From BBC’s Doctor Who site:
The Doctor and the Ponds puzzle over an unlikely invasion of Earth, as millions of sinister black cubes arrive overnight…
“The Power of Three” is one of those stories that will more than likely split opinion between liking or loathing it. Personally, I’m in the former camp as with the previous stories of this season it is a character study into the Doctor and the Ponds.
The tone is set up right from the start of the episode with a voiceover introduction by Amy explaining the difference between the frenetic, fast cutting world of “Doctor Life” with spaceships, laser beams and monsters, and “Real Life” which is slower paced and filled with jobs, out of date milk and optician’s appointments. This opening prepares the viewer for a story which focuses on the conflict between the Ponds’ twin lifestyles as an invasion takes place which, on first sight, looks like a harmless, mundane practical joke.
“The Year of the Slow Invasion” demonstrates how different the lifrestyles are from the perspectives of the Doctor and his companions. From the Doctor’s point of view, he is torn between wanting to be with his friends because he wants to keep their memory alive as they were the first people to meet him since he was “born” into his eleventh incarnation, his good intentions to keep Amy and Rory safe and the fact that the Ponds’ day to day lifestyle along with its hundrum trappings doesn’t interest him in the slightest. As in “Vincent and The Doctor”, the passage of time as humans see it bores the Doctor especially when he’s waiting for something to happen.
The impact of the Doctor is keenly felt on Amy and Rory as they are also torn between their two lifestyles. You do get a sense that although they enjoy the adventuring lifestyle, which for Amy has led to a change in career path (who would have thought of “Pond” being a travel journalist?), they are starting to become like the character of Wendy in the film “Hook” – the children who have left the Doctor’s version of Neverland and are growing up. This is summed up with Amy’s comment that she feels like the adventuring is running away from a life as adults… something that children and adults alike do for roughly 45 minutes a week whenever “Doctor Who” is on television.
The main plot of the invasion itself doesn’t really get going until half way in and it was clever to see the idea of a silent invasion coming into play by using humankind’s own curiosity against it and silently probing away at their strengths and weaknesses until they make their final play. Personally, I would have surrendered if I was confronted by the cube which played “The Birdie Song” on a continuous loop.
As in the Russell T. Davies era of the programme, Chris Chibnall use real-life references for the audience to key in on the show with news programmes presented by Sophie Raworth, Lord Alan Sugar along with Karren Brady and Nick Hewer firing an Apprentice for failing a “cube” task, and astrophysicist Professor Brian Cox speculating on the purpose and origin of the cubes. But I do have one question – WHERE WAS TRINITY WELLS???? She has covered virtually every contemporary invasion and disaster in the “Whoniverse” since the show came back in 2005 and it would have been great to see Lachele Carl return to report on another alien incursion.
Carrying on with the guest stars, this story continues the trend of providing great supporting to casting to the TARDIS trio. Mark Williams makes a great return in the role of Brian. As in his previous episode, Mark perfectly balances the comedy of the role with matters such as “Brian’s Log” and his personal theories on the cubes alongside the serious points of re-emphasising to the Doctor that he takes his family away from their everyday lives by asking him what happens to the companions once they stop travelling with him. This is as important as Rose’s moment of revelation in “School Reunion” where she realises that the Doctor and the people who travel with him eventually have to separate, more so in some respects as we didn’t know as an audience that Rose would be leaving later on in Series 2 whilst we know that the Ponds only have one more episode (sniff sniff).
Steven Berkoff provides a suitably quiet menace in the role of Shakri. Unlike most of the Doctor’s adversaries whose aim is to subjugate or eliminate a species to basically be a dominant life form or to conquer, Shakri’s purpose is simply to pre-empt humankind’s expansion into space and, presumably, prevent some of the wrongs that they commit. Pretty heavy handed though committing genocide on a planetary scale.
For me though, THE guest star of this episode is Jemma Redgrave in the role of Kate Stewart, commanding officer for the more scientifically focussed incarnation of UNIT. For fans of the classic series, this was a defining moment in the show’s current incarnation as it not only linked through to the classic series but to the fan made spin offs “Downtime” and “Daemos Rising” which first featured the character of Kate. Jemma Redgrave gives the character a spark or a twinkle which leads the viewer to make the connection between Alistair Lethbeidge-Stewart and Kate through the use of humour concerning matters such as the UNIT troops heavy-handed house entry techniques and the Doctor’s sartorial tastes, her affectionate reminiscences of “The Brig” along with her reasons for dropping the “Lethbridge” from her name and recalling his point of view that “Science Leads”. It’s a shame that Nicholas Courtney did not get his chance to reprise his most famous role following the show’s return in 2005, but bringing in Jemma as a member of the “Who” family gives a sense that the Brigadier will always be around whilst handing over the UNIT torch to a new generation. (Memo to Steven Moffat: BRING BACK KATE AND UNIT FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY!!!)
Unfortunately for this episode, as good as it is, the fans will have their thoughts firmly locked on to the Ponds final adventure in New York and we will get to see whether the Doctor makes good on his promise that they will be kept safe.