New Who Review – “The Power of Three”
The Doctor is very good at saving the world, but very poor at sitting still. So when he’s stuck waiting a full year for an invasion to start, it gives a new meaning to cabin fever. The Year of the Slow Invasion, the year The Doctor got involved in Amy and Rory’s life and not the other way around. A very personal episode (featuring the entire world), rife with spoilers, so sit back, and keep your eye on the box.
THE POWER OF THREE
by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
Amy and Rory have been spending more time away from The Doctor, and it seems less and less of a problem to them. But when tiny little boxes appear all over the world, it’s a mystery sure to attract their time traveling friend, which of course it does. But his arrival also attract the attention of a large number of the military, specifically UNIT, the UK’s first line of defense against alien invasion. The boxes are doing absolutely nothing, and continue to do the same for almost a year, driving The Doctor to distraction. When they activate, it’s such a random series of effects, it only causes more confusion. It’s eventually revealed to be a plot by a race the Time Lords even considered a myth – the Armageddon-worshipping Shakri. The Doctor must find a way to stop the final part of their plan, not to mention resuscitate nearly two billion people.
Writer Chris Chibnall has provided two solid stories this series already, both featuring Rory’s wonderful dad Brian, and both chock full of growth and character work. The ending seemed very rushed, with quite a few questions left unanswered, or answered too quickly. But with a show as fast-paced and wild as Doctor Who, one has to be willing to give logic (not to mention how long a person can survive lying on a sidewalk with their heart not pumping) a bit of a rest, especially when there’s so much rich interaction between the characters going on. Just pretend the other people on the gurneys in the Shakri spaceship were saved, or dead, or otherwise beyond saving, and move on. After all, once you’ve accepted a bicardial humanoid alien who can travel in time, arguing how a defibrillator works is just being petty.
GUEST STAR REPORT
In answer to your question; neither. Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart) is the daughter of Corin Redgrave, brother to Vanessa and Lynn, and outstanding actor in his own right. Starting out in an episode of Tales of the Unexpected, she’s been quite busy over the years. She was in Howard’s End with her Aunt Vanessa, and most recently in the mini-series Unforgiven, which also starred Suranne Jones (Idris from The Doctor’s Wife) and Peter Davison, star of All Creatures Great and Small (et al).
Steven Berkoff (Shakri) says he primarily takes roles in film and TV to fund his work in the theater, and has done both since the sixties. He was General Orlov in Octopussy, was just seen with another Bond, Daniel Craig, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and was in the recent TV mini-series The Borgias.
Brian Cox (Himself) is another popular face on British TV. He’s appeared on many talk and variety shows, discussing and popularizing science, in the same way Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson do here. He’s a long-time fan of astronomer (and fellow Who-cameoer) Sir Patrick Moore, whose show The Sky at Night has inspired more than one generation of young scientists. An ardent Science fiction fan, he gave last year’s Douglas Adams memorial lecture.
Alan Lord Sugar (Himself) is the star of the BBC’s version of The Apprentice, the reality show hosted here in the US by short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. One of the top 100 richest people in Britain, he was the founder of Amstrad, which was one of the pre-eminent computer manufacturers in the early days of PCs in England. While he doesn’t speak in the cameo, to Alan’s left at the boardroom table is Nick Hewer, also from Apprentice, but also latest host of classic British gameshow Countdown. To his right is Karren Brady, Sugar’s aide, former managing director of the Birmingham City football club, and current vice-Chairman of West Ham United.
Douglas Mackinnon (Director) has directed two episodes of Who before, the two-parter The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. He’ll also be doing another episode in the second half f the season. Among his many credits for British TV, he directed the first three episodes of Steven Moffat’s Jekyll.
THE MONSTER FILES –
The Shakri are brand new to the Who-niverse, but arrive fully-formed, and certainly have “recurring villains” written all over them. The Time Lords even assumed they were a myth, a fairy tale told to little Gallifreyan children to get them to eat their silver broccoli. Serving what they call The Tally, they attempt to eliminate races it deems a threat. Humanity will spread throughout the galaxy in coming centuries; the Shakri have chosen to destroy them before they become a threat to the universe as a whole. Like The Silence, this could easily be a multi-front campaign, one that could result in them appearing again…soon? Who knows.
