Friday, April 21, 2006

The Long Game

“The Long Game” is the kind of Doctor Who episode you’d almost, maybe-sort-of come to expect from the middle of a season of a TV series. Or maybe not. Maybe since it’s episode #7 of a 13-episode season, you would expect some sort of heavy hitting here’s-where-we-shift-gears affair. Well, that honor largely goes to last week’s episode, “Dalek”.

What “The Long Game” really does is set up some character development for next week’s episode and even more importantly, sets the stage for some serious plotting further on down the road. Don’t try and guess, because you’re unlikely to figure it out.

Many fans consider it the weak point of the season. I didn’t see it as such, but it didn’t blow me away either. Subsequent viewings revealed it a very watchable piece of TV. There is nothing in it to bore and yet little to excite. The episode is squarely placed where it belongs: Smack in the middle.

Russell T. Davies’ scripts are often lambasted by many fans as the “weak” ones. While I won’t say his are always the cream of the crop, it seems harsh to point fingers at the guy in charge of overseeing the entire revival, and claim he doesn’t know how to write for or understand Doctor Who. He lays the groundwork for everyone else and I believe challenges the other writers to go in directions that he is unable to script. The man is the master of the parody and parable and seems more interested than the show’s other writers in skewering current, topical issues through the kaleidoscope of sci-fi exploration and good old-fashioned fun.

Now it’s possible (or perhaps even probable) that some of Davies’ scripts won’t stand the test of time as well many of the others. They may date themselves sooner than the rest, but maybe not. He does tend to choose topics that are pretty broad. In the case of “The Long Game” he stabs at news and journalism and the delivery of both to the masses.

What I liked best about the episode is it seems to be the first in which the Doctor and Rose are working as total equals, as opposed to mentor/student. Things have gelled. They’re shooting from the same hip. By this point, Eccleston and Piper have developed ideal chemistry, and it shows in every moment they’re onscreen together.

Which is the best reason to keep viewing, and it’s exactly why I’ve seen all the Doctor Who ever made. I’ve always been taken by the various leads of the series, in every era of the show (well, except for one, maybe), and when the Doctor/companion relationship is ticking, the show can serve up the crummiest scripts and you simply don’t care.

Now next week’s installment, “Father’s Day”, is another case altogether; it’s the one where I broke down...