Monday, 24 September 2012

The Power of Three- reviewed by @zeiton_7

Interesting episode this one, we didn't know much about it beforehand. There are some mysterious cubes and it has been dubbed "the year of the silent invasion". We knew it would involve the return of UNIT (always welcome in my view) and as its the last episode before the Ponds leave it would be fair to expect some build up to next weeks "The Angels Take Manhattan" (still no word from Mr Vorhees by the way but I'll keep you posted!)

According to Chris Chibnall, "Power's" writer, Moffat had asked for a story that traced "A year in the life of the Ponds". No small task as we know all Series 7 episodes are pretty much self contained, how do you compress a years worth of activity into just 45 minutes and make it feel like a cohesive story? If this is done badly it will just feel like exerts from their diaries with The Doctor popping in and out and like an time travelling meddler. Do it right and we have a fascinating story which will feature in many a Who fans top ten all time best stories.

Before settling down to watch tonight's episode I was sincerely hoping that Chibnall would atone for his mistakes with "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" and gift us with a story that would grip and enthral as well as highlight the pain and anguish of Amy and Rory who are clearly feeling a distance with The Doctor. Here was a chance to shine and truly show a new dimension to The Doctor/Companion relationship, perhaps in a way that had never been done before.

So firstly, the plot that holds this episode together. We are introduced to this in a kind of flash back style  as Amy herself narrates the year when "The Doctor came to stay". Right from the start the episode has a kind of "tribute to the Ponds" feel to it. We see snapshot highlights of their previous adventures and this continues throughout the whole story. The Doctor settles down for a night in, and all three of them tuck in to a bowl of fish fingers and custard, with The Doctor even admitting he invented Yorkshire Puddings!! The audience immediately feels the angst that they feel as, in comparison, their "normal lives" are well normal. There is a sense that they are being forced to choose between "Doctor life" and every day existence.

The  cubes and the plot that surrounds their mysterious appearance isn't complicated, to tell at least. Over night and ,all over the world, millions of small identical, black cubes have appeared. They are taken into peoples homes and places of work and even have their own twitter page. The clever use of current social media added to the ever reliable use of BBC NEWS 24 footage really does give the impression that we are witnessing real events. The cubes just sit there for nearly a full year without any movement or aggressive behaviour. Yet we share The Doctors unease as we are promised a silent invasion! Indeed it is not until over 30 minutes into the episode that anything happens with the little black visitors. Much of the interim time is taken up with The Doctor, frustrated and bored, painting fences and looking somewhat bemused at The Ponds existence.

It turns out that the cubes aren't invading after all but are sent as silent assassins to destroy the human race by the mysterious, Emperor Palpatine lookey likey Shakri. They see the human race as a plague that threaten to overrun the galaxy. After an ominous countdown they emit a powerful electrical charge that causes cardiac arrest for anyone near them (including The Doctor) After some debate, discussion and use of the ever useful Sonic Screwdriver, the cubes are reprogrammed to start hearts and all is hunky dory again.

I found myself gripped as, for once, we really didn't know what was going on and the sense of suspense with the countdown, brilliantly counting down from 7 on all the cubes, was tangible. I really enjoyed watching The Doctor, for once, at a loss as to what was happening and looked forward to the inevitable reveal as to how this threat would manifest. For me, unfortunately, this reveal was the flaw in the whole episode. Lets be honest, after nearly 40 minutes of build up that's a pretty big flaw. I am starting to feel some sympathy with the decision made by John Nathan Turner in banning the sonic screwdriver. A whole years build up, analysing the human race, taking samples and learning "The Birdy Song" to be thwarted by a casual flick of the sonic seemed a little rushed and somewhat of a let down. But if the plot was really just a vehicle to tell the story of the beginning of the end of The Ponds, what of Rory and Amy?

I am not one of fandoms biggest fans of Amy and Rory and, unpopular though this may be, am actually looking forward to them leaving next week. Don't get me wrong, they have been good companions, but I feel its time for change and new blood in the Tardis. There are elements of their characters that have grated with me. Having said that, I find myself actually feeling some real sympathy for their plight. They are committing to life without The Doctor both in personal and work areas. The welcome return of Brian Pond also provided a concern for their safety and an ominous portent for the events of next weeks episode. This then, was very much a relationship episode but not one just focused on the Ponds. The welcome return of UNIT also provided a lovely and tearful surprise with Kate Stewart, daughter of the late Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. Lovely touch Mr Chibnall.

So in conclusion, an episode very much setting up the jolt of next weeks departure. Did it work? Ive been struggling with that question ever since the credits rolled. Honestly? for the most part yes. For me, this isn't as clear cut as Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I would have to say that for 3/4 of the episode I was happy with the story of the cubes interlacing with the Ponds continuing arc. What lets the story down is a rushed and over simplified ending. It leaves me feeling that, once Chibnall had delivered the remit of "a year in the life of the Ponds" he just finished off the alien threat with a cursory flick of the sonic. This would have been a better story if it had been a two parter. It needed more space, more time to breathe. Next weeks episode promises to be a suitable end to Amy and Rory's tenure with The Doctor and the return of The Weeping Angels.

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