As we bounce in our chairs and cry out with glee that the new episodes start March 30th, we Whovians keep the excitement going by raiding our preferred media for previous episodes of our beloved Doctor. Whether a fan since the First Doctor, or if you came into the series after the Ninth made his debut, there are those episodes that you go back for time and time again, wearing out your DVD players from the constant playing, or stretching your bandwith to the maximum allotment for the month just to see the show one more time. As there is almost fifty years of memories and love for this show, we will pass the time Waiting for the Doctor rewatching and reviewing vintage New Who episodes. Which brings us to The Long Game.
Aired May 7th 2005, The Long Game once again finds Russel T. Davies attempting to bring the wonder and excitement of the future into our living rooms. In most of this episode he does a respectable job of doing what he set out to do. The writing is solid, the dialogue is strong with the banter between Rose and The Doctor being a nice and quirky exchange. The set up is a nice extension of where the last story left off with out having to totally have need to seen the last episode. (Though in all honesty if you have missed Dalek you are doing yourself a great disservice, and should rectify that immediately. Go ahead this article will be here when you get back.) On the whole it is not bad writing. Not great writing but not bad.
Christopher Eccleston continues his role as The Doctor. Once again we are watching an actor play The Doctor. After the last episode where you truly see how deep the Doctor can be, and how much he can feel, it is almost a disappointment to go back to the emotional shifts that only skim the surface. I understand that the episode is not as heavy as Dalek and I understand that the Doctor is more likely to do boyish mischief then deep emotional stuff. Eccleston just doesn’t portray boyish mischief well. It always feels forced, which takes us out of the world that being spun for us and reminds us that we are watching an actor. Again in this case not bad performance, but still a performance. I think it drives me mad that he only does a performance in this episode because not even a week ago he showed us he could truly be the Doctor on all levels, yet he doesn’t bother to keep that sensation and feeling. Just such a WASTE!! Okay I’m going to go catch my breath and move on.
A few deep breaths later and I think we can do this. Billie Piper does a spot on performance as Rose. Even though she knows deep down now that traveling with the Doctor is not always a happy thing, nor a safe thing, she is still thoroughly enchanted with the traveling to new times and spaces. Her joy is obvious when she finds out that they are in the year 200,000 A.D. aboard a space station. Even though she acting like the knowledgeable traveler for her friend Adam, the pure giddiness and excitement of the unknown and the new are almost making her explode. When confronted with a bustling throng of humanity that makes up the crew of the news satellite that they are on, she still takes time to try the new cuisine and talk to the people around her. Even when finding out that everything is not all right, instead of panicking and demanding to be taken home, she tries to help find the answers and does whatever she can to help The Doctor fix it. All the while smiling and enjoying everything that happening. These are the traits of Rose that really helped keep me in the series even when I was frustrated with Eccleston’s Doctor.
Then we have the opposite reaction to the great new world being shown to us. That would be Adam, played by Bruno Langley. Now I want it understood that I enjoyed Bruno’s performance immensely. I thought he did a wonderful job in the role he was in and brought Adam to life. Adam on the other hand was one of the most despicable and vile characters I’ve seen in the first season, and he not even the bad guy/ monster of the week. Picked up in the last episode after the secret base he was part of was destroyed by the Doctor and Rose, (seriously guys and gals, this article will be here. Go watch Dalek.) and brought along for the journey the first thing he does upon seeing the changes to Earth is faint. When he is brought around and dealing with emotional shock of being over a hundred thousand years in the future, Rose offers him her phone that the Doctor had previously altered so that it could reach home with a call. Keeping the phone for a bit he promptly runs up to the observation deck and tries to take the information that the data base has on the past and record it on his mom’s answering machine to alter his personal financial situation. When the computers stop working for him, he takes the credit chit provided by the Doctor and gets the biggest and fastest computer implant in his brain. Which is how they interface with the web in that time frame. He then uses the implant without training and without thought to anything but his own gain, and that leads to major problem later when dealing with the Monster of the Week. Even then he is not remorseful at all. He’s upset that he can’t get his data but not worried at all that his actions almost cost Rose and The Doctor their lives.
Even though Billie Piper and Bruno Langley did fantastic jobs, the show stealer was Simon Pegg. As the editor of Satellite Five, he worked directly and knowingly with the monster of the week. He had no problem making all of humaninty the willing slaves of The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. His whole attitude could be summed up so; Better to be a servant in hell then a slave in heaven. Yet his insatiable need to know everything about everyone and his willingness to do whatever it took to find that out made him the perfect employee for the Jagrafess. Knowing everything and controlling the information that gets released allows the complete control of the populace. (Yes I am aware of the message this was and how it was a bit heavy handed but it was still done better and with more tact then The Happiness Patrol. So to quote the Doctor, “Shut up you!”) You could tell this was one of Simon’s dreams. He was on Doctor Who. His excitement and happiness just poured through the screen. And the character he played was just so fun. Even though he was a bad guy knowledgeably doing bad things, he was just so much fun. Even when he was jerking information painfully out of Adam’s mind about the Tardis and what he knew about The Doctor and Rose, the Editor was fun. Even when one of the side characters finally wised up and listened to the Doctor, plugging herself in to the system to take Adams place and destroy the Jagerfess, Simon Pegg keeps the character fun. Every scene he in he just steals the show.
Now we get to the Monster Of The Week. The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. This was a totally CGI monster, yet it was one of the best used ones. Never really seeing it, just a growl through most the episode, a point of view shot when it attacked, letting the imagination build up the horror of the creature. Teasing us with the horror on the actors faces as they see the Jagrafess for the first time. Giving us a briefest flicker of it then back to the imagination. The camera work really was the star of the Monster of the Week. The CGI when you finally get a full shot of the creature is not bad, but it almost disappointing after the great buildup done by the point of view shots and camera jumps.
Once again makeup was the best special effect on this episode. With a just a touch of glitter, dark circles, and light blue across the mouth and skin, you really believed that they were frozen corpses doing the interaction with the computer. The sets were perfect in making Satellite 5 come to life. The CGI when used in establishing shots worked well with everything else around it. When used for the monster, not so much.
Murray Gold’s score was used to perfection in The Long Game. Sometimes being the difference between a scare and a HOLY SHIT!!, it added so much to the camera work of the Jagrfess that with out it the monster wouldn’t have been half as enthralling.
Final thoughts. Was it good television? It wasn’t bad. It was watchable when it first aired, but does stale with age. Was it good Doctor Who? Again, not bad. Not great as sometimes the message was a bit heavy handed, the writimg was decent but not fantastic, and the supporting cast really carried the show. Eccelston not being willing or able to dive fully into the role really pushes this episode from good to okay. It does stale with age but is worth watching occasionally as a way to enjoy Doctor Who.
Till Next Time My Fellow Whovians.