Doctor Who "The Power of Three" Review: Time Travel and Other Drugs

Doctor Who S02E04: "The Power of Three"

This week's episode marked a return to form that I hadn't seen in a while—the unlikely enemy. I simply adore it when really random things are repurposed as mysterious menaces on Doctor Who, and I especially love it when those enemies are global. However, the "A" story was hardly the point of the episode.

We opened on the Ponds doing some of the less-than-glamorous chores that result from time travel, like dumping out very expired milk and lamenting their lack of detergent. It'd been ten years (for them, not the world), and the Ponds were beginning to realize that they can't keep traveling with the Doctor forever. It's not sustainable.

I feel like there are definite parallels between time travel and drug addiction in Doctor Who—like a drug, time travel is fun, it feels naughty, it opens your mind to new and bizarre things, but it wears on your body and your psyche. Regular life doesn't seem to hold a candle to drug-/time travel-enhanced life, and certainly can't fit into your regular schedule, so you end up neglecting regular life while you chase the dragon. After a while, even if you're still getting something out of your addiction, you're just exhausted by the whole thing. (Note: Drugs are bad.) You cannot invite getting high/the Doctor to your quiet night at home!

But there was one time, Amy informed us, where the Ponds did just that. One morning, small black boxes just showed up all over the world, randomly scattered everywhere, doing nothing. Everyone started freaking out about them, but they just sat there. The Doctor appeared, of course, bristling with curiosity.

The authorities were called in, in the form of our old friends UNIT (now the UNified Intelligence Taskforce, since the real-life UN decided it didn't love the fictional association), and no matter what they did, they could not figure out what was going on with the cubes. The world went from being freaked out to feeling comfortable very quickly, as the cubes became a common presence in people's homes and in social media.

There was a nice scene with the Doctor, who was sticking around to observe, losing his mind with boredom after four days (more parallels to addiction!) and then deciding to leave. He belittled Rory's protests that he couldn't leave his "little job," causing Rory to put him in his place. "What you do isn't all there is!" Rory shouted, and the Doctor was taken aback. The Ponds were setting down roots, which made it hard to live a double life.

Other than an isolated incident with two cube-related, hose-mouthed humanoids kidnapping a guy, months and months went by and the cubes were just there, assimilated into people's lives. After the Doctor took the Ponds on an anniversary trip that ended up lasting seven weeks, Rory's dad Brian started asking questions—questions about what had happened to his other companions.

"Some left me, some got left behind, and some—not many, but some—died. But not them, Brian. Never them."

It seems to me that the only way for the Doctor to really ensure the Ponds' safety is if he already knows their fate, an idea that I'm being convinced of more and more each episode.

The Doctor moved in and, like the cubes, was integrated into the Ponds' lives a bit. One year and one day after they arrived, the cubes woke up. The Doctor finally confronted Amy about her wanting to stop traveling with him. She couldn't continue leading both lives forever, she said, and the traveling was starting to feel like running away.

The Doctor responded by saying the most Doctor-like thing he's ever said, which is that the reason he travels is so that he may see everything. He knows that everything is fleeting—he knows better than anyone—and he just wants to see things before they flare and fade forever. This includes the Ponds.

Meanwhile the cubes had started a countdown, and when they opened, millions of humans dropped dead from heart attacks. The creatures behind the attacks were the Shakri, who the Doctor thought were just the Keyser Soze of Gallifrey—a spook story. The Shakri wanted to rid the universe of humanity before it started expanding in service of the Tali; essentially, they wanted Judgment Day. The Tali would be met, he said...

And here's where the episode took a downturn for me.

A beautiful series of conversations had been set up between Amy and the Doctor that'd I'd like to call their "pre-break-up"; there was also a weird invasion that ended up being deadly, and a very interesting reason for it to occur. But everything managed to resolve itself in about three minutes. The Doctor saved humankind with a mass defibrillation, gained an appreciation of the Ponds' everyday lives, and once things were all tidied up, was ready to drop them off at home... until Rory's dad intervened.

