The Christmas InvasionBookmark and Share

Sunday, 29 October 2006 - Reviewed by Andy Markham

After the fantastic ending to Series 1, or 27, I was on a huge high. Like everyone else, I wanted to see David Tennant go to the plant Barcelona. Right now. Not in six months.

Over the next few days and weeks, everyone slowly recovered. I watched the episode again next week and instead of the sheer happiness I felt last time,I now felt a little bit worried. For some reason, I really wasn't liking Mr.Tennant. I needed to read up on him and get a feel for his character. I watched ITV1's Secret Smile which didn't really help, because he was a villain. Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire didn't really bolster my confidence either. I was seriously worried that this new Doctor was going to be some sort of maniac.

6:59, Christmas Day. Too late now to worry. I ran upstairs and pressed record on the video, then ran down again, on that same high from The Parting Of The Ways. And it begins. The TARDIS makes a bizarre but thrilling landing. The Doctor calls Mickey by his name. He continuously hugs Jackie. I like this Doctor, I'm thinking. For a couple of reasons.

One: I loved Chris Eccleston's happy-go-lucky style, but David Tennant brings something more. He keeps quiet when he's not needed, and tells people what they need to know, while Doctor 9 would hide the truth and convince everyone that everything will be fine. He tells Harriet Jones and Rose straight that Earth is being noticed and they are not safe. I like this, because Chris' unacceptant nature was the one thing tat really annoyed me.

Two: His friendly nature. I keep mentioning this, but I love the way he's willing to be a member of the Tyler family. I was very happy indeed when he sat down for Christmas dinner with the family. It shows that this Doctor is more of a family man, and I prefer that to the Eccelston Doctor's attitude, which was frankly, rude.

So. The episode. I really find it hard to faullt it, but I'll get my little cons out of the way.

I didn't like how much Earth has drastically changed within the space of six months. Harriet Jones has already not only become Prime Minister, but wrote an autobiography. She has been a busy lady!

This episode was all very "christmas special'. The rules for this sort of special are that no one dies, it concentrates on unimportant characters, the enemy is completely harmless, and it's all just a bit of a trailer for the next installment.

But enjoyable. I loved absolutely everything else about this episode. It has humour, horror, drama, weepy scenes and two quotes from The Lion King! And a refernce to Hitchhiker's! What more could one want?

It might have been a teaser, but it definitely worked. If the rest of the series' episodes are this good, i'll be a very happy bunny. They probably will, judging by the series trail. There's a lot more of this to come! YAY! You've done it again, Russell T. Davies...

FILTER: - Christmas - Tenth Doctor - Television

The Christmas InvasionBookmark and Share

Sunday, 29 October 2006 - Reviewed by Will Hadcroft

Like all the stories from the pen of Russell T Davies so far (with the possible exception of The Parting of the Ways), David Tennant’s debut adventure, and the series’ very first official Christmas special is a mixture of the sublime and the awful. There are big concepts, witty lines and memorable moments, but there are also cheap looking set pieces, embarrassing throwaway gags and too-easy-by-far resolutions. It’s the sort of hurried mishmash Andrew Cartmel would have endorsed.

The Christmas Invasion opens with the TARDIS popping into the real world above Rose’s council estate and literally bouncing off the buildings and crashing on to the street. It’s a great effect and one cannot help but wind it back and watch it again. The newly regenerated Doctor tumbles out, wide eyed and Tom Bakeresque. But the moment is ruined when Jackie exclaims, “The Doctor? Doctor who?” How many police box travelling Doctors does she know? It is clear that Rose is claiming the newcomer is the Doctor both Jackie and Mickey have met before. The gag doesn’t work as well as Rose’s, “Don’t you ever get tired of being called Doctor?” retort in Stephen Moffatt’s excellent The Doctor Dances. Here it hits the floor with all the subtlety of a thud.

Then it’s into Murray Gold’s rather lovely arrangement of the theme music, with its perfect blend of Delia Derbyshire inspired sounds and brand new orchestrations (the best rearrangement since the Pertwee/Baker version?), synchronised with that stunning re-imagining of Bernard Lodge’s slit-scan time vortex title sequence; together they slap a smile on the face and fill one with wonder and anticipation.

