Doctor Who series 7 episode 4: The Power of Three
Non-Spoiler (Well, Mostly) Review
The spirit of 2008 returns.
Air date: UK: 22 September, 2012, BBC One
Following the ballsy Asylum of the Daleks, the silly Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and the Western/Star Trek crossover, A Town Called Mercy, comes an altogether different kettle of fish.
I've heard The Power of Three described as a throwback to the Russell T Davies era. In a sense, that's true. It's a UNIT story about an invasion of Earth (sort of) with the usual RTD tropes: BBC News Channel presenters, CCTV footage, tourist spots from around the world, panic in the streets, famous celebrities, a secret underground base under a familiar London landmark. But it also contains a healthy dose of Moffat era whimsy: in particular, random jaunts to the past played solely for laughs (a famous hotel, a famous shape-shifting monster and a famous Catholic-hating king). It's a mash-up of various Moffat obsessions, but the set-up is pretty much identical to The Lodger.
Mark Williams is back as Rory's dad, Brian. His inclusion is more peripheral than in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and it's hard not to view him as a watered-down version of Donna's gramps Wilfred (Bernard Cribbins) - lovable and loyal but a bit lacking in the brains department. Heading up UNIT is Kate Stewart, played by Jemma Redgrave. She's the daughter of a previous alumni of UNIT. Oh come on, guys, the surname! It's not Benton, alright? Steven Berkoff crops up towards the end as a wizened alien named Shakri, giving the episode its token villain, and it must be said that, much as I adore Berkoff, a cheaper actor could have given exactly the same performance. Catchphrase? "The tally shall be met." Not as memorable as "Nice to see you, to see you nice", but give it time.
Douglas Mackinnon's frenetic direction gives this episode plenty of pace and energy. The last time he worked on the show was on the Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky two-parter and since then he's clearly fallen in love with rapid editing, fast cuts and tricksy graphics. Some will love this, others will hate it. But this flash-bang-wallop way of storytelling is very much Moffat's 'thing'.
The plot itself starts off playing second fiddle to the characters and their lives, but after a while the mystery of the black cubes takes centre stage. Although described as "sinister" in the Radio Times, the whole point of the story is that they appear attractive to people. In a way, this highlights what could be seen as a flaw with this episode - there are too many ideas battling together, often at cross-purposes.
Watch out for cameo appearances by a sexy young science boffin, a Sid James lookalike, the worst pop song in history and disparaging references to Twitter (bye bye, Steven!). The Doctor plays tennis (sort of) and paints a fence. So if you'd rather watch paint dry than sit through The Power of Three, then you can do both. Oh, and the title? It's explained in the closing few seconds, but don't hold your breath.
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