Thoughts on “The Power of Three”

Yesterday’s new Doctor Who had Amy, Rory, and the Doctor trying to stop the slow invasion of the small cubes.  The end of the episode points out how the power of three refers to cubes (to cube something, you raise it to the third power) and the power of Amy, Rory, and the Doctor together.  This episode was a good way to celebrate the trio before we say good-bye to the Ponds in next weeks episode.  I also noticed how many shots in this episode consist of the three travelers in the frame together, just like in the picture below, further emphasizing the threesome.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory observe the cubes.

This episode was another lighthearted one, after the rather serious morality issues in “A Town Called Mercy” and what I can only assume will be a very serious farewell episode for the Ponds next week.  The premise is this: mysteriously, millions of tiny cubes have appeared all over the planet.  They are all identical, but they appear to do nothing. The Doctor comes to investigate (and finds the waiting in real-time impossible to take) and UNIT returns, lead by Kate Stewart.  As always, there will be plenty of spoilers, and plenty of speculation, ahead.

First, I was excited by the return of UNIT, since I’m a huge fan of the Pertwee years and I felt that they did a good job with it in this episode.  I especially enjoyed that the woman leading UNIT was the Brigadier’s daughter (she dropped the Lethbridge to avoid getting special treatment).  It was a nice way to pay tribute to Nicholas Courtney and the character he created.

I also liked that Kate made UNIT less the military outfit that it was when we last saw it in season 4 (in “The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky”).  It always was a military outfit, but when the Doctor was working with it, it had a strong focus on science as well.  It was nice to see that element brought back in this story.  I wish that Kate could have a bit more to do in the story, and that her character could have been developed a bit more, but, who knows, maybe she’ll be back in the near future.

And, speaking of returning characters, this episode saw the return of Rory’s dad Brian.  I enjoyed his appearance in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” so I was glad to see him return.  Mark Williams plays the character well, so he brings a lot of humor to the show in his appearances.  I loved the diligence with which he kept his log about the cubes, even after everyone else had pretty much started ignoring them.

I thought the idea of an invasion by tiny cubes was clever.  It was also interesting when they all activated and started doing random things like playing music or shooting lasers.  My only criticism was that the invasion was so slow, and so much in the background of the episode (as I think it was supposed to be, since that was the strategy of the Shakri, to let the cubes just sit long enough to blend into the background until they were needed), that the discovery of what they were used for and who was behind the invasion was a bit anti climactic.

I was also left a bit confused by the plan of the Shakri.  I get that they are the “pest control” of the universe, and wanted to eliminate the human race before it starts colonizing other planets.  However, I wasn’t sure how the men with the cube-like mouths fit into the plan, what exactly the little girl was doing, or why they were bringing humans on the Shakri ship.

I think the lack of explanation might be because the main purpose for this story  is to show the double life the Ponds have been living.  On one hand, they live a normal life on earth where Amy writes travel articles and Rory is a nurse.  However, their involvement with the Doctor means that this life is constantly being interrupted by their second life, the time they spend in the TARDIS.

The whole season so far has contained references to Amy and Rory having to choose which life they want.  In “A Town Called Mercy,” they even ask to return home, rather than go on another adventure.  Which is why I found the ending of this episode so interesting.  Brian encourages Amy and Rory to go with the Doctor, which of course, they do.  It seems the whole Amy and Rory might decided to leave the Doctor might be a red herring.  Neither they, nor the Doctor, are able to get by without the other.

Brian watches the Doctor say good bye to Amy and Rory.

This brings me to the speculation I mentioned earlier.  Part of the fun of Moffat’s tenure at the helm of the show is trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.  Ever since I heard about the departure of the Pond’s in “The Angels Take Manhattan” I’ve had a theory.  Since I am not Steven Moffat, it is most likely completely wrong, but here it is.

