The Long Game
The Long Game was the seventh episode of Series 1 of Doctor Who. It was narratively significant for being the first Doctor Who story in which a companion was kicked out of the TARDIS for bad behavior.
The rigors of producing this episode were particularly influential to the structuring of the production schedule in following series of the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who. Specifically this episode, perhaps more than any other in series 1, pointed out the utility of double banking. The experience of producing The Long Game would lead directly to the introduction of the Doctor- or companion-lite episode that was a consistent structural element of future series.
The Ninth Doctor, Rose and new companion Adam have traveled forward in time to the year 200,000 and land aboard Satellite 5, a space station in Earth orbit during the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Earth in this time period is at its height, covered with mega cities, five moons and a population of 96 billion, the center of a galactic domain that stretches across a million planets and species — or, at least, it is supposed to be.
They make their way around the station, the Doctor telling Adam that he will enjoy this period as human culture is at its peak, with fine manners and cuisine. When the station comes to life with junk food vendors and people pushing each other around — and no sign of species other than human — the Doctor is puzzled, as this does not quite fit with what he knows of this period’s history. He decides to investigate, suggesting that Adam and Rose go get something to eat. He uses his sonic screwdriver on a cash point, retrieving a credit stick which he gives to Adam.
The Doctor meets Cathica and Suki, who are journalists aboard Satellite 5. The Doctor uses his psychic paper on them and poses as management to question them about the station. Cathica sees this as an opportunity to get promoted to management’s “Floor 500”, which is rumored to have walls of gold. She answers the Doctor’s questions, showing him that Satellite 5 is a news station, broadcasting 600 channels across the Empire. However, they are being observed suspiciously on security monitors by the Editor, a pale man standing in a dark, icy room. He orders a security check to be done.
Meanwhile, Adam seems overawed by everything around him and says that he misses his family. Rose lets him use her “super phone” to call his family in the past, and he leaves a message for them on their answering machine. As the Doctor calls them over, Adam gets a thoughtful look on his face and pockets the super phone.
The Doctor, Rose and Adam are taken into a room where other reporters sit arranged in a circle around a chair. Cathica sits in the central chair, engages the safety protocols and snaps her fingers, opening a port in the centre of her forehead through which her brain is visible. On her cue, the others press their hands to the panels in front of them and an energy beam spikes down from a hub above, streaming information directly into her brain. Cathica is acting as a processor for the computer systems that broadcast all the news from Satellite 5, though she will not retain all that information once the link is severed. The Doctor explains that each reporter has a chip in his head as well, which receives the packaged information from Cathica and then transmits it to their separate channels. Adam is amazed at the technology, but the Doctor says that it is the wrong technology; there is trouble afoot.
The Editor’s security check turns up nothing, but he is unconvinced. A second sweep reveals someone in the newsroom is having unauthorized access to the systems, and isolates the intruder as Suki. Her records have an encrypted, secondary biography attached to them. The Editor terminates the transmission abruptly, and reports obsequiously to something that growls unintelligibly from the ceiling of the control room. The Editor sends a message to the newsroom, saying that Suki has been promoted to Floor 500. Adam is still feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that he is seeing, and tells Rose he is going to “acclimate” by himself on the observation deck. Suki says her goodbyes to Cathica and gets on the lift. Cathica does not expect to see her again. Once you go to Floor 500, you never come back.
Floor 500 appears deserted and everything is covered in frost and snow. Wandering around, she is shocked to find a newsroom populated by shriveled corpses. Following the light streaming in from an open door, she finds the control room and is greeted by the Editor. He displays her records on a holographic screen, and immediately concludes that her life story as given in her job application is a lie — she is actually the last survivor of an anarchist underground group called the Freedom Fifteen. Suki points a gun at the Editor, demanding to know who controls Satellite 5. The Freedom Foundation has been monitoring the broadcasts and has discovered that the facts are being manipulated and that the system is corrupt. He introduces her to the Editor-in-Chief, up above. The unseen creature is impervious to Suki’s gunfire, and she screams as it descends towards her.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is asking Cathica more questions. She finally realizes that the Doctor is not really management and asks him not to get her involved, but the Doctor points out that she’s a journalist. There have been various vague conflicts and threats from all over the Empire that have somehow resulted in a complete lack of alien immigration aboard, and she has not questioned enough to notice. The Doctor says the Empire is stunted in both its attitudes and its technology. They should be more advanced and enlightened by now — something is holding it back, and has been for the last ninety-one years since Satellite 5 began broadcasting.
