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Doctor Who: "The Idiot's Lantern"

BBC Wales & CBC, 2006.05.27

  • Episode 7 of Season 2 of the New Doctor series (The Doctor having been resurrected by the mincing queer Russell R. Davies in 2005), on the Jew-run, massively taxpayer-funded BBC.

  • Setting: London 1953, in "Churchill's England"

  • The Villains: (1) An old-fashioned domineering war-hero, who bosses around his wife and his suggestively queer son. He lives on a street in which every house has a swastika on the truth. He (and others like him -- "the generation that defeated Hitler and liberated the Jews") must be expelled from his family, his home, and his neighborhood, before the people can be free to juke on the streets with grinning Negroes, and "make love" with whoever they like. (2) An alien who sucks off TV-viewers' faces and souls. After the alien is defeated, Queen Elizabeth II is able to bring equality, multiculturalism, democracy and sexual freedom to her United Kongdom.

  • Stars: David Tennant as The Doctor & Billie Piper as Chavess Rose Tyler

  • With: Jamie Foreman plays Eddie Connolly, the evil, arrogant, stupid, abusive patriarch. Rory Jennings plays his son, Tommy Connolly, who stands up to him in true feminist fashion, and gives him a lecture about how the brave Britons defeated Hitler so women could lord it over men and queerboys could be free as the wind. It is suggested that the Tommy-boy is queer. He helps The Doctor save the human race. Debra Gillett plays Rita Connolly, the beleaguered wife and mother, who is empowered by Rose and The Doctor to hand her pathetic pig of a husband a suitcase, and kicks him out on the street.

  • Writer: Mark Gatiss, who was making up for his offence the year before, when he had written an episode about an alien race of fake asylum seekers, whom The Doctor had assisted to enter Wales, via the use of the carcasses of dead Britons (The Doctor arguing that otherwise they would just go to waste), only to be shocked when they (the aliens) turned on The Doctor and set about trying to conquer Earth and kill all Earthlings. The Doctor, Rose, Charles Dickens, and a member of the working class who had great fore-site defeated the fake asylum-seeking aliens and diverted disaster. This was interpreted by certain designated culture critics as a "fascist" and "racist" attack on the U.K.'s current immigration policies.

  • Director: Euros Lyn

  • Executive Producers: Russell T Davies & Julie Gardner

  • Viewers: 6,800,000

  • This London is populated entirely by White Britons, until the Queen is crowned, and there is a street festival, in which smiling Negroes celebrate the dawning of the New Age.

Review from Doctor Who Golden Moments

The Idiot's Lantern

Golden Moment: This is yet another story about stealing the things that make people unique. It is also a story about passing the torch, in a patriarchal age, to a woman. Eddie Connolly is the living embodiment of an oppressive patriarchy, and in a manner of speaking, his bullying steals the souls and individuality of his family. He tells them what to do, what to say, when to speak and how to feel. For a while, his way of doing things is simply the status-quo.

But when he finally comes unglued, it is a Golden Moment because it is a metaphorical turning point. As the Doctor stands by and watches him vomit words of bile (of the status-quo) upon his wife and son, we know that Connolly has finally crossed the line, and the Doctor will stop the destruction that he represents. "I've got a position to maintain! People around here respect me!" he screams at his wife and son. "How dare you! You think I fought a war just so a mouthy little scum like you could call me a coward? [Your mother] was filthy, a filthy disgusting thing!"

And indeed, this is when his wife finally shuts the door on him, his son finally defies him, the Doctor discovers Magpie's shop and begins to stop the Wire [the villain of the episode, which stole souls via the TV] from consuming souls, and it is the day when Queen Elizabeth II takes the throne of Great Britain. Down with the Eddie Connollys of the world, God Save the Queen!

Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig Put In His Place
Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Don’t mind the wife, she rattles on a bit.

The Change-Agent Doctor: Well maybe she should rattle on a bit more. I’m not convinced you’re doing your patriotic duty. Those flags. Why are they not flying?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: There we are Rita, I told you. Get them up, Queen and country!

