Doctor Who: The (Largely Disappointing) Power Of Three review

Doctor Who - The Power Of ThreeI’d seen The Power Of Three about a week ago, just after watching the preview of the largely excellent A Town Called Mercy. Obviously I couldn’t talk about the episode at that point, but after the clever dialogue and deep insights into The Doctor and his companions, The Power Of Three managed to miss the mark completely.

Was it the regurgitated storyline? Mysterious objects appear across the world and the inhabitants of the planet – who’ve had more alien invasions than hot dinners in recent years – somehow opt to ignore them or treat them as quirky gadgets. Remember Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday? In which mysertious figures start appearing and everybody decides they’re long-lost relatives when actually they’re Cybermen planning an invasion? That.

To be fair, the sinister black boxes are intriguing…until they throw that kitchen-sink mentality at the things, having each one behave in its own unique way. Which is even more disappointing when they finally deliver their payload, which is to electronically stop the hearts of the nearest humans. Really? It took months for these devices to scan the whole of humanity and decide upon their course of action? A woefully underwhelming story development. *sigh* At least they were visually stunning, especially when they started displaying their digital countdown.

What’s especially frustrating about The Power Of Three is that it marks the penultimate episode for Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Now, there were foreshadowings of their departure. In fact, I can’t recall a companion in the past whose departure has been so clearly waymarked. And in some ways, the episode does a decent job of showing us how normal life starts to appeal after ten years of TARDIS-hopping with the Time Lord. Somewhere along the line though, the action, the black box story, the whole episode fails to come together as well as it should.

And this is the episode that should have brought the story of the Ponds to a climax before next weeks earth-shattering departure.

Even sadder? The lame humans as parasites story that was eventually unveiled. Really? That’s the best we can come up with? Judgement day on the human race. As declared by a man who looked like a cross between Darth Vader without his mask and Pinhead from Hellraiser. Everything just felt lazy and regurgitated. And we’ve talked about that being okay as long as the episode is delivered well. And it just isn’t wasn’t.

They even found the time to reboot UNIT (again) and drag out Mark Williams for another charming appearance as Rory’s dad. Fans of classic-era Doctor Who will have enjoyed the nod to the Brigadier, but I was more pleased about the reappearance of Brian, who seemed to be more attuned to alien threats than Rory or Amy were.

Were you as disappointed as I was? Let me know in the comments.

PS. The Doctor’s age. Last week, he definitely said that he was 1,200 years old now. And he was 980 or something when Amy first met him. Yet this week, Amy said it was ten years for her and Rory, but no time at all for The Doctor. Was she forgetting about that 200 year time jump, or am I missing something?

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8 Comments

  1. jefft

    Well, I’ve stupidly read some advance previews and like Gerald, they mostly say ‘disappointing’

    However, Brian made this episode for me, which had humour and poignancy.

    Yes, foreshadowing with a klaxon.

    Yes, bit of a rushed villain..but remember the eighties? This would have been a 4 episode job and so slow it’s not true. I’m sure current who suffers from sardine syndrome.. Everything has to be packed into 45 or so minutes, and some aspects suffer.

    I liked this episode so much more than dinosaurs on a spaceship, which was a title looking for a story.

    I liked it. Shocking to think next week is bye bye ponds, but more.. Bye bye doctor till Xmas. Still, hello merlin! 🙂

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Hi Jeff! Your comment inspired me to look around at some of the other reviews for this episode, but sad to say many of them focused on the problems with the rushed ending rather than the messy storytelling that was going on throughout.

      I just found everything derivative – from the hospital orderlies (who looked like Gas Mask child, circa The Empty Child), or the portal in a lift which was a reminder of Closing Time from last season. Or as I said, the mysterious boxes that the human race decides are random oddities rather than a potential threat – and that parallel with Army Of Ghosts. 

      And as much as I enjoyed Brian, his character feels like a callback to Wilf in the Donna Noble era: an older man whose connection to The Doctor opens his eyes to a universe of possibilities. Not quite as charming as Bernard Cribbins, but I’m not complaining.

  2. Emperor Gregor

    Amy and Rory have aged ten years to the Doctor’s 200 which shows that while the Doctor is a major part of their life THEY aren’t as big a part of his (as he says they are ). Though Amy says its a big part of their life span but nothing at all for a Time Lord,which is making them think a bit. I quite liked that insight. But it wasnt made the most of. It added to the whole story of Amy and Rory growing up and leaving their madcap teenage and twenties years behind. Thirty Something awaits. Lovely little theme developing. Then the writer dropped the ball. Again. Years and years of no young family. They have, admittedly, found a lifestyle they like. They have reconciled themselves to childlessness. And they quite like the life they are building in it’s place.  But not a word about that. Not even a discussion on them having an alter ego life their friends don’t know about. Which could be a powerful reason for having to choose. 

    Instead we get Amy and Rory finding they needed to choose between their two lives for a really AWFUL reason. They can’t get any continuity in the lifer hey lead outside the Doctor. And why?  Because the Doctor, despite saying he can take almost anyone else back to within 5 minutes to resume their lives, leaves the Ponds with gaps of months when their friends never see them so they miss stuff and are seen by others as a bit flakey.  Why? Can’t the Doctor be bothered? Sabotage?  Very sloppy story arc. 

    Then, at the end, they choose to go off yet again. Presumably because the storyline editor needs them in the Tardis next week. 