The Doctor is out of action and recovering from the regeneration process, and so it’s over to the soap-styled realism of the everyday, and in particular the strained relationship between Rose, her boyfriend Mickey and her mother Jackie. There are some nice touches, with Penelope Wilton’s Harriet Jones making a welcome return as Prime Minister of a new British golden age, and some lovely continuity in the form of scaffolding around a recently restored Big Ben (it having been extensively wrecked by the Slitheen in Aliens of London).

Rose and Mickey go Christmas shopping and then all hell breaks loose as aliens dressed as trombone playing Santas open fire. This scene would easily be at home in a Sylvester McCoy serial, with upbeat poppish music accompanying a flurry of sparks and a lot of running around. Indeed, Rose continues to bear more of a resemblance to Sophie Aldred’s Ace than any other classic series companion. All she needs is a rucksack full of Nitro and some out-dated slang and she’d be made.

The Santa scene is guilty of what critic Bonnie Greer claimed of Eccleston’s debut adventure March last year. It looks cheap and staged. It doesn’t look real. A bit of tinsel, a few lights, and virtually every extra carrying a wrapped present – it isn’t convincing at all.

Another McCoy era staple is littering stories with fanciful ideas seemingly for the sake of it. Davies equally prefers fantastic visual imagery over proper plotting and character driven drama. This is served up as a homicidal Christmas tree – a tremendous special effect, and one that will stay with people for years, but there only as a bit of superficial nonsense.

The adventure comes to life momentarily as the Doctor bursts from his regenerative sleep, expels the killer fir tree and engages Jackie in a genuinely funny comic routine. However, the moment he returns to a comatose state, so does the viewer’s interest.

In fact, I would say the first half of the special, with the exception of one or two moments, is a bit boring. This isn’t helped by the amount of incidental music supplied by Murray Gold. The composer does what he does exceptionally well, but is it really necessary to point up absolutely every emotion? Sometimes less is more, and here Gold’s music is too generic. It creates an effect opposite to the one desired.

And despite all the attempts to keep us hooked in, one thing becomes sparklingly clear: Doctor Who without the Doctor is rather dull.

The story only really becomes absorbing when the Sycorax reveal themselves and people are ready to jump from the roofs of London’s buildings (and by implication roofs all over the globe) like hypnotised lemmings. Harriet Jones and her aids are teleported up to the Sycorax ship and their exchange with the alien leader is mesmerising.

The scene where Rose breaks down and mourns the loss of the Ninth Doctor is genuinely touching. There she encapsulates how many a youngster might well have been feeling as they waited for the Doctor to recover (Piper proves she deserves all the accolades heaped upon her. Never before has a companion’s emotional response to the Doctor changing his face and personality been so real).

If the story only really picks up at the half-way point, then it becomes must-see telly in the last fifteen minutes. The moment it all changes is a simple one: David Tennant emerges from the TARDIS fully born as the Tenth Doctor. Witty, unpredictable, staring, smiling, euphoric, angry, like Eccleston before him, he convinces us he is the Doctor and we embrace him. Our hero has come back to life. By the time he has chosen his pinstripe suit, World War Two trench coat and worn his old fashioned British National Health glasses, we have forgotten there ever were any previous Doctors.

As the closing credits roll, one cannot help but await with great eagerness the onset of Series Two. The Christmas Invasion is not the best Doctor Who adventure ever to grace our screens, but it is better than any first outing for a new Doctor since Robot and sets the pace for what is to follow.

FILTER: - Christmas - Tenth Doctor - Television

The Unquiet DeadBookmark and Share

Saturday, 28 October 2006 - Reviewed by Adam Kintopf

‘The Unquiet Dead’ is a fun little story. Its plot is straightforward, but nicely so, and it really feels like ‘Doctor Who’ again, with its obvious nods to the horror-based stories of the Baker/Hinchcliffe years. From the lighting of the candle in its very first moments, this story is an exercise in gothic style, and an affectionate homage to the traditional British ghost stories of Christmases past. I found it extremely entertaining throughout.