It's not the time travel they'll have trouble giving up, Brian said, it's the Doctor. He encouraged the Ponds to go travel; "life will still be here when you get back." And like that, the Ponds seemed to decide that they don't have to choose. They were a team again—"The Power of Three"—which made it seem to me that instead of a bittersweet but understandable goodbye, we are gearing up for something traumatic and heartbreaking.

This was my favorite episode of the season up until the end, which seemed a bit rushed and tacked-on, almost as a reassurance to us that the Ponds will not go quietly into the night. Overall, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but for as well as this show handles complex relationships, it's amazing to me how simply the conflicts in this episode were resolved.

We'll find out next week how things with the Ponds wrap up, but you know, there are only a few ways to kick addiction: removing the substance from your life, years and years of meetings and therapy, or death. I wonder which path the Ponds will follow?


NOTES


– Amy writes about travel for magazines? Now lookie here, there's a career for her that isn't Kiss-gram or modeling! Good for you, Amy!

– I loved the mention that the cubes, within three hours, had a thousand separate Twitter accounts. More proof that when the apocalypse occurs, we'll all be Instagramming it.

– As long as Matt Smith is the Doctor, there will always be a scene in which he does amazing things with a soccer ball.

– That The Apprentice clip using the cubes? Hilarious. The cubes in general were brilliant, because there is always something slightly menacing about a blank slate where it's not supposed to be.

– Nice call-out to both Yorkshire Pudding and Smith's first appearance as the Doctor, as the threesome ate fish fingers and custard.

– Very nice reference to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT, when we learned that Kate Stewart is his daughter. The Brigadier was a friend to several incarnations of the Doctor, so of course his daughter would carry the torch.

– "You were the first—the first face this face saw. You are seared onto my hearts."

– I love that Rory's dad Brian has taken on the necessary, wide-eyed and excited attitude about time travel that we expect of our companions. Sure, the Ponds are up for adventure and say things like "I'm gonna miss this!" but it's Brian who has a real sense of wonder about all of space and time. It's a new twist, and I like it.

Comments (39)
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I feel like this could have been a two-parter. It's almost as if it was solved too quickly. Loved the dynamic of the 3 here though.
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A two-parter??? There wasn't enough plot to last the episode that it got!
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A year and half wait, then 5 episodes then done until Christmas?!?

m-f'ing hell Doctor Who. You're busting my balls.

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It was a great episode with a crappy ending. The big cube reveal was pretty awesome until they get on that stupid ship. It's getting to be lately that the getting to the reveal of the nature of "baddie" of the week is taking most of the ep, but the dealing with them barely takes five minutes. Granted that happens a lot in Who, but I'm starting to notice it more which doesn't feel right. Anyway I loved the episode it was just fantastic and it just makes The Ponds leaving soon that much harder to take.
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I loved the K9 reference, it made me giggle; is that all you do: hover? That's not special, I had a metal dog that could do that.

Brian is starting to remind me of Wilf a bit (a character I loved and would never get tired of seeing) in how he's encouraging Amy and Rory to continue traveling, and how he's beginning to revere The Doctor (sitting watching the cubes for a whole year because The Doctor told him to)
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There is another thing that can make some people kick the habit.

**possible spoiler** Children.
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{Spoiler!}



They already have River, and remember Amy mentioned in Asylum of the Daleks that she couldn't have anymore kids, not after Demon's Run.



{Possible Super Spoiler!}



I've seen videos of the last episode in New York filmed by people watching where the Doctor was reading a note, and began to cry...
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I love Rory's Dad's character!
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The one thing that bugged me is the defibrillator sitting in the hallway. With everyone having heart attacks, why would an unused defibrillator be sitting in the hallway? Wouldn't that be one of the first things the doctors tried?
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A defibrillator shouldn't be sitting in the hallway.

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Again hit the submit button by mistake!!! My laptop keyboard keys sort of jump round...