Rita the Pitiful Housewife: I’m sorry.

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Get it done. Do it now.

The Change-Agent Doctor: Hold on a minute.

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Like the gentleman says.

The Change-Agent Doctor: Hold on a minute. You’ve got hands, Mr Connolly. Two big hands. So why’s that your wifes job?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Well it’s housework, isn’t it?

The Change-Agent Doctor: And that’s a womans job?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Course it is!

The Change-Agent Doctor: Mr Connolly, what gender is the Queen?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: She’s a female.

The Change-Agent Doctor: And are you suggesting the Queen does the housework?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: No! No, not at all.

The Change-Agent Doctor: Then get busy!

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Right, yes sir. You’ll be proud of us sir. We’ll have Union Jacks left, right, and centre.

Rose the Enlightened Chavess: ‘Scuse me Mr Connolly, hang on a minute. Union Jacks?

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Yes, that’s right, isn’t it?

Rose the Enightened Chavess: That’s the Union Flag. It’s the Union Jack only when it’s flown at sea.

Eddie the Pompous Patriarchal Patriotic Pig: Oh. Oh, I’m sorry. I … I do apologise.

Rose the Enlightened Chavess: Well, don’t get it wrong again. There’s a good man, now get to it!

The Change-Agent Doctor: Right then! Nice and comfy, at Her Majesty’s Leisure.


  • Putting up little flags in the house, to celebrate a coronation, is not "housework".

  • The wife does the housework because the husband goes off to work outside the home every day.

Review from Atomic Anxiety



Rose is the star of the first half of this episode.


She’s full of cheekiness at first [...]. When she and the Doctor bluff their way into an ordinary household on a street where lots of people have disappeared [...] she’s all full of vinegar towards the father, who’s a control-freaky dick.

The dad, Eddie Connolly is an excellent character in his dickishness, representing the changing times. He’s clearly a member of the patriarchal, old order while his wife and son (who learn to stand up to him) symbolize the hope of a new day. And in case you missed that, there’s a big neighborhood festival after the coronation [...] but he’s not invited because his wife kicked him out.

As the Doctor tries to interview Connolly’s wife and son, Rose is all over Eddie, ordering him about and using his own ignorance against him as a bullying tactic. When Mrs. Connolly starts to break down, though, it’s Rose who comforts her.


The Doctor has to solve the case without Rose, so he employs Connolly’s son Tommy to … um … do something sciencey.


Review from "Millennium Dome: Soft Toy and Liberal Democrat Blogger of the Year 2010"


"[...] this was very much the "small scale" Doctor Who story. Domestic, even. The Doctor emphasises this at the end when he prefers the "real history" of the Florizel Street street party to the "pomp and circumstance" of the coronation itself.

"Maureen Lipman was a really good villain this week. Icily posh and making the vilest threats out of the catchphrases of the era. "Are you sitting comfortably?"


"Incredibly, though, she actually wasn't icily posh enough! Alex showed us a real 1950s BBC continuity announcer. In her tiara and ball gown. Never mind cut glass accent, this lady could cut diamonds.


There was, obviously, a bit of a sub-text. Or text as it became with a slightly heavy handed polemical scene mid way through where young Tommy confronts his father. If you are keen on spotting this week's "gay agenda" look no further than remarks like "bit of a mummy’s boys, that one" and "you want to beat it out of him" and finally "freedom to love who you want". "I fought a war for you!" threatens dad; "You fought a war to stop fascists!" retorts Tommy. And there was me thinking it was a coincidence that all those 1950s TV aerials looked like swastikas!

"There's a slight sense that this was writer Mark Gatiss abandoning his usual light-touch as a response to criticism. Last year he gave us the early hit "The Unquiet Dead" a story of ghosts and Charles Dickens. But he received some small stick, and a somewhat over the top reaction, from Laurence (Mad Larry) Miles who pointed out that "The Unquiet Dead" could be read as a story of bogus asylum seekers.


