Archive for the Series 7 Category

7.10 – “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on January 7, 2016 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS

STORY
The Doctor tries to let Clara have a go at driving the TARDIS (to foster better relations between the two) so he lets down the shields, only to have a roaming salvage crew capture the TARDIS and manage to seriously break it. Clara manages to get lost inside and The Doctor and the three squabbling salvage crew members set off to find her

REVIEW
An episode spent running around the TARDIS interior was always going to be prone to being just a load of running around corridors. Back in the Classic era, there were occasional episodes where most of the action took place inside the TARDIS, but these were just 25 minutes of a larger story. “Edge Of Destruction” is the only purely TARDIS-set story but its two episodes are really a character piece with very little running around. “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva” have a fair bit of TARDIS set action and do quite well, but it’s just a place where interesting things happen and there’s a lot more story going on. The nadir of the TARDIS interior has to be “The Invasion Of Time”, with both the setting and the story itself reminding me of a vast public toilet.

So when this story quite proudly declares its purpose in the title, you’d be forgiven for expecting a lot more. No mucking about here – we’re exploring the TARDIS, that is the point.

What we get is a monstrous contrivance to get us to a place where The Doctor and Clara have to run around inside the infinite interior of our favourite time-space machine. The Doctor sets the TARDIS to “basic” mode so Clara can have a go at flying her. And this, we are led to believe, allows a bunch of numpty salvagers to grab the most powerful machine in time and space and make it crash onto their ship. Oh please…

The salvage crew come from the same future industrial design as nearly every other future human spacefarers we’ve met since the show returned in 2005. They are, despite their clichés, reasonably well presented and performed – Ashley Walters as Gregor, the more ruthless and aggressive brother, Mark Oliver as the slower-witted one and Jahvel Hall as Tricky work well together. Tricky’s story, a neat reversal of the android who thinks he’s human, is probably the highlight of the episode. It is one seriously deranged “joke” to play and shows Gregor up as someone who really is devoid of morals. He reminds me of Solomon back in “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” – no universe-conquering megalomaniac, just a bastard making his way in the galaxy.

By this point, Matt Smith is always good and The Doctor gets to be very clever in the way he gets the brothers to help find Clara. His super-powerful ship may have a seriously unbelievable wobble but the good Doctor is not getting outwitted by this bunch. Jenna Coleman gets a few good scenes – she carries off the mystery of The Doctor’s name wonderfully, at least for the short time that she’s allowed to know it. When The Doctor demands to know who Clara is and how come she’s died and so on, it’s a great scene for both of them.

The burnt up monstrous things chasing them around the corridors are nothing special, they’re just something to chase the characters. The explanation of what they are – that they’re future echoes of what could happen to everyone and…oh, I don’t know, something like that – is all very timey-wimey but I suppose we should expect such things in the centre of a TARDIS leaking time-energy all over the place. But to have The Doctor sorting it all out by literally reaching through a crack in time to literally hand over a reset button brings the episode grinding to a halt, with nothing really having happened at all. It really is just a load of running around corridors. It’s almost important – we almost get a serious jump in the Impossible Girl’s storyline but no, the reset button is hit and the resolution of the story is only slightly better than it all turning out to be a dream.

RATING
If you’re going to call a story “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS” then I’d like that story to be giving us something awesome about the TARDIS. “The Doctor’s Wife” is arguably the best TARDIS story of them all and actually uses the labyrinth interior to terrifying effect, but this episode just spirals to nowhere. The TARDIS should be made up of an infinite array of wonders, all adding up to an even more astounding whole. This story betrays that notion. There are some neat little bits but the whole is seriously lacking. Hmm, you can have a
6/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.9 – “Hide”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on January 7, 2016 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - Hide

STORY
The Doctor goes to Caliburn House in 1974 to get a psychic, Emma Grayling, to check Clara out. To his delight, Emma and Professor Palmer are trying to unravel the mystery of the ghost that haunts the place so, understandably, The Doctor and Clara decide to join in the spooky fun.

