The Case for… The Long Game
Guest contributor David Selby makes the case for the Series 1 episode.
After the action-packed yet touching tale of Dalek, and before the emotional rollercoaster of Father’s Day, we were given The Long Game; an episode perfect for the slot. It was fun, light-hearted, but still enthralling and engaging too. A ‘calm-before-the-storm’, if you like. Though as the next episode was Father’s Day, it was more like a, ‘calm-before-the-hurricane-of-tears’. Anyhow, that’s irrelevant. This article is about The Long Game; the episode frequently at the bottom of every single Series One list going… but why?
To get the negatives out the way first, The Long Game didn’t quite have the uniqueness that the preceding and approaching stories had. We’d just been given the end of the world in the year six billion, Charles Dickens and ghosts and the last Dalek, and we were about to be given Rose changing the future and creating a wound in time, gas mask zombies and the first ever New Who Dalek ‘invasion’. Yet this episode didn’t have a huge amount going for it. It seemed to lack any recognisable individuality. But the episode delivered, so I don’t see this as a problem. There are a lot of episodes like that throughout New Who, which have worked impeccably well.
The only minor plot issue that really comes to light is the sheer stupidity of the humans. People are heading up to Floor 500 and vanishing from existence, and there is no sign of alien life, yet this doesn’t bother the humans. This, however, if you are paying careful attention, is explained later on to be due to ‘The Editor’ (Simon Pegg), who uses the brain chips to erase the tiniest doubts before they surface.
The opening of this episode was a truly pleasing start. It demonstrated the Ninth Doctor and Rose’s relationship faultlessly; The Doctor giving Rose advice and a head start on information so that she can show off to her ‘boyfriend’. This was really sweet as it showed how well the pair got on with each other.
The first three quarters of the story are all revolved around the mysterious disappearances and furtive goings on (and a couple of cryptic verbal clues) in Satellite Five. What is Floor 500? What’s there? Why don’t people come back? And what is Simon Pegg doing there with a load of half-asleep, half-blue people?
The answer, of course, covered all of those questions. But this wasn’t exposed for a long time and left viewers speculating what happened at Floor 500. It was an intriguing mystery which kept people captivated and on the edge of their seats.
Suki’s revelation was one of my favourite moments in the story. Suki did very well establishing herself as a short-term character, and her status altered as she held the gun to the Editor’s head. It transformed her into a far more confident, professional and quite audacious character.
As for Adam; he undertook seriously negative character development in this story. People just assume that this is bad, yet essentially, the egotism, arrogance, vulnerability and thoughtless temptation of his character proved a point that Rose was a lot better morally than what we were just seeing; that Rose was continually put in the same dilemmas as Adam but instead chose to make the right choices, hence the Doctor’s final exchange with Adam (“I only take the best”). Adam’s irrationality didn’t go with impunity, either; he was denied a space in the TARDIS crew and was stuck with a chip in his head. As Adam’s future was never spoken of, this allowed the audience to come up with their own theories as to what actually happened to Adam. I often wondered throughout the Russell T. Davies era whether Adam would ever return, desperately trying to prove himself to the Doctor, but as this day never came, we can safely assume this is the last we saw of our undependable genius friend.
The ending of the story was by far the strongest part; a human (Cathica) who finally developed independence and brought civilization out of the dark – or did she (see my next point)? This was a very powerful scene and an exceptional resolution, and the moment where the Doctor finds Cathica and stops the flow of energy is in some ways quite moving. The Doctor regards her in that scene like a child, as he does throughout the episode, but in a way that she is growing up at last, learning the impact of mature, profound decisions and trying to help people.
And not to forget, if it wasn’t for The Long Game, the revelations about The Game Station being Satellite Five would not have been as shocking. The Long Game was one of those episodes which links the stories in the series together and adds to the final, whilst forming a side-plot of its own – The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. So anyone who says that Series One had a weak plot; now is the chance to change your mind…