Season 28 Episode 7 – Idiot’s Lantern, by Mark Gatiss

May 9, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

The halfway stage of New Who’s second season. Idiot’s Lantern was… odd. I suppose that has to make it a good episode really, given it’s Who we’re discussing, and there’s no doubt that the episode flew by as I watched it, so I can’t say it was boring, but… well, it was odd. I can’t say much of it really stuck in my head afterwards at all.

The story’s quite a neat variation on the old “too-much-TV-will-turn-you-into-a-zombie” scenario, and Beattie You-got-an-ology is really good in the role of the Wire. She manages to portray the classic 50’s BBC host – very proper, very restrained, posh voice, staring eyes, almost on autopilot every time she speaks – while at the same time managing to be incredibly sinister. Her sudden cries of “hungryyyyyyyyyyyy” made her sound like a squirming bundle of greedy, babyish instincts, which was clearly the intention, and done very well. But the overall idea of the Wire as a monster is a bit too familiar. Even if she’s a digital one, she’s still just a vampire, and therefore not particularly different from the Krillitanes in School Reunion.

I’m also starting to get a bit irritated with the very 2D way the Doctor’s being written this year. Essentially, David Tennant is only being given two modes he can perform in. Either he’s the wacky, playful, grinning clown, or he’s the shouting, self-righteous, angry superhero; every time Rose is in trouble he’s very quick to rant at everyone about how nothing will stand in his way as he moves to rescue her – nothing!!!. Yes, all very moving and impressive, Doc, but if anyone keeps making that blatant a show of being fired-up, you have to start wondering who it is they’re really trying to convince. There’s no doubt that DT has massive potential for playing the Doctor, but the writers need to give him more tools to work with.

The business about bullying, domineering father-husbands is laid on a bit thick. All very valid, of course, but a bit too explicitly stated and in-your-face. Feels like the audience is being lectured like in an episode of Star Trek, which is something that always gets on my nerves. As did the Doctor’s Elvis-hairstyle. It would have been a nice touch for a one-scene gag, but it started to look really clumsy and ridiculous, especially when he was climbing the transmitter pylon.

As for the rest of the episode, well, as I say, I can’t really remember enough of it to comment. Sad really. It’s one of those episodes where I wanted to like it, but I just don’t know if I did. Therefore I can only give it 5/10. Perhaps would’ve been 6, but this is another one that gets penalised for you-know-what…

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