REVIEW
“Hide” was Neil Cross’ first Doctor Who script and it apparently impressed the production team enough to get him to write “The Rings Of Ahkaten.” Some of the themes here were explored more overtly in that episode but there’s still some meaty stuff going on. Again we get the old science vs the supernatural scenario. The Doctor, of course, doesn’t hold with the ghost being an unquiet spirit and, rather cleverly, sets out to prove it. There are some genuinely spooky scenes on the way though and the constant image of the distorted scream of the white spirit-like figure is very effective.

The Doctor’s use of the TARDIS, flipping back and forth through time to encounter the “ghost”, is a great idea and it’s good to see the Doctor using his smarts and his time machine to solve a mystery. It also provides a great “walking in eternity” moment. The Doctor fails to notice that Clara finds seeing the last days of the Earth as something painful – she notes that everyone must seem like ghosts to him. It’s a strong scene, without some of the OTT weight that the darker side of The Doctor usually evokes, less melodramatic and more effective because of it.

The explanation for the ghost, that it’s a time traveller trapped in a pocket universe, and the use of a Metebillis 3 crystal and Emma’s psychic gifts to sort it all out is carried off very well. The Doctor’s running around in an ever misty forest is evocative and the creature stalking him is well crafted. This basic plot, with scary stuff, science stuff, running around and a decent monster is all good material and there’s been plenty of Doctor Who that has gotten by on just these elements.

Where “Hide” rises above is in the extra layers. Emma and Alec Palmer’s unspoken love is gently handled, both are well written characters and very well portrayed by Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott (adding a sparkle of star power). Emma’s psychic gifts make her a troubled soul and she can find a bond with Alec, who is tortured by the memories of those he feels he caused to be killed in World War 2. Hence Alec’s determination to study the ghost – he wants to see if he can make contact with the “other side”, to atone, to explain and to apologise to those that died. He can’t get his wish, because science unravels the truth and there’s no comfort to be found in the supernatural.

But he does find love instead; declaring his feelings for Emma gives her the strength to save The Doctor and both troubled souls find peace. The Power of Love gets overused in New Who, but here, love does what it’s supposed to do – inspire, encourage and empower.

RATING
This episode is a gem. There’s no exciting old monster returning, no great big secret being revealed, no huge series spanning story-arc being resolved. It’s just a simple tale of a time traveller trapped in a pocket universe and being chased by an unfortunate monster that’s been separated from its mate, that gives rise to a terrifying apparition in a stately home that’s being investigated by a psychic woman and a traumatised ex-spy whose personal problems prevent them from being in love. Okay, so that doesn’t come off as being that simple, but therein lies “Hide’s” beauty – somehow, it makes all of that seem simple. Thanks to The Doctor, people fall in love, find the way home and are healed. A spooky, scary but not really spooky or scary 8/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.8 – “Cold War”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on January 7, 2016 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - Cold War

STORY
It’s 1983, the Cold War is in full swing and the crew of a Soviet Submarine have found something 5,000 years old in the ice. Some numpty decides to defrost it and suddenly there’s an Ice Warrior rampaging through the sub. 
The Doctor and Clara arrive and attempt to defuse the situation.

REVIEW
There’s nothing wrong with this episode. In fact, there’s lots right with this episode. BUT (and you knew that was coming) it is decidedly nothing special.

We’ll start with the Ice Warrior, the latest big old villain to be resurrected (or defrosted to be more accurate). I’d compare the Ice Warriors with the Sontarans – looking back to Classic Who, their reputation is more impressive than the 4 stories they actually appeared in. “The Ice Warriors” is, frankly, a dull, slow-paced plod. “The Seeds Of Death” is more fun, a fair bit more running around and lots of menacing foam. “The Curse Of Peladon” is entertaining enough, but has to be one of the most overrated Pertwee stories and few people have anything good to say about “The Monster Of Peladon”.

However, the Martians themselves do come out of all of these stories with dignity. They’re a tough bunch of ruthless, military aliens but they’re not just out to conquer the galaxy/universe etc. (apart from “The Seeds Of Death”, where they are just invading Earth, but no-one ever accused Classic Who of too much consistency). Skaldack, or to be precise, Grand Marshall Skaldack, is a solid Ice Warrior who is brutal and dangerous but with, at least to his code of conduct, good reason.

