Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - The Idiot's Lantern

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we'll be taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....
We continue with the next David Tennant episode.... The Idiot's Lantern
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

8. The Idiot's Lantern
First Broadcast on 27th May 2006. Running Time: 45 Minutes. Viewing Figures: 6.76 million.
Written By Mark Gatiss.
Directed By Euros Lyn.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. Rating: 10/10


It's 1953, the Coronation year of HM Queen Elizabeth II, and the people of Great Britain gather to witness the great event. But behind the celebrations there are rumours of monsters on the streets.

Extras: Promotional Photos | On Set Photos | Screen Caps | Articles | Videos | MP3 Commentary

Production Notes:

Working titles for this episode included Mr Sandman, The One-Eyed Monster and Sonic Doom.
The eventual title was suggested to the writer Mark Gatiss by fellow writer Gareth Roberts. Roberts thought of it because his father used to call the TV, The Idiot's Lantern.

The episode is set in the Muswell Hill area of North London, but most of it was filmed in Cardiff. 

Florizel Street (the working title for the UK soap Coronation Street, on which Phil Collinson is currently the producer of the show) is actually Florentia Street in Cardiff.
The exterior of Magpie Electricals was filmed on Blenheim Road also in Cardiff.
Some shots were recorded at Alexandra Palace in London.

The Wire was based on a 1950s children's television host, Annette Mills.

Maureen Lipman filmed all of her scenes as The Wire in one morning!

The large television masts prominence in this episode, especially during the final scenes, where the Doctor has to climb it, is a clear reference to the 1981 Doctor Who episode Logopolis. 

The Foes:

The Wire was a criminal genius from the planet Hermethica, who was the leader of a gang that could transform themselves in to plasmic energy.
After being sentenced to death, The Wire escaped and transported itself through space, when it was drawn in to a television set in Magpie Electricals, a shop in London, run by Mr Magpie.
It used it's plasmic power to drain the life energy from it's victims as they sat watching their TV sets, leaving them a faceless, mindless husk. Their faces and consciousness were left trapped inside the TV.
The Wire planned a major attack via the Alexandra Palace transmitter mast as most of the nation sat down to enjoy Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. This plan was to ensure it could physically renew itself, but the Doctor re routed The Wire's broadcast frequency and used the mast to transmit The Wire on to a video tape, which he planned to record over.

The Friends:

Tommy Connolly was a teenager who lived his Gran, his Mum, Rita, and his bullying Dad, Eddie on Florizel Street. 
After his Gran became the victim of The Wire Tommy realised that the Doctor might be help him to find out what had happened to her and he joined the Doctor on his trip to Alexandra Palace to defeat The Wire.
On their return to Florizel Street Tommy saw that his Mum had thrown his Dad out of their home after she had discovered that he had shopped their friends and neighbours to the police for becoming victims to The Wire, this had resulted in them being round up and taken away to a holding pen. 
Perhaps with thoughts of her own fatherless childhood Rose Tyler persuaded Tommy that whatever his faults Eddie was still his Dad and so Tommy helped his Dad to carry his bags to wherever he ended up. 


  • The Doctor: They did what? 
  • Bishop: I'm sorry? 
  • The Doctor: They left her where? 
  • Bishop: Just. in the street. 
  • The Doctor: 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. Do you know why? 
  • Bishop: No. 
  • The Doctor: Because now, Detective Inspector Bishop, there is now power on this earth that can stop me!
  • The Doctor: Been burning the candle at both ends? You've overextended yourself, missus! You shouldn't have had a crack at poor old Magpie like that! 
    (The Wire then electrocutes The Doctor)
  • The Wire: Hahahaha! 
  • 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 Magpie logo has since been used in three other stories: on the P.A. speakers at the wedding reception in The Runaway Bride (but sadly not seen on camera), Martha's television set in The Sound Of Drums and the microphone stand used by the ship's band on the 'Titanic' in Voyage Of The Damned.
  • This is the second adventure to be scripted by The League Of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss. Mark is only one of three people who have both written for and acted in Doctor Who. The other two are Victor Pemberton and Glyn Jones.
  • Rose's claim that the British flag is called the Union Flag rather than the Union Jack, is actually an urban myth. The flag can correctly be referred to by either name.
  • Margaret John, who plays Grandma Connolly in this episode, previously played Megan Jones in the 1968 adventure Fury From The Deep.
  • The original script referenced the Doctor's fear of transmitter towers, because he "fell off one once", This was a reference to the Fourth Doctor's falling to his 'death' from the Pharos Project transmitter at the end of Logopolis.
  • "Goodnight children, everywhere," spoken by the Wire as she feeds on Rose, was the catchphrase of Derek McCulloch presenter of the kids' show Children's Hour.
  • The Queen previously cameoed in 1988's Silver Nemesis, and subsequently appeared in Voyage Of The Damned. On both occasions she was played by an actress, although she was actually offered the chance to play herself in the former story.
  • This is the first time we've seen the Doctor on a scooter, although he rode motorcycles in The Daemons (1972), Delta And The Bannermen (1987) and Survival (1989).
  • The Doctor makes reference to legendary singer Kylie Minogue in the episode. Kylie subsequently played companion Astrid Peth in Voyage Of The Damned. Funny how the Doctor didn't mention the resemblance...

  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Billie Piper - Rose Tyler
  • Maureen Lipman  The Wire
  • Ron Cook  Mr. Magpie
  • Jamie Foreman – Eddie Connolly
  • Debra Gillett – Rita Connolly
  • Rory Jennings – Tommy Connolly
  • Margaret John – Tommy's Grandma
  • Sam Cox – Detective Inspector Bishop
  • Ieuan Rhys – Crabtree
  • Jean Challis – Aunty Betty
  • Christopher Driscoll – Security Guard
  • Marie Lewis – Mrs Gallagher

What do you think of the episode? Tell us below....


  1. I love this episode, there is so much wrapped up in it, including the kid, berated as useless by his overbearing father, that really saves the day. Television was a miracle box in 1953--and here it is being used by evil aliens.

    And every time Rose and the Doctor try to go to see a show, they get waylaid...First it was In Dury and the Blockheads (they ended up with Queen Victory) and now trying to see Elvis. I thought it was so cool how they dressed the part and were going to have some fun.


Post a Comment