"Larry may have had a slight point in that we live in a time when all to many reactionaries want us to believe that the Doctor's liberal welcome of a people in need is naïve bordering on culpably stupid. So possibly, possibly, Mr Gatiss took this year's opportunity to punch those little Englanders in the head: we fought against the fascists not to become them. You morons.

Review from Elementary, My Dear Reader: The Musings of a Ravenous Reader in Life, Literature, and Film

The Idiot's Lantern


While in the Connolly house, the Doctor and Rose order the loud-mouthed, emotional bully Mr. Connolly about, using Queen and country as an excuse. It’s a really good, funny commentary on and subversion of the stereotypical gender roles of the 1950s.


Review from jigglymuffin @ Out of the Blue Box

The Idiot’s Lantern

It was 1953 and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, so everyone was in front of their televisions to witness the occasion.

For the past episodes, we’ve already met a lot of monsters but the Idiot’s Lantern gave us a monster that may be nearest to us—our televisions. The media, especially through television, is part of the family’s everyday living. Headlines for the day, sports, movies, shows, soap operas, and advertisements—everything made easily accessible through the media.


Fortunately, we have the Doctor to save the day. With the help of [queerboy] Tommy, he was able to tap into the transmission thereby diverting the signal of The Wire to be trapped into a Betamax video tape.


Tommy, the boy who helped the Doctor, is an image of bravery and fighting for what you believe is just and true. I guess it’s normal that there will come a point when children will question the rules of their parents and stand up for what they believe in life.



Despite the patriarchal orientation of many societies in the world, this episode highlighted the power of the second gender—the females. It was the coronation of a very famous and powerful woman—Queen Elizabeth. The wife of Edward Connolly, who spent her married life just following what her husband would tell her, finally learned to fight for what was right.


Review from whotopia, the canadian doctor who magazine

The Idiot's Lantern

The Idiot’s Lantern, Mark Gatiss’ second script for this revived series, leaves you desperately wanting more.


When you think about, not much really happened of any consequence during the 1950s. America went to sleep under Eisenhower, while a long decade of prosperity in Australia was briefly punctuated by a failed attempt to ban the Communist Party. Britain’s slow slide from Empire to mere island nation accelerated quickly in the 1950s, punctuated by the failure at Suez. Into this milieu ride the Doctor and Rose, kitted out for a night watching Elvis gyrate those hips on the Ed Sullivan Show, only to discover they have landed in the drabness of 1953 Britain, on the eve of the Coronation of Elizabeth II.


The new series of Doctor Who doesn’t feel dense enough. Watch an average episode of The West Wing, Spooks, New Tricks or The Sopranos and you walk away feeling that the writers have packed in as much incident, drama, humor and action as they could. With the new series, one is sometimes left feeling that there is something missing from an episode, as if the writer/producers aren’t confident with the material they have to fully engage the viewer.


The Idiot’s Lantern certainly comes close to achieving that goal. [...] The depiction of 1950s Britain, with its slide into genteel poverty from imperial greatness, is deftly shown. Despite the ravages of the Second World War, despite the loss of empire, despite the drabness of ordinary life with effects of rationing, the people of Floriel Street look forward with happiness to the crowning of their new monarch.

Of course, something is watching and waiting, peering out at them from the corner of their living rooms.


A darker storytelling tone would be appreciated. You can tell where Gatiss would love to take this story by the pre-credits
scene. It’s all darkness and shadows, gloomy weather and flashes of light.


There are several plus points for this episode.


Billie Piper is allowed to shin, her performance not hamstrung as in earlier episodes by the sulkier, jealous, tiresome thing she had become. Here she is more at ease, taking on the patriarchal bully in the Connolly household one moment, before venturing off blithely into danger a la the Doctor.