The design is a great update, all the chunky toughness of the original but with more sculpted edges. Lego hands are gone and new weapons and cybernetic enhancements are sleekly integrated into the armour. The big jump, conceptually, for us old fans is finally getting to see an Ice Warrior out of his armour. It’s deftly handled and we don’t actually get to see the whole body, just a notion of a fast and agile body with very long fingers. We do get to see his head out of helmet and it’s suitably reptilian. In fact, I’d argue there’s surely some evolutionary relation to the Silurians.

The rest of the supporting cast are strong – Liam Cunningham, fresh from A Game Of Thrones, does a great turn as the pragmatic but not ideology-driven Russian Sub Captain. Tobias Menzies is the more weasly and more ideologically Communist Lieutenant Stepashin. David Warner finally makes his onscreen debut in Doctor Who as Professor Grisenko but he’s not used anywhere near enough. I’m not a fan of re-using elements over and over again, but I’d gladly see Grisenko team up with the Doctor in more substantial circumstances in the future. Clara has a good outing, showing her bravery and getting stuck in and Matt Smith is his usual solid self.

The setting is claustrophobic, there’s water rushing in and the Ice Warrior is even more impressive in such enclosed spaces. All good fun.

And here’s the BUT – first, the TARDIS has to be taken out of the way (or they could all just escape) and it’s a pathetic reason for its vanishing that basically translates to “The Doctor was just fiddling about and broke it”. Then Skaldack threatens to kick off World War 3, because an attack on one Ice Warrior is an attack on all Ice Warriors so he’s fighting back against all humanity AND he’s called the rest of his species to come down with furious vengeance. BUT, well, the Doctor fails to appeal to Skaldack’s better nature and just as Skaldack is about to launch the nukes, an Ice Warrior ship turns up and tractor-beams the sub up from the depths and everything turns out fine. And there we are.

RATING
There’s some excellent, tight corridor work. We’ve got a good, tough, ruthless and powerful alien enemy. And we’ve got some menacing, some murder and almost a nuclear war BUT…it all turns out OK after all. I’ll apologise for this but, since we’re on a submarine, on the top it all looks pretty good, while there’s nothing more going on beneath the surface. A pedestrian 6/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.7 – “The Rings Of Akhaten”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on September 20, 2015 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - The Rings Of Akhaten

STORY
The Doctor takes Clara to see something awesome; a bunch of sort-of asteroid type worlds and a whole load of rocks swirling round a big orange planet, the fabled Rings of Ahkaten. Clara meets a little girl who has to sing a song to keep the Old God asleep, but the Old God wakes up and is about to devour everybody’s souls unless our heroes can find something emotional enough to give it serious indigestion. And the viewers are treated to a journey of faith, discovery and the true nature of the soul.

REVIEW
I’ve been to Anfield, the homeground and heart & soul of Liverpool Football Club, just the once. The Mighty Reds are my Team, I’m not a rabid fan, however, when that crowd roared out “You’ll never walk alone” before kick-off, it was something mighty powerful. I couldn’t help but think of this as Merry, the Queen of Years, and the rest of the crowd sang their song to support The Doctor as he was pouring his heart out to make the Old God burst from too much soul. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, not for the Old God. Liverpool won 2-0 that day at Anfield though…

The reason for the singing is that the people of Ahkaten apparently believe that all life in the Universe began in their neck of the woods so a strong religious cult has built up around the place – a bit like Anfield. Unlike Anfield, where the singing is meant to wake the Gods (or Team), the singing at Ahkaten is meant to keep the Old God (or Grandfather as it’s sometimes known) asleep, otherwise it will wake and consume the Universe. Doctor Who frequently deals with the spiritual/magical vs. science issue, and almost always comes down on the side of science. All those Hinchcliffian supernatural horrors were products of explainable (if occasionally unbelievable) science. However, the magic vs. science issue was really just part of the mystery to be uncovered (there’s no “Curse Of Peladon”, just an old monster in a cave; that’s not a Mummy lurching around, it’s the robot servant of a super-powerful alien). In the Rings of Akhaten, the conflict is more prominent and dealt with in more powerful ways.