But it’s not *only* a style piece – its main strength, actually, is its wonderful characterization. Gwyneth is a great character; sort of in the tradition of ‘Image of the Fendahl,’ which the script obliquely refers to (just like in that story, the haunting is caused by time rift), she’s a psychic whom the Doctor scientifically accepts as the genuine article. Her scenes with Rose are very carefully written, revealing much about both characters. The moment when she reveal she knows that Rose thinks her stupid, and Rose’s reaction, are beautifully played by both Eve Myles and Billie Piper. This is a good Rose story in general – the “Better with two” flirting at the outset is irritating, but we continue to see the new companion’s wonder at, and difficulty with, the concept of time travel (I like the way she clings to the idea that she can’t be killed before she’s been born). Piper manages some excellent comic moments as well; my favorite: “Who’s your friend?” “Charles Dickens.” “Okay . . . .”

And speaking of Dickens, the novelist makes a wonderful, almost Robert Holmes-ian Doctor Who character. I doubt I’m the only fan who thought he’d make a good companion! One always walks a thin line when dramatically treating an extremely famous public person, even one from before the era of recorded sound. But despite the obvious fun Mark Gatiss has with the character’s Victorian diction, his script keeps ‘the Great, Great Man’ very down to earth, and of course Simon Callow’s performance is as charming and meticulously considered as one would expect. (And watching him re-create one of the writer’s famous dramatic readings is an added treat.) Dickens also benefits from the plot, figuring out how to push the Gelth from the room with the lamp gas, and living up to his reputation as a Victorian freethinker by coming to embrace his new consciousness by the end of the story.

The Gelth make nice villains – a terrible menace, yes, but they’re not entirely unsympathetic, even after their true aggressive nature is revealed. And the fact that they look like the ‘Christmas Carol’ ghosts is of course a nice touch of Dickensiana on the part of Gatiss and the production designers.

In fact, if there’s any real problem with this story of all, it’s that the treatment of the Doctor is a little bit disappointing. His getting the TARDIS coordinates wrong is nothing new, but he also totally misreads the Gelth’ s motives, and tries to force Gwyneth into the ‘spirit gate’ position that ultimately kills her (although some have suggested that the Doctor invents this idea to shield Rose from knowledge of Gwyneth’s self-sacrifice, and I suppose that’s possible). More than that, he simply takes Rose’s hand and resigns himself to death when cornered by the reanimated corpses; presumably he really would have been killed if Dickens didn’t show up at the last moment to rescue him. 

But these are small problems – overall, I actually like the Ninth Doctor’s fallibility, and Christopher Eccleston certainly gives it his all here, as usual, even if he’s a bit OTT when gushing about Dickens’s work. All in all, this is simple story, but a little Christmas jewel – one of the best Ecclestons by far.

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

The Long GameBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 October 2006 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

Finally! A Russell T. Davies episode that I really enjoyed!

Ok, so I liked "Rose", and "The End of the World" was good. "Aliens of London" and "World War 3" just made me want to cringe at times. Taken as a whole, Mr. Davies episodes have been the weaker ones of this run of Doctor Who, being somewhat lean in the plot department and filled with left-wing political preaching, sexual innuendo and juvenile humor in the form of flatulent aliens or burping trash bins. "The Long Game" avoids most of these pitfalls to one extent or another (apart from the ever-present left-wing politics... one would think we're watching televised NAs here), though it has a few of its own. On the whole, it's pretty good.

Just to knock out the complaints first, so I can get on to the strengths of the episode, let's start with the year: 200,000? I mentioned this in my review of "Bad Wolf" since the setting is the same, but there's no way that I can accept so many similarities to the 21st century would exist 198,000 years in the future. Look at how much societies have changed in 2000 years, or 5000. It's night and day, and yet the year 200,000 looks not too dissimilar than our own time, some technical and architectural details aside. It's absurd.

Leaving that aside, the idea of a society manipulated and made docile by the mass media is nothing new, but it's handled well enough here. The Doctor, Rose and Adam arrive during the time of "the fourth great and bountiful human empire" to find that empire's growth has been stunted by media manipulation. People don't think or question, they just accept what they're spoon-fed on the 24-hour news and information network, broadcast from Satellite Five. Evidently they don't have the sense to turn the TV off.

Naturally, the Doctor smells a rat and starts to sniff out the source of the problem. In the context of this story, unlike others this season, it seems appropriate that he does not himself end the threat, but instead leads Cathica to the truth of events so that she can end it, since his goal once he determines what the problem is, is to get people to think for themselves. Of course, there's likely to be anarchy and chaos for a while if the population is as dependent on media as the episode makes them out to be.

