Written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Douglas Mackinnon
Debuts: Sept 22 (UK & North America)
What a lovely, charming episode this is. After some of the nastier episodes of this series, featuring a rather questionable “breaky” old man (Solomon in Dinosaurs) and then a misguided genocidal scientist (Kahler Jax in Mercy), comes a story to warm the cockles of your heart and remind you why Doctor Who is such an amazing television experience.
Right from the offing, we’re placed firmly in chez Pond as they discuss “normal” versus “Doctor” life – and it appears they want to make a choice between the two. But which life will win? Everyday, out-of-date yoghurt in the fridge life? Or the not-so-everyday dinosaurs ‘n’ cowboys ‘n’ Daleks life?
It’s a real conundrum for the couple who seem to embrace being in bed by 11pm, supping copious mugs of unspecified hot beverage and spending time with their friends. Instead of traveling with The Doctor, on this occasion, the Time Lord finds himself staying with The Ponds as the Earth is “invaded”, slowly, by mysterious cubes.
This slow invasion is handled superbly, evoking the Russell T Davies era with heavy use of rolling BBC News and some terrific celebrity cameos [which I’m sure you may have read about elsewhere, but not here – Ed.]. The Doctor’s restlessness is also portrayed with style as Gallifrey’s finest finds it oh-so difficult to sit for even an hour without creosoting a fence or indulging in his mad football skillz [that’s soccer for various international territories – Ed.]. Whereas Brian Pond (née Williams) can veg for hours, alone with his thoughts.
And, like a number of RTD tales, the alien threat is merely the backdrop to Team TARDIS and the realisation of exactly where the threesome are in their strange relationship. The Doctor does come off as a peculiarly insensitive and solipsistic, even petulant, individual as his demands aren’t met from his chums (plus ca change!). We’ve seen a different Doctor this year, and The Power of Three continues this trend, all leading up to something I’m sure…
Dealing with the INVASION OF THE CUBES is UNIT, fronted by a new scientific advisor (of sorts), Kate – played by Jemma Redgrave (pictured below). The accomplished actress immediately fits in to Doctor Who, much like Mark Williams did two weeks ago in Dinosaurs. Redgrave is solid and incredibly sympathetic in her portrayal of The Doctor’s new BFF, everyone warms to her within the blink of an eye. It’s heartening to see UNIT with such a strong and likable PiC (that’s “Person in Charge”) with such a deep and engaging back story.
Director Douglas Mackinnon, who stoutly handled the Sontaran two-parter back in 2008 (also an Earth invasion story), finds the lightness of touches needed for the tone of the story (constantly framing The Doctor, Amy and Rory in a three-shot – reaffirming their connection), with an almost sitcom-esque style for the Ponds’ home life (and if you’ve watched Pond Life, it will feel very familiar to you), countered by the intense sci-fi and deep dark tones of the final third (which give off a definite Star Wars vibe).
Chris Chibnall, the writer of this episode, packs a great deal in to the 42 minutes or so; both in expression (the drama of the invasion and the internal dramas each character is facing with their interpersonal relationships) and in nods to the history of the show [I call it “Whostory”, or “Whoeuvre” – Ed.]. I won’t divulge, but there will be a lot of very happy Who-fans during this episode – with each reference more delightful than the last. Chris firmly posits The Doctor as man, a very human one at that, who need his friends to lighten up his life just as much as they do him.
|NOT “hideously ugly”?|
The threat of the countdown cubes is, as previously mentioned, slight; though they do reveal a horrific power. And also a new villain behind it all. Well, new to us. Turns out The Doctor is all too aware of the species attempting to cube the world. It’s perhaps the only weak/dubious part of the plot, as the invasion and its intentions are slightly clumsily handled in the remaining few minutes of the story. Indeed, little time is given to the main “monster”, Steven Berkoff (pictured left), a great pity as he’s a tremendous actor and I would have liked to have seen much, much more from him.
In some ways this is an incredibly brave type of episode to air immediately before the heartbreaking finale. Some may regard it as a bit of fluff, without any real drama or menace, but The Power of Three isn’t concerned with threat of cubes, but purely with the joy of love; the love between the Doctor and his friends. A reciprocal relationship that is both confusing and exhilarating. And a relationship that is about to end.
The Power of Three promo pics
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A Town Called Mercy round~up
A Town Called Mercy audio commentary