Earlier in this review I commented that underneath the surface of the average episode this season, there was more surface. Cruel, but aptly presented here. While an entertaining episode, it’s all surface charm and glibness. Better writing and characterization would handsomely fill out the forty five minutes, eliminating the feeling of slightness that predominates. Instead, the Connolly family is painted in broad strokes – timorous wife, buffoonish husband, suppressed teenage son, dotty grandmother.


The rest of the cast do their best with superficial roles. Jamie Foreman as Eddie Connolly plays the character too broadly for my taste. Special praise should go to Rory Jennings, as the idealistic son prepared to stand up to his bullying father.


Reviewed by Rob Mammone [PDF]

Reviews from Pagefillers

"Are you sitting comfortably. Then we'll begin..."

By Joe Ford


The Idiot's Latern fails to capture the toastiness of the era because it is far interested in some obscure and (frankly) boring alien threat. Why can't we have a pure historical story? One which allows us to soak in the richness of history. [...] I wanted to see more of the jazziness of the era, more of the domesticity... but instead we end up on a transmitter with a monster screaming out "HUNGRRRRRRRYY!" Yaaaaaaawn.


Euros Lyn's direction of this story was extremely jarring. The first scene out of the TARDIS is pure Grease, with jazzy music and sickly costumes and sharp cuts. Then there is the soap opera scenes inside the Connelly household, filmed at the most bizarre angles, so distracting I kept trying to angle my head so I could see the shots straight. Then we are into horror territory with the old woman silhouetted by the window and the Doctor trapped admist the shadowy domain of faceless beings. Finally it's action set pieces, with rapid scenes cutting between Magpie and the Doctor on the tower as the story reaches its hectic conclusion. [...] I was never quite sure which genre I was watching. [...] Lyn interprets the schizophrenic script with as much flair as we have come to expect but I felt as if I was being pulled in a ten different directions at once.


Mr Connelly was a bit OTT for my liking; okay so this is a guy who holds his household together with strong discipline but his constant cries of "I AM TALKING!" were more hilarious than they were dramatic. He keeps upping the eye-boggling shouting throughout, although despite this I did feel for him when he was kicked out of his own home.


By far the most impressive thing about this entire episode was the performance from Rory Jennings as Tommy [...]. I loved it when he turned on his father and reminded him why he fought the war and frankly the only reason I was so wrapped up in the finale was because he was still involved. I would have loved to have seen him leap into the TARDIS at the end [...]. It would have been a smart (and interesting) move to see Tommy join the crew. Alas it was not to be [...].

In fact it was the domestic scenes that I enjoyed most about this episode, a story that Mark Gatiss clearly relished writing but did not put enough into. He's all for atmospheric settings and crafted characters (both present here) but the alien threat is really poor here and the explanation and exploration behind it is handled in a insultingly cack-handed manner.

The Idiot's Lantern [...] is something of a misfire for the series, some tasty ingredients but overall leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

We Are Not Amused

By Thomas Cookson

Throughout the New Series so far, I'd perhaps come to accept that the Doctor isn't the man he used to be anymore. The Doctor was once a character for connoisseurs, a character who lived and breathed large and literate words and the finest in art and literature. Now he is pretty much down with the kids, using slang jargon and substituting scientific terms for words like 'thingy' and 'jiggery-pokery', and he's down with modern tastes: whether they be Muppets, Reality TV, Buddy Holly or Ian Dury [...].

They want the Doctor to be 'cool' and to pander to the simple folk, and try to win over those who would rubbish the old Doctor for his old-fashioned and 'dated' mannerisms.


I've been able to put the blinders on this process of chavving up the Doctor, but something about tonight's episode broke the suspension of disbelief completely. To see the Doctor gelling his hair in that 50's quiff, donning sunglasses and doing that 'you goin' my way doll?' impersonations and then putting the final foot in the boot when he towed out that moped, things just got too silly; and more than that, things stopped being alien completely.


The old series [stuck] fairly close to the rules of the Doctor's image and attire and by doing so they made him seem alien and distinctive without even trying. Even Eccleston's leather jacket seemed like a nice extension of the character being hardened by cosmic war. This episode seems to uproot that element quite violently and the Doctor's character was left there to dribble and soak in too much ADD and popcorn.