Cathica and Suki were both well-realized characters. The episode's only real "uh-oh, something's wrong here" moments came when Suki steps from the lift into the glorious floor 500 only to find an icy room with dead people. It wasn't hard to guess that this was where she would end up, but the scene still worked well, as did her sudden change into freedom-fighter mode, which I did not expect. The misdirection at the beginning of the episode where the Editor talks about someone being out of place is well executed as well. I (of course) expected that he was talking about the Doctor and Rose rather than Suki, so her singling out as the one out of place and promotion was a nice little twist.

Cathica's desire to avoid trouble and not be involved with the Doctor's little bit of anarchy is nicely realistic, but it's also nice to see that she has enough curiosity or concern to take the elevator up to the 500th floor and see what's there. And it's nice to see that she has the courage to act when the true facts are presented to her. My friend who watched this episode with my wife and me got a good laugh out of the "you should have promoted me years ago" line, and decided that the moral of the story was "always promote your good employees".

I like the villains of this episode. I've not seen Simon Pegg in anything else, but he seems to be enjoying his role in this episode, and is indeed one of the highlights. His character, The Editor, is mean and nasty by virtue of his actions, but he's also amusing and fun to watch. I get the sense that he enjoys his job, though I wonder how he got it, and what happened to the marketplace of ideas when it comes to news, if indeed the Jagrafess and satellite 5 have a monopoly on the media. The Editor says that he works for a consortium of banks, seemingly another swipe at the free market and capitalism by RTD, when ironically the free market and competition of ideas would solve the problem presented us by the episode.

The Jagrafess is a big nasty zit with teeth, with no real motivation. Cool monster, but if I were him, would I hang around in a space station playing network executive? Not likely, but maybe that's what Jagrafesses the universe over like to do.

As for the regulars, temporary and otherwise, they all get a decent amount of screen time. The Doctor acts as troublemaker and motivator, a typical but well-executed role for the character. Rose has less to do than usual, but we get to watch the rather interesting idea of a companion who is along for the ride so he can get something out of it. Adam has some backbone to get that thing installed in his head, if not a lot of common sense. The Doctor's condemnation of him and unceremonious dumping of him back home is rather cruel, especially considering that the Doctor facilitated his actions in the first place by encouraging him to jump in with both feet, and by giving him the unlimited finances that enabled Adam to pay for his operation. The ending of the episode leaves a sour taste in my mouth since Adam in no way deserved quite so harsh a punishment. Hopefully we'll see the situation remedied somewhere down the line.

Overall: a nice self-contained episode where nothing terribly cringe-worthy happens. The message of the episode does not overwhelm the plot and the guest actors are all excellent. 8 out of 10.

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

The Long GameBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 October 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Apparently, I enjoyed this story a lot more than most of you.

"The Long Game", in my book, stands just as strong as the other stories surrounding it and is nice enough to give us something that is considerably lighter in places. "Dalek" is darker than dark and "Father's Day" is sadder than sad. So, squeezing this particular tale between the two of them, I think, was a stroke of genius on RTD's part. We still get some nice sinister moments, of course. Because, in the end, Doctor Who has got to have a scary villain and/or monster (which, in this case, we get both). But there's also a lot of fun. Something I'm glad the show has remembered to maintain. Fans may take Doctor Who far more seriously thant they ought to, but it's good to see that the production team doesn't!

The nicest surprise I got from this story was Adam. I've been following as many teasers and spoilers as a Canadian can (the show, over here, is getting massive ratings but not a whole lot of media attention) and I had not heard a word about a new member of the TARDIS crew. So it was a genuine surprise for me when he rushes into the battered old Police Box at the end of the previous story. Which was pleasant. My desire to spoil almost any surprise this new series can give me was beaten for once, and I thoroughly enjoyed the loop it threw me for!

But what I enjoyed even more about Adam was how he was used in this story. In the 80s, JNT tried something very creative with the character of Turlough: a companion who starts out "bad" but slowly redeems himself. No such luck with Adam. He just totally blows his chances with the Doctor and gets dumped off after just one story. I really liked this idea. It was neat to see a companion who just doesn't end up "cutting the mustard", if you will. It's almost too bad we haven't seen this sort of scenario sooner - it adds a neat sort of "real world" feel to the show. Like us, the Doctor can sometimes pick the wrong kind of company if he's not careful.

