7. The Idiot's Lantern

Series 2 - 2006

Writer: Mark Gatiss
Produced by: Phil Collinson
Director: Euros Lyn


A rainy London night in 1953: lightning strikes the aerial on an electrical shop. Inside the shop the television starts to talk to the owner, Mr. Magpie, using the form of television presenter Maureen Lipman, and tells him that she has a plan he must help her with...

The Doctor materialises the TARDIS on Earth so he and Rose can see Elvis Presley in concert. The Doctor even has a scooter to blend in. After riding down a street and seeing a red London bus the Doctor realises they are not in America: the presence of Union Flags hanging from the houses is also a give-away. After riding around they see men bundling someone into a car.

The Doctor and Rose give chase, but the car is much faster. It drives into a yard. Several people close the doors and push across a market stall by the time the Doctor arrives. Returning to the scene of the 'kidnap' they meet a boy, Tommy Connolly, who tells them this has been happening all over, until Tommy's father, Eddie, takes him back.

The Doctor and Rose ask a television delivery man about the flags and discover they are in aid of the Queen's coronation, making the date the 1st June 1953. Rose notices that there are a lot of aerials despite being told by her Mum that people had often crowded into a house due to their being so few television sets. The man explains that this is due to the cheap television sets being provided by Mr. Magpie.

Using the psychic paper the Doctor and Rose, posing as officials, visit Eddie and Tommy to find out more information. Whilst investigating another person is taken away. Not wanting to waste time the Doctor leaves Rose and chases the car. He loses it again, but sees where it went and waits until dark to find out what is in the yard.

Meanwhile Rose notices a purple spark behind the Connolly's television. After upsetting Eddie she is asked to leave, and after one final comment about hanging the Union Flag upside down (which angers the patriotic Eddie) she leaves, and visits Magpie's shop, where the television starts to speak to her. Then a purple spark starts to drag her mind into a television, leaving a body with no face.

During the night the Doctor, investigating the disappearing car, meets Detective Inspector Bishop who, after questioning the Doctor, admits he doesn't know what is happening, and has been rounding up people with no faces. During this time another faceless person is brought in - Rose. When he learns she was picked up at Magpie's shop he races round there with the Inspector.

The Doctor speaks to the Wire - the intelligence that has been using the image of a television presenter to control Magpie. Detecting great knowledge and experiece the Wire tries to feed of the minds of the Doctor, Tommy and the Inspector. The Doctor activates his sonic screwdriver and the Wire, detects technology and withdraws. The Doctor, Tommy and the Inspector collapse on the floor. It is too late for the Inspector - his mind has been drained by the Wire leaving only a body with no face.

The Wire transmits itself into a small hand held television is has designed, and Magpie sets off in his van. When the Doctor and Tommy recover they find an empty shop. The Doctor realises that the Wire intends to feed on the minds of the whole nation, but does not have the power. It needs a bigger receiver to boost itself. The nearest transmitter is Alexandria Palace, and the Wire plans to turn this into a huge receiver. Grabbing some bits from the shop they set of after Magpie.

By the time the Doctor and Tommy arrive Magpie is already climbing the transmitter antenna. Using his pschyic paper the Doctor is allowed in and starts setting up equipment. He leaves Tommy to watch the machine as he goes after Magpie. The Doctor tries to talk to Magpie who says he went along with the Wire so that when she was finished he would be free. The Wire grants him freedom by atomising him.

The Wire starts to feed off the minds of anyone watching the transmission. As the Wire's power is spread thinly across every mind, the Doctor uses his device to trap the wire onto a video tape which he says he will record over at a later date. When the Wire is trapped all the minds are returned to their rightful bodies. As the Doctor and Tommy return to Tommy's hope street parties start celebrating the coronation, and the Doctor is reunited with Rose.

