Timestamp #238: The Power of Three

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Doctor Who: The Power of Three
(1 episode, s07e04, 2012)

Timestamp 238 The Power of Three

Pond life redux, but is it entirely linear?

It is July. The Ponds have just returned home from another trip with the Doctor. The laundry is pungent, the food in the fridge has turned multiple times, and the answering machine has 59 messages. The Ponds realize that they lead two lives: The normal everyday and the adventures in time and space. They realize that they have to choose one or the other, but as the TARDIS sound echoes around them, they know that today is not the day to decide.

Every time that Amy and Rory go away with the Doctor, they become a part of his life. He has never stuck around long enough to become a part of theirs… until the cubes arrived.

Thus began the Year of the Slow Invasion.

Brian Williams arrives at the Pond residence early in the morning to alert Amy and Rory to the strange, perfect, identical cubes that have appeared overnight. The Doctor is involved as well, and he appreciates Brian’s thorough analysis of all the possibilities.

The Doctor has moved the TARDIS into the Pond home and uses the kitchen as a makeshift lab. He’s surprised that Amy and Rory have actual jobs – Amy now writes for a travel magazine and Rory works part-time at the hospital – and Amy replies that she can’t hold down a normal job with all of their travels. She calculates that they’ve been traveling with the Doctor (off and on) for approximately ten years.

The moment is broken by a UNIT strike team led by a woman named Kate Stewart, the head of scientific research at the organization. She detected a spike in artron energy and, with all the goings-on, decided to investigate. She also determines the Doctor’s identity and is pleased to meet him. UNIT has been testing the cubes but has no idea what they are. The Doctor decides that observation is the best policy.

He does so for four days and is absolutely bored. He needs to be busy, so Amy and Rory volunteer to watch the cubes while the Doctor does various tasks, including painting the fence, practicing his football skills, mowing the lawn, rewiring the car, and vacuuming the house.

All of that takes about an hour.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS to find Brian, who has been watching the cubes in the console room for the last four days. The Doctor wants to travel again, but the Ponds refuse to join him because the have lives to lead, so the Doctor takes off alone.

Come October, Amy promises to be her friend’s pending bridesmaid and Rory gets a full-time job offer. This could be the beginning of real life for them. Meanwhile, Brian has spent the last 67 days studying and documenting the cubes.

Then it’s December. Rory tends to a man stuck in a toilet while a series of cubes spontaneously activate at the hospital. A little girl appears possessed by them and an orderly dispatches an elderly man.

Life goes on as the cubes take positions of normalcy in everyday life, from paperweights to knick knacks. As June rolls around, the Ponds celebrate their annivesary with a cookout. Amy leaves a message for the Doctor and he stops by with a special gift. He takes them to the Savoy Hotel’s opening night in 1890, only to stop a Zygon plot to remove their spaceship from underneath the hotel. They go on several other trips, during one of which Amy accidentally marries Henry VIII.

The Doctor returns the Ponds to the moment he took them. Brian worries about what happens to the Doctor’s companions. The Doctor explains with a look of regret that most of them have left willingly or he purposely left them behind, and very few have died. However, he promises Brian that he will do everything within his power to keep Amy and Rory safe.

He then asks Amy if he can stay with the Ponds to watch the cubes.

On the anniversary of the cubes’ arrival, the cubes spin slightly. Brian notes this and tricks the cube by pretending to sleep, finally catching it moving. A cube at the Pond home opens and closes, piquing Rory’s curiosity. Another samples Amy’s hand. The Doctor watches one float by as he’s playing a tennis game on the Wii and realizes the enormity of what’s happening. When he threatens it, the cube shoots a laser at him before running a scan of the planet.

Rory is called to work as the cubes start attacking people. Brian joins him as the Doctor and Amy are paged to the Tower of London. Kate tells them that the cubes are acting randomly and the Doctor starts looking for a signal that controls them.

