Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Long Game

doctor who the long game review ninth doctor rose tyler adam mitchell the editor simon pegg jagrafess russell t davies brian grant

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 destabilize an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote.

The Long Game is an interesting one. We’ve got a new companion in the form of Adam, and another trip into the future. Russell T Davies is back, writing his fifth script of the series – and, interestingly, it’s an idea he’s had for quite a long time. The basis of the script, with Satellite 5 manipulating the media to control society, was originally pitched by RTD to Andrew Cartmel back in the 80s. It was refused, as you can tell, but I still find that rather interesting.

How different would it have been? Adam, I imagine, wouldn’t have featured, and it’d have been restructured to 4 parts… would I have been better that way? There’d likely have been more of a focus on the role of media, which was definitely the more interesting part of the plot, and it would have fit the manipulative 7th Doctor quite well, methinks…

Ah, the road not taken. This is Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor, not… 25ish Years Since the Seventh Doctor.

So, how did The Long Game as we got it manage?

doctor who the long game review ninth doctor rose tyler adam mitchell info spike russell t davies brian grant bruno langley christopher eccleston billie piper

There’s a lot of different ideas at work here. By far the best one is that of the manipulation of the media. It’s just a really fascinating concept, and I kinda wish it had been explored in a little bit more depth. A lot of it was only really touched upon, where it had the potential to be built into a really intriguing plot. For example, you’ve got this quote –

‘That thing’, as you put it, is in charge of the human race. For almost a hundred years, mankind has been shaped and guided, his knowledge and ambitions strictly controlled by its broadcast news, edited by my superior, your master and humanity’s guiding light, The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe.

– and there’s also the one I used at the top of the page –

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 destabilize an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote.

They just… they’re both indicative of something bigger, and something more interesting than the episode ever really managed to explore. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I don’t really think so; a little bit more depth to this and the whole episode could have really gone up a few points. Still, we did get some good stuff, and it’s definitely food for thought. (And, hey, there’s always fanfiction, right? Maybe Seven and Ace could turn up on Satellite 5 themselves…?)

The other thing I really liked about this one was, in fact, Adam. We’ve never really seen a crappy companion before, a ‘companion who couldn’t’, as he’s been described. (No jokes about Mel, thank you very much!) I really liked seeing the way he treats his time in the TARDIS. I know he’s often criticised for selfishness, but honestly? I’m not so sure. Yes, travelling in the TARDIS is a privilege and a wonderful thing, but not everyone is going to look at things like that.

One of the most common responses to the “If you can travel anywhere in time…” question, at least in real life, is something to do with personal gain. Something to improve your own life – some little change, so that things turned out a bit better. So… I think it’s realistic, and it’s nice to see it, if only for the one episode. It also rather nicely foreshadows Father’s Day with Rose

doctor who the long game review the editor simon pegg ninth doctor christopher eccleston slave enslaved yes jagrafess russell t davies brian grant

We’ve also got Simon Pegg in one of the best guest roles of the series. Simon Pegg is a really, really fantastic actor – the character he’s created here is way different from, say, his version of Scotty in Star Trek. The Editor is quite scary at times actually, and he’s got a very commanding presence. He’s one of the most memorable things about the episode – far more than the Jagrafess itself, which is… cool, but weird. It’s an interesting monster, in that it’s sort of different, but it doesn’t really do much, does it?

As ever, Christopher Eccleston did a good job. I liked his scenes with the Editor (“Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?” “Yes”), as well as his inspiration of Cathica. It’s one of the first instances I can think of where the ‘little people’, if you like, are really important to the episode and it’s resolution. It’s nice, and quite Doctor-y too.

Nothing about the direction particularly stands out to be honest – it’s good, but not really outstanding. One thing that does stick out, though not for good reason, is the backing music. It’s incessant, isn’t it? Really, really over the top. Brings you right out of it at times.

So, in all… it’s a good, solid episode, with a lot interesting ideas and some great performances all round, though as a whole it’s somewhat less than the sum of it’s parts. 7/10

Related:

Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor Reviews

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