RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES' COLLECTORS' EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1770) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2005.
In the far future, Satellite 5 broadcasts to the entire Earth Empire. Nothing escapes the eye of the sinister Editor and the Doctor suspects mankind is being manipulated. But just who is the Editor working for?
7TH MAY 2005
It seemed unavoidable that The Long Game would mark the end of a long week’s comedown after the exceptionally superb Dalek. And, even had The Long Game been up
to the impossibly high standard of any of the first five episodes, it would still have been a let down after Dalek, but sadly, irrespective of its airdate, Russell T Davies’ fifth offering of the season holds the dubious distinction of being my least favourite episode of the new series
“The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. And there it is. Planet Earth, at its height.”
My main gripe with this episode is that it has that awful studio-bound money-saving ‘filler story’ feel to it. Save for the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe - the realisation of which was comparatively poor in any event - there is not an alien creature to
be seen anywhere in this episode. Furthermore, though its exterior has been astonishingly rendered by the Mill, inside Satellite Five it looked exactly like the Platform One set all over again, only painted a different colour and swapped around a little bit.
Moreover, in the opening scenes I found that the dialogue was virtually inaudible over Murray Gold’s score. I’m not criticising the score, incidentally; it was especially brilliant last week… but just too loud this week! All of this is forgivable, of course, but I have come to expect more from the series. I think the word is spoiled...
“Oh and I was hoping for a philosophical debate, is that it?”
More crucially though, I wasn’t riveted by Davies’ plot. Certain elements I liked, but for the most part the story of the Jagrafess holding back and enslaving humanity through its control of the media felt distinctly workmanlike. Not poor by any stretch, just uninspiring.
For me, by far the most interesting aspect of The Long Game is Bruno Langley’s Adam. Rescued from Van Statten’s underground bunker at the end of last week’s episode, without having done anything to endear himself to the Doctor, Adam suddenly found himself as the Time Lord’s latest travelling companion. Now I really like the premise of having a companion that can’t cut the mustard - it has not really been done before; not on television anyway - but to take matters one step further and actually set up Adam as a threat was a real stroke of genius on Davies’ part. What I like so much about this angle is that Adam isn’t evil, he just takes one or two steps down a slippery slope from which there is no turning back. It’s fright-eningly plausible.
“This society is the wrong shape, even the technology. It's backwards! There's a great big door in your head.”
Had the season been longer, it would have been interesting to play this arc out over a few episodes as here it does feel a little rushed, particularly the rather swift resolution of the awkward ‘love’ triangle, for want of a better phrase. It would also have allowed the writers to explore Adam’s underlying motivation (a sick father, or something?) for acting the way that he does, which I understand had to be cut from the script for The Long Game due to timing.
“For almost a hundred years, mankind has been guided and shaped.
Its knowledge and ambition, strictly controlled through its broadcast news.
Edited by my superior, your master, and humanity's guiding light... I call him Max.”
Of course, this week’s big selling point is Simon
Pegg’s appearance as the Jagrafess’ human agent,
the incredibly creepy Editor. As a huge fan of Pegg’s
work - Spaced, Shaun of the Dead et al - I couldn’t
wait to see him step into the new Whoniverse and sink
his teeth into a suitably fiendish baddie role, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here. Pegg imbues the character with a cold humour which suits him perfectly, and it’s an absolute delight to listen to him spar with Christopher Eccleston’s hard, humourless Doctor. If the production team ever opt to resurrect the Master, Pegg could really be outstanding in the role.
On balance, The Long Game is a good, solid forty-five minutes of contemporary science fiction; it is full of humour, horror and even a little bit of heart. Nevertheless, given the lofty standards set by its six forerunners, it simply doesn’t measure up.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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