Note: If you missed the last rewatch-review (of "Dalek"), you might want to check it out as Rob Shearman, the writer of that particular episode, popped in and added some wonderful insight to the whole process.
Hmm, so "The Long Game" ... yeah. I don't love this one, at all. I don't want to go as far to say that I dislike it, but it's my least favorite episode by far thus far. Again, I don't dislike it, but I'm not into it either. Honestly, once I'm done with my rewatch-reviews and go back to just doing a normal rewatch without the write-ups with them, I may actually just skip over this one. There are some cute Doctor/Rose moments, and some really cute Doctor moments, but overall? It's just not a very good episode, or even a fun one for me. Sigh. I hate when I don't love or at least really, really like Rusty's episodes because I generally really do.
What's especially frustrating about this one is how it SHOULD have been so much better with such a fabulous premise as laid out by DW writer, robshearman, in the Dalek thread: This episode was slotted as "The companion who couldn't." I mean, fabulous, right? What a wonderful idea to show the contrast between Rose (and other companions who can, but being new Who and Rose being the first companion, specifically Rose) and the type of person who would not make a good companion, but yet I feel that Davies took a wrong turn. He went too obvious, his why of the companion's can't too pedestrian and predictable.
Part of my issue remains with Bruno Langley as Adam. I wrote about him in my "Dalek" write-up:
Bruno Langley as Adam was good; he played the pretty boy genius, nothing outstanding and not terribly charismatic, but he played the role as called for.And that was fine, if not outstanding in that episode, but here we needed more depth and layering from the actor to take the role and situation above obvious and pedestrian. Langley played exactly what was on the paper, and as this is one of (in my opinion) Davies' weaker scripts and weaker character episodes, that meant that Adam was about as three-dimensional as a piece of paper. The jump from fainting, stunned Adam in the teaser to the conniving, lying Adam to Rose when he wanted "alone time" back to stunned, slightly scared Adam in the brain surgery scene, back to ... you get the point. Langley just kept playing Adam as whatever motive was behind his actions on the page for that scene alone, there was no connection between the different layers ... unless it was all an act. But again, the first scene and some of the overwhelmed behavior later on, didn't come across as an act at all. So yeah, shoddy characterization and by-the-lines acting just sunk this character and Adam is a fairly important component of this episode.
Aside from Langley, though, the episode featured four other supporting players who showcased some wonderful acting and shining moments. Namely Christine Adams as Cathica, Anna Maxwell-Martin as Suki/Eva and Simon Pegg as the Editor, as well as a smaller role (the nurse) played by Tamsin Greig. In ways that I didn't get to know Adam through the course of two episodes, I felt like I knew Cathica and Suki. I got them, their fight, the types of people they were. And Pegg and Creig were just both fantastic, selling so much in every moment. The giddy reactions, the subservience to his master alongside his condescension of everyone else by Simon Pegg was just wonderful, and made his scenes a delight to watch and yet there was the subtext that underneath it all he was just a venal, vile man and so when Suki grabbed his leg and kept him there to suffer the death of the Jagafress, it felt utterly deserved. And in a smaller role, Greig was just spot-on, making every moment count. The slight weariness of another stupid student bothering her, followed by the growing desire to make a sell that finally became a full-fledged sales pitch that was delivered with an almost winning seduction. She was fabulous.
Which leaves us with Adams and Maxwell-Martin. Although Christine Adam's Cathica had the bigger role, I actually have found myself liking Maxwell-Martin's Suki/Eva more each time I've watched this. I don't know if it was just how effortlessly she moved from the wide-eyed, somewhat dim Suki to the freedom-righting Eva San Julienne with a perfectly acted mix of the two in-between. If you don't know that Suki is Eva before she's called on it, you simply see Suki as she moves through level 500, sure there are small signs -- the flashlight being the most noticable, but still overall, she's Suki. But once you go back and rewatch and you know that Suki is Eva, you see the care in which she walks, how she looks around, holds herself, her facial expression. Excellent, excellent job. And, Davies does something with her character that is echoed later in Yvonne Hartman, something that I loved in both characters: Even though they are essentially dead, both of them are so completely and absolutely committed to their cause that the core of who they are remains (Suki/Eva stopping the Editor from escaping, Yvonne blasting away in the name of Queen and country even after being Cyber-ized) in a moment of doing the right thing. I love that.
As for Cathica, I do like her ... and I think that's owed more to Adams performance, rather than Davies' characterization. Again, for all of his episodes thus far, this is by far the weakest in that regard as far as I'm concerned. Suki/Eva, I think came across the best in his writing, Cathica not as much. Yes, she has her moment to shine -- sigh, more on that later, but overall she comes across as rather dim (despite that she should come across as blindly intelligent) and petty. Still Adams' line readings and facial expressions give the character a boost of likability and make that dimness and pettiness more human and understandable than a lesser actress might have pulled off.