The whole tone of the episode is far too cartoonish, and it's loud and bloated for a story that should be quiet, mysterious and eerie. What's more, beneath the style it is ultimately empty in a way that the nineties telemovie was, except much more so. The typical 1950's family at the centre of this house are far too caricaturish, and the comedy that comes out of that scene is pretty bad actually, with even Billie Piper gurning it up idiotically. It also doesn't quite ring true to me that the Doctor would come in and lay down the law of how the patriarchal husband is out of order bossing around his wife and child, let alone be so snide about it (but again this is the 'cool' Doctor and he couldn't be cool if he didn't get involved in the gender war now would he?). I'm not saying the Doctor would be happy to see domestic ugliness or patriarchal tyranny and women being kept in their place but then again he doesn't do domestics and in any case, if it was the 1950's he was in, he'd be wise to the fact that he can't really go around women's libbing in people's homes because there's a time and a place for that and he's 20 years too early; Britain isn't yet ready for it. (It also seems a tad hypocritical for a man who himself treated his female companions as coffee-makers and harboured nothing but respect for the Draconians despite their cultural misogyny. Though even hypocritical can be plausible, and if they keep up the cool-Doctor thing they could quite likely make him hypocritical again by next week making him an Eminem fan.)


[This episode has] flat characters, cartoonish events, bad comedy without any gravity, some of the worst moments of female emancipation ever televised (even managing to top Adam's fainting), a vaguely-described alien menace whose origins might be followed up properly at a later date, a message about the power of the media, a wash-out rush-through of an episode that's doing too much at once and ends without any impact at all, the Doctor and Rose acting at their most trendy, arrogant and obnoxious, the Doctor particularly behaving like a common thug and Rose being a bunny boiler. The most depressing aspect of this is that instead of making the Doctor and companion the light in a selfish and uncooperative world, it actually makes them the centre of that selfishness and standoffishness with their belligerence that guarantees that they get no help from anyone.


I'm going to gobble you up pretty boy! by Steve Cassidy 16/9/06

[The] story is almost smothered in a social commentary with all the subtley of a television van falling on you. I thoroughly enjoy a little social pastiche in Who. [...] I found myself grinding my teeth at the caricatures there on the screen. I felt a modern PC mindset was projecting its own ideas into the past. It felt like an episode of the 1900 house where modern people try to be like those in at the turn of the century. I felt it was trying too hard to make a point.


Rose, in particular, seems to be on a downward spiral [...]. One of the reasons was when she was showing up Mr Connelly about the Union Flag. It doesn't matter if he did or didn't deserve it. It's not about the person being embarassed. It's about the person taking enjoyment in embarassing someone. It's nasty, and I don't like it. [...]

[The Doctor's] shouting down of Mr Connelly "AND I'M NOT LISTENING!!" didn't work.


And can we let up on the contemporary references? Previous Doctors quoted Shakespeare or 'The Ballard of Flannen Isle'. This Doctor seems to spend his time watching crap earth TV.

Yes, yes - I know, that's the producer. I can spot an RTD edit a mile off. I also think he was responsible for the Connelly family dramas. Gattiss has let slip that RTD has sent his work back for previous rewrites and one wonders if this was the part he wanted expanded. There is nothing wrong with having an "emotional edge" in Who but this one had the subtley of a TV mast crashing down. I enjoy a bit of drama but I don't want my arm twisted into agreeing with what the writers want us to think. I just think the whole thing was too heavy-handed.


