22/9/12 “The Power of Three”
“Go save every world you can. Somebody’s got to water the plants.” –Brian Williams
Enjoyable and more good one-liners than the rest of the series put together. A frenetic pace reminiscent of “42,” and yes, perhaps, a rib or a tribute to the RTD era—if so, the rapid wrap-up was far less effective even if it was parody. I desperately wanted this to be a two-parter, but I got the impression that it was running out of steam about 30 minutes in and the flash-in-the-pan resolution was a compensation.
I’m sure I must be evil, but I do wish they would kill off Amy and Rory already. Dragging it out like this, as exploratory as it may be, feels like a re-hash of pretty much every nuance in their relationship since series 5 (though I grant you, the divorce from “Asylum” was about as far as they could push things). The fact that they can’t have kids (unless they adopt or have a surrogate) means they are free to live their two sets of lives with impunity, whatever strain they may affect.
From the zooming-in Earth shot, the minutia of daily Pond life is served up in RTD-style microcosm, from opticians leaving messages to running out of washing powder. Amy and Rory note the difference between their two lives. “What do we do?” “Choose?” Is this not what they had to do in “Amy’s Choice”?! Also, what companion before has ever had the luxury of choosing? As the Doctor says later in the episode, this hasn’t really ever happened before. Why are the Ponds so special, other than being the parents of River? I find it slightly irritating, especially as it seems to be bringing out a midlife crisis in the Doctor that would have been unthinkable before. That’s just my opinion.
It is, according to Amy in one of those annoying but de rigeur narrations, “the year of the slow invasion.” The Earth has been invaded by black boxes. There’s a cameo from Brian Cox as he attempts to explain the boxes. Fortunately another Brian also steps into this episode: Brian Williams! The Doctor arrives, intrigued by the boxes. “I really don’t like not knowing,” which is a very Doctor-ish line. He is surprised that Amy and Rory got jobs. I am prepared to eat my words, because Amy has actually gotten a decent job—she writes for travel magazines. Brava. And Rory continues his career as a nurse. Amy herself even suggests that the time for the Doctor’s constant presence in their lives has passed—it’s been 10 years “on and off,” and she is “all grown up.”
Kate Stewart of UNIT shows up and is immediately likeable. “You must be the Doctor,” she says. “I’d hoped it’d be you.” As a scientist at the head of UNIT, she says, “UNIT’s been adapting,” which frankly is a breath of fresh air after all those army colonels from the past few years. Immediately after their arrival, she says there were a thousand Twitter accounts for the cubes (this story throws up some UNIT years/dating issues of its own). The Doctor’s curiosity is sufficiently piqued for him to stay in Amy and Rory’s lounge for 4 days. “You said we’d have to be patient!” snaps Rory. “Patience is for wimps,” says the Doctor, which is a characteristic thing for him to say, but geez, can you imagine how many kids will be talking back to their parents with that line? Doctor, tsk, tsk, you are not a good role model.
The Doctor is so agitated that he takes the opportunity to clean (who needs an Ood when you have a captive Doctor?) and play soccer. I thought he should resonate some concrete. The Doctor then disappears so months can pass, and Amy and Rory can get reconciled to the fact that they like life without the Doctor. Work puts its own demands on Rory; “you’re a lifesaver, mate. We can’t do without you.” Brian, meanwhile, has taken the Doctor’s injunction against the cubes seriously and is doing a daily log without fail. “Don’t mock my log. I’m doing what the Doctor asked.” I think Brian is universally liked in the same way that Wilf was. Great characters who deserve to be companions. I wish we could get a whole season of Brian and the Doctor.
In the hospital, quite inexplicably, is the Empty Cube Child. Nine months pass, til we’ve reached the Ponds’ wedding anniversary. The Doctor, surprisingly, arrives and gives Amy a big bouquet. She is in a beautiful dress, before he whisks her and Rory away in my first genuine WOW moment of the series as they arrive at the Savoy Hotel looking incredibly good, all in costume. Sigh. I had fleeting hopes they would stay there and it would somehow be related to the action of the present day, but alas I was left unrewarded; these comedy history-lite moments feel very easy to me. Next Amy has somehow married Henry VIII. When they return, Brian steps even more into Wilf’s shoes. “How long were they away?” “Seven weeks.” “What happened to the other people who travel with you?” The Doctor is forced to admit that “Some died.” “Not them, not them, Brian,” has all the pathetic earnestness of the Ninth Doctor having his conversation with Jackie Tyler on keeping Rose safe just before they were in the cabinet in Downing Street. The Doctor continues his midlife crisis pathos by asking Amy, “Can I stay here with you and Rory for a bit? . . . I . . . miss you.”
The cubes come to life when people least expect it. Even Brian has fallen asleep at his post. The Doctor is obsessively playing the Wii. “Out of the way, dear, I’m trying to . . .” he mutters to the cube as it flies into his face. It then destroys the lounge, while Amy’s pricks her and Rory’s . . . just moves. Apparently every single cube is acting up in its own way. As people freak out, Rory is called to the hospital and Brian goes along to help. “Take your dad to work night.” The Doctor and Amy go to the Tower of London, where Kate Stewart’s “ravens of death” are housed. (Anyone else saying this line could make it terribly wry, but I like this characterization of Kate a lot.) In fact, the Doctor has realized that she is the Brig’s daughter!! “How could you not be?” the Doctor asks. “Though he guided me even to the end.” I can’t help feeling a sentimental twinge for the Brig.
The Doctor realizes that the cubes are a danger, which I think any one watching could have said as soon as we saw them. Amy argues that even if the Doctor ordered everyone to stay away from the cubes, they wouldn’t have listened. I think there is a way that damage could have been limited, but hey ho, I didn’t write the episode. “I’m not running away,” shouts the Doctor. “There is so much to see . . . because it goes so fast. I am running to them. . . . Because you were the first. I’m running to you and Rory, before you fade for me.” Mildly affecting dialogue, though I confess I think the Ninth Doctor could have positively made it sing.
The cubes then count down and give people heart attacks, including the Doctor, who, of course, still has one functioning heart. “How do people manage with one heart, it is pitiful!” Meanwhile, Rory is following creepy-faced medics after they have kidnapped his dad, and shows admirable chutzpah in walking into a lift that becomes a spaceship. One-third of people on Earth have been affected. The Doctor and Amy manage to follow Rory and rescue him and Brian with some super-potent smelling salts (!). Sadly, this is where the great build up fizzles out to not much. There’s a confrontation between the Doctor and a hologram of some kind of Gallifrey bogeyman, the Shakri. The Shakri have some reason for wanting to eliminate all humans; “like a talking propaganda poster.” But off the hologram goes and the Doctor is able to miraculously save the day. Perhaps it’s appropriate that Kate says, “you really are as remarkable as Dad said,” because the Doctor rigs up a Pertwee-esque type machine that brings back everyone who had died of a heart attack! Quite remarkable indeed!