Regular Cast

  • Rose Tyler: Billie Piper

Guest Cast

  • The Wire: Maureen Lipman
  • Mr. Magpie: Ron Cook
  • Eddie Connolly: Jamie Foreman
  • Rita Connolly: Debra Gillett
  • Tommy Connolly: Rory Jennings
  • Grandma Connolly: Margaret John
  • Detective Inspector Bishop: Sam Cox
  • Crabtree: Ieuan Rhys
  • Auntie Betty: Jean Challis
  • Security Guard: Christopher Driscoll
  • Mrs. Gallagher: Marie Lewis
  • Bus Driver: Ian Barlow
  • Riding double for the Doctor: Martyn Darby, Pat Deacy
  • Riding double for Rose: Toni Rice
  • Mr. Gallagher: John Jenner
  • Thug: Jason Stevens
  • Bishop's Driver: Dom Kynaston
  • Lads: John Dignam, Tom Boulding
  • Dad: Paul Stasky
  • Locals: John Dignam, Paul Starsky, Joanna Brown, Lesley Dring, Jason Hayes, Phillipa Burt, Jo Dribble, Simon Challis, Levi James, Anthony Churchill, Eryl Vaughn, Natalie Danks Smith
  • Stunt double for the Doctor: Ray De-Haan, Steve Griffin, Gordon Steed
  • Stunt doble for Rose: Sarah Franzl
  • Drivers: Brian Winstone, Graham Jones
  • Stunt double for Thug: Steve Griffin
  • Market Workers: Gareth Long, Trevor Payne
  • Stunt double for Granda Connolly: Dave Foreman
  • Double for Grandma Connolly: John Jenner
  • Stunt double for Crabtree: Rocky Taylor
  • Faceless Crowd: Dominic Mancienne, Richard Mancienne, Debbie Reid, Natasha Mottee, Vincent Warltire, Darniem Mantoulan, Dayve Dean, Chris Richards, James McLeod, Richard Knott, Stuart Dorrance, Gregg Bennett, Adam Chilvers, Lynsey Muir, Wendy Hobbs, Anita Rice, Anna Rudolph, Suzanne Burgess, Dianne Dawson, Karen Dorrance, Catherine Olding
  • Rita's Sister: Liz Edney
  • Rita's Brother-in-Law: Dai Murphy
  • Rita's Nephew: Christian Byard
  • Rita's Cousin: Simon Howells
  • Rita's Cousin's Wife: Katy Fin Bar
  • Uncle John: Richard Randall
  • Children: Laura Phillipart, Connor Edwards
  • Kids: Chris Jenkins, Jordan Struel White
  • Studio Staff: Behnaz Akghar, Dixie Dickenson, Gareth Gethin Evans, Andy Mayo, Alex Ford Robertson
  • Party Guests: Dominic Mancienne, Richard Mancienne, Marium Mundy, Natasha Mottee, Vincent Waltire, Chris Richards, Dayve Dean, Wayne Closier, James McLeod, Richard Knott, Stuart Dorrance, Gregg Bennett, Adam Chilvers, Wendy Hobbs, Anita Rice, Ann Marie Hollyoake, Karen Swan, Dianne Dawson, Karen Dorrance, Catherine Olding, Keneshea Brown, Paul Loftus, Suzanne Burgess, Joanna Crozier
  • Party Kids: Casey McDonald, India Davies, Chris Jenkins, Jordan White, Jack Walker
  • Additional Dialogue Recording: Paul Keogh, Nicholas Cater, Hannah Welch, Lindsay Hollingsworth, Daryl Adcock, Stephen Bracken-Keogh

Original broadcast on the BBC

Channel Title Date Viewers Rating
BBC 1 7. The Idiot's Lantern Saturday, May 27, 2006 7:00 PM - 7:45 PM 6.8M 84

Click here to show repeat broadcasts on the BBC


  • Unit Q2, Newport

Outside Locations

  • Alexandra Palace, Wood Green, London
  • Blenheim Road, Pen-y-lan, Cardiff
  • Cardiff Infirmary, Newport Street, Cardiff
  • Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Longcross Street, Cardiff
  • Florentia Street, Cathays, Cardiff
  • South Dock, Newport Dock, Newport
  • Veritair Limited, Cardiff Heliport, Cardif