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.
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?