Doctor Who

Season 2 Episode 7

The Idiot's Lantern

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM May 27, 2006 on BBC America
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Episode Summary

Location: London, England, Earth Date: 1953 - Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Enemy: The Wire

It's 1953, the Coronation 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...moreless

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (14)

    • In real life, it was raining heavily on the day shown in the episode, washing out the street-parties. In this episode the streets are bone dry.

    • The street party scene and the images of the captured humans on the TV screens all show an excessively high number of Indian extras, far more than were living in Muswell Hill at the time.

    • The Magpie television sets last all the way to the 21st century. We see them being used again in the Doctor Who spin off, Torchwood, and it is also revealed the Martha Jones owns a Magpie television set in The Sound of Drums.

    • The BBC 'Bat's Wings ident' is seen on the television sets in this episode, but that particular ident did not see use until the 2nd December 1953, six months after this episode is set.

    • The Doctor's scooter is a 1956 Vespa.

    • During the showdown at the transmitter tower, Tommy replaces the burnt out vacuum tube on the device and clearly plugs it completely in. In the next shot, the plug is not completely in and Tommy's hand is seen plugging it in again.

    • Crew or equipment visible:
      Reflected in the Doctor's and Rose's sunglasses whilst they are riding on the scooter shortly after the opening credits.

    • When the art department tried to hire some 1950s TVs, the firm they tried had just thrown all of theirs out, but they were still in the skip. Modern portable TVs were put inside the ancient castings.

    • Torchwood Reference:-
      When the Doctor first sees Rose without her face, Bishop is muttering in the background and the word Torchwood can distinctly be heard.

    • In this episode, Rose shows knowledge of the name of the British flag, but in The Empty Child of series one, she called the flag on her t-shirt the Union Jack. It is common practice in the UK to call it the Union Jack even if you know it should be called the Union Flag, usually reserving the mentioning of the correct name to either impress someone or bring someone down a peg or two, as she did in this episode.

    • When the Doctor first gets on his scooter, we see Rose putting her helmet on before she gets on, but she doesn't do her chin strip up, but when we see her on the bike, her strap is done up.

    • Margaret John starred in the TARDISODE for this episode. In the TARDISODE, it showed The Wire stealing Grandma Connolly's face.

    • This is the first time in this season that the enemy introduces itself and not the Doctor that usually introduces the enemy.

    • When the Doctor sees Rose's face in the TV, Rose is saying "Doctor" over and over again.

  • QUOTES (18)

    • The Doctor: (after recording the Wire) I think I just invented the home video, thirty years early. Betamax.

    • Policeman: Wait, where do you think you're...
      (the Doctor flashes the psychic paper at him)
      Policeman: Oh, very sorry, sir. Shouldn't you be at the coronation?
      The Doctor: They're saving me a seat.
      Tommy: Who did he think you were?
      The Doctor: The King of Belgium, apparently.

    • Detective Inspector Bishop: Start from the beginning, tell me everything you know.
      The Doctor: Well, for starters, I know you can't wrap your hand around your elbows and make your fingers meet.

    • Rose: That thing, is it trapped for good on the video?
      The Doctor: I'd say. Just to be on the safe side, though, I'll use my unrivaled knowledge of transtemporalextopation methods to neutralise the residual electronic pattern.
      Rose: You what?
      The Doctor: I'm gonna tape over it.
      Rose: Just leave it to me. I'm always doing that.

    • (The Wire tries to electrocute the Doctor)
      The Doctor: Rubber soles! Swear by 'em!

    • Tommy: We don't even know where to start looking! It's too late.
      The Doctor: "It's never too late", as a wise person once said... Kylie, I think...

    • The Wire: Now, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we'll begin.

    • Eddie: I am TALKING!
      The Doctor: (The Doctor stands up and matches him) And I'm NOT LISTENING!

    • Mr. Magpie: You promised me peace!
      The Wire: And peace you shall have.
      (a massive electrical bolt comes from the transmitter, vaporising Magpie)

    • Mr. Magpie: I finished it. As you instructed.
      (He places the box on top of a TV set; The Wire appears on the screen)
      The Wire: That's awfully good of you, Mr. Magpie.
      Mr. Magpie: Say you'll go soon. Leave me.
      The Wire: We'll see. If you're a very good boy.
      Mr. Magpie: Please. You're burning me. Inside. Behind my eyes. It hurts. Even my memories hurt. I just want things back like they used to be.
      The Wire: But this world of yours is busy, busy, busy. Forging ahead into a brand new age. You can never go back. That's your tragedy. But now… the time is almost ripe, Magpie. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. (laughs) Or lady.

    • Eddie: (to Tommy) Listen, you little twerp. You're hardly out of the bloomin' cradle so I don't expect you to understand. But I've got a position to maintain. People round here respect me. It matters what people think!
      Tommy: Is that why you did it, Dad?
      Eddie: What do you mean? Did what?
      Tommy: You ratted on Gran. How else would the police know where to look? Unless some coward told them.
      Eddie: How dare you! You think I fought a war just so a mouthy little scum like you could call me a coward?
      Tommy: You don't get it, do you? You fought against fascism, remember? People telling you how to live. Who you could be friends with. Who you could fall in love with. Who could live and who had to die. Don't you get it? You were fighting so that little twerps like me could do what we want, say what we want. Now you've become just like them. You've been informing on everyone, haven't you? Even Gran. All to protect your precious reputation.

    • Eddie: (about Tommy) Proper little mummy's boy all round.
      Aunty Betty: Ooh, you know what they say about them. Eddie, you want to beat that out of him.
      Eddie: That's exactly what I'm going to do.

