I dub this episode the Most Annoying Episode of the Season. Doesn't sink to the depths plumbed by the "Aliens of London" two-parter, but doesn't soar to the heights of that story either. And what's up with Adam?
The Doctor shows off what his TARDIS can do to Adam the New Kid by landing them in the far future, at a time when human civilization is at its height. But something's gone wrong. Someone is holding humans back by controlling and manipulating the news. Nothing wrong with that storyline at all, it's wonderful and timely. But there's a McGuffin in our tale and the Doctor fell for it.
The Thing allegedly holding humanity back is a Big Ugly Monster who lives on the ceiling of the news control nexus. But what does it DO up there? It doesn't need to kill people or give orders, both of those can be accomplished by its human attendants. It was installed by "a consortium of banks" who are it's backers. Yes, the Doctor and his team manage to kill it, think they've done something really great, and ride off into the sunset; leaving their newfound friends going "But, but, but...." and me screaming, "It's a STOOGE you great big idiot! It's a ceiling-sized fall guy! How could you be stupid enough to fall for that?" It would have worked in the 1960s but by 2005 we know the real sinister enemy is that "consortium of banks" and whoever or whatever is behind THEM.
The performances of the guest stars are first-rate, but most of the interesting bits came in Adam's subplots. We learn (and old fans are reminded) that in spite of being from a civilization with an insanely advanced technology the Doctor isn't a techie kind of guy. Given a choice between talking to a machine or talking to a person, he'll go out of his way to talk to a person.
Adam demonstrates that not everyone is cut out to become a Companion. Instead of responding with excitement to highly foreign climes, he responds with severe culture shock and opportunism which endangers the rest of the crew and gets him taken home. Adam's scenes seemed like superfluous filler, but they did provide the best part of the entire episode, which was my husband's reaction to Adam's new data-port:
My husband got to his feet, pointed, and cried, "Wait a minute, wait a minute! Genius, deeply into alien technology, phobic about things that are different, knows and resents the Doctor, "third-eye"-style dataport in the center of his forehead! Do you know who that is? That's Davros, the creator of the Daleks!"
"Yeah! It matches perfectly! He had already met and resented the Doctor prior to his earliest appearance. This could be his real introduction."
"Well -- Adam's last name is never mentioned, nor does the Doctor say the name 'Davros' around Adam or anyone who knows him. It could be his last name or his email addy. And the Doctor did tell Von Statten that V.S. was just like the creator of the Daleks, so that might be where Davros learned his modus operandi. Maybe. But Davros is from Skaro. Adam's stuck on Earth."
"Sweetheart. Adam's a genius who knows he's living in the same country as a Time Lord's Companion. He can get to Skaro."
"Okay. It's a nice, tight conjecture. We'll see how it holds up."
"And I also think I know where Gallifrey is. It's been pushed deeper into the time stream, is only accessible from inside the TARDIS, and is now a 'city in a bottle'."
"Oh, now you're speculating way too far in advance of the data. Besides, bottled cities are so lame."
"So are ceiling monsters, but that didn't stop them. As you said, we'll see."
It would have been a good episode in an earlier age, but in the 21st Century I feel sorry for anyone watching it without as entertaining a Companion as I had.