UNIT is hardly a monster, but they’re certainly an important part of Doctor Who history. Originally formed after the invasion of the Great Intelligence, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce was led in England by Brigadier General Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. With The Doctor as their scientific advisor, UNIT defended the nation and the world from a steady stream of invasions and incursions for many years. As The Doctor’s visits to earth became less frequent, they began to look for more domestic sources. Now know as the United Intelligence Taskforce, recent advisers have included Professor Malcolm Taylor and one of The Doctor’s Companions, Doctor Martha Jones. Even after the Brigadier left active service with the taskforce, he maintained a connection by moving to an administrative capacity, busy in his operations even up to his stroke, after which he was moved to a nursing home, where he passed away quietly a year or so ago, much to The Doctor’s sadness. After a period of much more military-style leadership and operations (including private prisons to which people can be disappeared), UNIT has come under the leadership of Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brigadier. It’s safe to say the organization is in good hands.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
START WITH A STRONG OPENING – Over and above the changing logo, the opening credits have been getting progressively more violent. Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool noticed that for a moment, the Time Vortex started to look a bit like the tunnel effect from the late Pertwee and early Baker era of credits. Going to the trouble of changing the opening every so slightly, week after week, seems like a lot to do just for the hell of it. But whatever could it mean?
SHOT FROM THE CANON – Kate Stewart is a bit of a history-maker – she’s the first character created in non-TV media to be folded into the official continuity. We first met Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter Kate in a semi-pro-produced video adventure, Downtime. There were a number of groups producing high-quality continuing adventures, in most cases, without The Doctor, as they didn’t have the rights to the name. Reeltime Pictures got original castmembers for their productions, in this case including Nicholas Courtney (The Brig), Elizabeth Sladen (dear sweet Sarah Jane), and Deborah Watling, reprising her role of Victoria Waterfield. Kate was played by Beverley Cressman in that adventure, and again nearly ten years later, this time as the main character, in Daemos Rising. A lot of people had their money on Bernice Surprise Summerfield, P.G.A.S.(“Pretty Good At Scrabble”) or perhaps the glorious flibbertigibbet Iris Wyldthyme to be the first to make the jump, but congratulations to plucky Kate to do it first.
“I write travel articles for magazines, and Rory heals the sick” So another career for Amy, after the modeling, perhaps in between shoots. It’s been mentioned that Amy hasn’t been able to stay with any one job, almost as if she’s afraid to commit to anything for fear she’ll be needed. It’s only after several months into this adventure that she begins to act as if she’s going to be around for longer periods.
“Within three hours, the cubes had a thousand separate Twitter accounts” Well, one, anyway. But there’s been a truckload of talk about them on Tumblr. The sheer creativity on Tumblr regarding Doctor Who is staggering. If you’ve not looked into it, do so.
“Zygon ship under the Savoy…half the staff impostors…” The Zygons made one on-screen appearance, in the Baker-era adventure Terror of the Zygons. They’ve been used many times in the alternate media, and a Zygon suit was refurbished and made part of the various recent attractions in the UK. They’ve been rumored to be making a return for a couple years now – this isn’t quite all were hoping for…
“You just married Henry the eighth!” And considering the clothes they’re wearing are what they were wearing in “A Town Called Mercy”, and there was mention of a visit to Henry the eighth’s ensuite in said adventure, it appears that adventure took place right in the middle of this one.
“What happened to the other people who travel with you?” Something that’s been a recurring theme with the series since before Moffat took over was the idea that The Doctor feels guilty about “ruining” his friends. As far back as Dalek Caan said to the Tennant Doctor that he turns his friends into weapons, it’s been in his mind. The Dream Lord in Amy’s Choice refers to The Doctor’s friends as “the people you collect”. Here he speaks frankly about what happens to them – they all leave, and a few, a very few, have died. But ultimately, the ones that survive do so as better people. How Amy and Rory shall leave his company we shall learn in only a week’s time.
“I had a metal dog that could do that” You know, I’m actually getting tired of explaining the K-9 jokes…
BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT –
WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP IT’S BEEN – This story is a bookend to the prequel web-series Pond Life, which also served to show Amy and Rory’s home life, and how The Doctor interacted with it. It took place over five months; this story takes place over nearly two years. When we first see the Ponds here, they’re clearly just coming back from an adventure, and have been away for quite some time – they’re clearing long since gone off groceries and dairy products from the refrigerator, as if they were just coming back from spending the winter away. We’ve heard comments throughout the episodes about wanting to pull back a bit from travelling with the Doctor – comments from friends that they don’t seem to be aging as fast as the rest of them, not to mention vanishing for weeks, even months at a time. In the episode, Amy reveals that she and Rory have been traveling with The Doctor for about ten years of their personal timeline, on and off. That includes periods where he doesn’t contact them for a long time and they life their “real life”, and times where they vanish to have adventures in their “Doctor Life”, and skip months ahead when they return. Either way, that’s clearly far more than any companion ever. And here we see that whole issue come to a head.