    • (At Magpie's shop, Rose discovers The Wire)
      Rose: What are you?
      The Wire: I'm the Wire and I'm… hungry!
      (Electrical tentacles come from the screen and starts to remove Rose's face)
      Rose: Magpie, help me!
      Mr. Magpie: Just think of that audience tomorrow, my dear. All settling down to watch the Coronation. Twenty million people. Things will never be the same again. I'm sorry. So sorry.
      Rose: Help me!
      The Wire: Goodnight children, everywhere.

    • The Doctor: I'm not convinced you're doing your patriotic duty. Those flags. Why are they not flying?
      Eddie: There we are, Rita. I told you. Get them up. Queen and Country.
      Rita: I'm sorry-
      Eddie: Get it done. Do it now.
      The Doctor: Hold on a minute.
      Eddie: Like the gentleman said.
      The Doctor: Hold on a minute. You've got hands, Mr. Connolly. Two big hands. Why is it your wife's job?
      Eddie: It's housework, innit?
      The Doctor: And that's a woman's job?
      Eddie: Of course it is.
      The Doctor: Mr. Connolly, what gender is the Queen?
      Eddie: She's a female.
      The Doctor: Are you suggesting the Queen does the housework?
      Eddie: No. Not at all.
      The Doctor: Then get busy. (hands him the flags)

    • The Doctor: Men in black? Vanishing police cars? This is Churchill's England, not Stalin's Russia!

    • The Doctor: The thing is, Detective Inspector Bishop...
      Detective Inspector Bishop: How do you know my name?
      The Doctor: It's written inside your collar.

    • Rose: And as for you, Mr Connolly, only an idiot hangs the Union flag upside down. Shame on you!

    • (Bishop is talking to another detective, and the Doctor interupts)
      The Doctor: They did what?
      Detective Inspector Bishop: I'm sorry?
      The Doctor: They left her where?
      Detective Inspector Bishop: Just, in the street.
      The Doctor: In the street. They left her in the street. They took her face and just chucked her out and left her in the street. And as a result, that makes things simple. Very, very simple. You know why?
      Detective Inspector Bishop: No.
      The Doctor: Because now, Detective Inspector Bishop, there is no power on this Earth that can stop me. Come on.

  • NOTES (9)

    • International Airdates:
      Turkey: August 22, 2010 on CNBC-e

    • Working titles for this episode were Mr Sandman, Sonic Doom and The One-Eyed Monster.

    • The street on which the Connollys live is Florizel Street, this had been the working title of the long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street an in-joke given the events of the episode.

    • Whilst it is sunny in London at the end of this episode it was raining on June 2nd, 1953, the day of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation.

    • Maureen Lipman's scenes were filmed at Alexandra Palace. She never got to meet the rest of the cast. She wore original TV make up that would have been used on black and white shows.

    • The wallpapers on the walls are real 1950s designs. Some of them cost £100 a roll.

    • The final viewing figure for the BBC One airing of this episode was 6.76 million.

    • During the scene in which the Doctor is climbing the transmitter, there is a shot in which he is viewed from above and struck by lightning. In the shot, The Doctor's foot disappears briefly as it leaves the green screen on the ground under the actors.

    • "The Idiot's Lantern" was a nickname for the television set when it first became popular.


    • The Wire: Ooh, this one's smart as paint.

      This phrase appears a couple of times in R L Stevenson's book, Treasure Island the first time as: "Now, Hawkins, you do me justice with the cap'n. You're a lad, you are, but you're as smart as paint. I see that when you first come in."
      It was only one of many versions that have been invented from the 1850s onwards, that draw on some special quality of paint, smart as paint punningly combines two senses of smart — the idea of new paint being bright and fresh in appearance and that of a person who is quick-witted and intelligent.

    • The Doctor: Men in black? Vanishing police cars? This is Churchill's England, not Stalin's Russia!

      The Men In Black - or MIB as they are sometimes called - are a group that supposedly show up to harass or intimidate witnesses of unusual phenomena the government does not want the public to know about.

    • The Wire: So tune in again next week for more from the 'What's My Line' team.

      What's My Line? was a weekly panel game show originally produced for CBS television in 1950. A British version ran from 1951 to 1963 on BBC Television. The object of the game was for the panel of celebrities to guess the occupation of the contestant via a series of yes/no questions.

    • The Doctor: Nah, that's just pomp and circumstance. This is history right here.

      The Pomp and Circumstance Marches, are a series of five Marches for orchestra composed by Edward Elgar. The title is taken from Act III of Shakespeare's Othello:

      "Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
      The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
      The royal banner, and all quality,
      Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!"

      The most well known is the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, which had its premiere in London in October 1901. In 1902 the tune was recycled, in adapted form, for the Land of Hope and Glory section of Elgar's Coronation Ode for King Edward VII.

    • Muffin the Mule

      The Connollys are seen watching Muffin the Mule on their new television set. Muffin the Mule was a marionette featuring in British television children's programmes, orginally presented by Annette Mills, sister of John Mills, and broadcast live by the BBC from their Alexandra Palace studios from 1946 to 1952. Mills and the puppet continued with programmes that were broadcast until 1955, when Mills died. The shows were then shown on ITV in 1956 and 1957. A modern animated version of Muffin reappeared on the BBC in 2005.

    • The Wire adopts the persona of a presenter of the BBC's Children's Hour programming from the 1950s, and uses the catchphrases "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin" and "Goodnight children, everywhere" from that programming block.

    • The Doctor: It's never too late as a wise person once said. I think it was Kylie.
      This is a reference to Australian pop idol Kylie Minogue and her hit song "Never Too Late."

      And Kylie later appears with the Doctor in the 2007 Christmas episode Voyage of the Damned.