“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.