The Power of Three Writer: Chris Chibnall
Synopsis: A “slow invasion” of mysterious cubes across the entire Earth forces the Doctor to stay with Amy and Rory for an entire year to observe them.
Since there were only five regular episodes in this half-season, the news that Chris Chibnall would be writing two of them didn’t give most fans a lot of hope. Dinosaur on a Spaceship proved to be awful as expected, so it was quite a surprise when The Power of Three turned out as good as it did. The whole premise behind the episode is interesting: the Doctor is forced to stay in one place and live a somewhat normal life for a year, and Amy and Rory are forced to deal with the consequences of constantly leaving their normal life behind to go on adventures with him. Most of the time, the life of the Doctor’s companions when they’re not with him is not shown, so this gives a unique insight to what happens to at least two of them. Of course, since Doctor Who’s worst-kept secret at the time was that Amy and Rory were leaving the show after part 1 of the current series, this character-based episode served as a nice buildup to the inevitable; an especially good scene is when Rory’s dad asks the Doctor what happened to the other people who travelled with him, and he is forced to admit the truth. Another good thing about this episode was the first appearance of UNIT since the 2009 special Planet of the Dead, and especially the introduction of their new Head of Scientific Research Kate Stewart, the daughter of the reoccurring classic series character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: although the Brigadier’s death was briefly mentioned in The Wedding of River Song, his daughter’s appearance seemed like a nice, overdue tribute to the man who played the Brigadier, Nicholas Courtney, who sadly passed away in February of 2011. Hopefully Kate Stewart will not be a one-off character, because it feels like both her and UNIT have more to give to the show.
If this episode was purely character-driven, I’d rate it higher, but unfortunately it seems like every Doctor Who episode has to have an alien in it. Compared to all the stuff with Amy, Rory and Rory’s dad, the plot of the mysterious cubes seems almost superfluous, although I love the concept of the cubes being there a full year because the time allows for curious humans to bring them into their homes so they can soak up all the information they can. Towards the end, the episode really starts going downhill: the whole purpose of the cubes is revealed, and anticlimactically it’s “kill all humans”. A new alien race called the Shakri, apparently some kind of Time Lord boogeyman, is also revealed to be behind them, but it’s baffling why the episode decides to introduce another type of “ancient and powerful alien” with around 15 minutes of running time left, only to not even do anything with them besides tell us their name and how they hate humanity. There’s also some plot points that seem too convenient: the Shakri only have seven transmitters for the cubes on the entire Earth, yet one of them just happens to be near the Doctor in the UK, and is also conveniently at the hospital Rory works at. Some Shakri-controlled human puppets are taking patients from the hospital to the Shakri ship for reasons that are never explained and just happen to also take Rory’s dad, who was helping him at the hospital, to their ship, giving up the way to the Shakri ship to Amy, Rory and the Doctor. The ending is another letdown, and pure dues ex machina: the Doctor once again waves the sonic screwdriver a little, and is able to both make the cubes that were stopping people’s hearts to start them up again as well as destroy the Shakri ship. Even despite all my complaints about the latter half of the episode, it’s still surprisingly good, and proof that Chibnall really can write a decent episode.
The Angels Take Manhattan
Writer: Steven Moffat
Synopsis: The Weeping Angels are using a hotel in New York circa 1930 to trap people inside and feed on their time energy, and the Doctor, with the help of River Song, has to stop them.
Calling the Weeping Angels the best villains the revived Doctor Who has come up with would be selling them short, because it’s not like anyone remembers the Slitheen or the Judoon that fondly; in a 2012 poll by the British magazine Radio Times, the Angels were voted the best monsters in Who history, defeating even the Daleks and proving that the quantum stone monsters have earned their place in the Doctor’s rogues gallery. Surprisingly considering their popularity, the Angels haven’t been overused – The Angels Take Manhattan is only their third appearance, one of which consisted of two episodes, since they were introduced in series 3’s Blink. Even more surprisingly, Steven Moffat has written every single episode featuring them, which makes it strange that the “rules” concerning the Angels have seemed to change with each appearance: in Blink, it was established that they can only move when nobody’s looking at them since otherwise they become quantum locked as stone statues, and that they only kill victims by sending them back in time to live out the rest of their lives while feeding on the potential energy left behind. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone made them kill their victims normally, as well as introducing the rather ridiculous concepts of “the image of an Angel becoming an Angel” and being somehow able to turn anyone into a Weeping Angel. Thankfully, their third appearance either forgets or ignores those things and takes them back towards their simpler beginnings, but this time they’re also able to take over any statue, which may be a reference to a throwaway bit at the end of Blink.
The plot itself actually doesn’t concern itself that much with the Angels, smartly saving them for a few select scenes to make them more effective, but with the concept of history being pre-written if you find out about it beforehand. Doctor Who, unlike other media that deals with time travel like Back to the Future, doesn’t usually concern itself with the paradoxes inherent in it, preferring to treat it merely as a way of getting from place or time A to B. Therefore it’s sometimes interesting to see an episode like this that gets into the details of what results from all this screwing around with time and space, although from what we’ve seen of the Angels, trapping people in one place to feed off their time energy seems a little low on the scale for a plan made by them. The Doctor looking at the chapter titles of a book by River Song about their adventure, written after the fact, to find out what to do next is an especially good suspense-building moment.
However, not everything about the episode is as good: the Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel, much like the Parliament of Daleks previously, is a perfect example of something that is clearly written to look cool in teaser images, but doesn’t really add anything to the plot or even make much sense. It also seems like there is nothing interesting left to tell about River Song now that season 6’s convoluted plot arch is over and we’ve learned everything about her past: here, she’s got very little interesting to do, other than write the book that ends up bringing the Doctor & co. to New York in 1930. The episode also has a few too many moments designed to be “emotional”, such as Rory seeing his older self die or Amy and Rory deciding to jump off the hotel together to create a paradox – this many big “moments” somewhat detract from the ending of the episode, by far the most effective moment when, after a trick ending, an Angel manages to send Amy and Rory back in time to live out the rest of their lives. Even though most people would’ve heard about the two leaving the show, it was still a truly surprising end for probably the best companions of the revival. The part where the Doctor rushes to get the last page of River Song’s book was perhaps a little too derivative of him rushing to the central computer at the end of Forest of the Dead – another Moffat episode – but the last words by Amy do close out her tale very effectively, as well as finishing a good if a little disappointing episode that doesn’t quite live up to what it could’ve been.