Defining the Doctor: The Long Game
Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull continues his series looking at one key story from each Doctor, this time with Eccleston.
Contrary to the general consensus amongst fans, I honestly consider The Long Game as one of the best episodes of the revived series. It was a subtle precursor to Series One’s two-part finale, Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways and an episode that has always been, for some reason overlooked. As much as I would like to provide a defence for this masterful story, I was beaten to the punch some time ago but the writer did a wonderful job on it and I really have nothing to add to his defence. This series is about the defining story for each Doctor and I chose The Long Game because I think it shows a lot of the Ninth Doctor’s facets: his anger, his joy, his curiosity, his repulsion – all within forty-five minutes.
Let’s start off by turning to the Northern elephant in the room, Adam. I don’t mind Adam; he was an experiment, a successful one at that. Russell T Davies wanted to show us that not every companion is as perfect as Rose (I use the term ‘perfect’ loosely, a lot of people have grown to abhor Rose in Series One but I don’t share this opinion) and that some can abuse their privileges and responsibilities when aboard the TARDIS. Barbara did something similar in The Aztecs but she was trying to save lives, Adam wasn’t, although funnily enough, Davies considered giving Adam’s father a life-threatening illness and that Adam was to use the Satellite 5 information to help cure him. I think if this had been the case then a lot of people wouldn’t judge Adam like they do now. His motives were purely self-beneficial and that is why he is so resented.
I can never really fathom the Ninth Doctor at all. I don’t know much about the Time War so this is really the reason why. A lot of what ‘made’ the Ninth Doctor happened off-screen so fans have taken it upon themselves to make educated guesses on what might have happened in the Time War. (Topically, the John Hurt Doctor may put a spanner in the works if he’s revealed to be the ‘8.5’ Doctor or the real Ninth Doctor). Originally I intended to cover Dalek as the Ninth Doctor’s defining story but those plans fell through because it would have meant I would have had to bring up the Time War a lot and I’m not literate in that area.
The Doctor, in all his incarnations, has been incredibly capricious (Palmer in Hide said it himself) and rather volatile. In my eyes, the Ninth Doctor more so than any other Doctor. After the rather traumatic events of the Time War, the Ninth Doctor is on edge, capable of going from joy to fury in a split-second. In The Long Game he displays all sorts of emotions: his fascination with the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, his umbrage at Adam, his suspicions with the technology on Satellite 5. I suppose I could have chosen any episode of Series One but I think The Long Game is one of Eccleston’s better performances and the Ninth Doctor here is so very much himself.
The Long Game fits in nicely with the rest of Series One, it’s suitably dark and ominous as well as packing in one of Christopher Eccleston’s best performances as the Doctor (my favourite rendition of his is The Doctor Dances). Billie Piper is on top form as usual and because Bruno Langley makes Adam so immensely dislikeable, it shows that he’s a good actor if he can make his audience hate his character so much.