As the Doctor and Rose step out of the TARDIS, the Doctor provides Rose with rapid-fire mentions of some key facts about their new surroundings. So when a dazed Adam stumbles out, hauled all the way from 2012 to the year 200,000, he’s treated to Rose assessing the situation coolly, using the info the Doctor just gave. Absolutely terrific little moment, because it gives Rose a one-up on Adam that he never, ever gets back and because it’s so clear that the Doctor is, however reluctantly, pretty much doing what he can to help Rose get laid.
All three gather at an observation deck to see the Earth below them. It’s the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, the Doctor says: Earth at its height, the hub of a galactic domain. Adam immediately swoons and drops to the ground. “He’s your boyfriend,” the Doctor notes. “Not any more,” a less-than-impressed Rose answers.
They explore while the Doctor tells Adam he’ll enjoy this era’s intelligent people, fine food, and good manners — only to have a hardscrabble food court open in their midst, humans all shoving to get in queue and wolfing down food. “Your history must not be as good as you thought it was,” Rose notes. “My history’s perfect,” the Doctor replies, troubled.
He provides Adam and Rose with a credit device, scolding, “Don’t spend it all on sweets!” Adam wants guidance, but “go and find out,” the Doctor says, exasperated. “It’s like Paris: eat the food, use the wrong verbs…end up kissing complete strangers — or is that just me?” Oh, Doctor! *does an Adam swoon* He sends them off, saying in an undertone to Rose, “Your first date!” “You’re going to get a smack, you are,” Rose says teasingly.
The Doctor questions two women as to where the hell he is, cheerfully claiming, “Look at me, I’m stupid,” when they balk at his ignorance. Wait, maybe he’s management, sent to Satellite 5 to test them. (Satellite 5: Babylon 5 reference? I think so.) They shift into best-behavior mode. “If it gets me on Floor 500,” the one called Cathica notes, “I’ll do anything.” Apparently on Floor 500 the walls are made of gold. I’d think a better selling point would be food not from a cart served in something besides cardboard, but hey. Cathica shows how Satellite 5 transmits all the latest news (with flashes about water riots, unrest, and “Boemania” resulting from the Face of Boe announcing it’s pregnant, haha). But they’re not just broadcasters: “We are the news.”
“Something is wrong,” a man in a dark cold room murmurs (hi there, Simon Pegg, hi, hi!). He watches the Doctor on security panels. “Something fictional.” He leans in to speak to a person at a keyboard, who has frost on their grey skin. “Security check,” the Cold Guy says. “Go deep.”
Rose offers Adam the slushie she’s got. “It’s sort of beef?” Ew? Adam has a minor freak-out, similar to Rose’s in “The End of the World”: “it’s like everything’s gone: home, family, everything.” To reassure him, Rose lets him use the super duper cell phone. He leaves a quick answering-machine message for his parents saying he’s gone “traveling” and will call later.
At the blare of a signal, everyone bolts. Adam pockets Rose’s phone. In the dark room, the Cold Guy and his frosty zombie drones search out a discrepancy, double and triple-checking a “tiny shift in information, someone down there [who] shouldn’t be here.”
“How do you want it, by the book?” Cathica asks briskly. The Doctor, Rose and Adam look on as she takes her place in a chair on a platform, others seated at stations on the floor around the platform with hand-print panels before them. Cathica says company policy is “the process of newsgathering must be open, honest, beyond bias.” “Actually, it’s the law,” Suke, one of the Floor Hands pipes up. Right, let’s get going, and try not to “show off for the guests,” Cathica says, miffed. Seated, she snaps her fingers, her forehead opens up (ew, way worse than beef smoothie!) and with a “Three, two, and spike!” a beam of light accompanied by white noise shoots into her brain meat.
While I’m wringing my hands, the Doctor tells Adam and Rose it’s compressed info streaming into her. She’s part of the software, with her brain acting as computer. She won’t remember, however, what information she receives. The Floor Hands all have chips in their heads enabling them to translate the information to the 600 news channels. Every single fact in the Empire is beamed from Satellite 5. “Now that’s what I call power,” the Doctor observes.
