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Tuesday, 16 August 2005 - Reviewed by Nick Mellish

Hear ye, hear ye- I am here to defend Episode Seven of ‘Doctor Who’: Series One, more commonly known as ‘The Long Game’. This lovely example of ‘Doctor Who’- one of the best since the Eighties- has been slated by all known fields of fandom, and I therefore consider it my duty to address this and ponder why this seems to be the case.

After the thrills and chills of ‘Dalek’, the following Episode of Series One was always going to have a spot of difficulty; ‘Dalek’ had single-handedly reminded everybody quite why ‘Doctor Who’ was so brilliant, and it had even made a fair few people sob in the process (bless that emotive blob of blue!)

It was going to need something truly amazing to beat it, and thus ‘The Long Game’ was transmitted.

Instantly, the viewer is struck at how unlike ‘Dalek’ this Episode is. Things look bright, the music suggests fun, the Doctor and Rose are in full-on friendly mode and there is something sinister lurking up above- substitute Floor 500 for an Attic and you pretty much know what ground you are on.

There is nothing out of the ordinary in ‘The Long Game’, but for me this is why it is a joy to behold. Of all the Episodes in the New Series, ‘The Long Game’ has the most in common with how ‘Doctor Who’ looked and felt during John Nathan-Turner’s tenure as Producer. Now is not the time to go into an analysis of JNT’s skills as a Producer, so I shall not, but I can definitely see similarities between this story and certainly some of the material in Season Twenty-Four.

In many ways, it reminds me of ‘Dragonfire’: we have an evil man in a cold room and a large group of people working for him who become ‘zombies’; we have a slightly quirky companion who breaks the rules set by the Doctor (for Ace, read Adam); we have a set full of characters looking neither human nor alien; and we have the obligatory monster which doesn’t do much as it doesn’t really need to.

‘The Long Game’ is Adam’s story in many ways. Throughout the Episode, we are given direct comparisons between himself and Rose, with the pre-title sequence segment parodying Rose’s reaction to seeing the planet Earth through the window in Platform One- whereas she took it in her stride, Adam promptly faints.

The Episode continues with parallels between the two characters. Both Rose and Adam felt the need to have some time to themselves when first witnessing the future, but whilst Rose went and talked to a Plumber who was promptly slaughtered, Adam goes and tries to use the future to his advantage.

Whilst doing this, Russell T. Davies also delivers a character with traits that are almost a halfway point between Rose and Adam in the form of Cathica, played brilliantly by Christine Adams. Unlike Rose, she is unsure quite what to do given her situation, but unlike Adam she eventually uses her ingenuity to solve the problem; all the while, Adam is lying back on a chair is dire need of help.

I couldn’t help but feel that the Doctor’s comment, when rejecting Adam, that he only takes the best was a bit rich- poor Victoria Waterfield spent the vast majority of weeks in dire need of help, but I suppose this is a sign of the times moving on…

The plot itself concerns the delayed evolution of Earth due to the manipulation of the News due to the sinister Editor and the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. Whilst all this is going on, Adam The Genius is busy having implants inserted into his head so he can absorb information from the future to use back on Earth in his Present time. One of the nice things about ‘The Long Game’ is that it has such a nice gentle pace that it fills the forty-five minute time slot allocated for each Episode perfectly. The two plot strands are given equal time to develop, and both have more than their fair share of light-hearted moments.

Despite this, it is the brilliant interplay between Adam and the Nurse played by Tamsin Greig that gets the biggest laughs. Her slow seduction of Adam into persuading him to have a head implant is both well written and well directed, with the highlight being when Adam attempts to vomit and instead spits out an ice cube.

As the Editor, Simon Pegg proves himself to be one of the best pieces of casting in Series One, really bringing his role to life and equating the sinister elements of the News story-strand with his more comedic approach to the situations. He also fits into the age-old role of ‘Doctor Who’ baddie, tying the Doctor and his glamorous Assistant up before telling them the plot.

In fact, ‘The Long Game’ is the most dialogue-driven Episode in Series One, with much of the conclusion taken up by the Doctor egging on Cathica. However, rather than be an annoyance, this works very well since it is able to both show off the Doctor’s intelligence and also provide a neat end to the character development of Cathica.

The music in ‘The Long Game’, as already mentioned, tends to veer towards the light-hearted though it also has its moments of tension to match the action on-screen. Like much good incidental music, most of the time it simply blends into the background, but when in the foreground it is pleasant enough to listen to.

‘The Long Game’ is the only Episode of Series One directed by Brian Grant, which is a shame as he does a really good job with this one. Whereas I felt that Euros Lyn suffered slightly in ‘The End Of The World’ due to the sets being made up of various rooms, here Grant shows that such rooms can be made interesting. Whilst he never tries to do anything overly ambitious, what he does do is provide a consistent pace to his Directing, allowing the viewer to take in enough visual information without making one want to see more.

In all, I feel sorry for ‘The Long Game’ as it has been much underrated. The characterisation is nice, with Adam’s slow downfall managing to be simultaneously hilarious and in an odd way rather sad; the Direction and Music are once more uniformly great; the plot itself is not overly complicated but good enough to sustain interest for forty-five minutes; and the supporting cast all play their roles brilliantly, with Simon Pegg and Tamsin Greig stealing the show.

Oh, and though I didn’t mention it before ‘The Long Game’ has a great ending too. I genuinely believe that this is as good as any ‘Doctor Who’ has been since the Eighties. I’m not saying that it is necessarily better, nor that it is my favourite story of all time, but in terms of quality, it stands up with the best of them, firmly above the worst.