DOCTOR WHO Recap: The Power Of Three (7.4)

By Ruthie

The Cheesiest Closing Line in the History of Doctor Who: “The Power of Three”

At last we have come to this: the penultimate episode of the Ponds. We have been told that this one is meant to be from the point of view of the Ponds more than most episodes, so I suspect that its main purpose is going to be lulling us into a happy sense of adoration before horribly killing them or doing something equally dreadful to them next week. (When Steven Moffat has promised us a “heartbreaking” farewell.)

We begin with the Earth flying through space and Amy musing on the differences between life with the Doctor versus life without him. It is July, as a “Pond Life” style subtitle hovering in their kitchen tells us. Amy tells us that this is the year of the “Slow Invasion,” the time the Doctor came to stay.
At the crack of dawn one morning, Rory’s dad Brian (Mark Williams is back! Yay!) wakes the Ponds up to draw their attention to thousands of little black cubes that have appeared pretty much everywhere. The Doctor, of course, is already checking on it. Inside the TARDIS, Brian gives us a rundown of all the possibilities for the cubes, and the Doctor applauds his thoroughness. This is why I love Brian. Anyway, the Doctor borrows the Ponds’ kitchen for experiments, but Rory is due at work. Apparently he’s back to nursing, and Amy is writing travel articles for magazines. Ah, that’s an even better use of her skills than modeling. Well done Amy. They have a wee bit of a domestic moment, and the Doctor looks completely appalled. It is hilarious.

Meanwhile, soldiers are surrounding the house. Oh I hope it’s UNIT. Inside, oblivious, Amy and the Doctor muse on how things have changed. Amy mentions that she thinks it’s been ten years she and Rory have been together, between time spent with the Doctor and time on Earth. The Doctor seems surprised and pleased—and really, that is a pretty long time for a companion, isn’t it?—but before there’s time for the moment to stick, the soldiers burst into the house wielding guns and looking menacing. Rory is forced into the room at gunpoint, wearing scrubs on top and his undies on bottom. “There are soldiers all over my house, and I’m in my pants!” he shouts. “My whole life I’ve dreamed of saying that, and I’ve missed it by being somebody else,” Amy laments. That’s my favorite exchange in this entire episode.

A blond woman with an air of authority enters and apologizes for the chaos. She is Kate Stewart, head of scientific research at UNIT (called it!), and she immediately identifies the Doctor, confirming her hypothesis with what looks like a modified iPhone that scans his chest for two hearts. She gives him a rundown on all the experiments they’ve tried on the cubes, which basically amounts to “we don’t know what they are.” On the other hand, she tells us that the cubes are already all over flickr and YouTube, and that within three hours, they had a thousand separate Twitter accounts. And I will bet that by the time they were having this conversation, there was already a busy and well-populated board on Pinterest, full of interesting ways people with more time and patience than you can paint or glue stuff to the cubes in order to make vintage-looking housewares and amusing games for children.

UNIT and the Doctor want to treat this as a threat, but they need evidence. The Doctor declares that it’s necessary to observe the cubes round the clock and record everything about them. After four days, however, they haven’t done a thing and the Doctor has clearly gone stir crazy. He flees to the TARDIS (where Brian is still sitting on a little folding chair and observing the cubes), and tries to entice Amy and Rory off on an adventure. Rory refuses, on the grounds that he has to work. The Doctor flippantly tries to dismiss this with “The whole universe is waiting, but you have a little job.” Rory is ticked. (And we all know what happens when Rory gets ticked.) (http://rorywilliamsfacts.tumblr.com/) He corrects the Doctor with a firm “What you do isn’t all there is.” The Doctor seems a little embarrassed. And he should. You see, that was something that I always loved about Eleven; one of the lessons he learned from Ten was that the most ordinary people and ordinary, boring moments are brilliant and beautiful and full of unseen significance. This is the Doctor who in “A Christmas Carol” once declared, “You know that in nine hundred years of time and space I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.” So really, how dare he dismiss Rory like that? It’s really not good for him to travel alone. He’s not only forgetting who he is—which the last few episodes have demonstrated—he’s also getting too big for his britches again. It wasn’t good for Ten when that happened. We sure don’t want it happening to Eleven.
"This Game Cube leaves a lot to be desired..."

