Doctor Who Recaps, Season One, Episode Seven: The Long Game
Look, I know why this episode exists. I get it. I do. It’s here to break up some of the intense, emotional, high-stakes drama that surrounds it- what, you’d have been happy with the survivor’s guilt and rampaging murder robot of Dalek followed on with the heart-wrenching, gut-punching emotion of Father’s Day? What kind of monster are you? Well, certainly not the Jagrafess, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Just like every week, read another take on the episode over at Red Whine.
So yes, I understand why The Long Game falls where it does in the series, being one of the lighter, more straightforward romps of the series. It’s also the biggest wobble of the season so far, an episode that never seems quite sure of itself, lurching between body modification horror and campy Simon Pegg without much room in between. But still, this IS the best season of the rebooted Doctor Who (side note: here’s an article I wrote for one of my favourite sites to contribute to about my most-watched episodes of the original run of Doctor Who, for those who seem unable to grasp the concept that WE’RE ONLY RECAPPING THE REBOOT, COME ON NOW), and even it’s weakest episode has a lot to recommend to it.
Well, maybe not a lot, but The Long Game serves at least one important purpose, and that’s laying a lot of ground work for the finale two-parter, and, looking back, it feels more like something they threw in at the last minute to break up the heavier episode and get ahead on the exposition for the very excellent two-parter that ends this series. It just feels kind of bitty, everything from the one-episode companionship of the agonisingly dull and irritating Adam from the last episode to a handful of interesting ideas that seem to trail off into nothingness, like the awesome data cores implanted into people’s brains to allow them to absorb centuries of information in a moment. Christ, I haven’t even got on to the story yet: the Doctor, Rose, and Adam wind up on Satellite Five, a broadcast news station that provides coverage for the human empire (which is a cool concept that I’d love to see more of, because I am a history nerd and nothing you can do or say will ever change that), but it soon becomes clear that something distinctly non-human and rather Jagrafess-like (and something with distinctly dated CGI effects, but let’s not dwell on that) is the one actually running the show.
I wrote a lot last season about how Clara and Capaldi’s Doctor are a million times better as characters when they’re not together, and here it’s kind of the other way around. Rose and this Doctor require someone to bounce off of, someone with real screen presence and camaraderie – someone we’re getting to soon, I promise.
And splitting them up for much of this episode to have them run around with half-sketched in secondary characters was a mistake. But still, at least we get some top-quality Simon Pegg action, as he swans around with icicles dripping off his beard as The Editor, as he just about pulls the episode back from eye-rollingly forgettable. I’ll always dig a good, bureaucratic villain, the kind of person who hides their nastiness behind buttoned-up suits and unnaturally neat hairstyles, and Simon Pegg’s Editor is definitely one of the most entertaining iterations of the trope.
And, as I said earlier, there are a handful of tantalisingly good sci-fi ideas kicking around in the sidelines of this episode, including Annoying Adam’s lust for knowledge and the growing influence of the news media in controlling the populace, even if they do kind of get sidelined so the Doc can shout at a pile of that slimy play-goo you could order out of the back of the Beano when I were a lass.
Look, I know I’m not coming across as too enthusiastic here, but this episode is still worlds better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in the last few years of Who- it’s got something to say, an original villain, some fun cameos (OH HELLO TAMSIN GRIEG, LOVE OF MY LIFE), and a fun twist ending that I will spoil for no-one. It just has the bad luck of being trapped in an amazing run of episodes. But, taken as a singular being and not as part of the whole series, this is for sure one of the more inanely entertaining episodes since the show’s reboot, And inanely entertaining, as we all know, is my middle name.
Next week, we’ll be reviewing the heart-shattering Father’s Day through a haze of tears, before we switch over to covering season nine week-to-week. Join us, bring tissues (and not just because Jackie’s in the next episode).