Sep 24 2012 1:00pm

Doctor Who: “The Power of Three”

An episode recap and review of Doctor Who: The Power of Three

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.

Yay, Humanity!

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 Script

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.

The Performances

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, Al Dia,,, Newsarama, and 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.

Cameron Tucker
1. Loialson
I'll be so sad to see the Pond's go, but they've had a good run. Love them dear. Will be good to see River again though!
Rob Hansen
2. RobHansen
Btw, did you notice that 'A Town Called Mercy' takes place during the middle of this episode? In the sequence where Rory & Amy are travelling with the Doctor we see them in Henry VIII's bedchamber. At the start of 'A Town Called Mercy', the Doctor is berating Rory for leaving his phone-charger behind when they visited Henry VIII.
Bittersweet Fountain
3. Bittersweet Fountain
I really liked this episode, and I absolutely loved Brian. Everything he did was wonderful. (Though it did make me wonder if Rory has a mom, and where Amy's parents are in all of this.)

@RobHansen, I didn't put the Henry VIII part together, but while I was watching it, I kept thinking it made sense for 'A Town called Mercy' to be during this episode. I kept looking for Amy and Rory's outfits to line up with what they wore in the last episode. I didn't catch if they did, so I wasn't sure, but it could be I wasn't paying close enough attention.
Ursula L
4. Ursula
I have to say, I absolutely adored Amy working as a travel journalist. It just makes so much sense for her character.

Amy's work as a kissogram and as a model never struck me as being a career that she really cared about. The job was there. It paid the bills. She did it well. But she took the job because it was there, it paid the bills, and she knew she had the looks and ability to do it well. Those jobs never struck me as her passion, or as something she enjoyed doing.

But travel journalism. That's Amy. Because she's very much been with the Doctor for the sake of travel. Rather than seeking out adventure, or wanting to solve problems, or trying to escape her life. From the time she was seven, she's someone who wanted to travel, and could have her suitcase packed and be ready to go in five minutes. "Can I come?" The lure of a trip is enough to make her forget the scary crack in her bedroom wall.

She's also been very much about stories, and creativity. All the pictures she drew, and toys she made. Play-acting "Travels with the Doctor" with Rory as children, making stories as a game. So combining the joy of travel with the joy of writing up a good story really fits her.

And it also solves a second problem. With their intermittant trips with the Doctor, Amy and Rory have unexplained gaps in their lives. We now see how they've made it work.

At the start of the story, Rory is working as a nurse, but he's clearly part-time or a temp. Good enough that his employers want him to work full time, but he keeps telling them no.

And now we know the reason he gives for why he'll only work part time. His wife is a travel journalist. And they like to travel together for at least some of the trips that she takes in order to write her articles.

The fact that these trips may be two weeks traveling Earth to gather stories for Amy to write, plus one day spending several weeks or months traveling with the Doctor is a minor detail that can be left out of official explanations.
Karin L Kross
5. KarinKross
Probably my favorite episode of the current season so far. It was pretty deus-ex-machina'd together at the end there, but as another reviewer has pointed out, the "plot" is only important insofar as it's a hook to hang the story of the Doctor and the Ponds off of; their relationship is the real story here.

Also, I literally burst into tears at the reveal that Kate was the Brig's daughter. Three and UNIT were my first DW serials, what can I say?
Bittersweet Fountain
6. John_the+Red
I will certainly miss the Ponds, but although I like Rory, I will miss Amy the most. She has a way of always looking gorgeous even when she is in trouble. That hair (I'm a ging myself), those legs but most of all those eyes, my god she can steal any scene with those eyes, they have a promise of pleasure, passion, mischeif all roled into one. What a gal!!
Love to Amy
Stephanie Padilla
7. DN10
Definitely thought this was the best episode of the season so far. LOVED the inclusion of the Brigadier's daughter, and I really hope we see her again! But while I love the Ponds, I am glad they're leaving. It's time for Eleven to have a new companion, and I was rather fond of the way Oswin and Eleven interacted with each other. I'm also curious to find out exactly how brilliant Oswin actually is, given that the reason she was better than the Doctor at hacking into the hive mind and the Daleks' security systems was that she was a Dalek herself.