At first, there’s something sweet and fascinating about the traditions of Ahkaten, how they don’t trade with money but with items of sentimental value. Clara asks if it’s true that all life started in Ahkaten and The Doctor is happy to reflect that it’s what the people there believe. Nothing wrong with a bit of faith – nobody’s getting hurt. And The Doctor explains that it’s psychic resonance that’s being picked up in the traded items and of course, we just want that little girl to have her big moment, she’s not really singing a song to a God. But something goes wrong and The Doctor has to spring into action as that God thing actually does wake up, which provokes a wee bit of running around, and a few more bits of bigger themes.

This episode has a similar function (on the surface anyway) as Series 5’s “The Beast Below” – it is the story which proves that Clara has what it takes to be A Companion. Clara comes up trumps, straight away (a bit like Amy) finding a child in trouble and befriending them. Then, when the shit hits the fan, there’s not a bit of her that wants to run away. There’s a waking God to confront and the way The Doctor and Clara deal with it is what makes this episode special. The religious followers of The Old God (being the bleeding great orange planet thing) believe it wants their souls, but The Doctor knows it feeds on experience, what the religious folk would interpret as their “souls”. And as we know that psychic resonance is “real” science in the Whoniverse (psychic paper is not magic), then The Doctor’s explanation anchors the whole thing in, at least, the fictional scientific and rational universe.

The Doctor’s finite stream of experience, no matter how vast it is, is still not enough to engorge the Old God. But the infinite possibilities of experience, streaming out of Clara’s leaf, and all that it stands for is, obviously, infinitely larger and is just the thing to sort the Old God out.

There are two passages in the episode which elevate it from being just another “power of love sorting it all out” story. After Merry has telekinetically pinned Clara to the Mummy-thing’s case, The Doctor has to persuade the little girl, who has led her whole life believing it was her destiny to be chosen for sacrifice, to let go. His explanation is beautiful – Merry is unique and to be sacrificed would be a waste, not because she was born to fulfil the artificial “destiny” of her faith, but because the real, rational, physical effects of the universe have made her so. It is the ongoing clashes of particles since the beginning of time that have led to Merry being right there, right then. There is wonder and awe and joy in this explanation that has no need for a God to explain it.

Similarly with Clara’s leaf; the first time I saw the episode, it was the absurd embodiment of that whole power of love nonsense that seemed to be replacing my preferred scientific resolving of problems. But it’s not. Its “power”, for want of a better term, stems from the same rational, science based explanation of why Merry is unique and valuable and, indeed, why all of us are.

What is the soul? Is it some supernatural, immutable essence of who we are, created by God, sent into the world by God and then eventually taken back again, by God – for whatever capricious motives He might have? I say no – and I’d say that “The Rings of Ahkaten” agrees with me. Our souls are the sum of our experience, which is informed by the experiences and personalities of those around us and who have come before us, and that which we pass on and share to all that are around us and will come after us. Some worry that it’s a bit prosaic that our minds and memories are made up of electrical impulses fizzing between molecules. But those molecules are made of elements born in the fires of exploding stars. And that universe spanning, all-time reaching process of stellar birth and re-birth has led to a species that can recognise those very processes that allow us to recognise them.

Surely there’s a beauty there that’s more profound and wonderful than any crude myth written up to, at best, make us feel a bit warm and fuzzy or, at worst, keep us under control?

RATING
The big orange planet thing as Universe devouring…thing is, frankly, a bit daft. However, this story has the bravery to stand up and proudly declare that the ramblings of myth and religion cannot compare to the incomparable beauty of truth. An enlightening 9/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.6 – “The Bells Of Saint John”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on September 20, 2015 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - The Bells Of Saint John

STORY
I don’t know where I am!” say lots of people who have been trapped in the wi-fi. The Doctor, however, is pretending to be a monk in 1207 Cumbria, but gets a call on the TARDIS phone from a terribly familiar young lady who needs helpdesk support. The Doctor arrives in the present day, rescues his impossible girl Clara and, together, they set out to find out what’s going on and put a stop to it.