Of course, there's some functionalism to dear Adam too. The negative experience the Doctor has with him helps to re-inforce what he feels for Rose. His "I only travel with the best" line (I'm paraphrasing here) was even a bit touching. Thanks to Adam's blundering, we see just how high of an esteem the Doctor holds her in. Great that, an episode later, she totally lets him down! Again, very realistic character dynamics going on. So often, when we put someone on too high a pedestal we set ourselves up to be let down by them. And I like that the series displayed that to us. Again, great plotting on RTD's behalf.

The other thing that really stands out for me in this tale is something that most of fandomn seems in agreement with: the amazing performance by Simon Pegg. What I think I liked most about it was how radically different he was from his character in "Shaun of the Dead" (so different, that it actually took me a moment to place him). Pegg plays the role perfectly - hitting every "beat" of the character just the way it needs to be hit. In terms of all-time favourite "one-off baddies", he's not too far behind big bad Sharaz Jek in Androzani (who, I think, will always be mine, and everyone else's, favourite single-story villain). It was great to see that this new series still knows how to make a classic villain like this one. That was as important to me as the crafting of the lead character or the companion is.

And now, the plot. Like most of the season - it's a pretty straight-forward one. Which is all alot of these stories can afford to be, given the time constraints. But what makes The Long Game a bit more distinctive from a lot of other stories of this season is how effectively it built up its subplots. In fact, a lot of the guest writers could learn something from this story since many of them are just telling one story and that's it. Here, we have the central idea of "something is rotten in the state of Sattelite Five" whilst at the same time we get "the downfall of Adam". At the crucial climax, the two plots become intertwined and the stakes get even higher because of it. Now, the Doctor doesn't just have to try to topple the Jagrafess' control - he also has to save his own hash in the process since the Editor has discovered who the Time Lord really is and what his advanced knowledge and technology can do for him. This, to me, is what "good Who" is all about. Plot threads coming together from all over the place to give us a thundering little story climax. It's what makes a something like "Mawdryn Undead" have such a special place in my heart and it's also what endears this story all the more to me.

Of course, there is a crucial, more understated third subplot too. As Adam disentergrates, Cathica grows. She starts as a two-dimensional overly-ambitious plot cypher - laying out all the basic elements of the story as the Doctor convinces her with his psychic paper that he's an executive. Slowly but surely, she realises the Doctor and Rose aren't who they claim to be and becomes conflicted because of it. Should she stay loyal to the company she serves or follow along with them to uncover what's wrong with Sattelite Five? It's a nice little moral dilemna and I like how her own personal hesitancy is what resolves the plot. Had she gone up the lift immediately with the Doctor and Rose, she would've gotten caught with them during their great confrontation with the Editor. But because her change of heart only comes later, she's able to sneak up to Floor 500, overhear the sinister plot and then choose to do something about it at the most crucial moment. The "stumbling hero(ine)" characterisation is something I love to see in a storyline - and it's executed quite well here. Both on paper and on-screen. And, as annoyed that some fans might get because the Doctor only seems to "save the day" in about half of the stories this season - I quite like this idea. It's not something all that revolutionairy to the show, really. This sort of thing went on quite often in both the 60s and 80s eras of Who. And I, for one, like it when the Doctor works as just a catalyst in a story. Influencing characters to save themselves rather than just running and solving all the conflicts all on his own. I still think he needs to be "the day-saver", if you will, on, at least, a semi-regularl basis. But it's quite nice how often this particular incarnation didn't play the Messiah (obviously, he got all of that out in another RTD series!). So, no quelm from me that Cathica becomes the ultimate solution to the Jagrafess problem. Because, in the end, she still couldn't have done it without the Doctor. And, in many ways, that makes him a far more effective protagonist than if he'd just come in, waved around his sonic screwdriver and saved the day himself.

