In an effort to take Rose to see Elvis perform in a New York TV studio in the 50’s, the Doctor instead—of course—lands them in London 1953, on the day before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But the Doctor and his companions are always where they need to be, if not where they mean to be. And there is something amiss in this bit of time and space: televisions are much more common than they should be, and people are disappearing. We know right off the bat that this is all due to an alien entity that calls itself The Wire which is using a salesman and his TVs to help it feed off of people’s energy. The plot may be rather straightforward, but its simple framework allows the episode to poke around in some complex themes.
This is England in the 50s and while there is a tone of hopefulness, there is also the lingering shadow of WWII—its pain and loss are not easily forgotten. And yet somehow, the Evil at the heart of the war is. Character Eddie Connolly, who was a Allied soldier in the war, is seen perpetuating the dark attitudes of superiority, pride, and selfishness from which the conflict originated.
Eddie (to his son): “Listen you, little twerp. You’re hardly out of the bloomin’ cradle, so I don’t expect you to understand. But I’ve got a position to maintain. People round here respect me. It matters what people think.”
Tommy: “Is that why you did it, dad?”
Eddie: “What d’you mean? Did what?”
Tommy: “You ratted on gran. How else would the police know where to look? Unless some coward told them…”
Eddie: “How dare you? You think I fought a war just so a mouthy little scum like you could call me a coward?”
Tommy: “You don’t get it, do you? You fought against fascism, remember? People telling you how to live, who you could be friends with, who you could fall in love with, who could live and who had to die. Don’t you get it? You were fighting so that little twerps like me could do what we want. Say what we want. Now you’ve become just like them. You’ve been informing on everyone, haven’t you? Even gran. All to protect your precious reputation.”
We like to look at events like WWII as freak circumstances that do not reflect normal reality. We like to believe that we will recognize evil when it enters the scene, and be strong enough to fight against it and prevail. But more often than not, while we sit around waiting for it to be obvious and clumsy, darkness has already taken us hostage. In the case of this episode, The Wire uses something considered innocuous to effectively enslave people—and by the time they become aware of it, they are beyond being able to save themselves. This characteristic of the Enemy reminds me of the image in 1 Peter 5:8 of the devil as a lion that prowls about waiting to pounce when least expected.
We are easily wooed by comfort, convenience, advancement, power, reputation etc. We allow these things into our minds and into our hearts because they tell us they will cost us little and give us much in return. This exchange is viscerally represented in “The Idiot’s Lantern”: when The Wire “consumes” a person, their mind and face are erased. They completely lose their identity, becoming hollowed-out versions of themselves. Do not be mistaken—this evil that pursues our souls in the small, uneventful spaces of our ordinary lives is the same one that enslaves people into the kind of darkness that causes war and genocide.
If it seems that I have painted a fatalistic picture of humanity and our trajectory, never fear. There is another option. We have been invited into a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. We are offered a life of fullness in which our identity is whole and enduring, and are given the tools to recognize evil and protect ourselves from it.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. -Colossians 2:6-15
Best of all, we have someone who fights against evil for us, and storms in to rescue us when we inevitably drift into the Enemy’s grasp. There’s only one person who encounters the Wire and does not have their identity stolen: the Doctor. He’s the only one on the lookout for something suspicious, and armed to fight it. We have someone like this on our side: Jesus. He is never duped by Evil. In fact, he has already defeated it. And he’s got our back.
The Doctor (quietly): “In 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? Because now, Detective Inspector Bishop, there is no power on this Earth that can stop me. Come on!”