Now, onto that whole shining moment, a.k.a. another of Rusty's deux ex machina moments. Sigh, I love the dude, I really do. It's much, MUCH more important to me that we get good characterization, so I'm wont to let him slide on his overuse of the last-minute, sloppily or unexplained-pretty-much-at-all solutions. However, this episode had sloppy characterization *and* a sloppy solution. Okay, so Cathica took the information she garnered from the Doctor and reversed it all ... how? We were told that the spike-thing was a way to receive information, so I could see by his comment that she was now giving out the new information she learned, but how did that affect the piping or anything else and as dramatically and quickly as it did so? Maybe it does make sense and *I'm* the one being dim, but I don't think I am. I think it was Rusty pulling something out of his ass to end the story, and it wasn't very well done.
But then the entire story wasn't very well done. Going back to Adam, did it have to be so black and white? His trangression, I mean. With such an intriguing premise of the "companion who couldn't," this is all that Davies could come up with? He's a mercenary, selfish git? That just makes the Doctor, and especially Rose, look like idiots for bringing him along because they both had more than enough clues that this is exactly the kind of guy he was. He was working for a man like Harry Van Statten just so he could get his hands on potential alien finds, along with his cowardice in leaving Rose behind ... what does that say about him? Not a whole lot. And Rose had the further information about his reaction to nearly causing World War III. You could say that Davies was just working off of what Shearman had given him with Adam in "Dalek," but it could have been played around and turned into something else ... an Adam who was immature, who wasn't truly ready for the wonder of it all.
A perfect example of properly, brilliantly showing the companion who couldn't is Donna in "The Runaway Bride." She said no and chose not to travel with him because it was too much for her, too brilliant yes, but mostly too dark, too scary. There simply was so much potential in this premise and I felt it was thrown away by Davies' plot and characterization of Adam, as well as Langley's acting. Hmm, maybe Davies felt the same way to a degree because prior to Donna coming back in "Partners in Crime," her Christmas special could follow the premise of the "companion who couldn't" as well ... and it was done much, much better.
As for the overall plot itself, the idea was interesting. I liked Suki, Cathica and the Editor (well, I didn't *like* him, but you know what I mean), but it just didn't work for me overall, I can't put on my finger why. Something about the execution of it, I suppose, but again, I can't say just why. ::Shrugs::
So, plot, characterization, guest stars ... what's left? Oh, right, the Doctor and Rose. Sigh. Sorta a step back, but still we had some really cute moments. Honestly, were it not for Adam from the previous episode being there, their interaction would much better fit after my beloved "The Unquiet Dead," as opposed to after torn between saving the planet or for sure saving Rose ("World War Three") and "the woman you love ..." ("Dalek"). He's not happy about Adam, but his jealousy comes off more playfully ... and it's a playful game that Rose goes along with.
Hmm, wait a second. Well, I don't know now ... backtracking right now as I write this up and questioning if it was deliberate, deliberate in how the Doctor was pulling back, was taking things to that comfort level before things got so heavy and emotional between them, and Rose was playing along with that. Because later moments do recall the heft of their recent emotional interaction. Hmm, I think I'm going to revise my original thought that I had while watching this. I DO think it was deliberate because of three follow-up moments to that playful jealousy.
The first being when Adam is trying to get some alone time so that he could steal technology from the future to make himself the next Bill Gates in his own time. I thought initially that Adam told Rose that she wanted to be with the Doctor, saying:
You stick with the Doctor. You’d rather be with him. It’s gonna take a better man than me to get between you two.as a way to get her away from him, and I'm sure that was definitely part of it, but it was revealed later clearly that HE did absolutely mean it. When the Editor was receiving the information on the Doctor from Adam's brain, what he got in regards to the Doctor's "little human girl from long ago ..." was totally that. The "his girl," especially accompanied with the Editor's caressing of Rose's face certainly implied "girlfriend," and that came from Adam's brain. Secondly, there was Rose's reaction to Adam's comment above about her wanting to be with the Doctor. She listens to what he says and we see a quick look of realization/'am I that obvious?' on her face and then a slight eyebrow raise that acknowledges that that yes, she would rather be with the Doctor and, yup, she IS that obvious paired with an 'oh, well.'
Finally, the whole "his little human girl" straight from Adam's mind, is straight from Davies' pen. The Doctor loves Rose, yes, he does. Oh, and of course, right before that reveal the Doctor was offering up information already because the Editor had hurt Rose and the Doctor was having none of that. So, yeah, not a step back at all, good. Garsh, I love writing these out if only that it gives me further insight even as I'm figuring it out in my brain. Squee!!
Okay, random observation time ...
- One of three other cute Doctor/Rose moments in this episode is in the teaser. Yes, it's to impress Adam, but I still love how the Doctor gives Rose the information in which to do so. He's so sweet, and looks so proudly at her when she does such a good job of it, letting her show off like that. Awww. It makes me grin every time.
- Then, of course, there's this familiar bit seen often in music vids ... the Doctor and Rose briefly discussing and agreeing that it's better with just the two of them. And he takes her hand. Squee!! Handporn! returns!! And the way he pulls her to him as the lift closes ... they're so cute!!!
Check out the short clip below (via imeem) or download for better quality for here.
- Finally, I love how he and Rose are sitting/standing in the scene where the Doctor is making Cathica question everything. He's on the spike seat and Rose is casually leaning against the headrest. It's just smile-worthy, they look so in-tune, so in sync. It's awesome. See?
(I also love their matching 'WTF?!' expressions in the second picture. Hee!)
- Okay, one more ... when they're tied up by the Editor we have another instance of Rose trying to say the alien name and giving her own take on it ("Jagra ... belly") and the Doctor calmly, casually corrects her. Hee, so them. I love it.
- This is the first episode where we see Rose handling the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. *Sigh* If only that were a euphemism. *Double sigh*
- Heh, as much as I love the tender, sweet, shippy Doctor/Rose moments, I also get a laugh out of Nine's exasperation and how badly he hides it. For example: When he senses the evil ongoings on floor 500 he tells Rose to go downstairs, her simple reply of "tough" elicits a look her way that so clearly says 'She's SUCH a pain in the ass sometimes.' Hee!
- I love this exchange, mostly because of Pegg and Eccleston's deliveries ...
Rose: So, all the people on Earth are like, slaves.It's just fun, and never fails to get a laugh (or at least a hearty grin) out of me.
The Editor: Well, now. There's an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if he doesn't know he's enslaved?
The Editor Oh. I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I'm going to get: 'Yes?'
- Normally, I get slightly peeved (I'm such an emotional, irrational shipper!) when I see Rose or the Doctor in any sort of "moment" with someone else, but I got no shippy undertones at all from the Doctor/Suki hug. It was just adorable. "I'll hug anyone." He's so adorkable. He really, really is.
- Speaking of my overly-emotional shippy side, I should have been bothered by the Doctor telling Rose that Adam was her boyfriend and her response of "not anymore" in the teaser because of what it implied. (Of course, we so go back to the playful teasing and that's truly what I think it was, gentle ribbing on the Doctor's part, but still ... This is me and my emotional, irrational shipper side.) Anyhoo, I can't help but crack up at the whole scene and the why of those comments. Adam fainting behind them and their straight-faced commentary, cracks me up every time. Hah!
- Another dorky Doctor moment, him waving "bye" to Cathica as he and Rose headed up to level 500. Again, he's so adorkable. I love him.
- I also love Rose and her continued heart and compassion, shown so often, even in little ways ... like in this episode. I love how she rushes to Suki when she sees her at the computer on level 500, and tries to help her automatically, oblivious to anything else in that moment. So Rose.
- Oy, Davis and his habit of throwing in one-liners during his denouements -- he wrote the 'Van Statten gets dumped scene' in "Dalek", and I was really bugged by the callback to the cities starting with a letter line because the use of it appeared only to get a cheap laugh. Davies does it again here. And unlike the last episode where it made no emotional sense, this time it also makes no logical sense at ALL! Cathica knows indisputably that there is no such thing as a promotion on level 500. She knows the horror that's happening up there and yet when the Editor orders her mind burned, she responds with: "Oh no you don't. You should've promoted me YEARS back." Stupid, illogical and thrown in there simply for the cheap laugh. Does. not. work. La-ame.
- Another bothersome point, again seemingly done for a cheap laugh, is how the Doctor simply leaves Adam in his current time of 2012 with that massive technology in his brain. Low-profile is one thing, but it really would be close to impossible unless he becomes a complete hermit (and the Doctor knows enough of Adam to know that ain't gonna happen) and so the information, the technology WOULD get out. And that is just sloppy and unlike the Doctor. Better had Davis just dropped the whole stupid, snapping subplot and instead had a line as they dropped him off be about having taken him somewhere in the future (for his last trip) to have that technology removed from his brain, leaving the episode on Adam, groveling, pathetic and alone for his transgressions, as the companion who couldn't with nothing to show for his travels.
- Okay, dude, the Mighty Jagrafess CGI was particularly sad and unscary. Ah well, with the BBC budget they did the best they could. I almost think it would have been so much better had they left it to the imagination with the only sight of the Jagrafess being it's exploding body. (And what is it with Russell and exploding villains in THE most disgusting way? First Cassandra, now this. Yuck.
ETA: I'd forgotten the exploding Slitheen in "World War Three," erm, thanks for that reminder, cailetls. LOL!)
- Finally, handporn! time: Only one hand-hold in "The Long Game," but I like it. It's not close-up handporn! or even remotely lingering, but the meaning behind it is quite lovely: It's good with just the two of them. Squee!!