Sunday, 23 September 2012

Review - "The Power of Three"

I'll be blunt.  I loved this episode - absolutely adored it.  In the lead-up to this episode, the impression given was that it would be more low key than the rest of Season 7 so far - after all...the Doctor staying with the Ponds for a while?  Nothing much was going to happen, right?  Wrong.  This episode had comedy and drama.  It had lovely nods to Classic Who.  It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  All-in-all, it was a perfect set-up for what promises to be an utter sobfest next week with the Ponds' final story: "The Angels Take Manhattan".

This was a Pond story - it always had to be, especially considering how little the pair had to do in last week's episode, "A Town Called Mercy".  We saw their lives - their "non-Doctor" lives - and saw the consequences that travelling with the Doctor can have.  When you've travelled with the Doctor, how can you possibly return to a normal life?  You can't.  And it was Brian Williams who pointed this out when he told them to go with the Doctor - but you could feel millions around the country cringing when he told the Doctor to "bring them back safely".  Yeah....that's REALLY going to happen, Brian.

In a nutshell, the plot - which really wasn't the important thing here - concerns billions of small cubes that appear overnight on Earth.  They don't do anything - they just sit there.  Humans being what they are, the cubes are soon taken into homes and offices and become part of everyday life.  They're observing, of course - the cubes are scanning and examining humanity - before their real purpose becomes know.  The Shakri (a race that are mythological even to Time Lords) will use them to wipe out humanity by means of electrical impulses that will stop hearts.

I would agree that the ending was rushed - the sonic being used as the convenient plot device once more - and also it did appear as though the Doctor left a few seemingly unconscious people on the spaceship when it exploded.  I would liked to have had one line of explanation regarding those people - in my head, the Doctor couldn't save them because they were linked to the Earth portals and "unhooking" them would have caused the Earth portals to explode.  That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.  Again, one line of dialogue could have changed all that.

The plot was secondary however.  The real focus of this episode was the dynamic between the three characters we really love:  Eleven, Amy and Rory.  So far this season we've seen Amy and Rory wanting to go home, travelling with the Doctor "occasionally" - and as a consequence, we've seen how this has affected the Doctor - the sadness, the loneliness and losing his composure and temper in "A Town Called Mercy".  "The Power of Three" gave us a glimpse into Amy and Rory's non-Doctor lives - Rory's job was very much to the fore for once and Amy seems to have finally settled into being a Travel Journalist.  They were being pulled home, pulled towards a "normal" life with Rory wanting to work full-time and Amy making plans to attend a friend's wedding.  Of course, the Doctor keeps falling into this and the delight of this episode was seeing the Doctor attempting to spend some time with Amy and Rory in THEIR lives for once.

He got bored.  Of course he did - and it was brilliantly funny to see him paint the fence, mow the lawn, mess with a car engine, play football and hoover the lounge all in the space of one hour.  He tried to be patient though - and after a few month's jaunting around, came back to stay with Amy and Rory for a second - and more successful time.  Along the way - between highlighting the changes in the three since they started travelling together - we were treated to some utterly beautiful scenes, two of which really stick in the mind.  The first was, of course, probably the most talked about scene from the episode:  The Doctor and Amy's conversation on the roof by the Thames.  It was a lovely, touching and tender scene - the Doctor realises that Amy and Rory are "considering stopping" so he asks about it.  Amy is honest about wanting a normal life and unsure they can have both.  We were spoiled here really - we got another "Matt Moment" - a deliciously written and acted monologue about how the Doctor isn't running away...he's running TO - and how because Amy is the first face Eleven saw... he's running to her and Rory before they fade from him.  Delightful - and I can't watch that scene enough.

The second beautiful scene - and one that may have caused a little sniffle or two here - was just prior to the Thames scene.  In the midst of the chaos, the Doctor's calm little "don't despair, Kate.  Your dad never did" caused every Classic Who fan to whimper and hug themselves with delight.  We had an idea of who Kate Stewart was - based on the spin off video "Downtime" - and this little conversation in "The Power of Three" not only held it up as canon but gave us the satisfaction of knowing that the Brigadier's legacy is safe, that UNIT is no longer that horrid version from recent years - UNIT is back to it's Pertwee era best.  And with Kate Stewart at the helm, long may it continue.  (And to the "the Doctor should never salute" gang - this was an acknowledgement to a Lethbridge-Stewart and, as such, it's exempt from your squabbles).

There really was just so much to love about this episode - the Doctor playing Wii Tennis (sign up Matt Smith to do your adverts, Nintendo), the shout-out to the Zygons (one of my all time favourites), the cameos by Professor Brian Cox and Lord Alan Sugar and, one of my favourite scenes - Amy restarting the Doctor's "left" heart in the hospital.  The Doctor's lovely, shocked gasp as Amy ripped his shirt open and subsequent "Staying Alive" pose were terrific.

Kudos therefore to Chris Chibnall - for a lovely, lovely script that was so obviously written by a dedicated fan of the show.  Bouquets also to Douglas MacKinnon - it can't be easy to direct a show like "Doctor Who" in the confined spaces we saw in this episode, but he did it masterfully (and thanks for the plethora of shots of Matt Smith's backside); Jemma Redgrave - a lovely turn as Kate Stewart - please bring her back again in the future.  Mark Williams - Brian Williams is a lovely character and Mark plays him wonderfully... such a shame we won't be likely to see him again; Karen Gillan - what can I say apart from the fact that she IS Amy; Arthur Darvill - understated yet perfect again and, of course, Matt Smith - once again a complete tour de force.  We're getting used to these performances from Matt - he never puts a foot out of place and has brilliant timing - his comic timing particularly is exceptional and yet he can easily switch to scenes of such gravitas as the heartbreaking one near the Thames.

"The Power of Three" is an episode that is practically perfect in every way - one that is almost sure to be a fan favourite very quickly - it may well be overshadowed in episode polls by next week's mid-season finale but it deserves it's place up there near the top.

Notes - those keeping track, we didn't get Christmas actually mentioned this episode - but we did see it with Christmas decorations in the hospital.  The lights issues in previous episodes was also ramped up a notch in this one with an actual  power cut.  Also - theory is that "A Town Called Mercy" is actually set in the 7 weeks the Doctor, Amy and Rory were travelling when he picked them up from their Anniversary party in "The Power of Three".  Why?  Because in "A Town Called Mercy", it was commented about Rory's phone charger in Henry VIII's en-suite and yet they visited Henry VIII in "The Power of Three".

Episode Rating - 9.9 out of 10.  I took a tiny little point off for the rushed plot ending.