Scanners indicate an absence of spoilers
So then, let's get the obvious facetious remark over with first... Why was The Power of Three, the third episode? Come on Mr Moffat, you KNOW how obsessive us SF fans are! Having it as the fourth offends our geeky love of numerical symmetry! You're stirring a wasps nest here!
However on the plus side, there was plenty in this episode which would delight the long-time Who fan, with a delicious sprinkling of links and references to older stories and characters. And it's a good mix of allusions and callbacks too with nods and winks for both the classic old school series and the rebooted modern show. Indeed in some respects, as Mr Danny Davies remarked upon the Twitters last night, this is one of the most RTD-esque stories we've had since the Moff took over.
So then, we have a story that is about the mysterious appearance of odd little black boxes all over the world, complete with montage shots of said enigmatic cubes dotted around famous landmarks and famous faces playing themselves as talking heads appearing on various TV broadcasts through the story. Furthermore however, this is an episode more concerned with characters and emotion than delivering big action and timey-wimey plot twists. Hence the so called 'slow invasion' of the little black boxes plot-line was largely just a MacGuffin to set up the real concerns of the story; the exploration of the relationship between the Ponds and the Doctor.
And all of this works rather well. Yes, it's light and frothy fun for the most part, with Mr Chris Chibnall turning in another entertaining script and a character he introduced in his previous outing this series Dinosaurs On A Spaceship making a welcome return appearance. However while there is fun and games with spaceships, aliens and explosions, this is the same kind of romp as the earlier interplanetary prehistoric malarkey we had a fortnight ago. There's a lot more sentiment but thankfully a tad more humour to keep the story from drifting into the jagged candy coated reefs of sickly sweetness. Hence we have some very nice scenes between Matt Smith and Karen Gillan and Arthur Davril, which range from very funny to rather touching. And the story of the boxes is deftly threaded through the episode too, weaving together neatly the humour and the character work.
Now it would be easy to see this as a throwaway episode; a less expensive bit of running about in between the more blockbustery stories which relies on character and comedy rather than big special effects. It's a nice little story, possibly a little forgettable but there's nothing wrong with that... However I suspect other forces at work here, which may be considered spoilerific! So then...
POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN FROZEN ON TELOS, ASLEEP, ON THE NERVA BEACON, OR TRAPPED IN THE SATAN PIT AND HAVE SEEN NO DOCTOR WHO NEWS FOR... OOH... LET'S SAY... THE PAST 18 MONTHS OR SO
Then as previous mentioned in reviews for this series, the Moffat credo for this series of Doctor Who is "a blockbuster every week"... and indeed that phrase is becoming the Bad Wolf of these reviews. However if the first rule of travelling with the Doctor is "the Doctor always lies!", then so too the first rule of watching Steven Moffat-era Who is "Moffat always lies".
Now I'm not casting cheeky aspersions on the blockbuster quality of this run of episodes, although it's fair to say that The Power of Three has been the least cinematic of the four so far shown. But I am casting doubt on the idea Mr Moffat has been bandying about that there isn't a big story arc to this season.
And my reason for this? Well, firstly this is a series in two parts - five episodes now, Christmas special, and the rest in 2013. And what's special about 2013 for Doctor Who? Well it's only the 50th anniversary of the show... And can you really see there NOT being a big story to lead up to this momentous birthday?
Secondly, and more pertinently to The Power of Three, we know that the Ponds are leaving the show during this run. And throughout the episodes show so far there's been a running theme looking at the Doctor and his relationship with his companions, not to mention some subtle hints that our favorite Time Lord suspects, or possibly knows, there is dire danger in the future for Amy and Rory. And considered in this light, this week's episode suddenly doesn't look quite so throwaway after all...
Indeed I may well be wrong, but I rather suspect that the events of this fun and frothy story may take on a greater significance when we understand its place in the overall story arc. And indeed some of the sweetness on display here may well be the last moments of light this trio of characters enjoy...
JIM MOON, 23rd September June 2012