Any way: "Some left me, some got left behind, and somenot many, but somedied. But not them, Brian. Never them." is OF COURSE the equivalent to signing a death warrant on TV...

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"The Angels have the phone box" I got that on a shirt."



Next week is gonna be amazing, cause the angels are coming.
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Liked episode very much actually. I do agree it was resolved rather quickly though.



Now, the "Some left me, some got left behind, and somenot many, but somedied. But not them, Brian. Never them." is OF COURSE
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Beautiful episode: normal, calm, very tied up to the characters. It is clear that the objective of this first part of the season is to bring the Pond on the avenue of the exit in a very well built way, setting them in front of the life with the Doctor and their daily life. And this brings to life a series of touching and sincere confrontations between characters that cannot live without the other and they look for to pretend it's not like that. The Amy/Doctor's scene on the Thames is amazing with our favourite Time Lord explaining the reason of his deep bond with the Ponds: Amy has been the first face that its new eyes have seen. The amusing moments and the great quotes are a good relax from a structure that, sometimes, is designed with a dark and serious tone that puts almost the shivers. The dialogue between the Doctor and Brian on the past companions gave me the goosebumps: Smith's look, the avalanche of negative emotions that he channeled through its eyes (an incredible life passing through his mind in that moment). The same Smith that , then, makes you laugh till you cry because he knows how to make the clown. So jerk and so adorable :) For sure the crew and the producers are the biggest jerks in all this situation. They touch so well and so deeply the strings of your own heart when, just around the corner, they are waiting for us with a baseball maze. River, some healthy timey wimey, one of the best enemies of the new Who and, I hope (but I know), a great tribute to Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. Majestic hug to all the fans out there :-)
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i found this episode heart breaking, i know that the Ponds story ends next week and it killed me it showed them so happy so content so normal just before a beloved couple finish. lets be honest we all know its not going to be a quiet goodbye. its going to be a huge epic deadly s end off. i loved the episode, ir reminded me that amy and rory are more than companions. they went through everything from rory not existing to the doctor leaving old amy pond to die. these companions are the best we have seen. sure rose loved the doctor until the end.so did martha. donna was comic relief. But amy and rory made the 11th doctor who he is
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I liked the episode. It was different from the usual format, but it had alot of heart and really summed up the entire relationship between the Doctor and the ponds.

Favorite scene was the Doctor going crazy from watching the cube, then doing alot of stuff, only to find out it had only been an hour when he was finished :D
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Really didn't like this episode. I found it mostly boring.



First: all that tech and all the baddy could come up with was massive heart attacks? And it took over a year to come up with that final solution, but the Doctor fixed it in about 90 seconds?



Second: all that talk about choosing real life only to toss it out in the last 10 seconds of the ep felt like a rip off.



I did adore the references to the brigadier and that UNIT is back, but I kept flashing back to the Cyberman/Ghost thing and how that Torchwood wanted to imprison the Doctor for some reason. I am glad this was the happy UNIT-Doctor team like the original series. I wonder if there will ever be a mention of Sarah Jane Smith?
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UNIT is different / separate from Torchwood. The Doctor helped create UNIT and they respect him... though they realize he is a danger. Prior to Jack taking over Torchwood, TW's charter pretty much named the Doctor as an enemy of the crown by name. Hence they imprisoned him.
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Good episode. Nice pre-goodbye to the Ponds. I don't see them dying next week, so wondering what Moffat actually have in store here - everybody has hyped "The Angels take Manhattan" so much, it better be in the same ballpark as "Journey's End".

Hey, if it's a proper sendoff, I don't think I'm asking too much.
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Have to say I'm kinda looking forward to saying goodbye to the Ponds. I warmed to them more over the last 10 episodes or so, but I'm looking forward to the new character and watching the development of a new Doctor / companion relationship.



