TV Episode Review: “Doctor Who: The Power of Three” (07.04, 2012)

“The Power of Three” (07.04, 2012)

Written by Chris Chibnall (Past Episodes: “42,” “The Hungry Earth,” “Cold Blood,” “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”)

Directed by Douglas MacKinnon (Past Episodes: “The Sontaran Stratagem,” “The Poison Sky”)

This time, we get a story focused on Amy and Rory’s life on earth, which is either intended as a prelude to their departure or as a fake-out to make us think this is the episode in which they leave. The story is based on “the slow invasion,” in which earth is invaded by a bunch of small black cubes that apparently do nothing at first, then rather unsurprisingly attempt to wipe out humanity.

The most interesting development is when we discover who is behind the invasion, a theoretically terrifying villain from Time Lord lore known as the Shakri, “the pest controllers of the universe.” The Shakri sound terrifying, but because they are introduced so late in the episode and dispatched so quickly, we don’t learn enough about them to think much of anything. It is mentioned that they are affiliated with “the Tally,” also known as “Judgment Day” or “the Reckoning,” seemingly setting up a storyline for the second half of the season similar to the Silence’s introduction during season five setting up their presence through season six. If that is the case, it is still done subtly enough that it’s not silly, though Moffat’s history of doing something similar makes it rather transparent. If it’s not, the Shakri is an interesting idea that as introduced with nothing behind it, which is unfortunate.

Most of the episode, however, focuses on Amy and Rory’s attempt to balance their adventures with the Doctor with “real life,” which often fails, in no small part because of the Doctor’s lack of concern about their “real life.” It’s something we’ve seen before and it isn’t really that interesting, but it does provide some nice comedic possibilities, making for a rather fun if uninteresting episode. Director Douglas MacKinnon also takes the opportunity to try out some visual techniques that are new to Doctor Who, though they will look familiar to fans of Moffat’s Sherlock series (on which MacKinnon has never worked, oddly enough).

The invasion provides some opportunities for Matt Smith to show both his comedic abilities and a deeper, more vulnerable Doctor than his norm, and he proves adept at both (surprisingly so in the latter case). However, his performance often seems to be the only thing holding together the episode, which otherwise is a few fun comic moments surrounded by dullness.

It seems the Ponds will be departing next episode, and this episode seems intended only to prepare us for their departure. It ends up being a rather uninteresting episode that only works when Matt Smith is forcing it to, and usually in a comedic manner. It’s not a complete failure, but it doesn’t really work, either.

One thing that simply must be pointed out: the final line of this episode is an absolute groaner, and the fact that the episode is named from it is rather sad.

TV Episode Review: “Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (07.02, 2012)

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (07.02, 2012)

Written by Chris Chibnall (Past Episodes: “42,” “The Hungry Earth,” “Cold Blood”)

Directed by Saul Metzstein (No Past Episodes)

In the history of the new Doctor Who, there have been few truly bad episodes. Even most of the weaker episodes, like “Boom Town” (01.11, 2005), “Voyage of the Damned” (Christmas Special, 2007), “The Fires of Pompeii” (04.02, 2008), and “The Waters of Mars” (Autumn Special, 2009) have generally not been truly bad, just not up to the series standards. Then, “Let’s Kill Hitler” (06.08, 2011) happened. It was closely followed by the execrable “The Girl Who Waited” (06.10, 2011). Steven Moffat then apparently decided to prove he could reach new lows with “The Doctor, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (Christmas Special, 2011). Suddenly, the show has a few truly bad episodes, and with this episode, they now have company, making for a truly disturbing trend.

The episode opens with a flirty scene between the Doctor and Egyptian Queen Nefertiti that calls to mind the opening of last season’s opener, “The Impossible Astronaut.” It’s a retread and doesn’t work as well because it’s just not as over-the-top and doesn’t have the payoff explanation for its excess that last season’s version did. It also exposes a problem that has lurked in the background throughout Moffat’s run—his habit of repeating character archetypes. Nefertiti is the same basic character as Elizabeth in “The Beast Below,” Reinette in “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and even Amy Pond (she has more depth, but we’ve also had more time to see that depth).

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn’t really improve on that introduction. Amy and Nefertiti have some fun interactions (“Tell me, Amy, are you also a queen?” “Yes! Yes, I am.”) and the surly robots are rather funny when they first appear, but it’s a rather predictable episode that’s filled with far too many effects-laden action sequences. Sometimes, it seems that the Doctor Who crew forgets that it cannot afford good effects, a limitation that means that effects sequences should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Having the Doctor ride a triceratops to safety is a great example of something you should avoid unless you can make it look great (and, really, even then it’s probably not worth doing), and it doesn’t look great here.

It was a forgettable episode that offered nothing really interesting. Season seven is not starting off well.