REVIEW
At last! The proper roll-out of the impossibly pretty and perky Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, the OFFICIAL new companion. All quite exciting really. We’ve already been teased with her in two superb episodes – as saucy, brilliant yet tragic Oswin in “Asylum Of The Daleks” and as cute, dynamic yet tragic Clara in “The Snowmen”. What a pity then that “The Bells Of Saint John” doesn’t really come close in quality to those two corkers.

It doesn’t help that it’s got a ticklist of Moffatisms that always get my goat. Anachronistic overly calm child being spooky; faceless, voiceless sinister “monster” that walks slowly; innocuous words as ominous repeated catchphrase – “I don’t know where I am”. Well I know where I am, Steve – stuck with a bunch of clichés that I’ve seen too many times before.

The story, or at least the situation that our heroes must deal with, is not so strong either. Again, people being spirited away to a virtual place is hardly original in the New Who era. Celia Imrie is great as our lead villain, but Miss Kizlet joins a growing list of strong, posh women in dark suits. And it’s never really clear what the point of the exercise is – why are people being uploaded to the “wifi”? I’m sure the Great Intelligence has a great plan behind it all, but who knows what it is – we’re never told. It’s quite cool how Miss Kizlet hacks her staff’s minds to get them to act just how she wants but so much else makes no sense.

The spoonheads are just plain daft. So they’re actually portable servers who disguise themselves as people that their targets know, except their heads twist around so that the downloading “beam” can be used? WHY?! Since Miss Kizlet seems to have no trouble controlling a whole café full of people from afar, why does she need to have the spoonheads wandering around? After all, aren’t people being uploaded to the wifi?!

All that stuff isn’t so important though – this story is really about Clara and turning her into THE companion. However, the Clara here is nowhere near as good as the Clara in “Asylum…” and “The Snowmen”. In her previous stories, Clara was smart and dynamic and very much driving events along. Here, Clara is really just someone that stuff happens to. I suppose that’s the point; she is The Impossible Girl of mystery and it’s up to The Doctor to pull her into his adventures. I’ve got no issues with Coleman as an actress as she more than proved her worth in her first couple of outings. When there’s a chance to show it, she’s strong here, showing how a raised eyebrow and subtle smile can go a long, long way. It’s just unfortunate that she doesn’t have the character I was hoping for to put all of that talent into.

Matt Smith, once again, elevates the mediocre to something better; he twirls and twitches his way through things with ease. The Eleventh Doctor, no longer weighed down by the Ponds, is back to having fun again. He has great chemistry with Coleman; The Doctor and Clara spark nicely over their breakfast, cheerfully rescue planes together and don’t quite flirt, but almost do. The anti-gravity bike up the side of the Shard is good fun, The Doctor’s trick of reprogramming the spoonhead to fool Miss Kizlet and upload her was pretty clever and the Great Intelligence reducing Miss Kizlet back to a scared little girl – that was just plain nasty. The whole thing may not quite hang together, but the episode certainly has its moments.

RATING
Episodes like this are frustrating. We know Moffat is a seriously good writer when he turns it on, but sometimes he seems to be just ticking off the boxes. There’s enough sparky stuff to entertain but, after two awesome preludes to this, Clara’s actual proper debut is a little bit of a letdown. Smith, Coleman and Imrie provide enough talent to give this 7/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.5 – “The Angels Take Manhattan”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2015 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - The Angels Take Manhattan

STORY
The Weeping Angels have infested New York in 1938 and taken over an apartment block so that they can send people back in time and then keep them there until they die, before luring them to the place where they die and sending them back in time and…are you following this?! Rory has been picked up by the Angels and taken back to 1938 so that they can lure him to the apartment block and so on and so on. The Doctor, River Song and Amy chase after him, but need a serious paradox to foil the Angel’s plan.

REVIEW
Leaving aside all the returning baddies from Classic Who, the Weeping Angels have to be New Who’s premier monster. “Blink” is constantly voted as one of the truly best episodes of New Who and I personally think that “The Time Of The Angels” is just as good – as Steven Moffat himself put it, it’s the Aliens to “Blink” being Alien. Mind you, if we follow that analogy, does that make “The Angels Take Manhattan” Alien 3? One hopes not.