Also, passing thought--does Rory's dad know he's a grandfather now? Given that he knows about the Doctor and the timey-wimeyness of Amy and Rory's lives, shouldn't he be told that he has a granddaughter? I had the distinct impression that he didn't know that his granddaughter had been kidnapped and brainwashed into attempting to murder the Doctor because of how unconcerned he was about urging his son and daughter-in-law to continue traveling with the Doctor. I can't imagine that he'd be so calm about it if he did know.
Bittersweet Fountain
8. John R. Ellis
A brilliant, heart-warming and heart-wrenching episode. I'm missing the Ponds already, even though we still have an episode left!

And I'll be giggling about "Zygons at the Savoy" for days.
Alan Brown
9. AlanBrown
The sentimental parts of the show worked well, but when the saving of the human race becomes a toss-off B plot, it indicates a loss of perspective on the part of the writer. When the Doctor's problems and relationships are more important than the fate of the planet, the Doctor has indeed become "too big." And knowing that the end of the Pond's journey is coming right around the corner kind of undercuts the power of their decision to keep on "companioning."
But that being said, it was an enjoyable episode.
Binyamin Weinreich
10. Imitorar
On the one hand, I have issues with how New Who has dramatically intensified the emphasis placed on the companions and their role as companions, and that was the foundation of this episode. I especially don't like how some companions are made out to be "more special" than others, which comes up mostly regarding Rose and Amy.

On the other hand, it's interesting to see the Doctor have to face a set of companions who finally outgrew him, as opposed to his just leaving them behind somewhat unwillingly. Amy and Rory have been an unorthodox take on the Doctor-companion dynamic from the start. And I suppose I can buy the explanation for why he's latched on to Amy in a way that he never has to any of his other companions before. That said, it's a take on the dynamic that I think they shouldn't attempt to replicate. Ever.

The entire ending, from the time the Doctor began to disable the Cubes and on, was cheap and too easy. But the rest of the episode was well-written enough for me to disregard that. I can say I liked it, but I can't say I consider it a great Doctor Who episode. However, it was certainly a very key Eleventh Doctor episode.
marian moore
11. mariesdaughter
I'd agree that the Macguffin part of this episode was more than a little lame. They don't bother to lay down any hints about what the boxes really are. I don't know why we had the simulated child at all (except to confuse me into thinking this was Amy and Rory's child. Beautiful child, btw. I hope that BBC finds another chance to use her.) All of a sudden, we get a Gallifrayan legend who doesn't share the non-interference ethos of the Time Lords. He interferes with a passion! Maybe he is the Time Lords' "shadow" or Dream Lord.

That said, the character part of this story was absolutely stellar. Amy and the Doctor have a real conversation. She points out that he appears to be appears to be running away and I agreed for a moment until he comes back with the brillant defense that he is racing to see as much of the universe as he can. And wouldn't we, if we could?
I liked the Doctor's honesty with Brian. I am wondering...was there any companion beside Adric that died while with the Doctor?

Usually I watch the episode and delete it off the DVR. This one is still there. There are scenes that I want to watch again.
Sarah Lester
12. slester
I enjoyed this episode because like someone else said I like how we get the chance to see companions "outgrow" the Doctor so to speak.
But I had several issues as well. What was the point of the child aside from looking creepy? And the guys with the gas mask faces? As soon as I thought of those I thought they had something to do with "The Empty Child" but what was the purpose of having them steal people? To study our physiology? Becuase I thought the boxes were for that. Also did anyone else notice how they just left the kidnapped people on the ship that blew up? Why didn't Amy and Rory get them out as well?
Ursula L
13. Ursula
Why didn't Amy and Rory get them out as well?

The Doctor told Amy, Rory and Brian to run and leave. The three of them ran.

Once Brian was safe, Amy and Rory returned to help the Doctor some more. Because that's what they do. The Doctor's companions stick around to help him.

The Doctor remained focused on the larger problem of the millions or billions of humans who had suffered cube-induced heart attacks on Earth, rather than the handful of people who were unconscious in the room. An uncomfortable choice to make, but an understandable one. Amy and Rory follow the Doctor's lead.

