The Long Game ★★

A clever satire on the media with Simon Pegg as the Editor. Plus, Adam, the companion who failed

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Story 162 

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Series 1 – Episode 7

“I answer to the Editor-in-Chief. He’s overseeing everything. Literally everything. If you don’t mind, I’m going to have to refer this upwards” – the Editor

Storyline
The Doctor takes Rose and her new friend Adam to Satellite Five, a space station in Earth orbit in the year 200,000. This should be the height of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, but the Time Lord realises that progress has been set back by nearly 90 years, with 600 news channels controlled and manipulated from Satellite Five and human minds harnessed as software. While Adam tries to capitalise on the technology of the future and has an info-spike surgically embedded in his skull, the Doctor and Rose go to the 500th floor to the challenge the all-seeing Editor. His boss is an obscene monster on the ceiling, known as the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe – Max for short.

First UK transmission
Saturday 7 May 2005

Production
Location: December 2004 at the old BT building, Coryton, Cardiff.
Studio: November-December 2004 at Unit Q2, Newport.

Cast
Doctor Who – Christopher Eccleston
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Adam Mitchell – Bruno Langley
The Editor – Simon Pegg
Cathica Santini Khadeni – Christine Adams
Suki Macrae Cantrell – Anna Maxwell Martin
Nurse – Tamsin Greig
Head chef – Colin Prockter
Adam’s mum – Judy Holt

Crew
Writer – Russell T Davies
Director – Brian Grant
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
Episode seven. We’re at the halfway point of the season. Russell T Davies has ticked all his To Do boxes: new Doctor, new companion, alien invasions in London, a tale set in the far future, one in the past, Dalek. What does he do now? Well, he just gets on with telling a cracking good Doctor Who story.

In fact, the bare bones of the episode (space station, canteen, journalist ally, mysterious monster upstairs) Davies had mapped out years before in a submission he made to the production office in the 1980s.

The Long Game acts brilliantly as a satire of the media. I’ve worked in magazine publishing for many years, which isn’t quite so fierce a domain, but also served time on Fleet Street, and at the London Evening Standard where I once had a volcanic, tomato-faced editor bawling at me for the minor offence of inadvertently clogging up the sport desk printer.

That man instantly springs to mind when I see the Jagrafess, a gnashing, snarling incoherent clump of flesh who is editor-in-chief on Satellite Five. Think of the most vilified newspaper proprietors (perhaps Robert Maxwell), distort them and their worst excesses through the fevered imagination of Bosch or Brueghel, and maybe you’d result in Davies’s nightmarish vision of the Jagrafess.

By contrast, Simon Pegg is super-cool as the bleach-blond, frost-faced Editor, toadying yes-man to the Jagrafess and an arrogant, all-seeing control freak. You have to wonder if Davies based him on anyone in particular.

Not content with showing the Great and Bountiful Human Empire stagnating under an overbearing media giant, Davies also hooks into information technology and considers where it might take us. Remember, this episode was written before the emergence and prevalence of the iPhone and its imitators. Nowadays I travel the city glued to my device, watch others immersed in theirs… We depend on them and know how it feels when they’re lost, stolen or just conk out. Will there come a time when we simply have the technology wired into our brains, as Cathica and Adam do here? iPhone, iPad, iPeople…

The guest characters impress, and they’re mostly women – another important move from Davies that broadens the programme’s appeal. (Long gone are the dodgy all-male domains of Robert Holmes’s Doctor Who.) And the line-up of burgeoning talent is a sure indicator of casting director Andy Pryor’s sharp eye.

The largest role, Cathica, the ambitious journalist who eventually saves the day, goes to Christine Adams. She now lives and works in LA. Anna Maxwell Martin, then relatively unknown, is snapped up to play journo/anarchist Suki.

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And of course, there’s Tamsin Greig. Debbie Aldridge in The Archers since 1991 and fairly well known in 2005 for Channel 4 sitcoms Black Books and Green Wing, she’s since gone on to far wider fame. She’s excellent here in what amounts to a cameo as the wintry nurse who gives Adam his info-spike.

And now young Adam. The companion who failed. A young man who is just not cut out for space/time travel. It’s a novel angle. Taken to the far future, he falters, gapes and faints to the floor. “He’s your boyfriend,” sneers the Doctor. “Not any more,” says Rose in disdain.

Overwhelmed Adam doesn’t even see the Tardis as a refuge. When Rose lends him her key “just in case it gets a bit too much”, he replies, “Yeah, like it’s not weird in there.” But Adam soon has a gleam in his eye. He borrows Rose’s phone, which can call home 198,000 years ago, and he has access to the history (or future) of microprocessor technology. He becomes the ultimate in untrustworthy male companions (and we’ve had a few before), so by the end of the episode the Doctor and Rose gladly dump him back home on Earth.

Bruno Langley is great casting as the bumptious yet likeable Adam. He adds an interesting dynamic, subtly different from the season’s other partial companions, timid Mickey and heroic Captain Jack. Adam poses no threat to the Doctor and Rose’s relationship, but serves to strengthen it. “I only take the best. I’ve got Rose,” says the Time Lord.

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Adam’s story is tied up with literary precision. He’s become the ultimate whiz kid but dare not speak his name. The info-spike in his cranium pops open whenever someone clicks their fingers – including, hilariously, his own appalled mother.

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