They jump ahead to October, and we see Amy promising to be a bridesmaid for her friends’ wedding, and Rory accepting a full-time position at his hospital. They seem to have surprised themselves, but both of them seem to like the idea of settling down to “real life.” Brian, meanwhile, is the only one taking the Doctor’s order to observe the cube seriously, and we see him recording “Brian’s Log”, wherein he documents the cube.

Jumping ahead to December, we get a glimpse of Rory at work, where we also see an adorable moppet who is eerily vacant-eyed and stroking a cube in a worrying fashion. She gets more worrying when her eyes suddenly glow an unnatural blue. Elsewhere, a patient waiting for a prescription is accosted by two identical twin male nurses, screams, and is rushed away on a gurney while a cube briefly flickers blue. Odd.

We cut now to a montage of all the mundane ways people are using the cubes, and may I just say, I’m not sure all of them are sanitary. I’m cool with paperweights and putting practice, but I have to wonder about the ones that seem to have been put to use in foodservice. Ew. Anyway, it’s June now, and the Ponds are celebrating their anniversary with a cookout. The Doctor appears and whisks them away for a night of elegantly-dressed luxury at the recently opened Savoy Hotel in 1890; they are very pleased until the following morning, when it turns some sort of Doctor-style shenanigans have taken place. Said shenanigans obviously keep happening, as we next see our heroes hiding under a bed, Amy having just accidentally married Henry VIII. They’re returned to their party, and Brian takes the Doctor aside to ask how long they were gone. After some wheedling, the Doctor admits to seven weeks (Seven Weeks!), and after further prompting, he gives Brian a brief description of the fates of his various previous companions. He swears that he won’t let anything bad happen to Amy and Rory.

"Microwave on high for... six days?"
The Doctor comes to stay, and by July (a full year after the start of the episode), nothing has changed. Until it suddenly does. The Doctor and the Ponds are sitting around eating fish fingers and custard (Yay!), when the cubes come to life. Brian’s cube moves; Rory’s cube opens; Amy’s glows and then stabs her hand; and the Doctor’s cube interrupts his game of Wii Tennis by hovering in front of him. “Is that all you can do? Hover? I had a metal dog that could do that,” he taunts it. So it starts shooting at him. Then it scans the television. Meanwhile, Rory gets called into the hospital, and in the background we see the same adorable moppet we previously saw in December. Okay, here's my first big quibble with this episode. What kind of crappy hospital is Rory working at where the same little girl can hang out in the waiting room for FIVE MONTHS, wearing a heavy, fur-lined coat in July, and no one notices or calls social services or anything? That’s just plain ridiculous. I’ve heard of unattended children being identified and helped in a few hours, and I’m sure that even the worst hospital ever would notice the kid after a couple days and try to help her, especially with her radically inappropriate outerwear calling attention to her. Anyway, Rory goes in and Brian tags along.

The Doctor and Amy, meanwhile, are summoned to the Tower of London via psychic paper message. UNIT has a secret underground base there, and Kate Stewart would like the Doctor’s help. All of the cubes have activated, and they’ve got fifty of them doing their thing in various little cells. My favorite is a cube that just plays The Chicken Dance at full volume “on a loop,” as Kate tells us. Kate laments that all the governments of the world are demanding answers and she doesn’t know what to do, and the Doctor says, “Don’t despair, Kate. Your dad never did.” Oh, What! Kate STEWART! Her dad was Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigadier_Lethbridge-Stewart) How awesome is that! The Brigadier was one of the founders of UNIT, a very prominent character in the classic series, and last heard of here in “The Wedding of River Song,” when the Doctor called to check on him at his care home and was informed that he had died. I’m tickled absolutely pink. I liked Kate already—I like her even more now.