“Confirmed security breach,” a computerized voice announces to Cold Guy. Great mislead when he stares at the Doctor, Adam, and Rose. “This technology’s amazing!” enthuses Adam, who’s adjusted enough to let his wonky side come out to play. “This technology’s wrong,” the Doctor says gravely. “Trouble?” Rose asks. “Oh yeah,” he says, grinning. In his dark room, the Cold Guy says, “she’s the liar!” when Suki flinches. Her information’s been tampered with; there’s a second biography underneath the official one.
Cold Guy stops the broadcast. Though Cathica blames Suki, Suki’s the one who gets an onscreen promotion and order to proceed to Floor 500. It’s “so not fair!” Cathica fumes. Soon after, Suki hugs the Doctor for being her “lucky charm.” “Good riddance,” Cathica scoffs when Suki disappears in the elevator; to the Doctor’s surprise, it seems no one ever returns from Floor 500. It’s not as though the others can visit; they only get a key when they’re promoted.
In an aside to Rose, Adam begs off from accompanying her and the Doctor, saying he needs to acclimatize. Plus, she’d rather be with the Doctor, he says, playing that for sympathy. Well, he’s not wrong. Rose, ever compassionate, hands him her TARDIS key. He smirks as he walks off, just in case we hadn’t yet picked up on the fact that he’s the epitome of douchebaggery.
Suki reaches Floor 500 only to find frost and snow coating the floors and instruments. Too bad that the Doctor does seem responsible for her presence there; the Cold Guy wouldn’t have picked up on her discrepancy otherwise, I think. Then there’s creepy but boring atmosphere building (though, hey, always fun to stumble onto a group of corpses in their own broadcast platform).
Suki stumbles onto the frosty zombie drones and the Cold Guy, who, it turns out, is called The Editor. He’ll always be the Cold Guy to me! *draws hearts around Simon Pegg* He’s found out all her lies. She’s an anarchist who hid her identity behind a genetic graft. “Who controls Satellite 5?” she demands, pointing a gun. He puts his hands up, but guffaws. “Now there’s the truth!” “You’re lying to people; this whole system is corrupt!” “Oh, I love it,” he says, grinning. “Say it again!” He’s going to have to refer this upward, to the growly Ceiling Monster.
Adam gets a total boner when he touches a computer and it starts giving him the history of the microprocessor. “I can learn anything!” he says, looking particularly puffy and smug.
Cathica’s never been on any other floor except hers and Floor 16 (where everyone gets chipped). “You’re not management, are you?” she asks. “At last, she’s clever!” the Doctor exclaims. Why hasn’t she noticed there are no aliens aboard this supposedly advanced satellite? “All the threats…the usual stuff,” she claims. The Doctor cuts her off: the technology’s backwards, their attitudes are restricted, the entire development of the human race has been stunted by about 90 years. When did Satellite 5 start broadcasting? Why, round about 91 years ago!
Adam tries to leave a message with Rose’s super duper cell phone with obviously profitable microprocessor information. But he’s stopped in his info quest by instructions to go to Floor 16. So he heads there like a good little poindexter and pretends to be a student from the University of Mars (where, if he’d actually gone, he would have been totally ignored by girls like applied physicist and Planet Express crewmember Amy Wong). Sure, he can’t read the screens, the nurse there tells him; he’s not properly chipped. If he pays, he can get that done in a jiff.
Type 1, she tells Adam in the medical room, is the head chip. Type 2, what Cathica has, costs 10,000 credits but hooks him right into the information stream and all history. Adam thinks he can’t afford it. Though the reveal he can seems random, to enable Adam’s scheme, it also reminds us how generous the Doctor is even when he scoffs at humans. There’s no love lost between him and Adam, yet he’s provided Adam with unlimited credit on the device.
Cathica leads the Doctor and Rose to the mainframe, though she’s unhappy she’ll get in trouble. Picking up on their prying, the Editor’s puzzled. Didn’t they ferret out the threat by turning Suki into a frosty zombie drone (poor Suki)? “He’s no one,” the computer finally concludes. “Well, we all know what happens to non-entities,” the Editor says dangerously. “They get promoted.”
