Every week, my buddies and I will discuss the new episode of Doctor Who. We call this the Doctor Who roundtable. Creative, huh?
Cory: Last week – and some might say, throughout all these roundtable discussions – we’ve been critical of Doctor Who‘s work in series seven. For those who think that we’ve been too negative, I’m hoping that this roundtable feels like a nice palette cleanser because I’m fine with saying that I flat-out loved “The Power of Three.” The cube conceit was simultaneously innovative and simple (though the ending was a bit rushed) and thankfully, much of the episode was dedicated to truly positioning these three characters for what’s going to be a tremendously tough parting of ways (however it happens). I’m still disappointed by the fact that it took us four episodes to start really diving into how interconnected and maybe even codependent The Doctor, Amy and Rory are, but damn, this one did a lot to make up for that disappointment. Right? RIGHT?
Myc: I couldn’t agree more Cory. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for. This was a phenomenal episode. The invasion narrative reminded men of “The Sontaran Stratagem,” but in a good way. I have some very small quibbles about the rushed ending and the automated spaceship (which oddly echoed “The Lodger”), but I was really fine with all of that. I really wish that this episode had followed “Asylum of the Daleks” and we had saved “Dinosaurs” and “Mercy” for later in the season.
Travis: I also really enjoyed this episode. It featured some nice comedic moments. I loved the face Matt Smith made when Twitter was brought up. The Doctor’s look of confusion and disgust at the mere mention of Twitter was humorous.
One thing that I think really worked was the narrative framing device for the episode. Having the episode start with Amy narrating about how the Doctor has influenced her and Rory’s life was interesting. As a storytelling device, it sort of moved the episode towards flashback territory. “This was the time The Doctor came and stayed for a while,” “This was the time of the slow invasion.” I found the use of the past tense as a framing device, acting as almost a fond memory that Amy recounted, worked quite well. This is narratively similar to the season five premiere, “The Eleventh Hour” and the debut of both Amy and this Doctor. It also worked because it further suggests that Amy’s story is truly starting to come full circle, which I like.
Despite all the problems that we have discussed, I feel that they helped to make this one more impactful. Having met Brian Williams in the dinosaurs episode helped make him feel like a natural fit in this episode. He was also able to provide that support at the end, pushing Amy and Rory to go with the Doctor and give up their normal lives for a bit longer. I don’t think it would have had the same impact if this was the first introduction to Brian, which makes me appreciate the Dino episode even more. We also got some interesting insight into who the Doctor is. He is fidgety and unable to sit still for very long.
Tony: I’ll echo the enjoyment of this one. Amy really has come a long way, from needing the Doctor so she could escape her own life at the beginning of season five to finally picturing a life that doesn’t involve the Doctor at all. This one gave me a sense that the “break-up” idea introduced in the premiere is no longer in play.
I am enjoying this quirky (well, quirkier) version of the Doctor that we’ve gotten in the last few episodes. It’s hard not to love the Doctor when he’s propagating a Christmas list or hogging the Wii. However, it makes me wonder that if we’re getting the lovable horse whisper in this half of the season, doesn’t that probably mean we’ll see the darker, more capable of murder kind of Doctor in the second half? This certainly isn’t a coincidence with the likely imminent departure of Amy and Rory.
Cory: Let’s dig into this a bit more specifically. What impressed me most about this episode is how it managed to both complicate and reinforce the running point about the relationship between the Doctor and his companions: Things don’t often end up very well for them. We know this, the Doctor knows this and even Amy and Rory almost certainly know this. Nevertheless, it was compelling to see the episode directly engage with that reality while ultimately coming to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter anyway. Using Brian as the mouthpiece for this idea worked really well I thought, especially in that final scene when he fessed up to the fact that while he might actually be correct, it’s hard to deny wanting to go on the adventures with the Doctor. He wanted to — and did – do the same thing. How can he criticize his son and daughter-in-law for continuing to want the same?
Moreover, even better was this episode’s direct acknowledgement that the Doctor wants to needs Amy and Rory just as much as they want to need him. These last two-plus seasons have well-sketched how attached Amy is to the Doctor and episodes like last week hint that he might actually need them but the outward discussion of how connected he is to these two people was both well-executed and pretty moving. While the Doctor so wants to respect Amy and Rory’s “real” life, he can’t help himself: he wants to be in their lives. Again, the show has certainly explored these ideas before but with the Ponds’ final episode coming around the bend, it’s tough not to get nostalgic and frankly, upset. While still wish that the show would have spent another episode or so on stories like this one, this was a damn good set-up for the sure heartbreak to come.
