Episode 7.04 “The Power Of Three.”
When millions of small black cubes suddenly appear all over the world, the Doctor finds himself facing a threat unlike any he’s experienced before: Living with Amy and Rory!
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT!
Ok, let’s just say it. Good GOD this episode is half a train wreck. There are some really wonderful moments, and some powerful beats, but the aliens, the threat, and the resolution are just so bloody awful. The Doctor is half played for laughs, and I swear Russell P. Davies’ worst was being channelled here. What the hell were they thinking?
Ok, let’s consider this: The bad guys here, the Shakri, are supposed to be pretty big baddies, so much so that even the Time Lords use them as something of a boogeyman for their young, but, um, why exactly? Their plan is so daft, it’s a wonder they aren’t considered a joke. So they send these cubes, mysterious sure, and mankind gets used to them, begins to ignore them, then the Shakri spring their trap, giving a third of humanity heart attacks. Why? Because they view humanity as a vermin-like infestation that must be eliminated before they spread out into the universe. Ok, fine. But why, oh why, pick such a stupid way to do it?
Folks, if you are ever planning on wiping out humanity, and happen to be the kind of alien who has hyperspace dwelling spaceships, and can teleport millions of small cube shaped devices to a planet’s surface without triggering any kind of alarms on a planet that has some degree of alien incursion detection, and your goal is to wipe out the native population, may I recommend a couple of things?
Go simple. You’re not trying to invade or conquer, you’re trying to destroy, so just destroy them. Don’t come up with a plan that involves a unneccasary waiting period, and then when it’s time to execute it, give an actual countdown that anyone can see, and then, and then, unleash something that only potentially takes out a third of the population. Have your little cubes be bombs for crying out loud. Better yet, drop an asteroid on them. Efficiency people!
And then there’s the reaction of the authorities. While I love seeing UNIT again, and what it’s become, do they really expect the audience to buy that all over the world, no government sat there and said “Gee, these small cubes resist every attempt we make to analyze or destroy them, let’s just leave the clearly alien objects scattered around everywhere, because obviously such things can’t possibly be a threat.” Really? Really?
After all of that, then the Doctor whips out the sonic screwdriver and saves the day, in what has to be one of the fastest and least tense resolutions to a threat I’ve ever seen on this show. Really?
Seriously, this is one of the most half-baked, harebrained plans I’ve seen on this show, and if that’s all there was to this episode, I’d be damn near furious, at both the waste of talent and my time. If this was the point of this, it would take the place of “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” as the worst episode of the series since it returned to television. Certainly the plot is just as bad. Luckily… Luckily the alien threat isn’t really the point at all. Yes, it’s a shame the interesting setup is so terribly wasted, but it all acts as a framework to hang some really wonderful moments on. Moments that deserved a much better episode to live in, but I’ll take them however we get to have them.
And there is some really good stuff to love here, like the arrival of Kate Stewart and the proper return of UNIT. From the moment Kate introduced herself, I started smiling, knowing that there just couldn’t be someone running UNIT named Stewart that wasn’t related to our much missed Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart. Played by Jemma Redgrave, niece of Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, Kate is the end result of the Brigadier’s plan to make the military aspects of UNIT secondary to the scientific, as he tells her before he dies, “Science leads.” And Kate seems like quite the smart scientist too, qualified to lead even without her father’s legacy, something she tried to downplay to avoid special treatment. This, frankly, was my favorite part of the episode, and I really hope to see a LOT more of Kate and her version of UNIT. It doesn’t make me miss Nicholas Courtney any less, but it makes me feel like a little of that wonderful character is still with us.
And then there’s the foreshadowing. Wether it’s the heart to heart between Amy and the Doctor, or Brian’s point-blank “What happened to the others?”, the core of this story is the interaction between the characters. We’ve been watching the Ponds wonder if they should continue to travel in the TARDIS for a while, and despite the Doctor trying to leave them behind last season to keep them from becoming victims of his dangerous life, he keeps coming back to them again and again. The Doctor’s explanation of having Amy’s face being the first this incarnation had seen, almost imprinting on her, is quite interesting, even if it feels a little like he’s leaving something out. It makes sense though, that the Ponds have such a hard time here… both loving the life of adventure the TARDIS travels bring, and feeling increasingly disconnected from their normal lives on earth and finding the idea of such lives attractive. It’s not really something we have had in WHO before, but then since the show returned, the Companions have been handled differently than the original series. We saw more of Rose and Donna’s lives than we ever saw of Sarah Jane’s or Jo’s or Tegan’s or any of the others, and certainly we’ve never had a couple like Rory and Amy. And when Brian asks what happened to the Doctor’s previous companions, we come back to the reason that the Doctor was going to leave them behind: While most left on their own, some were left, and some died. And with the next episode being the exit of Amy and Rory from the series, the Doctor’s “Not them, never them” sounds more like a prayer than a promise.
This is what matters in “The Power of Three”, and all my annoyance at the plot aside, and I haven’t even talked about the silly Doctor boredom bit, it’s these moments that make watching this episode worthwhile. Thank heavens for those moments.
And next we have “The Angels Take Manhattan”, which I will watch my copy of in just a few moments after publishing this to the site. I admit to a little trepidation, especially after this episode, in watching the final episode of Amy and Rory’s run… but whatever I may think of their exit, they’ve had a great run overall, and I’m going to miss them.[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site] [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]