What I wrote before rewatching
What I thought at the time: I really enjoyed this one. It's got good satire (or satire at a target that I don't mind how bad it is, possibly) and the structure of the plot works with Nine's catalysing-the-humans-into-taking-action thing for once. Simon Pegg's fun. So is Tamsin Greig/Grieg/I can never remember how you spell her name and am too lazy to find out even though typing this explanation is taking me longer than doing so. Nine and Rose work much better with someone else in the mix, but I find the smug "only take the best" thing at the end very, very hard to digest, especially the finger-snapping thing. Oh god.
What I think now: I still don't get why fandom has such a huge downer on it, and so tend to defend it more than I like it for the sake of balance to the unremitting negativity about it.
- There's a lot of the DWM comics here, specifically the Parkhouse era. I didn't think this at the time because I hadn't read them then, but it's so true. It's not just the explicit kronkburger reference, but the general feel of it wouldn't seem out of place in amongst Dogbolter and Polly the Glot and such. (It'd be tempting to say that the 4thG&BHE that the Doctor describes but doesn't get because of the distortion to history was what Parkin in Ahistory calls the "Mazuma Era" but what all right-thinking people should think of as "when Frobisher comes from", but checking Ahistory apparently Death's Head establishes the era as the 9th millennium so no dice.) There's also a bit of Paradise Towers in the mix, just with the top instead of the bottom as where the big scary thing is. Point being: reminding me of stuff I like in a way that doesn't actively make me think it was much better == win points.
- It's Britcom heaven, of course. Simon Pegg's underused but I don't care, I'd watch him in anything. And TAMSIN GREIG -- who is underused to the point of near-pointlessness -- OH I LOVE HER SO. That is all.
- Some of the plotting is neat: I particularly like the fakeout that the Editor's picked up on the Doctor but really it's Suki.
- The satire is broad beyond belief, but I love it anyway. I love it because I think Rupert Murdoch and News International are highly ripe for it and I love it because at different points in the Beeb's history they'd have been too scared to do it and I basically just love it.
- This one's possibly TMI, but it appeals to my not-so-sekrit inner cyborgisation fetishist. Especially that the Doctor seems to have a problem with it but in the end it's just that it's "too primitive".
- The "Nine as catalyst" scene where he gives Cathica the hints she needs to sort things out is quite cool, but it is part of his ongoing passivity.
- In a lot of ways, this is one of the cheap ones to make the budget balance, and it does show in a way that the cheap ones done on contemporary Earth don't, and this is the sort of thing that I normally really don't notice. There are a bunch of points, especially at the very beginning, where the edges between the actors and the CGI are more obvious than Pertwee-era CSO, and that bit with the key "floating" out of Adam's pocket is ridiculous.
- The "management inspection" infodumping near the beginning is a bit overly obvious.
- This section is, in fact, going to be entirely about Adam. You have been warned.
- The entire way Adam is handled. While he is portrayed as intentionally being devious and self-serving, it's the Doctor who gives him the unlimited credit (in a way that, had Adam done it off his own bat somehow, it seems to me would be portrayed as Evol in the extreme) and explicitly tells him to just get on with Being In The Future. There is the fact that he would have changed all of history, blah blah blah, which is pointed out in that final scene, but in the very next episode Rose does do exactly that and gets essentially a free pass (yes, he shouts at her a bit, but then he apologises -- oh, god, I can feel the temptation to procrastinate on doing Father's Day rising already because oh dear oh dear oh dear). Which suggests that there is not much difference between "I only travel with the best" Rose and Adam, but eh. Maybe it's really all about motivation or something and the Doctor hates Adam's capitalism that much. But, more generally, this isn't my Doctor -- we're a million miles from Five's treatment of Turlough, who tried to bash his head in with a rock on their first meeting. In a weird way (I may have said this a hundred times before, I apologise) it comes down to the decent-control-of-the-TARDIS thing. He can drop waifs and strays back in their time if he doesn't want to keep them around. There's no opportunity to be stuck with someone until they grow on him. It's icky and I don't like it and it's at the heart of the "just one trip" nonsense in the first half of S3 too and argh.
- Moreover, there's the entire thing where the Adam bit seems to be there to advance the Doctor/Rose ship, from both the Watsonian and Doylist perspectives. Doylistically, there seems to me to be a phase change between the end of Dalek and the beginning of The Long Game, from "we are rebooting Doctor Who and here is Rose, our shiny semi-archetypal companion" to "the emotional side of the show is now specifically about the Doctor and Rose, and their relationship". The show's basics have been established, the reintroduction of the Daleks and the revelation of their role as the antagonists of the Time War being the final piece of the puzzle, and now it's much more about the Doctor and Rose. But it's even worse to my way of thinking because Watsonianly, the Doctor and Rose are both fully aware of the way they're using Adam to wind each other up and see exactly where they stand with respect to one another (Rose is blatantly trying to provoke the Doctor into jealousy, and the Doctor is giving it all that "he's your boyfriend" stuff). The scene where the Doctor preps Rose with what to say to him should be super-cute but in this wider context really isn't. There's a sense that this is the two of them reconnecting and deepening their relationship after the trauma of Dalek and I can sort of squint and see how Doctor/Rose shippers could watch this episode through completely different goggles, but I really can't stand the way they're doing it at the expense of other people (what makes it worse is that Adam himself clearly knows it -- that emotional note of knowing-you're-being-used is very squicky to me). And to be honest the main feeling I get from the whole thing is that Nine is OK with Rose knowing about the Daleks because he's indoctrinated her via showing her the end of the world and stuff, whereas he doesn't like the fact that Adam already knows the details of his OMGtrauma because of the way they happened to meet -- this feels like quite a strong subtext to the scene where the Doctor watches the spike thing read Adam's brain's knowledge of him, to me. Nine wants to completely be in control of information about him in a much more personal way than, say, Seven having a quiet chat with FLORANCE at the end of Transit.
- This deserves its own bullet point, even though it's sort of related to the previous one: OMG the smug mode is hateful. HATEFUL. The treatment of Adam at the end there -- the SMUGNESS of it -- is where I go right off Nine and Rose in ways I find it hard to forget about. (There's quite a bit of smugness in the scene where they're discussing the plumbing with Cathica as well, come to think of it.) Appalling behaviour from people who are supposed to be nice. It's bullying, pure and simple. The whole scene is played for lols, including his mum at the end, and it's at best a major misjudgement of tone.
So, er, I have gone off it a bit on balance, but I still basically like the things I liked first time round. It's such a shame, it'd be a neat little SF-as-satire ep without that huge element of awfulness embedded in it.