Myc: What I liked best about the episode is that it actually felt like we were getting important information about the characters. We’ve never really gotten to see Amy and Rory as “real” people. They’ve largely just been the lens through which we’ve been allowed to view the Doctor. This episode makes us think about what they do when they’re not with the Doctor and what that means for them as people. And I loved that. The performances from the core cast were amazing and Mark Williams continued to amaze in his guest turn as Rory’s father. He reminds me a lot of Bernard Cribbins’s character Wilfred Mott from the David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor – not in terms of performance or style, but in terms of what the character does for the show. Really, It is sad that saying goodbye to the Ponds likely means that Williams’ Brian won’t really being returning.
This episode also does a lot for the Doctor, something I’ve considered to be lacking in the previous episodes. We’ve seen in the past how much he cares for his companions and how he wants to protect them, but now we also get to see how much they really mean to him. They’re not just some people he feels responsible for or who he enjoys spending time with. They are deeply ingrained in his view of himself. He seems to define who he is by the people he surrounds himself with, and he sees Amy and Rory not only as companions, but as pieces of himself. Pieces he can’t live without. Which is probably going to make next week very, very sad. Like you said Cory, there were moments in this episode that were genuinely moving. It means a lot to me as a fan to see this sort of development, and this makes the connection between the Doctor and the companions feel more grounded in real emotion.
Tony: In continuing with the great character work that both Cory and Myc touched on, one big note that stood out to me was the Doctor’s brief conversation with the cube. It is no secret that the Doctor adores humanity nor is a secret that he would sacrifice himself if it meant saving people. But that brief conversation is one of the first times that we’ve seen this sentiment communicated by Smith’s Doctor. The focus has been on Amy and the meaning of the Doctor’s identity without much intense discussion of why or how those two things are interlinked. Here though, it feels like the story is coming full circle and I couldn’t be more excited to see the conclusion next week regardless of how sad it will certainly be.
Travis: I am interested in this episode’s villain? Do you guys think this is someone the Doctor will run into in the future or was that race a throwaway obstacle for this one episode?
Tony: I can’t imagine the Shakri will only be a part of this episode. I think it is important to note that this adventure happened in the past, at least the past from a point at which Amy can narrate. I think we can safely expect the Shakri to have a role in future episodes in S7. Seven Shakri. Season seven. Coincidence?!
Myc: This episode presented a bit of a mix message on the Shakri. They are a Gallifreyan legend, and seemingly important to the Doctor (as a story tied to the Time Lords) and the universe (in their function as sort of universal pest exterminators). However, the episode really shortchanges them by making the one we see just a holographic projection as part of the ship’s AI (as in “The Lodger”). It was really disappointing to have figures so legendary that even the Doctor presumed that they were only a story come to life only to have that happen. I’d like to see the Shakri used again in the future but unless they’re somehow connected to the Silence (and how “silence will fall when the first question is asked” and the whole Fields of Trenzalore thing) I’m hoping they don’t spend too much time on it right now. The Silence stuff from last season still feels unresolved and to leave that hanging and introduce a completely new threat in the Shakri would be a little lame.
Travis: I think the Silence arc has been wrapped up. Since the Silence already did fall and the first question has already been asked. This could be an interesting transition for the show with the introduction of the Shakri. Seasons five and six highlighted the Doctor’s place in the universe, with him serving as a boogieman in certain corners of space. Now, the show is hinting that it might introduce one of the Doctor’s boogiemen, a bedtime terror meant to make the children of Gallifrey behave. I am interested in seeing how one of the universe’s biggest boogieman handles these boogiemen.
Myc: I’m not so sure the Silence arc has been wrapped up yet. The end of last season was about letting the Silence think they’ve won. For all intents and purposes, the Doctor is dead. There was a quote at the end of last season by Dorium Maldovar about a prophecy that the Silence feared (the whole Fileds of Trenzalore thing, where the first question is asked and silence must fall) which alluded to the fact that the Silence arc isn’t over, and that’s when Dorium started shouting “Doctor who?” which has been repeated this season. By the time last season ended, the Silence story felt incomplete to me. Ending a season with a prophecy and starting the next season referring to that prophecy, only to ignore it in the next three episodes is odd.
But I do agree that the Shakri would make an interesting recurring villain. I would love that.