Meth: Not Even Once.
Just as suddenly as it started, the cubes shut down after just 47 minutes. Amy and the Doctor sit outside and chat. She admits that they are considering leaving the Doctor, and she explains that the travelling is beginning to feel like running away. The Doctor seems peeved at that, and he makes an impassioned argument that the universe is a huge place and he’s not running from, he’s running to. Frankly, Doctor, I have to call bull on that comment. First off, the whole dialogue reads like the protests of one for whom the truth hit too close to home. Heck, back in “The Sound of Drums,” he flat-out admitted it. Remember how he described how Time Lord children would stare into the Untempered Schism? Some were inspired, some went mad, and some ran away. When Martha Jones asked which he was, he answered “Oh, one of the ones that ran. I never stopped.” So, yes, clearly he IS running away, and at one point, he was well aware of it. So why does he deny it now? Embarrassment? He wants Amy to think more of him than that? Or is it more of the Doctor going a bit wonky on his own? He does tell Amy that he will never get over her, because she was the first person he saw after his regeneration and she was sealed onto his hearts. Aw, sweet.

The conversation enlightens the Doctor as to why the cubes shut down—they got what they wanted—so they scurry inside and discover that the cubes are now projecting a seven minute countdown. They order everyone to get the cubes away, and back in Rory’s hospital, he’s directing the Cube Cleanup. He sends Brian for tape, and, of course, Brian immediately runs afoul of the creepy identical twin nurses who throw him on a gurney and run him into an elevator. Rory will have none of that, of course, and he follows. They outrun him, but he figures out that one wall of the elevator is actually a portal, and that’s how Rory ends up on a spaceship.

Back under the Tower, the Doctor is in a wee room with one of the cubes, waiting for it to complete its countdown. When it does, nothing much happens; a few moments later, however, they are watching CCTV feeds from all over the world, and see that people are dropping over dead from cardiac arrest. And sure enough, one of the Doctor’s hearts shuts down, and he figures out that the boxes used an electrical signal to interrupt the heart. UNIT has managed to find the source of the signals to the cube, and the nearest one is, of course, at the hospital where Rory works.

Rory, meanwhile, has located his dad, still unconscious. Before he can get to him, the two creepy nurses (ten times creepier when you can see their bizarre gaping maw faces), come at him with syringes, and in true Rory fashion, he is badass about it. “Just get away from me,” he tells them, cool as a cucumber. It doesn’t work, of course, but it’s still really cool.

"Don't roll your eyes, I'm trained in orchestration..."
In the hospital, Amy is helping the Doctor down the hall when his attention is attracted by the adorable moppet in the winter coat. His sonic screwdriver makes her whole face glow blue, and the Doctor identifies her as some sort of “monitor droid,” collecting data. He shuts her down with his sonic screwdriver, and then freaks the heck out over his non-functioning heart. Amy grabs a defibrillator (conveniently abandoned in the corridor), and despite her total lack of medical training, shocks the Doctor who jumps up shouting “Welcome back Lefty!” and they dance off. Meanwhile, the deactivated monitor droid remains slumped against a wall in the hallway, looking for all the world like a dead child, and completely ignored by everyone.

They make their way to the elevator and onto the ship, where the Doctor uses some kind of illegal smelling salts to revive Rory. They are interrupted by an alien with a high forehead and some seriously bad dry skin. The Doctor orders the Ponds to get out all the people—and there are like ten of them unconscious in the room—and he confronts the alien. The Doctor recognizes him as a member of the Shakri, a species the Time Lords talked about like a bedtime story. He “serves the Tally,” the Tally being equal to Judgment Day. The alien says that the human plague must be wiped out; this was the purpose of the boxes—to begin the process of killing off our species. So, in the end, they’re essentially roach motels for people? Nice.

The Doctor makes an impassioned plea for humankind, but the Shakri simply says that he will release more cubes to put down the “human plague.” Then he vanishes. So they scurry over to the computer screen, and the Doctor says he can disconnect all the Shakri’s portals and cut off the mother ships, but all the people on earth will have died. Amy points out that she restarted one of the Doctor’s hearts, which gives Rory the idea for “mass defibrillation”, and the Doctor programs the cubes to do just that. The resulting energy surge destroys the ship, but we do get a nice shot of all the dead people hopping back up and seeming okay. Quibble number two, now: how long were those people dead? You see, it’s one thing for the Doctor to be okay—he had a second heart that kept right on going. But these people were dead, and I’d say it was for at least ten minutes, probably more like twenty. Enough time for Amy and the Doctor to get from the Tower to the hospital, find the portal, bicker with the Shakri guy and then reprogram the cubes. That’s a long time. And all their brains were oxygen deprived that entire time. So… even if these people were alive, in the real world, they’d all be vegetables. Total vegetables. The few that miraculously avoided having their brains turned to gelatin would probably still have sever deficits and personality changes.