Bring on the new 'Angels' episode next week, can't wait!
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I thought that there was a missed opportunity in this episode at the end in that the reason the Shakri wanted to stop the human race from expanding could have been explored further. What does the expansion do that the Shakri would try so hard to stop it. Or are they just genetic purists. This could have been something explored later in the series but it wasn't given a second thought in the episode.
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AND they kept calling it a slow invasion when it was nothing of the sort. It was an extermination. Or fumigation. But not an invasion.
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The Doctor-Amy conversation was heartbreaking. The Ponds are growing up and they don't need Doctor in their life anymore. Travelling with him was fun once, but there is a normal life around, there is real world, waiting for them and new, strange adventures and they have to face it all alone. Without Doctor. But the main question is - can they do that? We know that none of his previous companions are/were having normal life. Rose is in a parallel universe, fighting, Sarah Jane Smith was fighting, Martha Jones the same. Only poor Donna lost her memory, but I am sure that she would fight as well. Doctor is changing lives forever and really, don't think that the Ponds will have normal life. But I will miss them so bad!
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Check the history of companions from Doctors 1-7. Some actually survived in relatively mind-not-altered states that didn't involve parallel dimensions. ;)
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and you just destroyed my vision of Doctor changing peoples lives :D no jk :D I have to read more about previous companions then :)
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Wait... am I reading this right that the Pond's get written out next episode? I thought we had till episode 7.

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nope. The next episode will be their last episode ever.
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My only issue with this episode is how rushed the end was. Someone else - somehwere else, Tumblr probably - pointed out that if weren't for the fact that these are the final Pond episodes and they're all meant to be like miini-movies, this probably would have been a double episode. I'm not sure exactly that it would have had enough to go on, but I certainly think it could have benefited from an extra ten minutes or so. The end was kind of like 'Here's th threat, bye bye threat, all is well'. The rest of the episode was pretty great, but I don't know...it just felt a bit underwhelming at the end. Maybe it's because this was the episode I was looking forward to the most. OH WELL
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I really, really enjoyed this episode. Honestly, I couldn't have cared less about the alien of the week, and I'm pretty sure the writers of this episode didn't either. It was obvious that the focus of the story was the Ponds and their double lives. I love how this season has a really dark, but not sinister feeling to it right now. There isn't really a Big Bad terrorizing everyone; but the season instead focuses on what it means to be a companion to the Doctor. It's something that I thought was so neglected in the last seasons of the show, and I'm glad they're actually covering this theme so spectacularly.

I thought the best moment of the night was a tie between the Chicken Dance cube and Amy marrying King Henry VIII on her anniversary. This also makes me wonder if the Doctor is somehow going backwards in the Ponds lives (theory shaken by the fact that the Doctor knows Rory's dad in this episode but doesn't in the dino episode) because they visit Henry VIII's ensuite and in the last episode, Amy apparently left her phone charger in his room at one point. Just a thought...
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Well, the episode spanned a year of their lives. Chances are that year covered a bunch of adventures "We" knew about already. Perhaps Gunslinger took place towards the end of that year... and we just didn't hear about the cubes in it because at that point they were still boring and not doing anything.
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There was one scene where the Doctor is looking at the cube and it wasn't the right shape! The cubes seem like 4x4x4 but the one he was holding looked thin. Come on prob department. I thought it was a good episode and the nod to the two hearts and the defibrillator was priceless. "Never do that again".
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One of them looks like there are the remains of sticker goo or something painted over on it too.
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They'll still have travel magazines ten years from now?
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The 10 years passed for Amy & Rory but not the rest of the world.
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Having travel magazines even a year from now seems hilarious, though...
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You can buy a year subscription right now, therefore, even if they all go online, there will be paper travel magazines a year from now. But actually, think of the demographic. Retired people travel and are resistant to change. There may be travel magazines longer than there are any other kind of magazines. There may be travel magazines until all of the people who retire today die, specifically, June 4th, 2052.
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The Brigadier was a friend to five incarnations of the Doctor. 2nd-3rd-4th-5th-7th.
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Has he appeared since the reboot? I had no idea what the relevance of her lineage was while watching this episode.
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6, 8 and 11 off-screen. Also met the first Doctor in a special.
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