The following post is from Emma Hyam (a.k.a emma_lou on our forums & emma_lou1983 on Twitter). This can also be read on her blog.
4 out of 5 *****
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE
Three: it’s the magic number, it’s a hat trick and according to Pythagoras it’s the noblest of all digits, but what can it do for The Doctor and his companions? And more importantly, what on Earth has it got to do with a plethora of small black cubes? The Power Of Three is an extremely good episode, that benefited from a lighter feel than the morality play of A Town Called Mercy. There were two story threads at work, the mystery of the cubes and the everyday life of Amy and Rory.
Chris Chibnall has sometimes come in for heavy criticism for his Doctor Who work in the past, something I touched on in my review of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but once again he has come up with another Douglas Adams like idea of an extermination via the medium of small, black cubes, at first bewildering as the populace search for meaning in them, but then slowly they are integrated into everyday life, and only when people accept them as part of the furniture that the cubes strike. It turns out that the cubes are just an avatar of the Shakri, a Timelord fairy story made real, come to wipe out the plague of Humanity. Bill Hicks once memorably described people as “a virus with shoes” and it seems the Shakri feel the same way. You wonder why, with the Shakri able to perceive all of time, Earth is due for the exterminators. It struck me as a little simplistic that the episode turned into another “are humans all that bad?” argument. Maybe this is something that we will be revisiting at a later date? Especially as humanity is supposed to spread throughout the cosmos, as seen in Series One. I hope so. It’s a shame that Steven Berkoff’s baddie felt thrown away in the speed of wrapping everything up.
Chibnall gave the viewer plenty of treats. The now traditional celebrity appearances in the shape of ubiquitous cool science guy Professor Brian Cox, the perpetually grumpy Sir Alan Sugar, and for long time Doctor Who fans Jemma Redgrave led the return of UNIT to the show. It was a lovely touch that it turns out she’s The Brig’s daughter. However, as I mentioned to my other half, does this mean that Dimensions In Time is now canonical? God forbid. The dialogue was mile a minute, almost verging into screwball comedy in some of the “lounge” scenes as The Doctor, Amy and Rory affectionately yelled at each other, and it was just as laugh out loud funny.
Then there’s the other side of the episode: Rory and Amy, and a glimpse into their lives. Given that the pair are soon to leave the TARDIS, this was a chance to see what they do when the Doctor isn’t around to dump an Ood in their loo and run off again. It turns out The Doctor has been in their lives for ten years, a fact that actually took me back a little. It makes you wonder just how long some of his other companions knocked around the universe with our favourite Timelord. It’s probably not surprising then that a more domestic existence has appeal and an urge to settle down permanently has arisen. We also see the consequence that Rory and Amy’s lifestyle has on the people around them. We’ve had the families of companions taken into account before, but to spend some time deepening their lives was a great move - it’s nice that Rory’s career as a nurse, a flipping good one at that, is given plenty of airtime.
Hauntingly though we got Brian Williams’ realisation of what may be ahead. It was lovely to see a parent react to The Doctor without giving him a slap. Unlike previous parents, Brian believes The Doctor is worth the risk, but in between some excellent comedy work that sense of foreboding lingers. Mark Williams has for me been the revelation of this mini-series of Doctor Who. In just two episodes, he’s had a real impact on me. Matt Smith was fabulous as always - like the cubes I’m beginning to take him for granted, as the episode asks a lot of different things of him. He shows off his excellent physical comedy skills once again, and in his delivery of the dialogue, for example when he’s getting in a grump about being bored, he’s mesmeric. As well as the comedic moments, he also manages to get across things like loneliness, guilt and sadness without any of the changes seeming clunky or forced.
There was a problem with the episode. For all of it’s quality The Power Of Three just had a bit too much going on, hitting a stumbling block come the end of the episode. It felt there was plenty here for a two-parter, the slow invasion storyline is wrapped up ridiculously quickly in a simple “reverse the polarity” solution. That being said the episode was enormous fun, very much in the manner of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I feel kindly enough towards the sheer fun of it all to excuse the plot wobbles.
Now though begins the wait for the mid-series finale. The promised tearjerker in our series of blockbusters. This is the end of The Three. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are apparently closer than they’ve ever been. And with The Moff around that’s a sure sign that things are about to go horribly wrong.