Monday, February 3, 2014

The Long Game

Dear Gary—
“It must’ve been a glitch.” Nice to know they still have unspecified glitches in the year 200,000. The Long Game itself is a bit of a glitch. Or, to quote the Editor, “Something is wrong; something fictional.” The Long Game just doesn’t feel right. It has its share of entertaining moments, interesting characters, and intriguing concepts; but it just does not fit it all together. It is like those 600 channels all broadcasting out, a jumble of data streaming out to millions of planets and species but none of it of any relevance.
But first let me indulge in some Rose bashing to get it out of the way. I’m mystified by my new found dislike of Rose; I haven’t had such negative feelings towards a companion since Peri; Rose is starting to make me look back fondly on the Peri years. I have always had an aversion to Peri; my distaste for Rose has grown slowly over time and with careful consideration. To tie this aside in with The Long Game, the character of Rose is something like Suki—the truth to her persona lies hidden underneath the surface of the blonde girl heroine.
At the end of Dalek Rose persuaded the Doctor to bring her latest boy toy along for the ride. Mind you, she never consulted Adam in this decision. Adam had no clue what he was getting into when he stepped through the TARDIS doors. Now they are at the start of their first adventure together; however before allowing Adam out, Rose pulls the Doctor aside to get the skinny on where they have materialized so that she can impress Adam with her superior knowledge. When she runs out of her canned info she graciously lets the Doctor take over the explanations.
Then when Adam doesn’t measure up, Rose quickly loses interest in him.
Doctor: “He’s your boyfriend.”
Rose: “Not anymore.”
Let’s add fickle to Rose’s list of defects.
Rose abandons Adam and trails along after the Doctor for the rest of the story and this is where I really get irritated. The Sixth Doctor and Peri had an obnoxiously contentious relationship; the Ninth Doctor and Rose have an equally obnoxious mutual adulation. “Now Rose. Look at Rose. Rose is asking the right kind of question,” the Doctor tells Cathica, giving Rose some unwarranted credit for her simple complaint about the heat due to her own discomfort. In fact, Cathica states that she has repeatedly asked the same question to authorities and has been told there are technical difficulties. But Rose is quick to accept the praise. The final straw, though, is when the Doctor declares, “I only take the best. I’ve got Rose.” Rose’s head grows ten times larger, if that’s possible, over the course of this one episode.
I don’t think I would be this focused on Rose, Gary, if the episode was better than it is. But I just do not buy the overall premise.
This is supposed to be the “Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire.” It is supposed to be the “planet Earth at its height” and “the human race at its most intelligent.” If that is supposed to be true, how fragile is mankind that the mere fact that all of broadcast news is being manipulated can subvert it during its most impressive era? This is a fault with Doctor Who in general, though. Doctor Who has always had a rather dim view of the human race and its ability to progress of its own accord.
Now, I have to point out that this mighty news empire overseen by the Editor and the Jagrafess is dependent on the human brain; there is a reason that the brain is used as the computer, the processor, part of the software. The brain, the human brain, is a complex organism; brilliant, methodical, flexible, unpredictable; the human brain. (At this point I have to think: Destiny of the Daleks.)
And yet we are meant to believe that the entirety of the human race, spread across millions of planets, is unwittingly enslaved by a steady stream of propaganda.
I’m sorry, and with apologies to Skinner, but I just don’t buy it; I have more faith in humanity than that.
If you take two siblings with the exact same upbringing, instilled values, and indoctrinated beliefs, and you show them the exact same program, there is bound to be some point of discussion, some minor difference in perception. Any two people are going to see things differently, no matter how small that difference. Now, multiply that minute difference out by millions of billions of people who each have had different upbringings and who have different values and beliefs; multiply that out by millions of billions of the human brain; multiply that out by millions of billions of that organic computer, that wonderfully brilliant, methodical, flexible, unpredictable organic computer called the brain. The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire would not be taken down by a news monopoly; regardless of fact manipulation and subliminal seduction.
Something more is going on here. It has to be. The Doctor reprimands Cathica for not asking the right questions, but I have to take a long hard look at the Doctor and wonder why he doesn’t ask more than the superficial questions.
But then, this is nothing more than a superficial episode:
“Oh, I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m going to get? ‘Yes?’”
 It’s a set up episode, and that is a fundamental problem with the whole idea of a season long story arc. But I don’t want to get into that, Gary. It just makes me mad. Besides, to take this on the slow path, simply as a one episode story and the next in line in the history of the Doctor, I should simply ignore that bad wolf.
OK, so let’s just look at this episode; the baddies of this episode; the Editor and the Jagrafess.
Simon Pegg does wonders with the role given. But the role given is inauspicious. He answers to his boss: “The mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Maxarodenfoe. I call him Max.” The two of them are a set up for that one-liner. Period.
The mighty Jagrafess (I’ll call him Max) oversees everything; but what does that get him? An air-conditioned room. That’s about it. And what of the Editor? “Simply being human doesn’t pay very well,” he says; but then what does being Editor get him? An air-conditioned room. That’s about it.
When the Doctor and Rose uncover the Editor and Max sitting high atop Satellite Five in their air-conditioned room he decides to leave. The Editor has other plans. The Editor is intrigued by the fact that the Doctor is a non-entity. Then when Adam conveniently reveals all with his newly implanted head spike the Editor exults with the possibilities of the limitless knowledge the Doctor and his TARDIS possess. Except the Editor and Max deal in distorted truths. He wants to use the TARDIS to rewrite history and prevent human development, but he’s already doing that. Why does he need information in order to misinform? Why does he need historical knowledge in order to distort history? I just do not get the logic.
So, I can’t buy the threat to the universe, the Earth, or humanity; I can’t buy the motivations for the villains; and I can’t even buy the menace to the Doctor. What’s left? Entertainment value?
“Time travel’s like visiting Paris,” the Doctor tells Adam when they first arrive on Satellite Five. “You can’t just read the guide book; you’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers.” Now that sounds fun.  However I just do not care enough about Adam one way or another. Tamsin Greig as the nurse provides a small modicum of amusement as she lures Adam on to his ultimate undoing, but his underlying machinations don’t interest me. He wants to transmit future knowledge back home so he can profit; I just don’t care. Then when the Doctor unceremoniously dumps Adam back home with his head stuffed with impossible technology I have little sympathy for him. Even still, I find the Doctor and Rose particularly smug and distasteful at that moment.
I guess I don’t have many positive things to say about The Long Game but I never really realized it before. I think the 45 minute format tends to make me overlook shortcomings upon first view because of the pace of things. When I slow down to actually think about it, however, I begin to unravel some of the nagging doubts that the action initially swept away.
“Knowledge is power;” except my knowledge does not invest this episode with any power. And so I leave Satellite Five, Gary, knowing that it still awaits in that future time swirl of the Doctor.

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