The Power of Three

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The Power of Three feels rather like a story from Russell T. Davies: big build up to a disappointing resolution, celebrity cameos and one of his secret bases under a famous London landmark; here re-using the Tower of London UNIT HQ from The Christmas Invasion. Not to say that the Professor Cox and Lord Sugar cameos weren’t enjoyable, and they worked to highlight a more fleshed-out ‘real world’ for Amy and Rory to inhabit.

There are some really great scenes here, with the original pitch Steven Moffat gave Chris Chibnall (the Doctor from the Ponds’ point of view) providing most of them. Unfortunately it’s at the expense of the story. Why do the cubes need time for humans to take them home when they can materialise anywhere?! The cubes only need 47 minutes to gather all the information they need, so the plan immediately seems so convoluted you might suspect the Master is at work.

Almost tangentially to this there are square-mouthed orderlies kidnapping patients from the hospital Rory works in and taking them to the Shakri’s ship and hooking them up to drips to keep them alive, when the Shakri plan is to wipe out all humans! Surely one of these prisoners would be enough to tell them humanity’s weaknesses. I’m not convinced the evil orderlies were even anything to do with the Shakri. They were pretty poor henchmen not to try and stop the Doctor sonicking the McGuffin at the end to bring everyone back go life. I suspect the one third of the world’s population that fell victim to the cubes could have suffered brain damage, what with being dead for ages and all.

The conclusion is so rushed. What was the little girl android all about? She was ultimately pointless as Rory found the ship without her, then the Doctor and Amy seemed to too. The Shakri left a hologram to spout exposition and fire two shots, but no other guards or defence mechanism for the ship. It just smacked of RTD-lazy resolution.

Saying that a bad guy is from Gallifreyan mythology just cheapens the Time Lord mystique, it doesn’t make the villain more impressive. The baddies have to be impressive on their own terms. We don’t even find out why he wants to wipe out humanity. We are told they are seen as a plague, but not why. No clear motive, nonsensical plan, easily defeated.

The final line about the power of three would have made more sense if each if the TARDIS crew had made their own unique contribution to the alien’s downfall, maybe by having Amy and Rory defeat the inexplicably absent henchmen while the Doctor worked his jiggery pokery, but they just wheeled out the comatose patients.

The positives: UNIT are back, which is always nice. What the new series needs is some consistency of personnel though. Jemma Redgrave as Kate was terrific; classy, intelligent and charismatic, but she needed more to do. The scene where the she and the Doctor discuss the Brigadier was beautifully played and written. I really hope she becomes a recurring presence in the series.

The other scenes that are great are the character stuff between the three regulars, and this has clearly been the priority in this episode. Mark Williams’ Brian makes a welcome return with some poignant scenes. As in Vincent and the Doctor the Eleventh Doctor is an impatient, hyperactive presence. He hates the slow pace of life that’s not exciting or life and death (makes me think that his reference to ‘The Archers’ last week wasn’t actually about the Radio 4 soap, but a crack time of bow and arrow-wielding aliens).

A visually-inventive episode, with the subtitles displaying the passing of the months wittily created to blend in with the background. The way the cubes were used or discarded rang true as well, even if all their little tricks seemed pointless in the end.

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The greatest trick the Shakri ever pulled was convincing the Time Lords they did not exist….

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…And like that… he is gone.

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The cubes have enjoyed a career in The Jonathan Ross show titles since appearing in The Power of Three.

photoKate Lethbridge-Stewart as played by Beverly Cressman in Downtime.

Not seen The Power of Three yet? Buy now on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy]

or blu-ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 1 [Blu-ray + UV Copy]

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