Once the Doctor has sorted the problem of all the millions of people who were harmed on Earth, he, very suddenly, realized that his fix would have the side effect of blowing up the alien spaceship.


And once he'd realized that, the three of them only had time to run for their own lives, not to stop and try to save the unconscious people in the room.

It is worth remembering that while Brian was unconscious on a hospital gurney, with wheels, most of the unconscious people were on tables that could not be moved. And Brian knew the Doctor, Rory and Amy, and would trust them and follow their directions, while the other unconscious people might be from anywhere, would have no reason to trust and follow Our Heroes. Waking up suddenly in a strange and alien space, they would be as likely to misinterpret Our Heroes as being their captors as to trust Our Heroes as rescuers. Evacuating these people would not be quick or easy. They could neither be rolled to safety, unconscious and unresisting, nor counted on to cooperate with evacuation to safety.

The failure to save the unconscious people on the spaceship was not intentional, but rather the result of their attention being focused elsewhere.

First, on saving Brian, Rory's father, whom both Rory and Amy know and love. And to whom the Doctor has extended the affection, protection and attention that he reserves for the people whom he knows as "Ponds."

And then on saving the millions of people attacked on Earth. People whom, by weight of their numbers, demanded the focus of their attention.
Bittersweet Fountain
14. MRW
This was an awful episode, with Matt Smith mugging like a gradeschool pantomine, the Ponds devolving into yuppie scum and Daddy Weasly sinking into senility (his watching the cube for /months/ never pays off). The Qbert men and the girl-bot have NOTHING to do with ANYTHING, and the end of the world somehow involves ... counting bananas, all wrapped up in five seconds by a literal 'wave the magic wand' ending. Lazy splatterplot writting from the word go.
Bittersweet Fountain
15. Bryan Rasmussen
I just assumed the other people were dead with experimental heart attacks and Rory's dad was not yet dead. would have been nice to have rory check though.
George Shirer
16. grshirer
I have to agree with an earlier reviewer. I thought 'The Power of Three' was utter rubbish. Once again, the Ponds steal the focus of the show. I am so ready for them to be gone.
As a matter of fact, this entire season hasn't really worked for me. The pacing in the episodes has felt uneven, the performances either overblown or deadly dull.
So far, the best part of this season was the Doctor's interaction with Nefertiti in 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.' It was actually amusing.
I know this may put me in a minority here, but I'm ready for the Ponds to be gone. All of them. Amy. Rory. Brian. Even River.
Bring on the Weeping Angels already!
Christopher Hatton
20. Xopher
This was a character episode. I didn't think much of the plot or the cubes as a plot device. I think in reality they'd all be gathered up before they did anything, though a few people might keep one.

I'd be interested in the BTS about what they were actually made of, whether the ones that opened were made differently, etc. Also I suspect they were actually green-screen green, so they could a) make them absolutely black and b) project all that other stuff onto them.

They're really winding down the Ponds. I'm recalling Moffat saying "not everyone gets out alive." With that carefully-worded statement, they could kill Brian and leave Rory and Amy alive. I think they're going to depart more emphatically than that sounds like, but I'm hoping they don't actually kill either Rory or Amy.

Seriously dreading the next episode, even while I look forward to it.
Ian Gazzotti
21. Atrus
I want to like this episode because of all the awesome personal moments and OMG Kate Stewart, but I keep being let down by the absolute crap that was the main plot. If you want to do a character piece then fine, do a character piece and leave the aliens out of it. But if you put an alien menace that threatens the whole of humanity, have at least the decency to make it consistent and flesh it out a bit more.
Ursula L
22. Ursula
The alien menace in this episode pretty much had to be boring, for the episode to work.

If the alien menace had been interesting, then Amy and Rory would have been interested in it, and would not have focused on their "home" life in the way they needed to. If the alien menace had been interesting, the Doctor would have been interested in it, and he would not have come to the realization that he wanted to be with Amy and Rory for their sakes, not just for the sake of adventure.

