After a fun intro showing the two lives of the Ponds - one saving the Universe, the other running out of dishwasher tablets, the Earth is invaded by millions of small stationary black cubes that just lay about doing nothing. The Doctor is stumped, as is Kate Stewart, UNIT's new scientific chief. The Doctor moves in with the Ponds to wait for something to happen but nothing does, sending the Doctor slowly nutty, trapped in domesticity. Matt Smith is tremendous here, full of the boundless energy and childlike ways that typify the very best of his Doctor. There's an hysterical montage as the Time Lord tries to keep himself busy by doing all the household chores, including varnishing the fence and hoovering. This may have been done before (in The Lodger) but it's still funny, especially as we get to see the Doctor's footy skills once more.
And how nice for the creative team to finally give us some substantial material for Karen Gillen and Arthur Darvill who have been frustratingly sidelined for the last two weeks. Even if one or both end up dying next week it's nice to know that they've had ten years together and the little scenes of them drinking tea in bed and getting on with their lives were nicely sketched in. Rory, initially a bit of a joke, is now a much sought after nurse who excells at his job while Amy has stopped being valued merely for her looks and is now a travel journalist. The scene where the Doctor and Amy are sat by the Thames (despite the terribly unrealistic greenscreen effect) is touching, with the pair facing up to the fact that the Ponds may want to stop jumping in the TARDIS. The Doctor's rationale that he is not running away from the Ponds but running towards the many fleeting wonders of the Universe could be one of the best explanations of his character ever as is his later admission that it's not the Ponds who need him but vice versa, leading to him constantly running back to them.
It's a tribute to Mark Williams that Brian has become a much loved character over just two episodes and he stole the show again, from his rapid fire brainstorming of what the cubes might be to his loyalty to the Doctor's cause, keeping a vigil over his cube and videoing it when he's asleep. The revived Who has a tradition of the Doctor being able to be frank with companion's relatives and this is no exception, with the Doctor acknowledging to Brian the risks of the Ponds travelling with him and that some of his previous friends have died. What's great about Brian, like Wilfred Mott, is that he sees how wonderful the opportunity to travel with the Doctor is however dangerous it might be.
Someone destined to become another much loved character is Jemma Redgrave's Kate Stewart. The reveal that she is the late Brigadier's daughter was no big surprise but it was surprisingly touching nonetheless. She's very well cast, with eyes that evoke Nick Courtney and a manner that brings back the Brig's humour and resourcefulness. The Doctor's joy at seeing his old friend's legacy carrying on was also nicely played and Smith and Redgrave developed an immediate rapport. Please bring her back soon.
This episode was so much fun that the actual plot kicking in almost got in the way. It did have the tremendous moment of the Doctor being attacked by a floating cube while playing the Wii and the Cube that played that awful song was a classic moment but the guff about the alien pest controllers didn't really convince. Steven Berkoff was almost unrecognisable in all that make up and a bit of a waste of a great scenery chewing actor. I hope that isn't his only shot at a Doctor Who role.
While not the best story this year, The Power of Three did its job perfectly, which was to remind us how marvellous these three actors have been together. Director Douglas Mackinnon kept things moving, framed some nice shots and threw in a few flourishes along the way. It's a shame that the working title, Cubed, had not been kept, as the final few lines, about how being cubed meant the power of three was a neat little reveal that would have totally turned the meaning of the episode around. The biggest success of this week was to make us fall in love with the Ponds all over again - just before the show rips them away from us next week.
GK Rating: ****