Doctor Who review – 7×04: ‘The Power of Three’

Courtesy of BBC America

Well folks, if you can believe it, we’ve only got one episode left until Doctor Who takes a break before the Christmas special. So how did the penultimate episode do before the Ponds say sayonara for good?

Let’s take a closer look after the jump.‘The Power of Three’ marks another standalone adventure, echoing similar themes we’ve seen through this seventh season. This episode further prepares us for the inevitable: The Ponds departing the TARDIS, likely making their last appearance in next week’s mid-season finale.

Thus far, we’ve only seen the Ponds pop in and out of The Doctor’s (Matt Smith) life but this time he turns the tables, spending some significant time in Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory’s (Arthur Darvill) everyday lives. Investigating a ‘slow invasion’, The Doctor initially appears to probe into the proliferation of small black cubes that have mysteriously materialized all over Earth. It turns out these cubes are scanning devices sent by the alien species, the Shakri, to observe human behaviour with the intention of eliminating humanity. Serving as “pest control”, the Shakri must keep the human population at bay before our species begins to colonize space and become a nuisance to everyone else. After lying dormant for approximately a year, the cubes activate a countdown before releasing a pulsethat sends nearby humans into cardiac arrest, including The Doctor (fortunately this doesn’t kill him since he has two hearts). After “lefty” gets a reboot thanks to Amy and an arrant defibrillator, The Doctor manages to find one of the seven Shakri base stations that command the attack. He gives the control panel a good old pass with his trusty sonic screwdriver, and reverses the cubes so that they not only revive all the victims of cardiac arrest, but circle back to the Shakri base stations, exploding them in the process.

I must say the resolution of the cube plot seems rushed and a little too convenient in the last few minutes of the episode, but like other offerings this season, this is entirely forgivable. The specifics of this standalone adventure are merely a backdrop to the more resonant emotional beats throughout the episode which have larger implications to the series as whole. Unlike last week, Amy and Rory’s roles and their relationship with The Doctor is front and centre this week rather than an afterthought. Although their role in the actual resolution of the black cube plot is minimal, there’s a sense that their presence is integral to The Doctor saving the world at episode’s end (with a nod back to the titular ‘Power of Three’).

We also got the return of Rory’s father, Brian (the delightful Mark Williams) who does well in earning his “father” role. After whisking away Amy and Rory for a seven-week adventure in the middle of their anniversary party, Brian asks The Doctor what happened to his previous companions. Although he acknowledges some have died, The Doctor assures Papa Williams that death will never be the fate of his beloved Ponds. It’s only a brief moment, but we can see how companions of the past continue to weigh heavily on The Doctor. Matt Smith does wonderful job in conveying these complex emotions believably and succinctly.

Courtesy of BBC America

As the cubes lay dormant, we’re given a lot of exposition about the conflicting lives of the Ponds since their return to earth (after many years of TARDIS adventures). At this point it’s been a long time since their adventures with The Doctor began (10 years in fact!) and they’re actually okay with the monotony of everyday life. When The Doctor comes to observe the cubes, his impatience with the routine of a normal earth-bound existence is nicely portrayed in the montage of activities he embarks upon to kill time. The Doctor can’t stay still for long, which is the result of years of one adventure after the next. But with the long stretches of time in between, it really does feel like the Ponds have been adequately “weaned” off the TARDIS. In another brilliant scene alone with Amy overlooking the London skyline, The Doctor admits that his prolonged visit with the Ponds is really a way for him to squeeze as much time with his beloved companions as he can before they “flare and fade away forever.” It is bittersweet moments like these that trump any boredom that might result from the cause-and-effect “standalone” narrative plots we’ve seen this season. It might not be as exciting as the arc-heavy sixth season, but S7 has been enjoyable for these heartfelt, poignant scenes sprinkled throughout.

Other Observations:

  • Amidst the impending alien invasion, we get the return of UNIT helmed by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) daughter of The Doctor’s long time friend, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Although the Brigadier/Doctor relationship is beyond my experience, its mention is pulled off with such ease that it serves as a nice nod to long time fans without alienating Who newbies like me. Kate proves to be an excellent addition to the current Doctor’s list of allies.
  • Amy is currently working as a freelance travel writer. Finally a career that suits her!
  • It’s clear that the Ponds would be okay never stepping foot in the TARDIS again because they are equally happy with domestic life. Something tells me, however, that because we’ve been practically beaten over the head with this information that the Ponds will leave The Doctor much less predictably. I continue to fear that an untimely death(s) isn’t out of the realm of the possible in the mid-season finale.
  • There’s been quite a bit of chatter on the Internets regarding reoccurring motifs of S7’s episodes, including: eggs, The Doctor’s enemies not knowing his identity, blinking/flickering lights, death by explosion, and Christmas. In this episode, I was only able to identify references to the latter two. Although it’s very likely that these Easter eggs are likely to play a bigger role in the season going forward, personally, I think it’s a little too gimmicky. I would prefer clues be presented in a much more subtle fashion.
  • Additionally, there’s been chatter about the show getting progressively darker – literally, as seen in the opening credit sequences. Although this may be true, I found ‘The Power of Three’ to be one of the most ‘light’ offerings of the season as we see the Eleventh Doctor at his most compassionate and warm-hearted.

So what did you think viewers? Was this a fitting episode before we say goodbye to the Ponds for good? Any theories on what will happen in the mid-season finale? Sound off in our comments section below.

Doctor Who airs at 9:00pm EST, Saturdays on BBC America and on SPACE in Canada.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

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