"Doctor Who" — "The Power Of Three": Seared Onto My Hearts
I have the Emmys on in the background as I write this, and I’m wondering where the Doctor Who appreciation is. Yes, I understand that this show honors American programming (although I notice that Moffat’s Sherlock received some nomination attention), but perhaps next year the indefatigable British time-traveling television titan could receive a brief honorary montage for its 50th anniversary. (I certainly think it would be more worthy of airtime than that Jimmy Kimmel bit essentially mocking the dead.)
Yes, after all this time, The Doctor and his TARDIS continue to chug along on their adventures with the parking brake engaged. This week mysterious little black cubes are popping up all over the Earth, and all manner of investigation and observation fail to reveal any information for months on end. Not even the close, meticulously logged observation of Rory’s father, Brian, renders useful insight. Assuming he disappears in conjunction with the imminent departure of Amy and Rory, it’s a shame that Mark Williams will be limited to the two guest spots this season, as he has brought much fun to the series.
The events of “The Power Of Three” take place over the span of a year. Actually, it’s a year plus seven weeks if you count the out-of-time jaunt in the middle of the episode. We learn in this episode that counting all the travels outside their normal timestream, Rory and Amy have aged about ten years since they started hitching rides with The Doctor back in season five.
The Doctor and his curiosity are game for observation of the cubes as well, although sitting in one place without much action proves far too slow-paced for him at first. He takes off for a while to leave the Ponds to watch over the Earth, and then he pops back in to take Amy and Rory on the aforementioned jaunt, an entertainingly and quickly told traveling celebration of their wedding anniversary gone haywire despite The Doctor’s assurances. That’s one of this episode’s strengths: a well-edited presentation of the passage of time.
Its chief thrust, though, and what it does especially well, is giving us a humorous and heartfelt tour of these new lives that Amy and Rory have made for themselves outside of the TARDIS as preparation for their final appearance next week. Rory and Amy have come to realize that they enjoy their normal lives, and perhaps it is finally time to end their interstellar travels with The Doctor.
The Doctor senses this, and — in what in my opinion is easily one of the most affecting scenes in all of new Who — puts the question to Amy of whether or not she and Rory are about to say goodbye. His monologue to her that follows is not just a testament to his affection for his companions, who find themselves increasingly torn between two lives. It is also a veritable mission statement for all that our favorite Gallifreyan has been doing for his many centuries. Even more than that, it is a call to arms for you, me, and everyone else. It is a beautifully expressed philosophy for how we should view and treat the life, the universe, and everything. If that moment between The Doctor and Amy does not warm the heart of even the most fervent Amy Pond hater with that swelling score as a backdrop, then I have trouble imagining why that person would be watching Doctor Who at all at this point.
Outside of the serialized character content, there is still the matter of the MacGuffin cubes and their nefarious purpose. As we discover, they are the traps of an enemy called the Shakri, who seek to exercise pest control over the universe. In this case, the humans of Earth are deemed the pests, and they must be exterminated before any sort of extraplanetary diaspora occurs. The cubes have the power to disrupt the electrical signals of the human heart. It’s fortunate that Time Lords have their dual cardiac nature. The eventual solution to the problem is relatively quick and easy; it’s another sonic screwdriver deus ex machina. That’s acceptable, though, as this episode succeeds in the journey and its strong character moments.
Worth mentioning and of special note for the classic Who fans is the reappearance of UNIT, headed now by our old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter, Kate Stewart. This episode serves as a good salute to the recently passed Nicholas Courtney, and juxtaposed with next week’s goodbye to two more companions in the Who universe, that salute is an excellent reminder of the durability and rich history of beloved characters that Doctor Who has given us over the years.
“What do you think we do when we’re not with you?”
“I imagine mostly kissing.”
“Within three hours the cubes had a thousand separate Twitter accounts.”
“Don’t mock my log.”
“Bit of a shock. Zygon ship under the Savoy. Half the staff imposters. Still, it’s all fixed now, eh?”
“Somebody was talking, and I just said ‘yes.’”
“To wedding vows. You just married Henry VIII on our anniversary!”
“And some…not many, but…some died. Not them. Not them, Brian. Never them.”
“Who do you think invented the Yorkshire pudding?”
“Pudding yet savory. Sound familiar?”
“Is that all you can do? Hover? I had a metal dog who could do that.”
“You’re never going to believe this. My cube just moved.”
“Yes, I’ve got officers trained in beheading. Also ravens of death.”
“I’m not running away, but this is one corner of one country in one continent on one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that’s a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond, and there is so much - so much to see, Amy - because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them, before they flare and fade forever.”
Classic Doctor Who Bonus:
This week I watched 1973’s The Three Doctors. Unlike the last few weeks, the link between these two episodes is more tenuous: they both have “three” in the title. Certainly, strange things start happening on Earth that begin both adventures, but that’s a descriptor that could be applied to all the episodes set on Earth, is it not?
This is a good, fun episode. It represents the first time that the producers brought multiple incarnations of The Doctor together, and the fun interplay between Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton is the highlight of the show. It makes me very excited about the prospect of seeing Smith and Tennant together, should it happen for next year’s fiftieth anniversary special. William Hartnell is also a strong presence in his time on screen; it’s unfortunate that illness kept him from more active participation.
The plot is your typical Doctor Who end-of-the-universe catastrophe. The Time Lords bring the three incarnations together, thus violating their laws of time, in order to defeat the evil Omega. Omega is a Time Lord whose experimentations gave the Time Lords the power of time travel long ago. Unfortunately, his discovery ended in disaster for him, as he is stuck on the other side of a black hole. He is embittered and craves vengeance. In this realm he rules absolutely, using his will to create and destroy. He has discovered a way to threaten the existence of our universe by flinging anti-matter through the black hole’s singularity. Functioning as an Atlas figure that holds his alternate universe together, he needs another Time Lord to take his place as the force of will that maintains his domain so that he can finally leave.
Highlights include an army of goofy-looking anti-matter blob monsters, the central skeptical role of the Brigadier in the adventure, a mental duel of wills between Pertwee’s Doctor and Omega that manifests itself as a wrestling match, and Troughton’s Doctor’s need to play his recorder.
In anticipation of next week’s mid-season finale, my Doctor Who friends and I also revisited a few other exits for companions past by way of fast-forwarding to the ends of episodes. We watched the departures of Jo (sad in the abruptness of The Doctor’s exit), Sarah Jane (the saddest), Leela (abrupt and bittersweet), K9 Mark I (clever), Tegan (her second exit - abrupt, jarring, and sobering in its reasoning), and Peri (her first exit…simply bizarre).
Until next time, my Whovian friends, stay away from anti-matter and seemingly harmless cubes.
C. Robert Dimitri does not want a tragic conclusion to the story of Amy and Rory. He thinks we have earned a suitably happy ending.
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