Doctor Who: “The first face this face saw”

KT is ready for the mini season finale this weekend.

DOCTOR WHO: 7.04 “The Power of Three”

Lovely bits, lovely acting from our regulars, but accompanied with some major narrative problems.

Most of the episode is build-up, and most of the lovely bits are here.  We get a nice sense of what the Ponds’ life is like in between adventures and how they’ve arranged their lifestyle to accommodate sporadic disappearances.  Rory—as we’ve always known—constant, dependable Rory!—is a nurse, but working part-time, or perhaps on some kind of temporary basis.  Amy, having given up the modelling jobs we’ve seen a time or two, has become a travel writer, which I love.  That sounds like the perfect way to get her fill of adventure, even without having the Doctor around.

That’s partly because she’ll always have Rory to share her adventures.  Yes, there was a rough spot at the beginning of the season, but at this point, I think the important thing about that rough spot was not why it happened but that it showed that their relationship is strong enough to handle rough spots (albeit with some help from the Doctor, perhaps).  Here we see them frankly discussing the pros and cons of life without the Doctor, and whether they ought to stop traveling with him at all.   Perhaps their insistence this season on going home for a bit at the end of each episode is their version of being eager to go out on a Friday, but also choosing to call it a night before twelve.

On the other hand, we did get a brief, brief look at their surprise seven-month anniversary trip, which was brilliant.  I’d love to have seen more of that!  But didn’t the Doctor say something offhandedly about leaving a phone charger under Henry VII’s bed last week—which presumably happened during this trip.  I’m not convinced that we’re seeing things in the right order… at least from the Doctor’s point of view.

I’m not sure what to say about the lovely moment Amy has with the Doctor on the rooftop, but I can’t not mention it.  “I’m not running away from things, I’m running to them before they flare and fade forever”—I love that.  He knows they’re pulling away, of course.  Perhaps he even knows what’s coming in the next episode.

The only new character this week is UNIT scientist Kate Stewart, who I also loved.  She’s introduced as the daughter of the Third Doctor’s old pal, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and she’s allowed to be smart, calm, and in charge, which is a pretty powerful trifecta.  (And for personal reasons, I love that the character called Kate is strong and smart.)  I hope we see her again.

Unfortunately, the epside goes a bit downhill from there.  As everything moves into crisis mode, the narrative issues start kicking in as well.  Despite having plenty of time to lay the groundwork, the climax is scattered and confusing, and we get about two Time Lord heartbeats’ worth of denoument.

Although this show will never be the sort of whodunnit where the audience is given enough pieces to make a hunch as the plot rolls along, dammit, I want to feel that the puzzle pieces I have been shown are falling into their logical places.  But instead, after hacking the cubes to be able to revive all the people who had cube-triggered heart attacks, Team TARDIS declares victory and the episode ends. The number of unanswered questions left standing is just silly:

  • What happened to all the cubes?  Were they collected and destroyed?  Are they still sitting in people’s cupboards and offices?  And if so, are we quite sure they have been totally neutralized?
  • Did the Shakri just shrug and toddle off?  As far as we know, isn’t that ship still out there?  What was it they wanted anyway, and why were they snatching people?
  • Was the little girl in the hospital the only android that the Shakri sent down, or are there others still lurking around the world?  And what were those orderlies with the big “O” shaped mouths?

It felt to me as though the mysterious cubes and their tricks and their danger was awkwardly stitched onto the subplot with the sinister orderlies, the android girl, and the Shakri.  None of these last three seemed integral to the story being told—and I think you could even have cut them all out—because the heart of the episode lies in the idea of bringing the Doctor into the Ponds’ everyday life and the slow burning mystery of the black cubes.

And last, a prediction:  My bet for the Ponds’ departure is that the Weeping Angels (who are clearly in the episode) are really going to get them this time.  The Ponds will live out their days as normal people—but in a different era…

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