The Long Game

Doctor WhoThe Doctor, Rose and Adam, a brilliant young computer whiz rescued from Van Statten’s underground stronghold, arrive in the year 200,000 aboard Earth-orbiting Satellite 5. But from the moment they step out of the TARDIS, the Doctor begins to suspect that something is wrong: human technology hasn’t advanced to the level he would have expected, and he begins to suspect that someone’s interfering in human history. The technology is more than enough to impress Adam, though, but his fascination takes a self-serving turn as he decides to take advantage of the opportunity to take knowledge of future history home – and cash in. The Doctor and Rose investigate the unusual buildup of heat within Satellite 5, following the trail to Floor 500, a closely-guarded secret rumored to be the headquarters of Satellite 5’s best and brightest. In reality, it’s the lair of an alien intelligence that has humanity in its thrall. It wants the secrets of time travel from the Doctor – and if the Doctor won’t surrender those secrets, perhaps Adam will…

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Russell T. Davies
directed by Brian Grant
music by Murray Gold

Guest Cast: 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)

Reviews by Philip R. Frey & Earl Green
LogBook entry by Earl Green

Earl’s Review: An interesting adventure in its own right, The Long Game is the beginning of a build-up to the end of the season, introducing us to, if nothing else, the setting where everything will go down. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of it is “What if the Doctor brought the wrong person aboard the TARDIS?” To be fair, the Doctor himself didn’t exactly pick Adam; Rose did. But it’s an interesting character idea anyway, without being quite as jackhammer-subtle as the introduction of Turlough in 1983 was. Still, as much as I like his portrayal, Bruno Langley does get a little too “arch” in trying to show that Adam’s wheels are turning. When the jig is up and he’s confronted by the Doctor, we get to see that perhaps Adam has learned a little too much from Henry Van Statten. (That confrontation may well be Eccleston at his scariest – Adam comments that he thought the Doctor was going to throw him out of an airlock, and ya know, the thought did occur seeing the look on the Doctor’s face…)

The Jagrafess, despite being a CGI construct where one can literally see the seams that connect it to the rest of the picture, is somewhat refreshing in at least one respect: it’s a good old-fashioned Doctor Who monster, and at no point does anyone even try to psychoanalyze it or play devil’s advocate for it. (Of course, the number of mostly-dead bodies manning the controls in the Jagrafess’ lair speaks against the creature’s goodwill automatically.) As the Editor, the human face of the oppression that the Jagrafess wields against humanity, Simon Pegg attacks his role with relish, again echoing a classic Doctor Who villain archetype: the mystery man with the evil laugh, watching the Doctor’s every move on a monitor in a dark room. Even the surprisingly low-tech effect used when one character tries to kill the Jagrafess herself evokes classic, low-budget Who. Of all the episodes of this first season of the new series, The Long Game may well be the one that would fit most comfortably alongside the original series – not terribly above average, but just good, scary fun.

Philip’s Review: Well, here we are, The Long Game. And it’s been a long time since last I sat down to watch the 2005 season of Doctor Who. (How’s that for a segue?) It’s been about four months, as I reckon it, since the reviews were put on hiatus. If you were reading right along, you might have noticed that I am not particularly enamored of this incarnation of everyone’s favorite Time Lord. So it was not with the greatest of relish that I strapped back in to pick up the process again.

And in many ways, I’m sorry I did. Watching the first six episodes so completely wrung me out that I was relieved when the hiatus came. And after watching The Long Game, my first reaction was to carry on my own personal hiatus indefinitely and allow Earl to soldier forth alone for the rest of the season on a path he’s obviously finding much easier to travel. The Long Game was so completely devoid of value (entertainment, social, or otherwise), that it truly drained me of any enthusiasm I may have still had for the remainder of the 2005 season.

From the hackneyed “go off to a special place that isn’t so special” plot device I’ve seen countless times to the “hidden figure controlling mankind” I’ve seen countless more, to the Doctor’s bad attitude and the piss-poor portrayal of humanity, what’s there to like? It’s boring and it’s pointless and I am wearying of it.

And unlike other episodes, where at least there was a strong performance or interesting scenery to liven things up, The Long Game has nothing to offer. Another drab space station. Another huge CGI monster. And while I’ll admit that Anna Maxwell Martin is stunningly cute (if that’s possible), the performances in The Long Game, although adequate to fill their allotted screen time, fail to stir the emotions. The heroines are too drab and the villains too bland. It’s all I can do just to work myself up to being apathetic.

I could go on about how unlikely the basic scenario is or how unbelievable it is that the Doctor and company essentially bring a massive, elaborate ninety-plus-year plan to a screeching halt in a matter of hours, but why bother? It’s all so insipid that I feel valuable moments of my life slipping away as I write this. And life’s short enough as it is.

So, suffice it to say that The Long Game will not be replacing The Tomb of the Cybermen at the top of my Doctor Who list any time soon. And be sure to tune in to see if I’ve got anything nice to say about next week’s episode, which has something to do with a butterfly being squashed in the Amazon. Until then, I’m going to try to forget that I ever watched The Long Game. That shouldn’t prove too difficult to do.