New Series Review #7 – The Long Game

“This technology it’s… it’s amazing!”

“This technology is wrong.”

After the heavy intensity of the Doctor facing off with a Dalek, the tone lightens considerably with new companion Adam Mitchell’s first foray into the future. How will he handle the future? How will he contain his excitement?

By fainting.

But that needn’t be the end of your journeys into space… The Long Game is a spacestation-set “aliens are manipulating humanity” story, complete with a giant piles-monster manipulating alien, better “ice” than Iceworld and a sublime performance from an underused Simon Pegg.

As the Editor, Pegg’s character filters and controls the news, aided by a whole Satellite 5 of journalists. This control of the news is halting humanity’s development in the year 200,000. This isn’t too bad because historically it’s the height of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Of course, behind the scenes things are different…

This week, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor has evolved slightly. He’s not the revenge-mad super-gun toting Dalek killer of last week. I’m not saying the Dalek’s shouldn’t bring out the worst in the Doctor, but that was possibly overstepping the mark… Anyway, this week he’s clever, charming, slightly potty and also manages not to grin too much. There is a website called “Tom Baker or Normal” which details a game between two or more players; basically your competitor conceals his face behind a piece of card and you guess whether he or she is pulling a “Tom Baker” wide-eyed frown or a “normal”. In years to come, I’m sure we’ll be playing “Ecclesgrin or Normal” or even “Tom Baker, Ecclesgrin or Normal”…

Simon Pegg manages to be perfect. As the principle villain he could have been way over the top, but he is spot on as a character who controls news and has access to all knowledge. His delight at discovering that the Doctor and Rose are time travellers is superb, as is disappointment at not getting a philosophical debate out of the Doctor. His albino-like make up is a little disturbing, but appropriate for a character who appears to have spent quite some time in the low lights of the mysterious floor 500. A few questions remain however about his true nature…a consortium of banks?

The other supporting cast in this week’s episode such as Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki) and Christine Adams (Cathica) were from two total opposite ends of the Doctor Who spectrum. Possibly for the first time this series, we see some bad acting. Anna Maxwell-Martin, come on down for possibly the weakest portrayal of an undercover freedom fighter in Doctor Who ever. The time travelling humans from Day of the Daleks wouldn’t have touched you, frankly.

Conversely, Christine Adams is excellent as Cathica – ignorant and dismissive at first of the Doctor’s claims that things are wrong, yet wonderfully calm and controlled when she releases the information she has just heard from the Editor himself. She’s also very good looking which doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, a mention of the supporting cast would be incomplete without a mention of the lovely Tamsin Grieg as the Nurse. With the sinister goings on and the strange technology she installs in Adam, she manages to bring a nice level of dry humour to the episode. She also manages to be slightly sinister as well…

Information is the key to this story. The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe has held back human development through restricting the flow of pertinent information. In the year 200,000 information can transferred from peer-to-peer through a chip in the skull. Alternatively a fully functional brain access port can be installed and on the command “Spike” a stream of information is transmitted directly into the human brain.

The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe is an interesting character, on paper. Nicknamed “Max” – no doubt in reference to Robert Maxwell – it controls the entire human empire by means of the Editor controlling the news. But why? It doesn’t seem to be feeding on anything. It needs to be kept a low temperature which is why the satellite is so warm. But just what is the point of Max?

Adam, who has so far been wandering through this week’s episode mostly alone (after claiming to be feeling ill and “returning to the TARDIS”) takes it upon himself to have the most extreme of these two forms of surgery. His actions but the Doctor and Rose in jeopardy – more to the point he defaults on his relationship with the two travellers.,,

The Long Game succeeds on several levels as described above. It also succeeds in being an original and interesting tale that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of the Virgin Books New Adventures featuring the Seventh Doctor. It raises the possibility of a return to some of the subjects touched upon, includes a mention of “Bad Wolf” (a monitor early on in the episode) and of course has the legacy of Adam’s surgery to deal with. At the end of the day though, it’s FUN. Although just why it’s called i>The Long Game is something I suspect we’ll find out before the end of the series…


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