I’m going to miss The Ponds when they’re gone. I love Amy and Rory. I love them separately, but I love them even more together, and Chris Chibnall, both in the “Pond Life” series of minisodes and in this week’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Power of Three,” does an amazing job of showing just how wonderful Amy and Rory are as a couple and how, when joined by the Doctor, there is nothing that can stop them.
“The Power of Three” begins at a period of time when Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) rarely see the Doctor (Matt Smith). They’ve since gone on about their lives, Rory accepting a promotion at the hospital and Amy having become a travel writer (that woman loves to change careers, doesn’t she?), and are beginning to wonder whether they should give up their Doctor Life entirely to put more focus on their Real Life. Out of nowhere, these small, black cubes appear all over the world. At first, humanity — and the Doctor — is concerned. However, after weeks of inactivity, the cubes become a fact of life and people get used to them, taking them into their homes and using them for mundane purposes like paperweights and decorations. Bored with the inactivity, the Doctor leaves Rory’s father, Brian (Mark Williams) in charge of watching the cubes with Amy and Rory.
As the Doctor continues to pop in and out of Amy and Rory’s lives over the course of a year, cubes begin to start doing things — moving, glowing, flying — and the Doctor meets the new head of UNIT, Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Together, they discover that the cubes were sent to Earth by an alien race called the Shakri, whom the Doctor only knew as a Gallifreyan legend before now. The Shakri, acting as “pest control” for the Universe, wanted to prevent the human “contagion” from ever getting powerful enough to explore the stars. So, they sent the inactive cubes to Earth, waited until people felt comfortable enough with them to incorporate them into their lives, then used them to give every human in close proximity of one a heart attack. Once on the Shakri ship, the Doctor reverses the signal being sent out by the cubes, restoring everyone who’d been given a heart attack, and causing the Shakri ship to explode. The Doctor returns Amy and Rory home, and as he’s about to leave, Brian insists that they go with him. Now that he’s got the travel bug, he can’t imagine how they can pass up traveling with the Doctor.
Amy and Rory
The wonderful thing about “The Power of Three” is that it gives us a deeper look into what life is like as a Doctor’s companion during the times when the Doctor isn’t around, and I love that Amy and Rory actually enjoy their normal lives, too. A hallmark of New Who has been the Doctor traveling with people who hated their mediocre, underachieving lives and wanted more (with the exception of Martha). That might have been where it started with Amy, but as she’s gotten older she’s come to understand that with the right person by your side, even the most mundane days can be a wonderful adventure. Amy and Rory share a love of traveling with the Doctor, but they love each other more, and they are both people who appreciate the simple things that make human existence wonderful. They are also both capable of looking at Doctor Life in a very matter-of-fact way. In both “The Power of Three” and in “Pond Life,” it’s great to see Amy and Rory accept everything they experience with the Doctor in stride. It’s like, as long as they have each other, who cares that there’s an alien invasion? They are each other’s constant and anchor, which allows them to deal with anything the Doctor throws their way.
Chibnall did an excellent job of showing us how Amy has matured in a beautiful scene where she speaks from experience and counsels the Doctor that he might be running away from things. Amy’s journey from guarded girl with trust issues to a woman capable of facing her emotions head-on has been a fascinating one to watch, and it was lovely to be able to see her be so confident in counseling the Doctor as a friend, or communicating openly and honestly with Rory in this episode.
“The Power of Three” also does a great job of reminding us what a great team the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are. I loved the use of the Earth getting “cubed” as a metaphor to demonstrate the power of three. In Amy and Rory, the Doctor has companions who, while they respect and admire him tremendously, call him on his crap, because they aren’t dazzled by him. At one point, when the Doctor assumes too freely that Amy and Rory will be coming with him, Rory says, “What you do isn’t all there is.” Rory has never been too overly impressed by the Doctor to speak his mind, and Amy even at her most deferential has always been a powerful conscience for the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor has saved their marriage on countless occasions, seeing that the strengths they have individually with regard to him are exactly what make them so perfect for each other. They make the Doctor better, the Doctor makes them better, and they are best as a team.
In addition to the examination of the relationships above, “The Power of Three” was also about the strengths and weaknesses of the human race in general. Something that is both a strength and a weakness in people is our ability to move on to the next thing. This is great in that it’s how we often recover from our big tragedies, but it was interesting to see it used against us in this episode, by having the Shakri incorporate the way people adapt and get used to/get over thing into their plan. Using the cubes the way they did was a genius move in that the Shakri knew that if they waited long enough, humanity would simply get used to having the cubes there and let their guard down. However, what saves humanity from being weakened is the Doctor’s faith in them; the Doctor knowing that it’s that resilience and determination in the face of a “slow invasion” that makes them excellent candidates for sharing the wider Universe. Humanity has a champion, but that champion continues to save them because they’re already amazing.
The use of a “slow invasion” to give us a chance to see The Ponds in their natural habitat was a wonderful idea, providing an undercurrent of danger even as people were ignoring the cubes and going about their days. The dialogue was crisp and funny throughout, and there were some wonderful moments of drama in lines like the Doctor telling Amy, “Yours was the first face this face saw,” that made me tear up. The entire episode made me tear up, actually.
This is the most relaxed and in-the-moment I’ve ever seen the main trio, which makes sense when you consider that “The Power of Three” is actually the last episode Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill shot. Though we’ll be saying goodbye to The Ponds next week, it is “The Power of Three” that is the culmination of all of Gillan and Darvill’s brilliant etching of these characters and hard work over the years. Their Amy and Rory were beautifully effortless and lived-in this week. Matt Smith, too, was grounded and completely present this week, even as he had a bit of a Tennant-esque moment (“Welcome back, Lefty!”). His chemistry with Gillan and Darvill is undeniable. Mark Williams was absolutely charming as Brian, and I can only hope that they work out a way for him to do a bit more traveling with the Doctor in the TARDIS. Williams also did an wonderful job playing his character a bit like Rory, showing us that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. And Jemma Redgrave was a breath of fresh air as Kate Stewart. Not since The Brigadier and Sergeant Benton have UNIT personnel been warm and approachable, but Redgrave’s performance brings us back to that warmth.
“The Power of Three” is a simple, but powerful episode where the plot of the story wasn’t intricate, but the character relationships were.
Doctor Who’s fall half-season finale, which is the farewell episode for Amy and Rory, airs Saturday, September 29th at 9PM ET on BBC America.
Teresa Jusino is going to order tea like a cowboy next time she goes to a bar. Her Feminist Brown Person take on pop culture has been featured on websites like GirlGamer.com, Al Dia, ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and she is also a writer/producer on Miley Yamamoto’s upcoming sci-fi web series, RETCON, which is set to debut in 2013. For more on her writing, get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.