[4_stars ]

It seems an odd choice to give a writer who isn’t show runner two separate stories in the same season that are relatively unconnected.  Perhaps thematically, The Power Of Three does share some similarities with Chris Chibnall’s previous effort this series in the form of the Pond’s normal, everyday life.  Whereas Dinosaurs On A Spaceship failed to rise above its CBBC premise, The Power Of Three shows a return to form for the writer in an episode that could easily have been from one of Russell T. Davies past seasons.

Describing it as homage to the RTD years feels wrong as it stands relatively well on its own two feet.  Yet there’s something warm and friendly about the story that means it shares a similar feel to the lighter more jovial tales of the past including Love And Monsters and The Unicorn And The WaspThe Power Of Three concerns a humorously slow and rather cute invasion of the little black cubes.  These cubes appear from nowhere and appear to not do anything for vast amounts of time.

This makes them one of the deadliest foes for The Doctor to meet as it requires him to be one of the few things (at least for this incarnation) he struggles to be patient.  Throughout the invasion, The Doctor succumbs to becoming part of the Pond’s life, gets bored, drags them away for weeks at a time from their increasingly important normal life and eventually come back in time when the chaos of the cubes starts to kick off.

The story is full to the brim with charm.  The cubes themselves are actually rather adorable, especially when they turn nasty with one in particular torturing its victim by playing the Birdie Song continuously on a loop.  However, cube invasion aside, this is a story prepping the viewer for the imminent departure of Rory and Amy in next week’s story.  It shows the pair questioning whether it’s time to concentrate on their own everyday life but also shows The Doctor’s philosophy on the people he travels with.  He states that he travels with people before they flare and burn out into normality, which at first seems selfish.  However it seems only logical with The Doctor always having to witness his friends age and die before him no matter how much he tries to stop it.

This is brought home best when it turns out that the U.N.I.T commander is the daughter of the Brigadier; a character who sadly passed away in real life as well as on screen last year.  However this manages to fit The Doctor’s ethos into the narrative and blooms into one of the most beautifully crafted monologues Matt Smith has been given so far.  His sit down with Amy by the Thames is the sort of thing that has been missing over the last few years and it brought home how much these companions really mean to him.

Another element which worked surprisingly well was the humour which, instead of turning the story into a farce, made it seem far more real.  Rory’s dad (Mark Williams) was again the most enjoyable presence and the petition to get to become a regular companion starts here.  His best moments are a list of the story’s best scenes and his face is priceless as he’s woken up aboard a spaceship.  The story also includes some rather hilarious cameos from both Professor Brian Cox and Lord Alan Sugar, the latter being particularly amusing with his scalding of apprentice candidates at their failure to sell the cubes.  The Doctor’s lack of patience is also an excuse for some fun including a whistle stop tour of adventures which includes the namedropping of the Zygons; a past foe that have been begging to be brought back for years.  Hopefully this is an omen for future events.

The story is by no means perfect.  The final line, tying in the title to the narrative, is as cheesy as Doctor Who has ever been.  As well as the random android creatures which strangely disappear without a mention after the plot needs explaining, the overall solution to the cubes is one of those “flick a switch to fix everything” scenarios which can be found in large swaths of RTD finales.  However to bring the story to task for such an easy get out clause misses the point of The Power Of Three.

This is story designed to attach the viewer as much possible to Amy and Rory and examine their relationship before it gets completely smashed to pieces next week.  This is the calm before the storm and it just so happens to be a fun, witty and enjoyable one before the emotional de force of The Angels Take Manhattan shatters the lives of the three forever.

Adam Scovell

Images from Radio Times and SFX.