The Weeping Angels, back in their first appearance, the angels “killed” by sending people back in time and feeding off of the time energy that remained of that person’s life.  So, I’m thinking that this might be what happens to Amy and Rory (in my prediction they get sent back in time together, because I really don’t want them to be separated).  The only way that they are going to stop traveling with the Doctor is if they are physically unable to, and that would do it.  The Doctor wouldn’t know where in time to look for them.  Then Steven Moffat’s claim that someone will die, for real this time, could come true.  Amy or Rory (or both of them) could die from old age.  To speculate even further (and even more wildly), I heard that there will be some revelations about River, so what if they get sent back to a point at which they could find River and raise her? Since Amy can’t have children, this would give them a chance to raise the daughter they had together.  We never did see who Mels was living with (or what happened to River between 1969 and going to school with Amy and Rory).  It could be a nice way to bring closure to that storyline.

Amy and the Doctor share a rare peaceful moment.

Anyway, to get back to “The Power of Three,” I enjoyed this weeks episode, even if this is one where the plot is less important than the interactions between the characters.  It was fun to see the Doctor trying to adapt to Amy and Rory’s way of life instead of vice versa. The mystery of the cubes was clever, and it was a nice was to really showcase the relationship that has developed between the Ponds and the Doctor.  The slow invasion allowed for plenty of interesting moments between the characters, reminding the viewer of how strong the bond is between them.

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Thoughts on “A Town Called Mercy”

I was really looking forward to this episode.  It featured prominently in the first promos for season seven and it looked…well, awesome.  The Doctor in the old west, battling a cool looking cyborg, that’s got to be great, right?  Unfortunately, I have to  admit that the episode was disappointing.  However, I wouldn’t say it was a bad episode; there’s a lot of aspects to it that I enjoyed and/or appreciated.

The Doctor plays marshal to the town as Amy and Rory look on.

The into to the episode was great.  The cyborg has found his target and tells him to make piece with his gods before he dies.  After the man is dying, he asks the cyborg if there are any more of them left to kill.  The cyborg tells him that there is one more left to die: the doctor.

The set up leads you to believe that the cyborg is after *the* Doctor, as we see the TARDIS materialize in the old west. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory find a border of stones and wood laid around a small town, as well as a keep out sign.  To the Doctor, this is, of course, an invitation.  Upon entering the town, he realizes that the town has electricity about 10 years too early, which intrigues him even further.  He enters the local saloon, and introduces himself as the Doctor.  The townsfolk ask if he is an alien doctor.  When he says yes, they grab him and dump him beyond the stone and wood border for “the gunslinger” (which is what they call the cyborg).  The town marshal saves him, and the Doctor then meets the real alien doctor, Kahler Jex, for whom the gunslinger is searching.

As always, there are plenty of spoilers coming up, from here on out.  First, the Doctor can apparently speak horse now too.  He meets a male horse named Susan, which provides a bit of comic relief in what was really an episode dealing with heavy subjects.  This episode also features the Doctor with a gun.  He threatens Jex with one to keep him from reentering the town.  I know it’s the old west, so what else would he use, but it seemed odd that the Doctor would use a gun so readily, when he has been so steadfastly opposed to them since the reboot of the series.

That’s probably enough random observations for now.  What I’d really like to get into is the story itself.  This episode is loaded with all the tropes of a western: guns, Stetsons, a small town in the middle of nowhere, a mysterious stranger coming to town, deserted streets, marshals, angry mobs of townsfolk, even a showdown at high noon.  All of these really gave the episode the look of a great old western.

Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t match these elements.  Everyone knows that fundamentally, the western is a struggle between good and evil.  A great western has other levels to the story (like messages about loyalty, the struggle to tame nature, or the “wild” west vs. the civilized west), but the climax is always the big showdown between good and evil.  The hero may be flawed, but facing evil usually helps to redeem his character’s past mistakes.  The episode never really built to that kind of western climactic showdown because your idea of who the villain was kept shifting.  Jex saved the town from a cholera epidemic and has been using his advanced knowledge of things to help the town since he arrived, so clearly the cyborg is the bad guy.  However, then the Doctor learns that Jex is the creator of the cyborg and is responsible for turning innocent people into killing machines and then using them to end a lengthy war.  Now, the gunslinger doesn’t look so bad.  He doesn’t want to kill innocent people, he just wants to kill Jex in revenge for what he did.  Suddenly, the Doctor takes his turn as the bad guy when he wants to turn Jex over to the gunslinger, but Amy persuades him not to.  Who exactly is our bad guy now? It’s not clear.