THE QUESTION’S NOT WHERE…IT’S WHEN – With Amy and Rory’s adventures with the Doctor taking place over ten years of one time or another, quite a few other adventures have passed as well. Amy and Rory will have already taken a trip to Wales to wave hello to their past selves during the events of The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood. Amy’s been a model for more than a few years now, on and off, so the promotion for the perfume Petrichor (“for the girl who’s tired of waiting”) has already happened, which means we’re past the events of Closing Time as well.
Let’s take at least a brief look at the trio’s timeline. We know that The Doctor and Amy left for their adventures the night before her wedding, which we know was on June 26, 2010. So the whole of the fifth series took place within a few hours of Earth time, while Amy and Rory were with The Doctor for quite some time, potentially a year of Amy’s personal timeline, and about half that of Rory’s. While the events of A Christmas Carol take place at Christmas on Sardick’s planet, there’s no guarantee that’s the time it was on Earth when they left. Indeed, since it’s presumably their honeymoon trip, it may be right after they left from the wedding.
Their next time together (on screen), the events of The Impossible Astronaut, take place nearly a year after the wedding, on April 22, 2011. In the time in between, they’ve been living a perfectly normal life, although The Doctor keeps in touch, at least through actions in history that they’ll recognize. The last time he contacted them directly, saying he’d be in touch again, was two months previous. When he takes them through the adventures of series six (certainly taking nine months, as Amy comes to full term pregnant) , he drops them off at a new house, an unspecified period of time after they left. After that, his visits became less frequent, with long breaks in between. For some period of time, he believes they think he’s dead, since that’s the impression he wanted to give everyone at the end of The wedding of River Song. He only comes to them at the end of The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, a full two years after the events of Wedding.. Pond Life takes place that next spring, lasting at least five months, possibly longer. It’s strongly implied that the first three adventures of the series take place more than a few months apart from Amy and Rory’s point of view, even longer so for The Doctor. As mentioned last week, The Doctor now claims to be twelve hundred years old, a full century longer than the year before. This episode begins in July, so at least a year has passed since Pond Life, since it ended in at least August. The cubes arrive sometime in late July or early August: at the point of the story marked at October, Brian has been doing his Cube Log for sixty-seven days, and day 361 takes place the next July.
Since we know that Amy took off with The Doctor in our present, and based on the time spans above, we’re now looking at an Earth of at least several years in our future. That brings the show somewhat close to the timeframe of the original series. It was always assumed that the episodes taking place on “contemporary” Earth, especially during the Pertwee and UNIT years, actually took place an unspecified period of time in the future, to account for the slightly ahead of out time technology and scientific experiments being done. There was one famous moment where far ahead of modern events, The Brig speaks on the phone with the Prime Minister, starting with the greeting “Yes ma’am”.
“I don’t know…choose?” When Rory puts the option on the patio table, it’s clear that they’re not serious about doing so. But slowly, over the passage of time, it becomes easier to live in the long term, not having to be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice.
“What you do isn’t all there is” Another reference to the difference between what the Doctor considers important and what the Ponds do. This continues throughout the episode, until…
“I’m running to you and Rory before you fade from me” The Doctor has literally seen friends age before his eyes – the Madame Pompadour, AKA, The Girl in the Fireplace, slipped through his fingers over the course of a single adventure, stopping into see her only to see her age from a child to a woman, and then die before he can catch up with her again. Amy aged over a decade in what was to The Doctor five minutes. It’s easier for him to leave, but he doesn’t want to lose them. In the Sarah Jane Adventures story The death of the Doctor, he has a chat with Jo Grant (Katy Manning), where he reveals he’s been keeping tabs on his friends all the while. So he may not pop back and see them, but he’s still helping.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – The Fall Of The Ponds. The Last Page. The return of the Weeping Angels, this time at full strength, and fully capable of “killing you with kindness”. The Angels Take Manhattan in under seven days. Not sure if I want it to come or not…
- Everything you wanted to know about the “Pond Life” prequel to new Doctor Who season 7 (comicmix.com)