Episode Title: "The Power of Three"
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Saul Metzstein
Previously on "Doctor Who":
Last week, one of my main complaints about "A Town Called Mercy" was that it barely featured Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and it wasn't pivotal for their final adventures with the Doctor (Matt Smith). However, "The Power of Three" is quintessentially a story about the Ponds and their relationship with the Doctor set against the backdrop of an invasion of alien cubes.
Let's get this out of the way first: the alien cubes occasionally make for some fun moments, but the entire invasion angle was practically an afterthought with very poor execution. The power behind the cubes is revealed to be from the Shakri, a race even the Time Lords feared. And yet the Doctor ends up defeating their agenda so easily that it completely lacks drama or suspense. If "The Power of Three" was solely based on the invasion story then it would have been one of the greatest failures of the entire series.
Fortunately, the episode more than makes up for the lackluster threat with some fantastic character work for Amy, Rory, the Doctor and even Rory's father, Brian Williams (Mark Williams); who makes his welcome return in this episode. Even before alien cubes start appearing all over the Earth, Amy and Rory come to the conclusion that they have two lives: one in which they have real world jobs and friends as well as one in which they travel through time and space alongside the Doctor. After more than enough adventure to fill a lifetime, they're seriously considering leaving the Doctor behind.
Of course when the invasion happens, the Doctor immediately reappears in their lives and waits for the inevitable threat to occur. We're often told that the Doctor must constantly move on to his next adventure if only to avoid the crushing guilt of the things that he's done over his long existence. But we've rarely seen the Doctor go as stir crazy as he does after four days of watching the cubes do absolutely nothing. Smith's manic energy played really well as the Doctor burned through a week's worth of chores in about an hour. Out of sheer frustration, the Doctor takes off in the TARDIS and he disappears for several months after promising to check back with the Ponds for updates on the cubes. The Doctor even puts Brian in charge of monitoring a cube; which he does for almost an entire year.
In the meantime, we see that Amy and Rory's friends have affection for them, but they also view the couple as being flaky because they disappear for months at a time with little explanation. It's a hard label to shake as they settle back into their lives and take on more responsibilities. We've already seen Rory progress with his medical skills earlier this season, but the best surprise was that Amy's new job is writing travel articles. That's a good fit for her character and Amy Pond's Guide to Time & Space would probably be an entertaining tie-in novel.
Eventually, the Doctor pops back into their lives and he drags the Ponds off on another series of adventures before managing to bring them back home to finish their party with the rest of their guests. Only Brian notices their brief absence and he gets the Doctor to make a rare admission: usually his companions either leave him or he leaves them behind. But sometimes, they die.
Although the Doctor pledges that this will never happen to Amy and Rory, he seems shaken by the reminder of their mortality and he asks to move in with them while they investigate the cubes. Somewhere along the way, Amy mentions that the Doctor has been in and out of their lives for ten years. Among the Doctor's many companions, that may be a record. If the Doctor is nearly 1,200 (as he mentioned in last week's episode), then the Ponds have been a part of his life for close to 300 years. By the Doctor's own admission, he tends to go through his companions fairly quickly. Yet his bond with the Ponds is apparently one that he isn't willing to completely break. Every time the Doctor gives them a happy ending, he keeps coming back for more.
These are the end days for the Doctor and his favorite couple, but at least they're days filled with the joy of fish fingers and custard in front of the TV or a touching hearts-to-heart with Amy (since this was one of the few recent episodes to remind us that the Doctor has two hearts). Smith. Gillan and Darvill were on top of their game; while Williams once again proved to be a compelling addition to the cast. The Doctor feels so strongly about Brian that he actually invites him to become one his companions. Can you picture the Doctor posing that same offer to Rose Tyler's mom or Martha Jones' parents? I can see Wilfred Mott making the cut, but he is the only suitable candidate from the previous parents and grandparents of the Doctor's most recent companions.
Brian may have the biggest misgivings about life on the TARDIS, but he is ultimately the one to convince Rory and Amy to keep traveling with the Doctor because it's the opportunity of a lifetime and they're all quite good at saving the universe. Although, if there is tragedy ahead in "The Angels Take Manhattan" then I think it would crush Brian to know that he happily sent Amy or Rory to their deaths.
I almost wish that Amy and Rory's story could have ended here, so we could imagine that they stayed with the Doctor for many years to come before finally retiring. But one way or another, the Ponds' time on the show is finished after next week's episode. And we'll find out soon enough if Steven Moffat is content with sending them off without breaking our hearts first.