The long game (2005)
About this episode
This episode was first broadcast on May 7, 2005. It was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Brian Grant. The showrunner was Russell T Davies.
The Doctor, Rose and Adam go where the news is being made.
The good news:
- We get an entertaining villain who has all the best lines, and...
- an intriguing story with a nice build-up to...
Ah. Well, yes, there's where the bad news comes in. A build-up to what, exactly? Let's put it this way:
- 'Classic' Doctor Who had ranting monsters in masks. New Doctor Who has snarling blobs. (Either that, or millions and millions of... well, let's leave that for the moment, since we haven't got to that point in the new series yet.) And once the Doctor faces the snarling blob, you realise that a) all the interesting stuff that went on earlier in the episode took place just because there happens to be a snarling blob stowed away in the attic, and that b) no, the presence of the snarling blob in the attic and the exposition accompanying its revelation won't explain much of anything.
Viewed from a more meta level the story isn't either scathing or amusing enough to work as satire, and the science doesn't even make it past the extremely low believability threshold of a Doctor Who science fiction story. To name some of the bigger problems (and I feel rather silly for doing this):
- It's hard to imagine a world where exposing the human brain to a non-sterile environment would be a convenient, low-risk solution to any problem.
- There is no such thing as 'pure information'. There is no such thing as opening up your skull and having pure information pumped directly into your brain while your colleagues sit around you in a circle doing whatever it is that they're doing. The 'Stone Age trepanation meets 19th-century spiritualist seance in a futuristic setting' concept may make for some interesting visuals but it never even comes close to being plausible technology.
- How did Adam's call home work, exactly? Was he transmitting the information to his phone by pure brain power (another magical concept)? Was the phone picking up and transmitting the sound of the information being pumped into his brain (and would that even get the actual data onto his parents' answering machine)? And how much data storage capacity did the answering machine have, anyway?
And a couple of more general questions raised by the plot:
- How did Money-hungry Earth Corporation and Mobility-impaired Alien Snarling Blob come into contact with each other, and how did they discover the possibility of a mutually beneficial symbiosis?
- What stopped the advance of technology? If this was done deliberately, what was the point?
The bottom line
All build-up, no payoff.