So we got little black cubes that did nothing, driving the Doctor batty with boredom at the beginning, making him an obnoxious enough houseguest that Amy and Rory don't want him around, and, perhaps for the first time, turn down an invitation to leave in the TARDIS. The boringness of the cubes mean that Amy and Rory can actually pay attention to their home life, making commitments to work and friends that they'd held back from in the past. The boringness of the cubes mean that when the Doctor comes back, and asks to stay for a while, using sorting the cubes as an excuse, Amy calls him on it, not wanting to deal with the problems he caused the first four days of the cube invasion with his boredom. And the Doctor admits that he wants to be there because he misses his Ponds. The cubes remain boring, and he actually has to make the effort to spend time with them doing ordinary things.

In the end, the cubes had to do just enough so that the Doctor could figure out what was going on, and wave his sonic to stop it. Allowing the episode to end and Our Heroes to move on to the next adventure.
Ian Gazzotti
23. Atrus
My problem is not with the cubes but rather the Shakri. They're a race so powerful that they were used as bogeymen for the young Time lords, but they're stopped with a flick of the sonic screwdriver and dealt with in less than five minutes. 'Boring for reasons of plot' does not mean the reveal and the resolution have to be an afterthought.
Christopher Hatton
24. Xopher
You have a point, Atrus. It would be a better point if the Shakri were actually there...remember it was an automated genocide device, and probably several versions out of date!
Bittersweet Fountain
25. unipeg
Am I the only that noticed clues in this episode that the Doctor is part human? The Doctor himself claims the boxes were targeting "human" hearts. So is "lefty" his human heart? The Shakri was very adamant about killing off humans only. Nothing more. Yet the box did target the doctors supposedly "alien" heart. Also I think the Shakri were a little to easy to get rid of. I have a feeling they will be back.
Christopher Hatton
26. Xopher
Waiting for the writeup on "The Angels Take Manhattan." Boy do I have a lot to say, very little of it good.
27. Beligaronia
This episode felt rushed to me. I loved the concept of the "slow invasion" and the change of pace for the Doctor and his companions. However everything else in the episode felt like it had been pushed to the side and added almost as an afterthought.
The Shakri- Introduced in 5 minutes at the end and defeated with a wave of the sonic. A bogeyman out of the myths of Gallifrey should not be waved away so easily. I realise that with the time constraints on a single episode they would never have had time to give a villain a proper arc but they could have at least tried to make a villain that didn't need one. Something like an insane computer that could have been explained quicker leaving more time for a resolution to the threat. We might be seeing more of the Shakri later and this is intended as a taster but if so it wasn't a good taste.
The Brigadier's Daughter-A brilliant character who is introduced as a strong, capable character with enough experience with alien tech to spot the doctor's tinkering. Then as soon as we're done introducing her she falls back to the standard role: a human supplying a laboratory and relying on the doctor to solve everything. That said I hope we see more of her.

Both the Brigadier's daughter and the Shakri were probably enough to hang an episode on however they were unfairly compressed.
As seems common with this season it was an episode with two episodes worth of ideas shoe-horned into 45 minutes.
That said it was a brilliant character piece until the last five minutes.
Ursula L
28. Ursula
That said it was a brilliant character piece until the last five minutes.

I thought the last five minutes were brilliant character. The Doctor assuming Amy and Rory would choose to stay home. Amy and Rory staying silent, refusing to choose. Brian, knowing them, recognizing that they don't want to have to give up the Doctor. And that they shouldn't have to - that forcing a choice between friends and home is stupid, everyone has a home and everyone has friends, and that's what makes life good, even if (or especially if) one of your friends is a time traveler who takes you on exotic and adventerous vacations away from home and your other (equally wonderful, and the Doctor better learn not to interfere with enjoyed and appreciated work with colleagues who are friends, and friends' weddings and other such delights of life) friends.

By my count, the cubes started moving and the story shifted away from pure character at around the 20 minute mark. Plenty of time for lots of strange things to happen as they try to figure out what is going on.

And then, once they know the "what," the "how to fix it" turns out to be something technically simple enough that the sonic can handle it. A situation I'm sure happens in adventures and trips that don't make it on-screen. A story-telling choice that makes sense for an adventure that isn't about having a great on-screen adventure but rather about letting us know why they bother with the ones that aren't intrinsically interesting enough to make on-screen adventures.

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