Doctor Who The Long Game

Is there anything more boring than writing about mediocrity? Possibly reading it, I suppose. I’ll try to keep things lively.

‘The Long Game’ is the first really average episode of Doctor Who to my mind. There were heaps of good elements this week; The Editor, an actual sub-plot, the woman from Black Books, nifty head-opening special effects… But it didn’t all feel like it meshed.

Part of the problem, I felt, was the world-building, or lack thereof. In the year 200,000, the Earth is the centre of a huge empire, we’re told. But there’s no aliens when the Doctor, Rose and Adam step out onto a massive space station — everyone’s human, and the news is just generic reports of disasters and such. While it all turns out to have been part of a clever ruse, I found myself strongly conscious of the budget limitations. If we’d seen some of the news reports, and had them a little more in-depth, the whole thing might have come across better. Perhaps we could have had ‘ad breaks’?

My history is perfect! — The Doctor

The Editor was a bright spot in a slightly dreary plot. Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame) was clearly loving his time as this smarmy, self-satisfied villain, and his scenes were great fun — though he benefited when he had someone to talk to.

“Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s being enslaved?”
“Oh, I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m going to get — Yes?”

As I mentioned, we did get a subplot, though. Adam gets split up from the Doctor and Rose early on, and finds that not only is he lacking in the adventuring spirit, but also has a bit of a tendency towards the greedy side of the force. This was great fun: it’s nice to have a character like Adam walking around who could so easily die. The neat connection between the two plots worked nicely, too. The Doctor and Rose’s plot line is somewhat less exciting. After sneaking their way up to the 500th level of the facility, the Doctor has some excellent dialogue with the Editor and then… gets locked up.

And he stays locked up. While someone else saves the day. AGAIN.

In previous episodes, this hasn’t really gotten to me. It made sense for Rose to save the day in ‘Rose’. Charles Dickens is a pretty big guest star and perhaps deserves his moment in the sun. And it was something of a plot point that the Doctor wasn’t himself in ‘Dalek’. But there was no obvious reason for the Doctor not to save the day here, and he failed to be clever even in the slightest. Admittedly, he pretty much tells Cathica what to do while chained up, but I’d really like a chance to see him manage a really impressive victory.

The bit players were quite interesting at least; Cathica in particular is a quite believable character stuck in an artificial environment. Tamsin Grieg plays her Nurse with just the right level of salesman to suck poor Adam into his very very bad choice. And Adam himself balances his sneaky greed with a kind of stupid ignorance that almost made me sorry for him. His final talk with the Doctor was excellent, although somewhat spoiled by the lame joke to finish the story off.

So, average Who. I’d cope with it a bit better if there were 22 episodes of the show. As there’s 13, and we’re now over half way, let’s have no more of this mediocrity, please.1

  1. Next week’s ‘Father’s Day’ by New Adventures writer Paul Cornell looks pretty awesome, at any rate.
5 comments posted — most recent by Tom on 20/05/05