year of HM Queen Elizabeth II, and the people of Great Britain huddle round their
television sets to witness the great event. But behind the celebrations there
are rumours of monsters on the streets, and the tormented Mr Magpie is hiding
a strange and alien secret.
SEVEN REVIEW Pending
Firstly, where's Ernie?
Director of Photography, Ernie Vincze BSC was notably absent for this episode
with his deft touch at rationalising framing, lighting and filter use making
or breaking a scene (and, hence, an episode). And THE IDIOT'S LANTERN more
than most stories warranted his expertise, with understudy, Rory Taylor failing
to compliment Euros "I've been to a European Film Festival" Lyn's film-noir
direction (although he struggled to disguise camera crew reflections and lighting
rigs in shots featuring sunglasses.).
Like Christmas Day, a Mark Gatiss plot and script is something to be eagerly
awaited and relish once unleashed. Always clever and witty, Gatiss produces material
with a heart of darkness that unnerves the innocent viewer in taking the most
innocuous common aspect to life and make it threatening.
Last year, gas, and this year, the telly
(yes, the title is the 1950s slang for the equipment). Television's playing host
to an alien (The Wire) that had been supposedly atomised (read: executed for
unknown crimes on it planet. Why not tie-in this alien's predicament with the
Time War? It could have made sense, with the Doctor wanting to help, etc) but
had fled "across the stars". The Wire
is using 'reverse transmission' to drain human life as they vegetate on the sofa
until a corporeal form solidifies.
A plot that seems feasible and commonsense. Gatiss
skilfully weaves this main plot with a subplot that, as with the majority of
the NEW SERIES,
challenges domestic issues (parental bullying). However, whilst this is worthy
and engaging the unbelievable overacting by Jamie Foreman (Tommy's Dad) dismisses
it. A quieter, subtler approach to this role would have been as equally threatening
as The Wire. Perhaps Euros Lyn is not mature enough director to handle such an
accomplished actor as Foreman.
Forman discounted, the supporting cast was a true delight of talents.
Rory Jennings played Tommy Connolly with
a hidden agenda (as the verbal bullying by his dad was the tip of the iceberg)
and, once a 'big brother' (the Doctor)
took him beneath his wing the oppressed weight was lifted (and, once again, an
example of a human saving humanity - with help from the Doctor). Indeed, at the
end of the episode, you could hear me saying, "Invite him to the TARDIS, Doctor!"
Like a majority of DOCTOR WHO Earth-bound episodes there
is a human crony of the main villain. The tormented Magpie, played by an effortless
Ron Cook, sells out his customers to save his own skin. Literally.
Like Pauline Collins' guest appearance (Queen Victoria), Maureen Lipman provides
a solid, reliable and efficacious performance as The Wire (Thankfully adopting
the persona of a broadcasting presenter and not Andy Pandy's love interest, Looby
Chilling and understated.
Additional cast dressing added to the period magnificently, in particular
Detective Inspector Bishop, who was probably written into the script
for Gatiss' "interrogation comedy sketch" (like a THE TWO RONNIES sketch,
you could see from the start where it would end but the knowing is surpassed
by the result).
For the main cast, THE IDIOT'S LANTERN was
Turn up on set; spout the lines and head back to the Winnebago for a kip. I am
not too sure if that is lax acting or just assured acting. For me, the jury is
I have said that David Tennant is one of the most watchable actors on television
but, at times, with DOCTOR WHO he seems to be struggling. Like
a sixth form school actor, trying too hard to impress his peers or merely struggling
to grasp the enormity of the character. Is he too inexperienced or too young
or too "fan" for DOCTOR WHO ? I may have to re-watch THE
CHRISTMAS INVASION to reassure me that his inadequacies can be put
down to 'nerves' for embarking on the biggest role on British TV.
Billie Piper continues to charm and shine, like a single poppy amid a field
of common daisies.
The skill of set designers, set decorators, costume designers, sound effects
designers, special effects and The Mill have been consolidated in THE
IDIOT'S LANTERN to produce a remarkable window-through-time. From the
tar soaked 'modern' wallpaper of the front parlour, to the Diarmuid Gavin re-invigorated 'lollypop'
style magazine rack, to the seedy interrogation room, and to the street party
dressing - faultless as can be expected from the BBC.
The finale, atop Alexandra Palace transmitter mast, eclipsed the majority
of this series' conclusions. A fantastical and audacious ending even for Gatiss.
Half way through this series, THE IDIOT'S LANTERN continues
the quality of the NEW SERIES, yet it has, like the previous six episodes, did
not set the sofa on fire. The passion and dynamic (even volatile) mix of SERIES
1 has not transferred to SERIES 2, which continues to stroll at a pedestrian
pace (only Russell T Davies' TOOTH AND CLAW is worthy of note).
Additionally, the relentless Torchwood hints are become tedious and ineffective
(even though we are told that the final two episodes will feature the paranormal
If this continues, the series could be 'rested'
after SERIES 3 for a re-think. If nothing else, DOCTOR WHO should 'pause',
reaffirm quality and purpose by lengthening the run-up to SERIES 3 and transferring
to an Autumn 2007 launch.
And, again, where's Ernie?