Fortunately, it is not the failure that Alien 3 was, but it still struggles to make the impact of its predecessors. Which is a pity because, on reflection, this story lets us see the Angels in real action. In “Blink” we had a bunch of supposedly weak Angels trying to survive and generally being very scary in a timey-wimey mish mash story. In “The Time Of Angels” they were essentially a terrifying threat responsible for some serious running around (both done excellently, I might add). Here, they are seriously up to no good. The central idea, of them having a farm in New York, imprisoning and feeding off their victims for decades, is really quite horrific; it’s deviousness and sadism on a Dalek scale. Having their victims meet their older, just-about-to-die selves is really quite sick.

The Angels get a few great scenes – the statue of the mother and child waiting and waiting for their moment to attack Grayle’s house, the Cherubs in the basement and the sheer audacity of having the Statue of Liberty become a Weeping Angel. The problem is, this isn’t really a Weeping Angels story. It’s the grand farewell of the Ponds. Well, it’s the grand farewell of Amy Pond and her appendage, Rory. It pretty much overshadows everything else, as it has done for the first five episodes of Series 7. And with another liberal dose of “Amy loves Rory”, it’s rammed down our throats at every opportunity.

They have a picnic and Amy is wearing glasses and is starting to get wrinkles (nonsense, Karen Gillan will remain unblemished forever…but I digress); continuing reminders that The Doctor doesn’t like endings; how The Doctor can’t read ahead and learn what is going to happen. It’s as though the episode is banging a fist on the screen and shouting “HELLO?! You have been paying attention, right? You are aware that a BIG EVENT is coming?!!”

In some ways, it’s been the continuous over-emphasis of “Amy loves Rory” for the last two and a half series that spoils this story. Rory being sent back through time by the Angels with The Doctor, Amy and River in desperate pursuit is a good idea but we’ve seen Rory die, or nearly die, so many times now that this really has no impact.

We get a pretend end before a final, super-emotional encore. On top of a building, with the Statue of Liberty about to get Rory (if you’re going to get zapped into the past by a Weeping Angel, that is one hell of a Weeping Angel to get zapped by), Rory makes the ultimate sacrifice (again) and, of course, Amy has to join him while The Doctor screams in impotence. White-out, reset and back to normal. Ho hum.

So everything works out alright. OR DOES IT? Because in the present day at the graveyard, there’s a headstone with Rory’s name on it and a somehow-surviving Angel ready to get him. Arthur Darvill doesn’t get to make a final speech, he’s just gone. Karen Gillan gets the big scene and says her last “Goodbye, Raggedy Man.” For now, at least…wink.

That final page of the book assures us that Rory and Amy did live happily ever after (which sort of nullifies just how nasty them Angels are) and, despite my general sense of “Thank God they’re finally gone”, the last shot of Amy being a shot of the young Amy waiting to begin her adventures with The Doctor was still very, very sweet.

RATING
If only this had been a two-part thriller with the Angels’ evil plan as the driving force of the story, I’d have loved it to bits. Alas, the overwhelming last hurrah for the Ponds takes over and the old maxim of less is more gets forgotten. The Ponds most royally overstayed their welcome; I think they should have been allowed to live happily ever after when The Doctor dropped them off after “The God Complex”. Karen Gillan as Amy keeps us with it though (and not for the first time). Gillan can do emotional and fiery and not mushy. Smith, I feel, is not so well served – he’s just left to get angry about it all. I think the Moff was trying too hard here, there’s none of the sparks, no killer lines, none of the plain joy and excitement that the Eleventh Doctor is usually all about.

Oh Amy – all flaming red hair, saucy fury and oh so short skirts. I may have disliked a lot of what went on while she joined us in the TARDIS, but I never fell out of love with her. “This is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends.” I can only give this story 6/10 but Amelia Pond – she’s an Eleven, every time.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes

7.4 – “The Power Of Three”

Posted in New Who, Series 7 with tags , , , , on September 5, 2015 by Review The Who

DW Series 7 - The Power Of Three

STORY
Squillions of little black cubes appear across the world and proceed do nothing. For several months. So The Doctor moves in with the Ponds and eventually the cubes do something. It all turns out to be a plot by an ancient race who want to wipe out humanity before it can spread out across the stars.

