Sunday 21 August 2016

Story 162 - The Long Game

In which the Doctor takes Rose and Adam to visit the year 200,000. They arrive on a space station, Exploring, they find that they are on Satellite Five, which packages news and beams it down to the Earth. The Doctor informs his companions that this is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, but Adam points out that there are only humans on the station. Where are the alien races? The Doctor becomes suspicious that something is not quite right here. They meet a couple of members of staff - Cathica and Suki - who explain the workings of the station. Rose points out that it seems to be very hot. Suspecting that the Doctor is testing them as potential candidates for promotion and a move to Floor 500, Cathica allows them to witness their work. All the staff have implants in their foreheads, and the news is beamed directly into the brain to be edited. Watching from Floor 500 is the Editor. He detects something wrong in the news room, and starts a data search.

A promotion is announced. Suki is invited to go to Floor 500. Cathica is furious. She explains that the top floor is supposed to be gold plated, though no-one has ever returned from it. Adam feels unwell - the experience proving too much for him. He has been given a credit bar which the Doctor took from a money dispenser using his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor also gives him a key to the TARDIS so that he can rest there. However, he is more interested in learning more about the computer technology on show here. He finds that he can only get limited access to the systems, and is advised to visit Floor 16. Suki ascends to Floor 500, and finds that it is a bleak, frozen place, littered with corpses. The Editor confronts her, and tells her that he knows she is really a member of a guerrilla group - her real personality hidden beneath a fake one. The station personnel here are all animated corpses, and Suki is killed by the station's true boss...
Adam goes to Floor 16 and finds that this is the Medical Section. A nurse explains that to operate the computer systems fully, he needs one of the brain implants. He learns that the Doctor has given him enough credits to pay for the procedure, and goes ahead with it.

The Doctor investigates the heating system and finds that heat is being channeled down from Floor 500 to the rest of the station. He and Rose decide to go there. Cathica follows soon after. The Doctor and Rose are captured by the Editor and meet the real boss - a huge fleshy creature hanging from the roof, with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. This is the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe - or just "Max". The Jagrafess and the Editor have been manipulating the news for decades, holding back the Earth's development. The Editor wants to know who the Doctor and Rose are, as they do not appear in any official records. Adam tries to use a news room to download information, and the Editor sees this. He learns from him all about the TARDIS, and that they are time travelers. Cathica has been listening in, and she links herself to the station's systems. She redirects the heat back to Floor 500. The Jagrafess cannot stand this and begins to break up. The Editor tries to flee, but is seized by Suki. The Jagrafess explodes, killing the Editor. Human progress can return to normal. The Doctor is furious with Adam. He takes him back home and leaves him there. He will need to live a quiet life, now that he has the implant in his head.

The Long Game was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 7th May 2005.
It is the final appearance for new companion Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley) who only joined in the previous episode.
Once again in this first series, the TARDIS does not stray too far from Earth. All the episodes for this year take place either on or in orbit around the planet. Davies had argued that alien worlds were difficult to realise, and the viewing public would find it difficult to identify with weird alien beings. As nothing dates more than the future in film and TV sci-fi, all the crew of Satellite Five wear clothes contemporary to 2005.
Davies drew inspiration for this story from his dislike of media moguls, who only printed or broadcast the news packaged as they wanted it. The Editor is therefore an amalgam of Maxwell and Murdoch. The bloated Jagrafess is likely to be Maxwell. The Editor and his boss are playing a long game with their slow manipulation of the news - though the story title will have even more meaning by the time we reach the series finale and learn that someone is playing an even longer game.

The guest cast is a strong one. The Editor is long-time fan Simon Pegg. Suki is played by Anna Maxwell-Martin, who was just about to hit the big time soon after this. Cathika is played by Christine Adams. Pegg's frequent co-star Tamsin Greig plays the nurse. As soon as the Complete History covers this story, I'll let you know who the dog was.

Story Arc watch: The Bad Wolf TV Channel is showing news about the Face of Boe's pregnancy.
At the story's conclusion, the Doctor remains worried about what has happened on the station - hinting that we have not heard the last of this.

Overall, a fairly innocuous story that only gains any relevance once we get to see the season as a whole. A good cast. Despite the nice CGI for the station and the Jagrafess, it looks cheap. It is the lowest ranked Eccleston story in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll (205 out of 241).
Things you might like to know:

  • Sharp eyed viewers will see that the Editor is watching The Ark in Space and The Leisure Hive amongst all the other footage on his TV screens. 
  • A long game is a criminal activity, much favoured in London's gangland of the 50's and 60's. Expensive items would be bought and insured. They would then be removed from their warehouse before a fire conveniently broke out - apparently destroying them. The criminals would then collect on the insurance. It is also known as the long con.
  • As a big slab of flesh with fangs, the Jagrafess doesn't convince as the brains behind such a subtle scheme. This is something that the earlier producer Philip Hinchcliffe picked up on. He couldn't see how the hulking Kraals could create such intricate androids. 
  • It's a good job that Rose keeps mentioning how hot it is, as absolutely no-one looks or acts like it is.
  • One of the news channels is a +1 one. These are usually catch up channels, one hour behind. Why would there be a news one of these?
  • Radio Times readers were critical of the 2005 fashions on show in the year 200,000.
  • Billie Piper's costume raised complaints due its obvious branding, breaching BBC guidelines.
  • Apparently Davies had pitched this idea to the programme back in the JNT / Cartmel era.
  • Watch the Confidential programme that accompanies this episode and sympathise with Simon Pegg as he has to try to pronounce the full name of his employer.
  • To date, Adam is the only companion to be thrown out of the TARDIS. Earlier drafts did give him a less selfish reason for downloading the future tech - to get medical knowledge to save his ailing father. The comic book series "Prisoners of Time" has it his mother who is dying. After she does pass away, Adam then sets about getting revenge on the Doctor.
  • The staff on Satellite Five have a liking for Kronkburgers. This delicacy was first mentioned in the very first DWW comic strip - "The Iron Legion".

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