At the same time, Adam is on the Observation Deck accessing a station terminal and learning information about the future’s technology. He calls back to the past on the super phone, wanting to leave a message on the answering machine about what he has learned, but after a point, the computer denies him access, directing him to the medical labs on Floor 16. There, a nurse informs him that he needs a chip to access the system. He can have a small, invisible Type I chip inserted that will give him basic access or the Type II port like Cathica’s, which will link him fully to the archives. After some hesitation, Adam opts for the second option, using the credit stick the Doctor gave him earlier, which he learns has unlimited credit.
While the Doctor accesses the station mainframe, the Editor orders a further check on Rose and the Doctor, discovering that according to Satellite 5’s records, neither of them exist. The Doctor and Rose try to convince Cathica that there is something suspicious going on in the station, but Cathica still wants nothing to do with this. The Doctor hacks into the computer, and discovers that something is venting a lot of hot air from the upper levels. The Editor secretly allows the Doctor to get the password key for Floor 500 from the systems and Rose and the Doctor travel up to 500. There, they find the Editor waiting for them and Suki’s dead body slaved to the computer systems.
The Editor’s men grab hold of the Doctor and Rose, and the Editor explains that the Empire is not really human — it is just where humans are allowed to live. For the past ninety years, humankind has been controlled and guided by his superior, the monstrous creature known as the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe (or, as he calls it, “Max”) and funded by a consortium of banks. By manipulating the news and creating a climate of fear, they have controlled the economy and kept the borders closed; the human race does not even know that it has been enslaved. Those who suspect the truth are detected because of the chips in their heads, and the Editor gets rid of them.
Meanwhile, Cathica has changed her mind, and uses the passkey to go to Floor 500, where, unseen, she watches the Editor question the Doctor and Rose. The Doctor notices Cathica watching, and audibly observes that the Jagrafess’s metabolism generates a lot of heat, which is why it needs to be vented from the upper floors. The station is its life support system.
Down below, Adam, recovered from the surgery, enters the newsroom and activates his Type II port with the default command: snapping his fingers. He uses Rose’s super phone to call his parents’ house again, leaving another message which he says will sound like white noise but he will translate later. He calls for the information spike, and begins recording it. Suddenly, the Editor gains the knowledge of who the Doctor is: the last of the Time Lords, and Rose is his companion. The Doctor tries to deny it, but the Editor shows him Adam accessing the satellite’s archives — when he did so, the Editor gained access to everything Adam knew. The Editor intends to gain the knowledge in the Doctor’s head as well as his TARDIS, perhaps even rewriting history to prevent humankind from ever developing.
Having heard all this, Cathica goes to the newsroom on Floor 500, linking up, overriding the safety protocols and severing Adam’s connection. She reverses the environmental systems, heating the floor up. The Editor tries to terminate Cathica’s link but she fights back. The entire station shudders, and people start to run around in a panic. Rose gets free of her bonds, using the sonic screwdriver to release the Doctor. As the Jagrafess starts to overheat, the Editor tries to leave, but Suki’s corpse somehow grabs hold of his foot, stopping him. The Editor screams as the Jagrafess expands above him and explodes. The Doctor and Rose find Cathica in the newsroom. He snaps his fingers and closes her connection port, smiling proudly at her — she used what she knew and what the Doctor told her to defeat the Jagrafess. The Empire’s development can now get back on track.
The Doctor is, however, furious at Adam’s actions, and returns him to his own time in the TARDIS, at his parents’ house. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on the answering machine inside the building, setting it to overload the device until it explodes, destroying the phone and preventing any evidence of the future from being leaked to the past. The connection port in Adam’s head, however, is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life — and something he will have to be careful not to reveal lest he be dissected. It will have to be a quiet and ordinary life, as all it takes is a simple snap of the fingers. The Doctor and Rose leave in the TARDIS as Adam’s mother comes home.
Adam’s mother greets him happily as it has been six months since she saw him last. She muses on how time can pass just like that, snapping her fingers — and her expression changes to horror as the port in Adam’s head opens.