Doctor Who – “The Power of Three”: What’s in the box?

Doctor Who: Series 7

“The Power of Three”

Aired: September 22, 2012

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Douglas MacKinnon

“What do you think we do when we’re not with you?”

– Rory Pond

“I imagine mostly kissing.”

– The Doctor

Rory will forever be remembered as the Romanian centurion who waited for thousands of years to protect the woman he loves. He’s a patient man willing to calmly and methodically wait for the things that are important to him. As we saw this week, he comes by this trait honestly. Rory’s dad Brian is an equally patient man, one who is willing to spend months meticulously recording the inactivity of a cube.

While Amy has been dubbed “the girl who waited,” in reality she’s always been the one looking to run away. Sure, she waited for her imaginary friend The Doctor to return. But when he finally did, she ran away from her established life in England to fly across space and time with The Doctor. At first, she left Rory completely behind. Eventually, he was begrudgingly brought into the fold.

As we learn in this episode, the two have spent 10 year between two worlds. They’ve split time between The Doctor’s adventures and the “real” world. But as they’ve grown up and established a normal life for themselves back home, their trips with The Doctor have begun to seem superfluous. The days or weeks of heart-pounding adventure in between the months spent in the regular world going to work and doing laundry just seems out of place for them.

As Aaron R. Davis pointed out in his column a few weeks ago, Steven Moffat has never been particularly interested in exploring this idea though … until now.

When Russell T. Davies was in charge of the show, we spent a lot more time in present day England. Several times a season, there would be some type of massive attack on London or its surrounding cities. With Rose or Martha or Donna, the tenth Doctor would constantly have to do battle with an alien foe in the modern era. As a result, we spent a lot of time with their families and got a glimpse into their lives outside of The Doctor.

For whatever reason, Steven Moffat has purposely narrowed our perspective. Perhaps he feels that the adventures are what’s important and the moments the characters spend in between adventures are irrelevant. Likewise, he seems to view their families as largely irrelevant.

As we enter this final stretch for the Ponds, suddenly their home life becomes more important. We need to understand why it’s time for them to say goodbye, which means we need to see what they’ve been putting on hold. This is certainly an advantage Davies had over Moffat, in that a lot of those motivations were well established when it came time for him to write out companions. Moffat has been forced to play catch up.

As a result, the establishing of their lives away from The Doctor basically fell on the shoulders of this one particular episode. The episode also had to establish an overarcing storyline with the mysterious cubes and it attempted to find some comic relief in sticking The Doctor in one place for an extended period of time. “The Power of Three,” in short, had a lot of plates to spin simultaneously. As a result, it felt a bit like all of these things got short changed.

So while it was still a very entertaining episode, everything felt a bit rushed. There wasn’t enough time to explore the comedy of The Doctor being trapped like there was in an episode like “The Lodger.” And the global threat created by the black boxes didn’t get much time to breathe either. By the time the boxes started attacking people, it was time to start wrapping things up. The Doctor saving the day seemed remarkably easy and rather brief. The show’s attempt to explain why The Ponds were saying goodbye was a bit too rushed too, with them being forced to mostly tell us they were missing out on a normal life instead of being able to convincingly show it.

Good stuff all around, but a bit too crowded of an episode to really do all three of these aspects justice.

Of course, while the show took great pains to establish that it’s time for The Ponds to leave The Doctor behind, this episode ends with them deciding to continue traveling around with him. They even get Brian’s blessing. That seems to be a very, very bad omen for the duo.

Throughout this five-episode stretch, there has been a lot of foreshadowing that something bad will befall The Ponds. This episode continued that with The Doctor telling Brian that in some rare cases his companions do die. The writing certainly seems to be on the wall that at the very least Amy, if not her and Rory, will both end up dying at the hands of the Weeping Angels in the final episode of this half-season. There decision to go against their better judgement and to continue traveling with the madman in the box is a classic sign that they’ve just signed their own death warrants.

Of course, Steven Moffat loves red herrings. It’s entirely possible that he simply wants us to believe the Ponds are going to die. I’m not entirely convinced they will. Perhaps the duo gets to have a sweet sendoff instead of the tearjerker the show keeps signaling is coming. I suppose we’ll know soon enough.

And another thing …

  • Lots of nods to previous Doctor Who episodes and moments in this one, including the trio eating fish fingers and custard, a reference to K-9 the robot dog, the first psychic paper sighting in a long time and the return of UNIT.
  • In my interview with Matt Smith before the season premiere, he promised that we’d see a historical figure’s leg in this episode. Smith said, “We encounter someone’s feet. He was a king. I’m not going to give anything else away. It’s episode four of this season and he’s chasing us.” Turns out it was Henry VIII, who Amy accidentally agreed to marry.
  • I hope someone told Brian where the bathroom is on the TARDIS before they assigned him the never-ending task of staring at a cube.

Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week

Only one more of these gratuitous photos left before Amy leaves our lives forever …

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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