The Doctor and the Ponds puzzle an unlikely invasion of Earth, as millions of sinister black cubes arrive overnight, almost like presents falling from the sky.
But what are they, what’s inside them and most importantly, who sent them? With the international community at a loss, it’s left to the Doctor to unearth who is behind the mystery.
It’s nearly the end but the moment is being to be prepared for to misquote Christopher H Bidmead from his 1981 story, DOCTOR WHO – LOGOPOLIS. The journey for the girl who waited will be neatly wrapped-up shortly but, in the meantime, a retrospective of her and her husband’s time travelling exploits are required.
And that’s the dichotomy of DOCTOR WHO – THE POWER OF THREE. A jointly exhaustive episode that wields nervously across 45-minutes never quite cementing itself in being either a psychological exposition of the consequences of being hosted by the Doctor or from being a pure science fiction alien infiltration story.
Seemingly, more padding than David Suchet’s ‘fat suit’ for his iconic role of Hecule Poirot. All that nonsense about a 19th century stealth attack by Zygons in London’s Savoy Hotel, and nasally-challenged encounter with Henry VIII.
Errant nonsense but it was gloriously entertaining in a ‘Doritos and Dip’ type of evening on the sofa without worrying about the shards of chilli-flavoured corn chips escaping at warp velocity and vanishing down the space defying wormhole between the cushions never to be located until the vacuum cleaner is called upon.
Amy V/O: The year of the slow invasion, and the time that the Doctor came to stay.
Upon re-viewing the episode, the plotline is simple. Well, fairly, if you leave logical plotting aside on the stainless steel banana ripening stand that is often seen gathering money-spider cobwebs in the kitchen.
An alien race – “pest controllers of the universe” – known as Shakri (a stilted performance by Steven Berkoff behind the most ragged prosthetic mask seen in the NEW SERIES) has been tasked to take humanity’s future effect on the universe into account – known as ‘The Tally’ – before it colonises space thus eliminating it. To do so it gathers data via research devices, cubes, sent to the planet which eventually activates (the cubes harnessed a planet wide ‘power outage’ feeding it back to the population causing Arithmetic failure and, thus, death).
(So Shakri is/are basically SERIES 6’s ‘The Department of Justice’s Teselecta’ with different prosthetic?).
Whilst this is going on Rory is caught short in this pants with a unsuspecting army blokes (it’s not as bad as that sounds. Only for Amy it is), Brian Williams (played effortlessly by Mark Williams) encamps in the TARDIS on his trusty 1977 floral-canvassed folding garden chair, and fans are lovingly treated to the first (of many, we hope, and perhaps as a ‘regeneration crossover focal point) meeting between the Doctor and Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart Rtd.
The inherent theme of Chris Chibnall’s THE POWER OF THREE focuses on the substantial binding, incorporeal and randomness force of friendship; current and future, and how the inescapable destiny of all friendship is an ever changing quantity that not even a Lord of Time can weigh especially it is impedes upon his very soul and is too close to be able to be fully appreciated. Though, as he has previously mentioned, he sees all of time and would, by deduction, know the events that will and must occur.
Once again, Matt Smith has surpassed his previous performances as he jaunts with cavalier-like rapier speed from Troughton-esque comedic patter to Pertwee-esque decorum & calmness that belies the actor’s initial concerns (all those years ago) from fans that he was far too inexperienced and young for the role, and would not come close let, let alone match or eclipse, the talent of Tennant. In haste, some words are said inadvisably, it would seem (not I, by the way).
For the second episode running, Smith is platter-handed a confection of syllable perfect lines that define not only his character but echoes the previous incarnations:
Doctor to Amy & Rory: I hate patience. Patience is for wimps.
Doctor to Kate Stewart Don’t despair, Kate. Your Dad didn’t. We don’t let him down. We don’t let the planet down.
Doctor to Amy: I’m running toward this before they flare and fade forever.
Emotional material that is delivered with no pastiche or parody or sickly-sweet blubbing that American television would have nauseatingly attempted but it is said with conversational honesty that the series’ writers, cajoled by Steven Moffat (and Russell T Davies before him), have crafted so eloquently as ‘watermark’ running throughout it.
Thankfully, the humour was subtle and I wonder if Rory’s patient with his leg curiously stuck in the U-bend of a toilet was an affectionate nod to the 1967 CARRY ON… British film where Dr Kildare’s (Jim Dale) A&E patient had his head stuck in a bed-pan (A bed-pan? Ask your Grandma if she’s over 60 years old!).
At times Murray Gold’s incidental score seemed like a compilation record of his ‘best bits’, trotted out like non-needle time, Royalty-free tracks to compensate for a lack of budget or lack or lack of imagination.
Workman-like direction from Doulas Mackinnon offends little with the exception of the annoyingly perfunctory ‘live news reports’ and ineffectual ‘as himself’ appearances from UK TV personalities. A tired storytelling device.
Overall, DOCTOR WHO – THE POWER OF THREE was less about alien intervention by the Shakri (all five or six minutes of it) and more about how life with and without the Doctor’s own intervention impacts on the lives of those who travel with him, and as such it was a professional and polished example of the series can take its eye of the ball. This series of episodes was promised to be a set of cinematic & self-contained stories, and with DOCTOR WHO – THE POWER OF THREE it patronisingly disregarded that promise as it was a mere ‘prequel’ to the next, THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN.