The thing is, Adam, time travel’s like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up snogging complete strangers. Or is that just me?
The Ninth Doctor
The TARDIS materialises on board Satellite 5, which broadcasts across the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, however, the Empire’s attitude and technology appear backwards and those promoted to Floor 500 are never seen again.
When I rewatched this episode to write this review, I was quite surprised at how my attitude towards it had changed. Previously I would have considered it one of the stronger episodes of the first series of the revival, however, having thought about it greater depth, I do have some problems with it.
One of the weaknesses of the story is Adam, as played by Bruno Langley. The story sets out with the ultimate aim of proving that not everyone is a suitable companion to the Doctor, which is achieved by showing Adam’s abuse of the technology onboard Satellite Five to attempt to turn a profit. Largely I feel that this element of the plot doesn’t work so well because we haven’t really spent enough time with Adam to feel as though his departure from the TARDIS is a great loss and he hasn’t really received any characterisation. In one draft of the script, Adam’s motivation for sending the future information to the past was in order to develop a cure for his father’s arthritis, an element that would have at least added something to his character, although it would seem incredibly callous of the Doctor to kick him off the TARDIS if this had been his motivation all along. The truth of the matter is that the Doctor didn’t want Adam along in the first place and it almost feels like he wants an excuse to get rid of him; Rose invited him to join them at the end of Dalek, but neither she nor the Doctor spend very much time with him on Satellite Five. He rejoins the main narrative late on, but the story at times does feel like separate narratives. I will admit that I don’t like Adam, but it does feel like he has incredibly raw deal by the end of it, especially considering what happens in the following adventure, Father’s Day. It certainly does feel as though the Doctor and Rose are all too happy to leave Adam to his own devices during the story, only caring when it could have caused them problems and it is almost as if they have forgotten who he worked for in the previous story. The scenes with Adam wandering off on his own feel really disjointed, uneven and at times, sadly quite dull.
It certainly does feel as though there is a lot going on in this story, and I’m not convinced that all of it works. It feels as though Davies has tried to cram his original script premise pitched to Andrew Cartmel in the late Eighties into a 45-minute program, and not all of it entirely works. We have things like the head chips, which aren’t really dwelt on, and as a huge fan of Black Books, it is a shame not to see more of Tamsin Greig in this story. This certainly does feel like a Seventh Doctor story, with the Doctor motivating someone to rise up and destroy the current system, with this narrative making it Cathica, angry and resentful at the fact that she has not been promoted before, even though she knows what happens on Floor 500 who saves the Doctor and Rose. There is certainly an underlying attack on the media here, with the Jagrafess and the Editor controlling the narrative to set the human race back 90 years, which is a thinly veiled attack on media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and the late Robert Maxwell and there is the capitalist nature of the humans on Satellite 5, who want nothing more than to be promoted to Floor 500, where rumours have it, the walls are made of gold. Ultimately, it feels as though there’s too much going on, and the storylines are not all gold – it feels as though a couple could have been cut to make a better story.
The strongest parts of this story is the Editor, played by Simon Pegg. A middle man involved in the running of Satellite 5 on behalf of the Jagrafess. Pegg adds quite a lot of menace to the story which is somewhat undermined when we get to see the Jagrafess itself. However, Pegg almost feels like a dark echo of the Doctor, with the clearest parallel being his enthusiasm at not knowing something when he finds no record of the Doctor and Rose. The Editor is described as being a human banker, at a time where being human is difficult to make a profit from and his banking background also seems like socialist attack on that profession. Pegg stalks around his frozen wasteland, perfectly content and channeling a feeling of real menace and evil. The story never gives us a convincing reason as to why the Jagrafess and the Editor are doing this to the human race (although we do learn why in the finale), however, given the speed at which the Editor is willing to change his plans after learning that the Doctor is a Time Lord and has a time machine, it is a suggestion that he isn’t too wedded to Satellite Five.
Verdict: The Long Game has too much going on in its narrative and feels unnecessary in its treatment of Adam to prove how worthy Rose is. Simon Pegg does his best but this story is quite forgettable. 5/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse) & Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Brian Grant
Behind the Scenes
- Adam becomes the first companion to be removed from the TARDIS due to bad behaviour.
- The story is based on an idea submitted to the Doctor Who production team by Russell T Davies in the 1980s.
- Simon Pegg previously appeared in Invaders from Mars.
- This story would demonstrate to the new production team the utility of a process known as ‘double banking’, which would lead to ‘Doctor-lite’ and ‘companion-lite’ episodes.
Possibly the medical scene with Adam and the Nurse, but I’m struggling to think of any better.
Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed. It’s just a matter of emphasis. The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilise an economy, create an enemy, change a vote.
So all the people are like, slaves.
Well now. There’s an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t known he’s enslaved?
Oh. I was hoping for a fun philosphical debate. Is that all I’m going to get? “Yes”?
You’re no fun.
Let me out of these manacles. You’ll find out how much fun I am.
The Editor, Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor
3 thoughts on “The Long Game”