Doctor Who
The Idiot's Lantern

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: A | 3 USERS: A
The Dutch Tilt
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Late May, 1953, north London. Dark and stormy and creepy. Outside Magpie's Electrical, there's lightning across the sky. Inside, Mr. Magpie himself leans on the counter, unhappily balancing his accounts. In the background, a television is on, and the presenter is happily signing off What’s My Line. Her face is angled and shadowed in the blue and grey of black and white, eyes and lips dark against her pale skin, nearly sixty, with a pleasant smile. She's a "continuity presenter," which is significant (those are the ones that say, like, "That was Hex on Sky One; next up, Jacob snogs Nathan Barley for charity" or whatever. "If you'd like to see Thelma and Cassie make out for another fifteen minutes, press Red now.") because the man's name is Magpie. Regular presenters are give or take, they're talking heads, they exist on the level of the screen, but the continuity voices tell you about the screen world itself, if you see what I'm saying. They tell you about the world of the screen itself: conspirator, editor, controller. We don't have them in America but we're no better off for it. Mr. Magpie is two hundred pounds overdrawn; the presenter says good night from Alexandra Palace, the local transmission station, whose tower still transmits to this day: the center of television and entertainment in London 1953. "God Save the Queen" begins to play, the woman's face disappears, Magpie prays for a miracle and throws his balance sheet into the trash. It's over for the night.

On the fictional Florizel Street -- a working title for Coronation Street, which is funny considering the timeframe -- the Connelly family radio is laughing. Mrs. Connelly's mother chuckles along -- "He does make me laugh!" -- as Mrs. Connelly's son Tommy sits on the sofa, reading Radio Enthusiast. The Connellys don't have a television, but a radio. Enthusiastically, by all accounts. Mrs. Connelly herself, Rita, sews by the window and watches the coming storm. Mrs. Connelly's husband Eddie enters, wearing a suit and tie and medals from the war, a penguin so important you want to laugh, but you oughtn't. Eddie straightens his tie, white shirt clean, without a speck of dirt, and tells his wife that he's off. Tommy meekly shows his dad a picture of a television, in the Radio Enthusiast, and Eddie sighs tiredly. "How many times, son? We'll see!" Tommy protests that everyone's getting a telly, even Mr. Gallagher. Even the Bells, at Number 67. Eddie winks and points a finger at his son. "Well, perhaps we'll get one for the Coronation. If you're lucky!" Rita smiles, thankful that he's not raging. "We'll see," says Eddie, and ruffles Tommy's hair. "Don't wait up," he says, and leaves. Once he's gone, Gran speaks up; a Dutch tilt on the camera making her strange and weird: "I heard they rot your brains. Rot them into soup, and your brain comes pouring out of your ears. That's what television does." Outside, lightning flashes again.

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Doctor Who




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