He also makes the connection: Kate Stewart is the daughter of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

The cubes remain active for 47 minutes and then shutdown. The Doctor leaves the underground base to think, taking the time to ask Amy about her future on the TARDIS. She considers his travels to be “running away”, but the Doctor considers it “running to”, a quest to see whatever the universe holds before it’s gone forever. He comes back to Amy time and time again because her face was the first face his face saw. Its image is seared onto his hearts.

The moment gives him an epiphany: The cubes have scanned everything about humanity in 47 minutes. As the power goes out, the cubes activate a countdown starting at 7. As he tries to figure out what’s happening, the Doctor locks himself in a room with a cube. At zero, the cubes open but contain nothing. The Doctor is perplexed, but suddenly people start going into cardiac arrest, including the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the program he set earlier to find the source of the cubes reveals seven different sources. The closest is the hospital where Rory works. It’s also where Brian has just been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an orbiting spaceship. Rory has chased them there.

The Doctor, Amy, Kate, and UNIT go to the hospital to look for clues. They find the little girl, who turns out to be a surveillance drone, and look for a wormhole. Amy also resets the Doctor’s heart with a defibrillator. They find the wormhole and step through, finding Rory and the others who have been taken. Amy revives Rory and they start rescuing the victims while the Doctor confronts the leader of this threat.

The Doctor finds that the Shakri are behind the plot, who are told of in Gallifreyan legends as the “pest controllers of the universe”. The Shakri consider humanity to be a plague and have set to that task, but the Doctor stands in defense of the people of Earth. The Shakri representative announces that another wave of cubes will be sent to Earth before vanishing, nothing more than a holographic transmission.

The Doctor plays with the controls and rewires the cubes on Earth, reversing the damage with a mass defibrillation. As the humans are revived, the backlash of energy overloads the ship. The Doctor, Amy and Rory escape just as the spaceship is destroyed.

Kate Stewart is impressed and expresses her gratitude as the Doctor flips her a jaunty salute.

That night, the Doctor has dinner with the Pond family before getting ready to leave. Brian encourages Amy and Rory to go with him as full-time companions, travelling to make the universe a better place. Brian offers to stay behind to take care of the house as the trio board the TARDIS and shut the door.

There is an rather interesting theory about this story and the previous one, particularly as they relate to the departure of the Ponds in the next adventure. It was brought to my attention by Mike Faber and Jennifer Hartshorn. The question is whether or not Series 7 is presented in order, particularly if A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three occur before or after The Angels Take Manhattan.

The big pointer is how the Doctor treats Amy and Rory in both stories, especially when it comes to his heart-to-heart with Amy in this episode.

I’m not running away. But this is one corner in one country in one continent in one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that is 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 this 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. That’s all right. Our lives would never remain the same. They can’t. One day, soon maybe, you’ll stop. I’ve known for a while. […] I’m running to you and Rory before you… fade from me.

He’s known that they’ll stop traveling with him for a while. He’s running toward them before the fade away from him.

There’s nothing definitive from Steven Moffat or the production team, but there are a lot of hints and clues. We know that A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three come after Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but it is possible that those two happen simultaneously and after the Ponds leave the TARDIS.

I actually like that theory a lot.

Back to this story, there’s a lot to like in this expansion on Pond Life. We get the introduction of Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brig, who will play a large role in the series going forward. We get a fun look at the home lives of the Ponds and how much they have loved traveling over the last ten relative years. We get honesty from the Doctor on the fates of his companions.

Some have left him, some have been left behind, and a very few have died. Raise a glass for Katarina and Sara Kingdom (The Daleks’ Master Plan) as well as Adric in Earthshock. If we count the audios, the Eighth Doctor lost three companions in one adventure, namely To the Death.

Finally, the callbacks: The Doctor mused about humans having only one heart in The Shakespeare Code, experienced a defibrillator in the TV movie, and lamented Twitter in The Girl Who Waited.

Overall, this story is filler, but it does so many bold things for this era of change in the Eleventh Doctor’s run.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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