    This was Amy and Rory’s story development this week. They needed a consistent story arc they didn’t get it and that’s the story editor’s fault. They really should have picked that glitch up and asked for a rewrite. 

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Some of your most insightful comments right here, Emperor Gregor! I totally agree, they’ve played it fast and loose with the “Doctor can’t fly the TARDIS with any accuracy” angle, yet there are too many times where he’s able to do just that with pinpoint precision. And this episode is another example of that.

      It’s just like how he can spot an alien plot in minutes through his razor-sharp perception, but yet doesn’t realise that he’s kidnapped Brian when he materialised the TARDIS around him a couple of episodes ago. I could forgive that because it was funny, but when they mess up the delivery like this, it’s just not fun to watch.

  3. jefft

    >>Because the Doctor, despite saying he can take almost anyone else back to within 5 minutes to resume their lives, leaves the Ponds with gaps of months when their friends never see them so they miss stuff and are seen by others as a bit flakey.  <<

     

    Even though in the same episode he brings them back to the point they left, leaving Brian to spot the change of clothes. Gappiness makes no sense. You cant keep a job if you vanish for 5 months without booking a holiday first. Or keep a house. Or have a kid. So while the episode started to discuss the practicalities of Doc-hopping, if they dont come back to at least a close approximation of where they left from, it all falls apart.  Mind you, even if they did, they would be aging faster than their friends.

    I do wonder if the sterility thrown into the discussion in AOTD wasnt quite so throwaway, or whether it was simply to explain how they can vanish for weeks at a time.

    I wonder whether Amy needs to go through the ‘this never really happened’ recycle machine so that she gets a normal life..  

    But maybe thats too big a reboot even for the Moff.

    (Yes: bigger than Big Bang 2. As Douglas Adams said about replacing the universe with something even more imporbable.. ‘this may already have happened’ Big Bang 2: who would have noticed?)

    Donna loses her memories and gets a winning lottery ticket. The Ponds get a house and a car, but still have to work…

  4. jefft

    >>Because the Doctor, despite saying he can take almost anyone else back to within 5 minutes to resume their lives, leaves the Ponds with gaps of months when their friends never see them so they miss stuff and are seen by others as a bit flakey.  <<

     

    Even though in the same episode he brings them back to the point they left, leaving Brian to spot the change of clothes. Gappiness makes no sense. You cant keep a job if you vanish for 5 months without booking a holiday first. Or keep a house. Or have a kid. So while the episode started to discuss the practicalities of Doc-hopping, if they dont come back to at least a close approximation of where they left from, it all falls apart.  Mind you, even if they did, they would be aging faster than their friends.

    I do wonder if the sterility thrown into the discussion in AOTD wasnt quite so throwaway, or whether it was simply to explain how they can vanish for weeks at a time.

    I wonder whether Amy needs to go through the ‘this never really happened’ recycle machine so that she gets a normal life..  

    But maybe thats too big a reboot even for the Moff.

    (Yes: bigger than Big Bang 2. As Douglas Adams said about replacing the universe with something even more imporbable.. ‘this may already have happened’ Big Bang 2: who would have noticed?)

    Donna loses her memories and gets a winning lottery ticket. The Ponds get a house and a car, but still have to work…

  5. jefft

    >>Because the Doctor, despite saying he can take almost anyone else back to within 5 minutes to resume their lives, leaves the Ponds with gaps of months when their friends never see them so they miss stuff and are seen by others as a bit flakey.  <<

     

    Even though in the same episode he brings them back to the point they left, leaving Brian to spot the change of clothes. Gappiness makes no sense. You cant keep a job if you vanish for 5 months without booking a holiday first. Or keep a house. Or have a kid. So while the episode started to discuss the practicalities of Doc-hopping, if they dont come back to at least a close approximation of where they left from, it all falls apart.  Mind you, even if they did, they would be aging faster than their friends.

    I do wonder if the sterility thrown into the discussion in AOTD wasnt quite so throwaway, or whether it was simply to explain how they can vanish for weeks at a time.

    I wonder whether Amy needs to go through the ‘this never really happened’ recycle machine so that she gets a normal life..  

    But maybe thats too big a reboot even for the Moff.

    (Yes: bigger than Big Bang 2. As Douglas Adams said about replacing the universe with something even more imporbable.. ‘this may already have happened’ Big Bang 2: who would have noticed?)

    Donna loses her memories and gets a winning lottery ticket. The Ponds get a house and a car, but still have to work…

  6. Emperor Gregor

    The Doctor tries to explain to Amy why he loves them both. And it isn’t because they are his mother-in-law and father-in-law? Or that he is married to someone he has grown very close to and they are a link – family even? No – it’s because he is, like a gosling, imprinted with the first thing his new face saw. Oh Please. The Doctor lies, we know, but in this instance what’s the point? He’s spent at least one Christmas with them – probably several. Possibly with River as well. He loves them because they’ve had adventures together, and now they are family. What’s more they know that. Is that so very difficult for the Doctor to say so? Is THIS family inferior to the family that died back on Gallifrey? If so, there is nothing in the story arc to hint at it. Instead, the writing team is behaving like soap writers – they make the characters say what the plot needs, and this plot doesn’t tie in with other plots to create consistent characters. That’s my big grouse about this week’s episode. The TV is full enough of ‘dramas’ which are so soapy you could do a week’s laundry with them. Let’s have a proper, character driven family drama in Dr Who.

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