Doctor Who: The Power of Three

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Doctor Who.

I didn't watch the Wild West episode of Doctor Who last week. I didn't interest me, Doctor Who had lost its spark, and I couldn't be bothered to tune in. But just as I thought I'd quit this show for good, The Power of Three came along. An episode all about the Ponds' lives. An episode where the Doctor is forced to come and live with them for a while. I had to tune in.

Overall, the Power of Three is a fairly average episode. It has some funny moments, but a fairly unthreatening enemy, a few bits where I felt fidgety, and a world-threatening danger solved by... talking. Or something. Honestly, I'd lost interest at that point and actually missed what the Doctor did to save everyone in the end.

But this episode also managed many things that Doctor Who has missed for a while: it had great character moments, it seemed to fit into the idea of Doctor Who as a 50 year old show, and, most surprisingly, it was perfectly unoffensive.

Finally, this episode gave us a sense of Amy and Rory's life outside of the Doctor. Jobs they care about, friends whose weddings they must attend, family who pop over far too early in the morning for a chat... as it was one of the first times we've seen this, it didn't quite ring true (does Rory have a mum? Do Amy's parents live far away? Who are these friends?), but it felt reminiscent of a Russell T. Davies era episode, where the companions have whole, ongoing lives to themselves.

We also find out Amy's new job: travel writer. Again, I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, it makes sense from what little we know of Amy. She likes being spontaneous, she likes exploring and traveling and seeing new things (hence traveling with the Doctor), so travel writer sounds like a good fit for a TARDIS-less job. Just as being a model seemed to fit with Amy's tendency to detach herself and put on masks (such as when she was a Kissogram).  But again, the shallowness of Amy's storyline shines through. She has never expressed any interest in writing. Never jotted a single note during her time on the show. And it's no wonder Amy and Rory are starting to think of sticking with real life -- it isn't very real at all. In the space of a few years, Amy became a successful model (a very hard business to get into), and then became a successful writer (another very hard, completely unrelated business). There's no build-up, no real logic to the way her life is unfolding. It's just whatever the writers think would be cool.

And let's not even go into the fact that they don't want to "miss things" by traveling around in a time machine. Even if they missed something, they could just go back in time to fix it.

But despite all this, The Power of Three had plenty of the thing that really counts: true emotion. Everyone got to have a heart-to-heart. Everyone wanted something, and everyone felt conflicted. Amy and the Doctor had a sweet, heartbreaking conversation about the way that her two lives pull at her, and how it feels like running away. Although the statement that Amy is imprinted on his hearts made the Doctor sound kind of like a newborn duckling, his love for Amy and Rory, and his desperate assertion to Brian that they would never be ones to die, felt genuine and moving. Similarly, the Doctor admitting that he misses them and deciding to stay with them for a while was a lovely moment, not only stressing the importance of their friendship, but also, in a way, placing their characters and their lives on equal footing.

And after two seasons which seem utterly detached from anything that came before (except River Song), this episode overflowed with continuity. It had references not only to other companions (who left, or were left behind, or died), but also to K9. I do believe they were even munching on fishfingers and custard at one point. And I'm assuming that the woman from UNIT was a descendant of one of the Doctor's old companions, although I'm not well-versed in Old Who enough to know for sure.

Although the plot with the cubes started out both fun and ominous, it kind of fizzled out in the end, and my attention wandered. But, while ultimately unremarkable, the episode was perfectly unobjectionable. Not memorable, but not a bad way to spend 45 minutes either. It featured a now rare Bechdel pass, with a female head of UNIT's scientific division. It had a few laughs, and a few more poignant conversations. But most importantly, it had characters who seemed grounded... characters with emotions and desires that run deep, and who it would be painful to lose.