The Doctor takes Rose’s question of why it’s so hot for his mainframe search. “Never underestimate plumbing,” he tells Cathica when she wonders why he’s examining pipes. Something on Floor 500 generates tons of heat. He prepares to go, though he hasn’t the key Satellite 5 workers get with a “promotion”, because he’s figured out the code (or the Editor’s fed him the info to get him upstairs). Cathica observes the sequence, still refusing to get involved.
When Adam sicks up at his shiny new brain-exposing technology, “Special offer,” the nurse tells him. “We install the vomit-o-matica!” Turbines in his throat freeze puke. That’s nasty. He coughs out a horrid looking little lozenge. In the lift, leaving behind Cathica, the Doctor observes, “That’s her gone. Adam’s given up. Looks like it’s just you and me.” “Yup,” Rose agrees. “Good,” he adds. “Yup,” she agrees happily. They’re ridiculously awesome together.
When they find the Editor and the frosty zombie drones, he’s fascinated because they don’t technically exist in the Empire. “How can you walk through the world and not leave a single footprint?” Rose, spotting Suki, tries to speak to her, but the Doctor tells her Suki’s dead. The chip keeps her working for Satellite 5. I feel sad Rose and the Doctor don’t realize Suki was actually a rebel; ineffectual as her actions were, she’s so important in proving even in an era of insidious mind control, not everyone accepts without questioning.
The Doctor and Rose try to leave, but the drones rise to grab them. It’s not actually the Fourth Great Human Empire, the Editor corrects the Doctor, only a place ‘where humans happen to live.” Ceiling monster growls at this, so the Editor corrects it to “where humans are allowed to live by kind permission of my client.” Doctor and Rose look up to see a fairly hideous globular looking mass, where death awaits them all, with nasty, big, pointy teeth!
It’s shaped and guided the human race for nearly one hundred years, this “monstrous creature known as the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe”, which the Editor fondly calls Max.
Adam ducks away from Cathica back on the main floor. There’s a great crux moment here for both characters where we get the measure of both of them. She realizes she’s got to use the code she observed to go to Floor 500 to find Rose and the Doctor and figure out the truth. And he skips away to an abandoned news platform so he can steal information and make a billion back in the 21st century.
“You and your boyfriends,” the Doctor scolds Rose as the reveal shows them both in manacles (this is the fourth episode in a row to have bondage props, for real). The Editor explains how to create a climate of fear and keep borders closed. “It’s just a matter of emphasis,” he says, to “invent an enemy, destabilize an economy, change a vote,” “Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?” the Editor muses. “Yes,” the Doctor snaps. “I was hoping for a philosophical debate! You’re no fun!” the Editor responds. “Let me out of these manacles,” the Doctor says, “And I’ll show you how much fun I am.” *Adam-swoons again*
Surely someone would notice all this manipulation, Rose argues. They do, but the Editor “can see their doubts and crush them.” Cathica, meanwhile, has sneaked onto Floor 500, and observes from a distance. All those humans, the Editor mocks, “strutting about downstairs and all over the surface of the earth like they’re so individual. But they’re not, they’re just cattle!” “You’re human,” Rose points out. “Simply being human doesn’t pay very well,” the Editor says. He’s the representative of a consortium of banks. “Money prefers a long-term investment,” he says, indirectly referencing the Long Game of the episode’s title. From her vantage point, Cathica looks up and sees Monstrous Max. The Doctor raises his voice so she’ll hear; he declares the reason Satellite 5 is so hot. They pump the heat out of the creature and send it all downstairs. “Satellite 5 is one great big life support system.”
Adam, installed in the “let us pump info into your brain meat!” chair, calls his family’s answering machine once again. The message will sound like white noise, but if they save it he can translate it. He opens the spike, and we see his doggy jumping around again while the answering machine’s covered in a cloud of blue light.
Up on Floor 500, the Doctor refuses to say anything. “But that’s why you’re so dangerous,” the Editor says. “Knowledge is power, but you remain unknown!” And then Adam, the cocky idiot, starts getting not just information in, but out as well. He screams as the spike extracts everything he knows. Ah, a Time Lord, the Editor says, pulling up the image of Adam on the screen for them. “Every piece of information in his head is now mine,” and soon it will be the same for the Doctor and the TARDIS. “You’ll never get your hands on it,” the Doctor vows, pulling an “over my dead body!” type thing. But he can “die all you like,” the Editor says gleefully. “I’ve got the key!”
