use to consume as many souls as it wants.

The Doctor climbs the tower, pursuing Magpie and the Wire. It's too late, however; the Wire starts to consume the people of London, gorging itself on their energies. However, Tommy stops her by following instructions the Doctor gave him, trapping the Wire - now reduced to a single signal - inside a Betamax cassette. The faces of the Wire's victims are returned to them and Rose is restored.

Later, during a block party held in honor of the Coronation, Rita throws Eddie out of the house once and for all, but the Doctor convinces Tommy to go to his father's side out of love for his family.

Grade (on a scale of 10): 8.5

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