These are just a few of the more vital elements to this story that made me like it so much. But there are also some very nice "dashes" of other things too. The clever use of Suki, for example - was a great device that RTD used. How often in the show have we seen the villain pick out the Doctor and his companion(s) as a dangerous anomaly and lure them into his lair? Instead, he misses them altogether, at first, and deals with someone else. A wonderful twist that I felt was thrown in there more for us fanboys than the new viewers.

I also liked what the story had to say about media control - a particularly "hot" topic for me. And though the story's message is so obvious that it does almost bite you on the ankle a bit, I don't mind. Cause I was love it when someone rails against the media and how much we allow it to control us. So, the moral high horse didn't bother me any. In fact, isn't Doctor Who, in general, just one giant moral high horse? So really, gang, what's the problem? I, personally, have always loved the show for the strong messages it tries to deliver.

Finally, we also get great performance thrown in by Tamsin Greig. Another comedic performer whose role in this story greatly contrasted the other role I know her best for. Here in North America, typecasting is "King" in the world of acting. So it's great to see such excellent displays of diversity. Again, like Pegg, it took me a minute to place her because her portrayal was so markedly different from her previous work.

Any weak points to this story? Once more, they're fairly minimal and, therefore, hardly worth mentionning. I do think it funny that so many people nitpicked the opening sequence about the relationship between Adam and Rose. "He's your boyfriend"/"Not anymore" struck me as just a fun little throwaway gag and nothing else. Just like Rose teasing the Doctor about the "Tree Lady" in "End of the World". But, as usual, the geeks have to take things for more seriously than they need to and cry out against Rose's supposedly loose morals. Give it a rest guys, I know it's tough for you to get girlfriends and therefore you get very upset over the idea of infedility but you need to understand that the rest of the world has a pretty light-hearted approach to this kind of stuff!

Wow, was I mean there!

Anyway, as I stated at the outset of this review, "The Long Game" is as strong a story to me as the episodes it is set between. And it continues, overall, the trend of high-callibre story-telling that this season has that is only let down ever-so-slightly by the stuff with the Slitheen.

According to the polls and the reviews that I've seen, I'm somewhat alone in that thinking. But I don't mind. As the good Doctor, himself, once said: "I've always been a bit of iconoclast, myself."!

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

The Long GameBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 October 2006 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

One thing I admire most about the new series is the way that every episode fits into a wider narrative as semi-independently of the story that it tells. This creates a sort of loose story arc that is designed to create not just an advancing plot but also characterisation and theme. However, there has to be a healthy balance as an episode is still required to tell a good story in its own right, and that's where The Long Game falls down. Opinion of it reflects this: it bottomed out the Outpost Gallifrey season one poll, and many reviews have been negative. I don't feel that it's the worst episode of the season, but in terms of sheer structure it's arguably the one with the most flaws.

The opening scene is actually quite fun, with Russell T. Davies writing quirky dialogue that manages to stay on the right side of indulgence. It is let down by the big plank that is Bruno Langley as the abortive companion Adam: Dalek was too good for him to let it down, but that's not the case here. Also, the notion that Rose is wilfully cheating on Mickey (see also The Empty Child) makes me wonder about the moral centre (I don't want to sound prudish but I'm a white middle-class guy from Surrey and it'll only be a few years until I'm made illegal). We see a brief shot of Satellite Five before the titles, and the cross between The Ark In Space and 2001: A Space Odyssey works brilliantly creating a much more inventive design than the one for The End Of The World.

After the titles the gig gets wrecked by what I call the Kronkburger scene, as that piece of nonsense perfectly epitomises this sub-Dragonfire set-up of people running round ordering fast food; at least in that episode the milkshakes didn't taste of beef. The music is irritating (Murray Gold is generally okay but he really can't do jauntiness) and the scene is in general overly camp – something Davies stated he was going to be careful about. The Doctor as written by him is completely at odds with the character as written by anyone else, as the sparkling eccentricity that has made him such a captivating television figure for so many years gives way to simple buffoonery. In this case the Doctor is deliberately putting on an act, but for the series in general that point stands. Furthermore, the unimaginative design of the year 200 000 has bee criticised so much that I'm not going to go into it here. It's not all bad though: the massive infodump given by Cathica is at least given some context with the Doctor pretending to be from management, and Simon Pegg puts in a great performance that perfectly suits a character that could so easily slip into pantomime.