Eddie Connelly['s] weakness is his pride; this is shown in the first scene (the medals, the way he holds his head when he walks etc). What is telling is his reaction at the end of the episode, he meekly accepts when his wife throws him out and is also silent after Tommy's fascist accusation speech. He doesn't stop Tommy going with the Doctor and when his wife subsequently slams the door in his face, he doesn't try to get back into the house. Deep down he knows he is in the wrong, but is too proud to admit it. It seemed to me that he tried to take contol of things in the manner that he knew best; that of a soldier. He tried to take command of the family unit. I think in panic and ignorance he made a hash of it. I think Eddie genuinely believed that he outranked everyone else in the house. I also found that he represented the last throes of colonialisim in that he had became the ruler in another person's house/country and was eventually made to pack up move out of there as the family/country finally found the strength to find their independence.

A Review

By Ron Mallett

A very silly story.


Does anyone get the feeling that somebody out there really hated the last war generation? I think someone involved has some serious father/son issues. This story presented a very generalised, unsympathetic view of post-war patriarchal society and the mainstream conservatism that ensued.


A Review

By Finn Clark

There's nothing wrong with The Idiot's Lantern. It's not a bad story. It has some nice jokes and the dramatic climax actually feels like a dramatic climax instead of just button-pressing.

My only real objection is what the story doesn't do. As in The Unquiet Dead, I can't hear Mark Gatiss's voice. There are most certainly bits where the story's trying to say things about the 1950s, but, as with everything else, Gatiss has inserted those bits because he thinks he should and because he's dutifully assembling all the approved parts. They don't feel organic. It's hollow. Thus the Gay Pride speech comes across as the scriptwriter putting words in his characters' mouths instead of letting them speak for themselves.


Personally I don't even think it's even as good as The Unquiet Dead. That story [set in Cardiff, with Simon Callow as Charles Dickens] respected its characters. It revered Dickens and even gave Gwyneth [a maid that Rose talked down to] that wonderful "you think I'm stupid" line. However The Idiot's Lantern patronises its 1950s setting [...]. It's the same problem I have with many Doctor Who novels in Victorian England: that sense of smugness. "Look, weren't they stupid and aren't I morally superior?" [...] These people aren't real. They're a species of freak called "Fifties People", with all that flag-waving parochialism and awe at the simplest things.


I like the fact that [Gatiss] chose to write about the Connolly family in the first place, but the execution is leaden. Shouty Dad is just Shouty Dad. Tommy's big speech is unconvincing (even if a better actor could have probably made it work), although in fairness I like its mirror image at the end. "Tolerance even for the intolerant." That's a worthwhile message.


A Review

By Terrence Keenan


I wasn't very impressed. The TARDIS duo seemed bullying and obnoxious, and the Wire wasn't much of a villain.

So, does it improve on a second viewing?

No, and the fault is shoehorned mix of the main plot (the bits with the Wire) and the agenda plot (the whole Connolly plot). It's obvious that the agenda plot was rewritten extensively to give it more emphasis. It's as subtle as a kick in the head with an iron boot, and throws the whole story out of whack.


If Eddie Connolly was less of an ass, then the agenda storyline might have blended in better with the main plot and might have elevated the whole episode.


Hungry For More Than What We Were Given

By Scott Williams

I find it incredibly hard to pin-point why The Idiot's Lantern was such a massive disappointment and letdown for me, especially after the writer's previous triumph, The Unquiet Dead (one of my personal favourite Doctor Who episodes of all time and surely the best pre-credits sequence of the revived series).


I think the main problem for me was the family at the centre of the story, the Connelly family. All four of them failed to grab my imagination. [...] Despite the conviction in his performance, Eddie Connelly was purely a stereotypical, overly patriotic, misguided, dominant alpha male figure from the period. Likewise, the mother was simply a typical wife-under-the-thumb sort who was scared and submissive to her overbearing spouse. Not that that is necessarily a bad setup if done correctly, but sadly this was not the case here. I, for one, had no sympathy or empathy with either of them. There was just not enough characterisation there for me to care.



[caption id="attachment_198" align="aligncenter" width="323" caption="Doctor Who / David Tennant, by Springfield Punk"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_198" align="aligncenter" width="323" caption="Doctor Who: Rose Tyler / Billie Piper, by Springfield Punk"][/caption]


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