The Long Game

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
4-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 166, starring Christopher Eccleston)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by Brian Grant
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: The Doctor, Rose, and Adam travel to Satellite Five, broadcasting galactic news to all regions of the Earth from orbit in the year 200 000 AD. Why are no personnel ever seen again after being promoted to Floor 500, where "the walls are made of gold"? And what bizarre futuristic process is Adam about to discover on Floor 16?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by Christine Adams (Cathica), Bruno Langley (Adam), and director Brian Grant.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: The Dark Side (11 min.) with Grant, Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose),
    Simon Pegg (The Editor), Corey Johnson (Henry Van Statten from the previous story), writer Russell T. Davies,
    visual effects supervisor Dave Houghton, and visual effects producer Will Cohen.
  • "On Set with Billie Piper" video diary entry
  • "Designing Doctor Who" production design segment

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

This is probably the most formulaic "filler" episode of the 2005 season. While delivering the right arc of emotional energy for a Doctor Who, and managing a nice little bit of social commentary, the plot falls into a few traps, and suffers from a dull re-hash of a setting.

First we have the police box materializing in a motion shot, something only attempted twice before since the show began 42 years earlier. Motion control on the camera turns out a beautiful shot, nicely not overdoing the recent throbbing lighting effects. While this is much nicer than the materialization shot of "The Leisure Hive" (story no. 110), I think the one from the beginning of "The Ark" (story no. 23) is still my favourite. Even in all its black and white glory, it manages to feel far more artistic and satisfying.

The TARDIS interior gets a mention, but is not seen in this story, and is not really missed either. The concept was well represented during the beginning of the season; there's no need to torture us further with the dark ugly inferior design we seem to be stuck with now.

The three main characters make themselves known immediately and easily, and settle into exploring their new setting right away. Excellent. But if only it were an alien planet, which is so desperately needed at this point in the season. Instead, we've got basically a repeat of the setting for "The End of the World" (story no. 162), minus the exciting visuals and imaginative ideas. The year 200 000, on a space station orbiting... what else? ... Earth. Excuses are written in to explain why there are no aliens in the setting, and floor 139 where our exploration starts manages to look so much like a common present day shopping mall, that one wonders when the TARDIS will really be able to demonstrate an ability to travel the universe. Then there's the irritating sound of a present day radio alarm clock going off all over the place, further breaking the illusion. A bit of bright dialogue delivered well by the actors and the occasional establishing model shot are the only things really helping to put the illusion back together again.

Russell T. Davies also hints here to have an almost blind faith in the current form of television, allowing it almost no real growth or development for 198 thousand years. One would expect more independent news-sharing tools, like the internet, to dwarf television in the far future, yet this isn't even mentioned.

Floor 500 also has a big problem: the characters never get to do anything decent there. The presence of the Doctor and Rose is entirely wasted in a boring capture and escape routine there, right when they should be delivering concluding actions and solving the main problems instead. Sure, that's when they get to exchange the dialogue at the heart of the social commentary of the episode, which is highly interesting and earns the story many positive points, but the Doctor and Rose could just as easily have phoned that conversation in from any other floor earlier in the episode. During the concluding act, they should be getting better mileage out of their physical presence.

And the Doctor misses out on the final climactic act, which has also been happening too often this season. Here he can only take credit for his banter and investigations in earlier portions of the episode, which slowly convinced Cathica to take the final climactic act herself. Not a bad dynamic in itself, but the season has left us in need of something more direct.

Floor 16 fares the best. It looks and sounds and feels suitably futuristic, and more importantly, Adam gets to discover and explore a complete and interesting sci-fi process there, along with its side-effects and extra bells and whistles. This is essential to giving the story some worth, although the process is of questionable wisdom and social value, as the Doctor points out at one stage.

But listen carefully to the words the Doctor uses to express this. It seems to betray the philosophy of the writer, that "time" is now wrong, that the history of the year 200 000 used to be different and is now somehow changed. Again, the Doc has found himself on a separate timeline, also known as a parallel/branching/alternate universe, yet can't quite recognize that for what it is.

Even if he did, though, I wouldn't blame him for wanting to leave his heroic mark on the place. In fact, I'd be disappointed if he didn't. "The Long Game" delivers well on that at least, and in the end remains emotionally satisfying.

Some of the best bits are undoubtedly in the little coda to the story centering on Adam. The cut between different locations for the TARDIS is very nice, and works excellently within the story. Well done.

This is not a bad episode by any means, but it remains far from spectacular.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Langzeitstrategie"

Magyar: "A nagy játszma"

Français: "Un jeu interminable"

Русский: "Долгая игра"

Italiano: "La lunga partita"

This story has become available on DVD:
DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
4-episode volume
also for the U.K.
U.K. format only

Note: The 13-episode box sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The 4-episode volume only features the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Father's Day"

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