The Doctor stops two women -- a short adorable brunette named Suki (Esther from Bleak House) and a striking black woman named Cathica -- and asks them (admittedly sounding daft in the process) exactly where they are. Cathica points at the wall, where the numbers are tall: "Floor 139. Could they write it any bigger?" The Doctor wonders what it's the 139th floor of, and Cathica softens: "Must've been a hell of a party." Suki gives him the sweetest, friendliest smile: "Oh, you're on Satellite Five." The Doctor, again, pushes for clarification -- no fear, no laziness here -- and Cathica's not buying it: "Come on, how could you get on board without knowing where you are?" The Doctor grins that outrageously wide grin that makes his ears stick out: "Look at me! I'm stupid!" Suki figures that the Doctor's probably a "management test," or something like that. Cathica's assumption is that she knows best; Suki's assumption is that there's something going on. Cathica's in control; Suki assumes that management is dicking with her. "You've got me, well done," says the Doctor, showing them the slightly psychic paper. "We were warned about this in basic training," says Suki. "All workers have to be versed in company promotion." "Right, fire away," says Cathica: anything to get to "Floor 500." The Doctor asks Cathica what's so special about Floor 500. "The walls are made of gold," she scoffs, like that's the whole story. Cathica leads the Doctor to the screens that opened the episode, Suki smiling nervously: "Latest news: sandstorms on the new Venus archipelago, two hundred dead. Glasgow water riots into their third day, Space Lane 37 closed by sunspot activity. And over on the Bad Wolf channel, the Face of Boe has just announced he's pregnant." The Doctor gets it: "You broadcast the news." Not quite: "We are the news." Suki and the Doctor smile at each other, and Cathica continues: "We're the journalists. We write it, package it, and sell it." And on and on. But if all of Satellite Five is the journalists, who's watching? The camera angle switches to a point above them, zooming in, and then switching to another feed. "Six hundred channels all coming out of Satellite Five, broadcasting everywhere."
The Editor (Simon Pegg from Shaun Of The Dead, with spiky bleached hair, fresh from not being available for the eponymous role next week) stares at the monitors we were just watching: "Something...is wrong. Something fictional." Which kind of makes up for the "meme" thing I was bitching about five weeks ago. In a world in which the creation of the news and reality itself bend to the believer, anything not already broadcast must be fiction. But also: this episode's strengths lie in staying on one level, the level of allegory, because these Ahriman tales always subside on the level of spectacle: if you see somebody overcome their prisons and bring them down, it takes the heat off you for managing your own revolution. Making it into a story means you get to play along, but as long as it stays on this level -- as long as the Doctor and Rose fuck things up good and proper and then disappear for good, just like we will, at the end of the episode -- there's still a spiritual benefit to be gleaned from seeing it happen. The confusion is introduced -- and this is what bugged me in "The End Of The World" -- when you start thinking that "noting the problem" or "whining about the problem" is equal to "doing your part to fix the problem." If we spent one goddamn second on Earth watching people get manipulated by Satellite Five, we'd lose that, in my opinion -- it would be a "poor them," and then we'd all go back to our NPR. But since the whole point of the Satellite is the journalists, and we stay there, it's a Gulliver thing, holes in their heads rather than one leg or being extra crazy small, or whatever. It's "something fictional." The Editor bends over the shoulder of a dead man, who's working at a monitor, though he's covered in ice -- it's as creepy as you're thinking -- and points to the Doctor with Cathica and Suki: "Those people." As Cathica tells the Doctor proudly, "Nothing happens in the whole Human Empire without it going though us," the Editor requests a security check: "Go deep." He wants the information.