The aforementioned beef slush-puppy is another deeply silly scene and continues Davies's habit of creating a largely comedic contextual universe for the characters: in the original series the settings were serious and comedy was added later by the characters, and comedy doesn't feel at all appropriate when it becomes intrinsically part of a non-comedic narrative. It's strange that in an episode featuring two notable comedy actors that I should be complaining about this while praising Pegg as one of its best features. Also of note is Cathica's introduction of "ladies, gentlemen, multisex, undecided"; one of Davies's hobbies seems to be provoking reactions with gratuitous references to sex and sexuality. This is something I never wanted to discuss any episode in relation to, but the cumulative effect throughout the series makes it difficult to ignore. The fact that no aliens are in the room at the time makes it dramatically unjustified, and it merely comes across as self-indulgent writing. I don't want to sound parochial or like I hate the very concept of sex and gender in Doctor Who (not at all); all I have a problem with is Davies's constant need to bait his audience. I'll say again that it's the cumulative effect of the series as a whole that sees me vent my frustration at this scene, as I don't want to mislead you as to the significance of it on its own.

The information stream is a hardly a gigantic leap of imagination, but is certainly off the wall in practice mainly because of the completely loopy idea of people having holes in their heads; unlike, say, Aliens Of London's space pig this sees Davies get right the mix if humour and the genuinely disturbing.

The revelation that Suki is a rebel is an interesting twist as the viewer is expecting the Doctor to be identified. The snowy floor 500 looks brilliant and contains a genuine jump-moment when the corpses are discovered. It is well directed by Brian Grant, who makes good use of a handheld camera, but does go on too long. It finishes with Suki's death though, which is a great moment especially considering that, like many of Davies's episodes, the mortality rate is a fairly low 33.3%.

So far the episode isn't terrible, but I can't shake the feeling that more should have happened by now. It is paced like original series episodes were when they had a leisurely hour and forty minutes to tell their story. This is the main problem with the episode that, through its poor execution, a good core idea goes to the dogs. We're halfway through the episode, and we're still at the initial-setup stage of the plot.

Tamsin Greig's creepy, subtly suggestive performance as the nurse is something I can't quite fathom out, but it certainly tops anything that Langley can manage acting opposite her. The Editor's line about nonentities being promoted is another stalling attempt at satire from Davies; like the low-brow toilet gags and occasional smut the cumulative effect is very grating, and the same goes for the vomit-o-matic.

I'd just like to say that I note with glee the fact that the lift door wobbles as the Doctor and Rose enter it.

Only once the heroes have been captured do we learn anything new since the beginning, either for the episode itself or its place in the series – so badly is The Long Game constructed. However, the confrontation between the Doctor and the Editor is very good and the Jagrafess looks amazing, although its silly convoluted full name sees Davies plumb the depths by plagiarising himself having come up with the ridiculous 'Raxicoricofallipatorius' for World War Three. The 'slave' discussion is great, but why doesn't the Editor sense Cathica come into the room since he's just said how he can detect everyone's thoughts?

The explanation of the Jagrafess leads to many unanswered questions and is inadequate. This is largely intentional, but that doesn't make it a good thing. The Long Game is merely a forty-five minute trailer for Bad Wolf, without containing any real substance to sustain it independently. Taken on its own terms the viewer merely comes away thinking "is that it?", and if I hadn't heard Davies say that these questions would be answered I wouldn't have given it the benefit of the doubt.

And, with that, the Jagrafess is destroyed. Just as the viewer is hoping a bit of proper plot is going to come along the whole thing is over, although we should be grateful that there's no massive fart noise as the Jagrafess explodes. One silly moment is that Suki somehow grabs the Editor even though the zombies' chips are deactivated; even if you explain this away as the Jagrafess taking revenge it's still a cheap attempt at providing dramatic justice. The final scene, in a cursory mention, is straight out of an unfunny sitcom.

I've tried to be kind to this as I've seen many worse episodes (there aren't so many plot holes here as Davies's episodes usually contain), but even so The Long Game is disappointing. It can be seen more sympathetically in the light of Bad Wolf, but in a sense that is irrelevant; however useful it is for the general narrative the fact remains that it is unable to stand up on its own. Therefore, for all it's snappy dialogue and decent visuals, The Long Game remains a very unsatisfying episode.

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television