The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), Rose (Billie Piper), and Adam (Bruno Langely) arrive on Satellite 5, a space station orbiting the Earth in the year 200,000. The Doctor gives Rose and Adam credits to buy food while he looks around the station. The Doctor meets Cathica (Christine Adams), who tells him the station broadcasts news all over the Earth. He is invited into a room where she sits at a huge table. Surrounding her are reporters connected to a computer with ports in their brains. The highest promotion one can get in the business is to be taken up to Floor 500.
The Doctor and Rose hack into the computer system and are detected by the Editor (Simon Pegg). He lets them take the elevator to Floor 500, where they find him controlling the station through several dead humans. On the ceiling is the Editor-in-Chief, who is a creature called the Jagrafess, which controls all the people of Earth by manipulating the news. Adam has a port installed in his brain so he can gain access to information about Earth’s future, and he uses Rose’s phone to send the data to his home in the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the Jagrafess thus gains access to Adam’s mind, learns about the Doctor, and decides to kill him.
The Doctor, aware that Cathica is listening in, comments that altering the environmental systems would probably kill the Jagrafess. Cathica reverses the cooling system, causing Floor 500 to overheat, killing the Jagrafess and the Editor. One by one, the humans on board the station and on Earth wake up from the stupor they have been in. The Doctor congratulates Cathica, discovers Adam’s duplicity, and takes him home. He destroys Adam’s answering machine and the dangerous data on the future within, and bars Adam from the TARDIS. Unfortunately, Adam’s mother accidentally activates the information port when she comes home.
The story, of course, is a satire on the media. It was also a storyline about a failed companion that executive producer Russell T. Davies wanted to do. I must point out that the Fifth Doctor’s companion Turlough (Mark Strickson) tried to kill him, and I would not call that a successful companion, though he did redeem himself in the end. The story dates back to the Eighties but was rejected then. Davis was advised to write a realistic story about a man and a budget instead. The episode received mixed reviews. The Long Game sets up the entire series arc.
Simon Pegg was a long-time Doctor Who fan, considered guest-starring a great honour, and enjoyed playing a villain. He had played a character named Don Chaney with the Eighth Doctor. He found it difficult to say the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrajurassic Maxaraddenfoe, and they had to dub in some growls from the creature to cover his verbal stumbles. The creature was entirely CGI. Nicholas Briggs, who voiced the Dalek in the previous episode, voiced the Jagrafess, but ended up sounding like his earlier Nestene Consciousness, so he was not used.
One of the broadcasts is on Bad Wolf TV. The face of Boe appears, pregnant with baby Boemina. This is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, a planet of Megacities, five moons, 96 billion people, and an empire of a million planets. The Editor says: “Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed…The right word in the right broadcast spoken often enough can destabilise an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote.” This was written in 2005.