Cory: Travis, I’m glad you brought up the villain because that was probably my least favorite part of the episode. The cubes themselves were great and I enjoyed how the episode dragged out the reveal that they had nefarious intentions — because come on, we knew that they did — but once everyone made it to the ship, the episode felt apart a little. I’m not familiar enough with the world to really know who these folks are, why they matter or what they could or could not do so I’m only evaluating them based on this episode. It was just too rushed and the Doctor solving all the problems with a quick click and wave of the sonic screwdriver was too simple for an episode that appeared to be much more complex. I did, however, enjoy the discussion about how the Shakri were worried about the humans exploring and colonizing. Not an original idea but at least there was some texture there.
I guess I don’t care if they return but you three have convinced me that it makes sense, especially considering how expedited the conclusion was here. Myc makes a good point about the Silence and the possibility of their return because it’s interesting that these episodes haven’t really addressed the conclusion of last season much at all. We’ve beat that drum a lot, but it seems like Moffat is throwing a bunch of balls into the air and hoping that they stay up for a very long time. The way I feel about all these characters or races must be similar to how people who only somewhat paid attention to Lost felt at times.
So we only have one episode left of this mini-season. Time to predict what’s going to happen. The preview clip suggests all sorts of sadness and, unfortunately, River. We haven’t talked much about her because she hasn’t been around but I’m already sort of dreading her presence in the “finale.” We know that the Weeping Angels are back as well. What happens? Who dies? Interesting that one of you pointed out that Amy tells the story of 7.04 as if it happened in the past, so does that suggest she might live? Or is that just a device for a single episode?
Myc: I’m a little interested in your dislike of River but that’s a conversation for another day. I love River. I’ve actually kind of missed her presence in these first few episodes, particularly since she is, you know, the Doctor’s wife. And Amy’s Daughter (I still find it amusing that Amy tried to jump the Doctor’s bones one time and now she is his mother-in-law). So predictions: Amy dies. That’s been my prediction since the beginning of the season, and I’m sticking with it. Even if the last episode had an Amy-as-narrator framing device, past-tense doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot in a show about time travel. I mean Amy and Rory have been traveling with the Doctor for ten years from their point of view and we’ve jumped around in their timeline a little, so I don’t see the framing device as ensuring that Amy lives. In fact, I see it as a bit of a red herring. There have been far too many allusions to the death of companions and discussion of the Doctor’s fear of Amy dying for that not to be a possibility. I see Amy dying, Rory being super angry and depressed and River being River.
The Weeping Angles were, at one point, my very favorite Who villain. Now they seem played out and a little ruined. When they were introduced in “Blink”(one of my very favorite episodes ever) they sent people to a different point in time and lived off of their potential energy. This was changed somewhat in season five (“The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone”) and while those episodes were great, they seemed to take some of the terror away from the Angels. There has to be a reason they’re in New York specifically, and something they’re after. I’m very interested to see what that is, and how that involves the Doctor and the companions.
I can’t wait to see what they have going on in New York (and when in New York’s history – the teaser makes it feel really contemporary). The production values for this series have been off the charts, and they actually filmed in New York so I’m interested in both the aesthetics of the episode and what they plan on doing with the city as a set piece. Hopefully it will feel like another character and offer something to the way the story is being told.
So to sum up: looking forward to River; Amy dies; Weeping Angels, meh?; New York has potential.
Travis: It seems from the preview that the Angels are going back to how they were in Blink. Amy says something about them being attracted to time energy and that they sap it from someone. I foresee Amy getting zapped somewhere by an Angel’s touch.
Tony: I’m going to stick with my original prediction that Amy is sent somewhere in time that the Doctor cannot get to. I wouldn’t put it past Moffat to write Amy into some Time Lord mythos by setting her into a place that is time locked. It would offer up an emotional departure, a reason for Rory not to stay with the Doctor and keep the show (somewhat) light-hearted by not killing off main characters that fans have a strong emotional attachment to (think Rose’s departure). The Angels reverting to their original form seems to point in that direction. Also, Statue of Liberty Angel! It’s going to happen!
Cory: I like that idea Tony. Moffat is the kind of writer who wants to subvert expectations and the presumption here is that Amy dies. So maybe something “worse than death” happens to her. I still love the idea of Rory sticking around in some fashion, angry and angsty, but that’s probably just blind wishful thinking on my point. The one prediction I’m confident of? I’ll probably cry. Can’t wait to discuss it with you gents.