A Doctor A Day – “The Idiot’s Lantern”
Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.
The Queen’s coronation increased sales of televisions in Britain faster than Howdy Doody did in the US. But when one store sells sets for less than could possibly be profitable, The Doctor fears they may have an ulterior motive to expose everyone to…
THE IDIOT’S LANTERN
by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Euros Lyn
“Are you sitting comfortably? Good! They we’ll begin…”
The proprietor of Magpie Electricals is near bankruptcy until a strange new partner offers a way to turn his business around. With the queen’s Coronation coming up, he suddenly finds a way to make TVs available for the outrageous price of five pounds a pop. Needless to say, they’re selling like mad.
The Doctor and Rose arrive (accidentally, of course – they were aiming for Elvis’ appearance on Ed Sullivan) as sales are skyrocketing. But at the same time, people are being taken from their homes, under blankets, by people claiming to be police. Clearly seeing the proverbial Something is Going On, the pair investigate by visiting a family with one of Magpie’s tellys. The husband is a right boor, controlling the family with an iron hand, but the wife and son are distraught. Their grandmother has been transformed to a mindless, faceless shell. Apparently, it’s been happening all over town, and it’s they who the police have been collecting up.
The Doctor finds where the victims have been collected and convinces the Detective Inspector to help solve the mystery as opposed to just cover it up. And Rose confronts Mr. Magpie, only to learn that he’s under the electronic thumb of an energy being called The Wire, who has been draining people of faces and brains via the new TVs. Alas, she’s shortly in no position to impart this knowledge, as she’s promptly wiped. When the police find her and bring her in, The Doctor goes cold and scary, vowing that there’ll be no stopping him.
They break into Magpie’s shop and find a number of odd things – a portable television set some three decades ahead of its time, and trapped in the televisions in the shop, the faces, and presumably the minds, of the victims of The Wire, including Rose. The Wire plans to transfer itself to the portable set and connect up to the transmission station at Alexandra Palace, where it will be able to feed on everyone watching the Coronation. Can The Doctor stop the plan in time?
Mark Gatiss’ episodes so far have had a very personal feel – large stakes, but ultimately featuring a small cast. This one has London in the balance, but ultimately it’s about one family, and how the members of the family respond to the horrific changes around them.
The Doctor has had bad experiences on tall broadcast towers; he fell off one to his death, or at least regeneration, in Logopolis. He’s faced more than a few energy-based foes as well—the Nestene Consciousness, the formless Gelth in The Unquiet Dead, and there was this foe from the Troughton days…oo, showed up twice…can’t seem to summon up its name now, can’t imagine why…
Magpie Electricals makes many more appearances in the series— since Mr. Magpie himself came to an unfortunate end, it’s presumed someone bought the brand name and used its notoriety to turn it into a powerhouse brand for literally centuries to come. The Magpie brand shows up in all sorts of Earth-based technology up to and including the launch of Starship UK. There’s been no suggestion there’s anything untoward going with them (tho one can never be sure), it seems more like it’s become a brand like the various products of KrebStar Industries on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, or the various food and cigarette trademarks in Quentin Tarantino’s films.
- A Doctor A Day – “The Unquiet Dead” (comicmix.com)