Doctor Who
The Idiot's Lantern

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: A | 2 USERS: A+
The Dutch Tilt

Make way for Mr. Peregrine Esquire! A penguin so important I want to laugh, but I oughtn't! Because! He's! So! Im! Portant! Eddie walks past brooding Magpie's shop, and a moment after he's gone, there's a bolt of red science that comes slamming into the TV antenna on top of the shop.

Inside, Magpie is asleep. Magpies collect but they don't discern; they stock up the information without tasting it. The Fourth Great and Bountiful is a world of Steel and Magpies. His face down on the counter, on his ledger that should prove his worth, the image gone wrong; television tuned to a dead signal. There's a beep that tells you nothing's transmitting, and then there's something else: a red flicker bringing it to life. The presenter from earlier is back, but she's brought something with her. An anger, and a hunger. Something false behind the image; a fake projection from an idiot's lantern. A Dutch tilt on the everyday. "Oh, Mister Magpie!" she says, and he stirs. "Can you hear me, Magpie?" He looks around, suspiciously, and notices her upon the screen. "I must be dreaming," he thinks. That's what they always think, or else: "I'm going doolally, then." The shape upon the screen, the image you can't prove, smiles sweetly, and scarily. "Not at all, sweetheart. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we'll begin." Red bolts, three of them, arc out of the screen, against his face. As Magpie screams, struggling against the pull, the woman on the screen laughs, and laughs.

Episode by Mark "The Unquiet Dead" Gatiss, whose Eighth Doctor audio "Invaders From Mars" saw aliens invading under cover of Welles's War Of The Worlds, turning the hoax upon itself, taking what was already three layers deep and adding a Dutch tilt. Television about television, stories about stories. It's so easy to get stuck in the reflections, in the forever at the end of the signal-to-noise, unless you ground yourself in something real, grab a rubber soul. Gatiss is good at that, even if his period pieces take rather a theme park approach. It's one I adore, every signifier of time and place louder than every other one, but it's not to everyone's taste. There's an episode coming up, "Fear Her," that mirrors this one in almost every way, and the ultimate denouement there is not half so satisfying, so he's doing something right. Not to mention you get a pass for being in either League Of Gentlemen or the Our Lady Of The Crotchless masterpiece Nighty Night, which he was. So no complaining. Sitting comfortably?

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Doctor Who




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