"Pssst. I'm naked under this coat."
Kate thanks the Doctor for his help with a wee kiss on the cheek, and then Amy, Rory, Brian, and the Doctor share a dinner of Chinese takeout. The Doctor explains that he understands that they have wonderful, fabulous, ordinary lives and he doesn’t blame them. Brian, on the other hand, really understands Amy and Rory, and he tells them to go with the Doctor. The Doctor invites him along, but he stays behind to “water the plants.” Then Amy goes back into voiceover mode, and explains that there was something the Shakri never understood: “What cubed really means: The Power of Three.” Oh dear heavens. That was the worst, cheesiest, most terrible line ever. Seriously. Dreadful. I’m gagging on all the cheese. Terrible line. Bleh. They mug in front of the TARDIS, and that’s that.

They take off for their final journey, a trip to New York and the final farewell to the Ponds.

That episode was fun and good and interesting… right up to the last ten minutes. I loved the cubes. I loved the quirky storytelling style. I loved the juxtaposition of the Doctor against normal, domestic life. I loved Kate Stewart. And I hate, hate, hated the resolution of this plot. It felt terribly rushed and really slapped together at the last minute. The story lacked the tightness of most Doctor Who episodes, and the ending really dragged the whole thing down. It felt a bit like Chris Chibnall was writing a two parter—and to be fair, if “The Rebel Flesh” got a two-parter, this episode really could have used one as well—and only after he’d gotten 75% finished did he get the memo about Steven Moffat’s “No two-parters this season” rule. So he had to slap something onto the end to finish it up. Or, perhaps the main purpose of the episode was writing about the developing feelings between the Ponds and the Doctor, and he wrote a whole emotional episode about them discovering and experiencing and exploring, and someone read it and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great, but there aren’t nearly enough angry aliens and stuff blowing up! So get that in there!”

"Don't fret. You're leaving soon..."
First off, the ending doesn’t make much sense. I’ve already quibbled a bit about some of the more stupid aspects above. But that barely scratches the surface. First off, why were the Shakri dragging people onto the spaceship if their purpose was to exterminate human life? When I want to wipeout a cockroach infestation, I don’t carefully select a handful of roaches to keep alive—I wipe the bastards out. They were clearly more than capable of getting information remotely, and by the time they took Brian, we'd already established that they had what they needed, so they weren't kidnapping people for guinea pigs. What was the point of that? (Never explained.) Secondly, if the Shakri are really committed to this Tally business, then all we’ve managed to do is delay the inevitable. Blowing up the (probably unmanned) ships did temporarily cut off their ability to communicate with the cubes and rendered the cubes temporarily inert, but—and here’s the important thing—the cubes are all STILL THERE. The Earth is still completely full of them. And what’s to stop seven more Shakri ships showing up, re-establishing the link, and finishing their Tally? Nothing. Absolutely nothing is there to stop them, because the Doctor and the Ponds just ponced off on an adventure.

My companion and I were talking about it, and what we’d like to have seen would have been a resolution where the cubes turned out to be no big deal. He suggested a totally anti-climactic ending, something along the lines of the cubes just vanished, or just went back to being totally inert and the Doctor ultimately had to say “I dunno.” Personally, I thought it would be awesome if they eventually tracked the cubes back to their source and found a ship full of very pleasant, super advanced alien zoologists who were collecting data on the indigenous species of Planet Earth, and the cubes were essentially the more advanced equivalent of our fur-covered camera in a tree. They were just here to collect data, so we had lots of panic and turmoil over nothing. And then the friendly zoologists thanked the Doctor and took their cubes and went home. See, if there was ever an episode that could sustain an anticlimactic or even slightly silly conclusion (or even benefit from it!), it was this one. So it feels like such a wasted opportunity that instead, we got something that was slap-dash, full of holes, and really pretty cliché.

But, enough of that. Next week we have “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the fall finale and the episode in which we will finally bid the Ponds farewell. I see River Song in the preview—and of course! She should be in the Pond’s final journey, shouldn’t she? I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of their story, although the word is that this will be an exceptionally sad one, so bring your tissues.

Here's a peek!

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