I’m going to need you all to take a seat before you read this. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
I really liked “The Power of Three.” It wasn’t the strongest episode of Doctor Who ever created, nor the smartest or funniest, but it was pretty ruddy good. Above all the episode did an excellent job of highlighting the stickier points about travelling with the Doctor: mouldy yoghurt, horrendously expired milk and missed opportunities with work and friends. Yes, the voiceover was grating (AND SO UNNECESSARY OMG) but “The Power of Three” had none of the emptiness of the preceding episodes. The story had a beginning, middle and end, even though it jumped around in the timeline a little. The new female character, Kate Stewart, wasn’t a caricature but a real person, who didn’t always know the answer but was still intelligent and admirable. Who else would be the daughter of the Brigadier but a woman who made “science run the military,” who “dragged them along, kicking and screaming.”
The characterisation made sense and none of it felt forced as it has in previous episodes where I finished with the impression that I was being told to love someone but given no reason to. Stewart’s role in the episode was in many ways incidental to a story that was about rediscovering the thrill of travelling with the Doctor while accepting that every day life itself has its thrills. Rory rightly tells the Doctor, “what you do isn’t all there is,” but the episode doesn’t finish on a bitter note; rather, the Doctor has accepted their right to choose their adventures and removes himself from their decision-making process. Ultimately they choose him, because they care for him and for the work they do with him. A simple mode of reasoning arises from an episode that began by giving its audience the impression that Rory and Amy were going to give up travelling for good.
There were aspects of this episode that reminded me a lot of ”The Army of Ghosts,” particularly the way in which the cubes were ingratiated into everyday lifestyle and welcomed in. The strategy of allowing people to feel comfortable with a foreign item and then exploiting that after an extended period of time made sense and spoke to very human patterns of reasoning.
The humour in the episode also felt lightyears beyond the one-liners in the first three episodes of the series and lent to the creation of really endearing moments with the Ponds, such as the fish-fingers-and-custard-on-the-sofa moment:
“I’ve run restaurants. Who do you think invented the Yorkshire Pudding?”
“Pudding, yet savoury. Sound familiar?”
The apex of the episode for me was the moment between the Doctor and Amy as they sit by the river and contemplate the cubes. “This is one corner,” begins the Doctor and with that little phrase the universe suddenly takes the shape of a great, unexplored cube, of which we’ve seen only a fraction. “It goes, so fast,” he finishes, “I am not running away from things, I’m running to them, before they flare and fade forever.” Amazing things exist but nothing exists forever and that is a reason to keep running, to see the next thing and take in the next experience.
The greatest episodes of television programmes and the greatest chapters of books shift your perspective just enough that familiar terms become something entirely different, that running away becomes running towards, that accepting the adventure in an ordinary life doesn’t mean turning your back on the extraordinary life. “The Power of Three” did that for me and I’m delighted to be able to say that I really did like this week’s episode of Doctor Who.
Next week: Angels. Manhattan. No Andrew Garfield? Sad. But we’ll see what happens. I hope this crimsonelevendelightpetrichor lasts a little while longer.