Argh, stupid Adam with the key! Though it’s a tense moment, it’s another great one for realizing the sort of generous people the Doctor and Rose are; unlike the “key” of Satellite 5, which sends you to get killed for having doubts and questions, the Doctor and Rose gave Adam genuinely valuable keys: the credit device, the key to the TARDIS, and the entire possibility of time travel with the two of them. Really, Adam’s just about the worst of most everyone we’ve met so far; he may not be a straight up villain, but he squanders some insanely valuable gifts.
“You’ve bred a human race which doesn’t bother to ask questions,” the Doctor accuses. This rouses Cathica to find the abandoned broadcasting platform and (seriously gutsy) toss aside the corpse in the chair to occupy it herself. She employs maximum access, and immediately turns off the flow of information to and from Adam. “She’s thinking,” the Doctor says. “She’s using what she knows, everything I’ve told her about Satellite 5.” As the Editor ineffectually orders the frosty zombie drone formerly known as Suki to terminate, Cathica yells, “You should have promoted me years back!” Hahaha, she still doesn’t quite get it 100%, does she?
Downstairs, the satellite shakes, throwing people to and fro. The electrical circuits jam and spark while Cathica vents the heat back up to Floor 500. Rose, freed in a stray zap, uses the Sonic Screwdriver to release the Doctor. Just a heads up, the Doctor tells the Editor: “massive heat in a massive body” equals a “massive bang.” The Editor nervously announces his resignation, but Suki grabs his ankle, preventing his escape. I like to think there’s a rebel spark still lurking in frosty zombie Suki, that perhaps her not terminating Cathica’s manipulation and trapping the Editor are wrenches thrown into the system she wanted to overcome.
After the Doctor stops the flow around Cathica, watching her with newfound respect, he and Rose prepare to leave her and the rest of the humans on Satellite 5. “You’ll manage,” the Doctor notes, saying humanity’s development should accelerate and put them back on track. “What about your friend?” Cathica asks. “He’s not my friend,” the Doctor says, very stern indeed.
“I’m all right now, much better,” Adam fast-talks the Doctor and Rose at the TARDIS entrance. “It all worked out for the best, didn’t it?” What a jerkwad. “It’s not actually my fault because you were in charge,” he whines as the Doctor yanks him into the TARDIS. Moments later, they step out into Adam’s family’s living room. He thought they would chuck him out an airlock, but (and I don’t think he’s gotten the insult on even its most basic level) they’ve only brought him back to…live with his parents. That’s super cool, Adam.
“Something else you want to tell me?” the Doctor asks. He’s like the champion of second-chances, isn’t he? When Adam doesn’t fess up, the Doctor explodes the answering machine with a touch of the Sonic Screwdriver. “But you can’t just leave me,” Adam argues, on account of his wacky new brain-exposing trick. The Doctor has a bit of fun snapping it open and shut, and though the Rose tells him to stop, she immediately snaps herself, laughing, “Sorry, I couldn’t resist!”
“I just wanted to help,” Adam claims, but obviously he was only helping himself. The Doctor tells him, and what great poetic justice — he’ll have to live a very quiet life, be average, and unseen. It’s great payback for someone who wanted adventures and knowledge, and actually had those things within his grasp only to mess it all up. “But I want to come with you,” Adam whines. “I only take the best,” the Doctor interrupts him. “I’ve got Rose.” Boo-yeah!
Adam’s mother comes in, amazed to see him. It’s been six months, she exclaims, thrilled he’s home, though the time went by like that! She snaps, and cue her horrified face at her son’s exposed brain-meat.
Quick note: the Face of Boe’s “Boemania!” announcement we view on Satellite 5 gets broadcast through BAD WOLFTV, bringing up our “Bad Wolf” references to — well, there’s been one every episode, actually, though maybe the most bald one was in the two-parter preceeding Dalek, spray-painted right on the TARDIS. If this is your first go watching, you might want to track those. You didn’t hear this from me, but they’ll probably turn up on the quiz later. *coughs*
Whoo-wee-wooo-wooo! Theme music sing-along times! Watch and join me tomorrow for my next recap, “Father’s Day”!