REVIEW
When the big event for the series, at least this half of the series, has been publicised so much in advance, it seems that the episodes running up to it can’t help but be just precursors to it. We’re just killing time really. The Ponds WILL be leaving us next episode; we knew it at the time. “The Power of Three” is just a warm up for the big event.

There’s almost a reasonably smart little story spread thinly beneath the Pondness. The cubes appearing everywhere and doing nothing are quite intriguing. They remind me of a Nicolas Fisk sci-fi novel from my distant youth – Trillions – about a shower of tiny space crystals all over the Earth. Obviously, they’re being snatched up all over the world, being distributed so that every person on Earth will have at least one of them nearby. Obviously, they’ll do something eventually. And when they finally do act? Surely it will be something out of this world and original? Ah….well, the story is smart up to a point. The cubes do have a silent girl sitting at Rory’s hospital, and she seems to provoke a pair of weird orderlies with square mouths to steal a patient or two, for reasons not very well explained. But hey – silent, strange-faced things are all over New Who so why not have them here?

We also get the re-introduction of U.N.I.T. in this episode, led by Kate Stewart (the Brigadier’s daughter, played ably by Jemma Redgrave), at first as a bunch of black-armoured, gun-toting SWAT type troops and we get to see their HQ at the Tower of London.

Actually, the weird orderlies I mentioned before do have a function – they grab Rory’s Dad (who is just allowed to accompany his son to work? In a public hospital?) and give Rory a reason to find the wormhole to the alien spaceship. And then…the cubes do their thing!!! Billions of people collapse with heart attacks, including The Doctor, who fortunately has another one to keep running on. This should be an enormous, calamitous, nigh-on apocalyptic event but, well, it just sort of happens. And hey, The Doctor’s being so funny, what with him having the two hearts and having one of them arresting on him.

Amy defibs The Doctor so they both get up to the spaceship and he rejigs the ship computer to reverse the heart attack effect, essentially defibrillating the entire Earth. If only he’d had to reverse the polarity! Come on, it’s what he actually did, isn’t it?

I’m rambling, but it’s because I’m reluctant to write about what the episode is really about…

It’s all about The Power of Three, see. It’s about Amy and Rory and The Doctor and how they’re just so fabulous because they have exciting, wacky adventures, sometimes by accident (Zygons! Underneath the Savoy where The Doc gives Amy and Rory an anniversary present. Ho Ho!!).

It’s about Amy and Rory and The Doctor and how they have two lives, The Doctor life and real life but real life is sort of catching up with them and they’re starting to realise that they have to choose and they might want to settle down, and how Rory’s Dad realises that, sometimes, The Doctor’s companions die.

It’s about Amy and Rory and The Doctor and how they have to keep on travelling together because it’s the Power of Three that defeated the non-plot of the Shakri to wipe out humanity because that’s what they do, these Three, that’s how it works (except for the bulk of the show’s history where it’s mostly been the Doc and ONE companion).

It’s about Amy and Rory and The Doctor and how…oh, fuck it. This is not a story. It’s indulgent clap-trap. Companions come and companions go and, when they go, it can be heart-breaking (like Sarah Jane and Jo) or even heart-warming (like Ian and Barbara, or Romana). But it doesn’t have to have a whole bloody episode devoted to just how wonderful this Doctor and companion team is so that the big moment of their departure is made so much more poignant. Did Moffat and Chibnell forget the old rule of storytelling, that you should SHOW and not TELL?

RATING
There’s one lovely little scene when The Doctor and Amy sit on the wall by the Thames and, honestly, that’s all that was really needed. That could have slotted into a proper story, instead of having a half-arsed story slotted into an indulgent “celebration” of our three heroes. Except, this one little scene blows the whole shonky, inflated premise of this episode away – there is no Power of Three and since Series 5 there never has been. Rory has his moments (and Arthur Darvill always did the work) but he is still just a sidekick – Amy is THE companion, the one and only. One little scene earns this 6/10 but it was so close to being a 3/10.

Written and edited by Richard Barnes