Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Ninth Doctor adventure The Long Game...
This turned out to be better than I remembered. Perhaps its themes have an extra resonance in this post-Leveson world. Now we are more clearly aware of the manipulation of the press for the benefit of a selected few. Perhaps it is because inside a relatively straightforward example of The Doctor helping to bring down an Empire there's a genuine philosophical question about whether someone can truly be a slave if they don't know who their true masters are? And whether humanity has been encouraged to ask fewer questions of its information providers.
In a world of instant Twitter storms, Fact Check and a teeming blogosphere we no longer need get our information from the hands of the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe or "Rupert" as he's better known. Who controls the information, controls the world? To paraphrase - or steal - from George Orwell, "he who controls the past, controls the present." The subtle manipulation of information to create false images that become reality. Perception becomes more important than reality. A future of unquestioning sheep guided by a red-hot blob and his amoral Editor (played with rather magnificent sharpness by Simon Pegg).
It's a horrible picture of a possible future. Fortunately, the Doctor, Rose and Adam are here to save the day. Except Adam turns out to be a greedy, weedy waste of space. Too clever for his own good and doomed - following the failure of his cunning plan - to a life of quiet desperation. With a hole in his forehead. Adam's used as a contrast to Rose. Not everyone has it in them to be a companion. There are few Roses but a lot of Adams. I fear I'd turn out to be an Adam. Much as I wish it were otherwise.
We also have Cathica (Christina Adams) to contrast with Adam. She's a journalist with ambitions there on Satellite 5 but her encounter with the Doctor - and forgive me the following expression - opens her mind. It is Cathica whose final curiosity saves the day, not the Doctor. He's just given her a nudge. Sown a few seeds of doubt and uncertainty. He's a cunning bugger when he wants to be is our Doctor.
And Eccleston's excellent in this. I'd say this is the most comfortable he's looked in the part so far. He manages the jokey stuff better and the serious stuff exceptionally. You genuinely fear for Adam when the Doctor comes stomping towards him at the end of the episode. If looks could kill.
Billie Piper doesn't get as much to do as previously alas. Adam and Cathica both get to steal her thunder a bit. As does poor Suki (Anna Maxwell-Martin). It says something about Doctor Who that this story gets two exceptional actresses to play such minor parts without faffing about with them. The other being the fantastic Tamsin Greig as 'Nurse'. Tamsin Greig would be my pick as the actress to play a female Doctor (should there ever be one) and her she is doing good work in a tiny part.
So, much more enjoyable than I remembered with an excellent cast and some interesting themes (even if I am reading too much into things). I could quibble about the pseudo-Zombies a bit and the ease with which Cathica brings things to chaos but that would be unfair. Worth a re-watch I think folks.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.