jason stives looks at the fourth episode of dr. who’s latest season…
Okay, Chris Chibnall, so there is hope for you yet. Being a writer on Doctor Who must be a very tough venture because every writer brings his own sense of flare to the writer’s room that ultimately has to fit under the comfy umbrella of the executive producers’ vision for the entire season. After delivering the light and funny but ultimately dull “Dinosaurs on A Spaceship” two weeks ago, Chibnall delivers his second script this season with this half of the seasons penultimate adventure, “The Power of Three.” Considering my criticisms of his previous script, “The Power of Three” ended up being a surprising tour de force abed with some fundamental flaws in the narrative. The intersecting storylines revolving around the slow invasion of mysterious black cubes and Amy and Rory struggling with their normal life and the life with the Doctor meshed great for the majority of the set up.
Many reviewers and fans have said that this story is most reminiscent of a Russell T. Davies era Who episode and I couldn’t agree more. The balance of humor mixed with the global threat idea coupled with the intercutting of news reels felt strangely like something that would’ve been seen in the Tennant years and while a great refresher it did feel a tad out of place with the tone of Moffat-era let alone it wasn’t as epic and movie quality like it had been promoted. That being said it was nice twist in having an alien race slowly invading the homes of Earth by being ominous and common. What a better way to infiltrate the human condition then becoming so common in their everyday lives that people eventually start taking them home and using them as paper weights or places to put post it notes. Much like “Dinosaurs on A Spaceship” this was also a very humorous episode and it played out very well. There were many highlights including the return this week of Mark Williams as Rory’s father, Brian, once again getting a substantial supporting part in this episode as he did two weeks ago. There were some wonderful one liners and expressions from both The Doctor and Rory. Who didn’t love the Doctor’s look of disgust at the mention of Twitter? Classic!
Then there was the wonderful big fan nod to the classic series in the introduction of Kate Lethbridge Stewart, the new head of UNIT and the daughter of the Doctor’s old friend Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, who was the Doctor’s Earth contact throughout the bulk of the seventies Doctor Who stories. Jemma Redgrave played Kate with a lot of warmth but also the stern, snarky presence that Nicholas Courtney played the Brigadier with all those years ago and she held quite a presence. Despite the fact that UNIT really didn’t figure into this story that much as they were touted to, Kate Stewart is a very welcomed addition to the Who canon and here’s hope that she returns in the near future.
So what prevents this from being a great standalone episode of Doctor Who? Basically the resolution is a complete mess. The trouble with spending so much time on the set up is you have to rush to get everything tied up within a 40 minute frame. There was still so much to be answered about many of the episodes elements: the strange girl in the hospital, the two nurses with the strange boxed mouths, and more importantly the stories central villains the alien race known as the Shakri whose intention is to wipe out the human race as if they were a parasite. Most of this is all bunkered down in the last 10 minutes and once again we are left with a far from interesting foe. They are also easily defeated and this is a common trait in new Who that has always burned a bridge for me. The Doctor constantly coming up with the answer to the problem through no real struggle doesn’t show much in character development and it’s almost as if the Doctor should’ve known the answer all along if it was that easy to take care of. Fan quibble, I’ll stop now because the meat of the story is about Amy and Rory.
It’s amazing to think that next week they will be off our screens for good but in two and a half seasons there has much to be said about the Ponds good and bad. Many fans will argue that Amy hasn’t been much of a character and indeed compared to the RTD-era Amy is a poorly constructed companion but her relationships have always been an interesting examination. After seemingly throwing him under the bus for ages she finally displays a desire to have a normal life with Rory but the adventures are just too much fun. Thankfully we see this in Rory as well as he seems to enjoy it just as much as her. It was nice to see time elapse as the Doctor periodically drops in on their lives and from what we are told in the dialogue this has been going on for a good 10 years now for Amy and Rory. Time is what really makes the Ponds and their relationship with The Doctor so unique. We have never truly wrestled with the idea that these companions are basically aging through their travels and their normal lives are just left behind with loved ones at home seemingly still young while they grow old faster. The story of the companion isn’t supposed to be bleak and philosophical per say but Doctor Who also isn’t just a kids show it’s a drama that examines character structure and the effects of their journey through our television screens. The Doctor is well aware of what his travels with the Ponds are doing to him and them equally. The exchange between the Doctor and Brian shows that the Doctor is fully aware of what his travels with these people do and there is almost a bit of dread in his eyes as if the Doctor knows or expects something to happen to Amy and Rory which leads me to a bit of speculation about these five episodes.
There has been buzz on the internet that a lot of these recent adventures are not taking place in order in that The Doctor is actually visiting the Ponds at different points in their timelines not all in order. This has been pretty much proven true by a bit of dialogue from “A Town Called Mercy” that showed up visually in “The Power of Three.” If you remember at the beginning of “Mercy” The Doctor mentions that Rory left his phone charger in Henry the 8th’s bedroom and this week we see The Doctor and company hiding under a bed escaping from the good King after Amy apparently wed him. Then there are the various looks of sadness The Doctor has given Amy when they discuss about her and Rory staying in the TARDIS forever. Is it possible that The Doctor already knows what happens to them and that he has been going back over their timelines for adventures so that the hurt of the truth doesn’t sink in? Considering the big events that are to come in next week’s mid-season finale (I know! We are almost done again!) you would figure that this would be a more prevalent plot point in this penultimate story.
Next week this all comes to a head and in style it seems. New York City in the 1930s?! The Weeping Angels return?! River!? I expect tissues to be by my side next to my TARDIS coffee mug because this sure to be a real tearjerker. In the meantime, “The Power of Three” suffered in parts of its narrative that resulted in a sloppy finish but nonetheless was a fun and entertaining invasion episode that intersected two stories wonderfully and provided some wit and intrigue to really keep the audience satisfied until the very end.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)
All Photos Credit: BBC America