The Parent Agenda returns once more in this episode, although strangely not for Amy and Rory who are remarkably chipper. There is frustratingly little else to say about this episode. It’s not seriously flawed like the Curse of the Black Spot. It is a good and very competent slice of Who. The problem is that it shows no ambition at all and is utterly predictable. Not once do you get the feeling of Gatiss going outside of his comfort zone or trying to innovate. A certain amount was made of the fact that this was his first story set in the present. But it may as well have been set at the dawn of time for all the difference it would really have made to the plot. The frustrating thing is that Gatiss has shown he is an innovative writer elsewhere (not least of which is Sherlock, his other collaboration with the Moff).
This is basically the first example of New Who applying
the ethos of the Missing Adventures/PDAs. Gatiss re-writes (and
to be fair improves) Fear Her and recycles a bunch of classic New Who
moments. So what we are left with is something that is a derivative
and moody attempt to “scare the kids” with better production values
that Fear Her (but a less cool monster). There’s nothing wrong
with that and I really enjoyed the Peg Doll stuff, which was an instant
classic moment for the ages, but there’s nothing else here that stands
out in the memory.
This whole approach of this episode also reminds me
of the ultra-“Trad” who books put out to counterbalance the “Rad”
books put out during Stephen Cole’s editorship. It’s practically
screaming “look this is a nice simple standalone for you all”.
For all its supposed flaws, I still think the Idiots
Lantern is the high watermark of Gatiss’ New Who writing.