I liked the exploration of all the shades of grey in our three main characters.  The episode was also making a subtle comment on the Doctor’s own previous actions during the time war (although it’s never explicitly stated).  He too, like Jex, has been forced to do things of which he’s not proud. The end of the story suggests that everyone has an opportunity to redeem him or herself, no matter what their past, if you show them mercy (hence the name of the town).

Unfortunately, this lead to a very anticlimactic showdown.  It’s hard to have a showdown between characters when you don’t know which characters you’re for or against.  I have to admit that I was similarly disappointed in Toby Whithouse’s episode last year, “The God Complex.”  That had a real The Shining vibe to it, and I thought it dealt with deeper psychological issues, but I was let down by the ending.

I found it interesting that this episode came immediately after the Doctor showed Solomon no mercy in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” However, that decision was very clearly condoned in the previous episode, so that seemed to contradict the message of this episode (not that I would argue that Solomon should have been shown mercy, it’s just something I noticed).

My other criticism was the neglect of basically every other character in the story.  The character of the preacher seemed like he could have been interesting, but he didn’t have much of purpose in the story.  Even Amy and Rory, especially Rory are on the sidelines of this one.  Amy talks the Doctor into showing Jex Mercy, but then she and Rory sit out most of the rest of the story.

The Gunslinger

I know I’ve been dwelling on the negative, but I did find the episode interesting.  It took a bit of a chance in dealing with issues of morality and redemption, which are great themes for a western, but I didn’t feel that they were successfully used to make the story work as a western.  I did however, love the ending, in which the cyborg becomes the new marshall of Mercy.  I thought maybe the story would have worked better if it had been about the redemption of the gunslinger, going from literally being a killing machine to regaining his humanity.

Next week’s episode, “The Power of Three,” sees the return of UNIT, so count me intrigued…

Thoughts on “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive about this week’s Doctor Who episode.  The title and the clips I’d seem suggested that this episode would be on the silly side, and I wondered if the premise of dinosaurs on a spaceship would be a gimmick or if there would be an actual engaging story involved.  I was pleasantly surprised by the episode, even though I thought it had some weak points.

Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, and Mark Williams get ready for their dinosaur ride.

The premise is quite simple: about 300 years in the future, an unidentified spaceship is traveling towards earth.  The Indian Space Agency (I might be a bit off on the name) is going to launch a missile at it, unless the Doctor can divert its course.  He decides that this calls for a gang, so he recruits Queen Nefertiti, Riddell, a turn of the century (twentieth century , that is) big game hunter, the Ponds, and, quite by accident, Rory’s father Brian.  The Doctor brings his gang on board the mysterious ship, which they quickly realize is carrying a cargo of dinosaurs.

From here on out, spoilers abound.  The gang ends up being divided into two smaller groups: the Doctor, Rory, and Brian get teleported down to the engine room (by the way, the ship is powered by ocean waves, so it looks like they were sent down to a beach) and are chased by some pterodactyls into a cave.  They are then captured by two very comical robots, and taken to their controller Solomon.  Solomon is basically a space pirate who boarded the ship and needs the “doctor” to fix his injured legs.

In the mean time, Amy takes over the Doctor’s role with her two “companions” (yes, she even calls them that) Nefertiti and Riddell.  She uses the ship’s computer to discover that they are on board an ark, created by the Silurians.  She also learns that the ship used to contain many Silurians as well, but they are all gone now.

By the end of the episode, it is revealed that Solomon and his robots killed the thousands of Silurians on board so that he could steal the precious cargo of dinosaurs and sell it.  He attempts to escape with Nefertiti to replace the dinosaurs that he can’t fit on his ship, but the Doctor manages to get Nefertiti off of the ship, destroy the robots, and send the missile after Solomon and his ship (plus, throw in a ride on a stegosaurus that likes to play fetch).

Overall,I enjoyed this episode, but I didn’t think it was a great episode.  It was a fun story.  I don’t feel like every story has to be dark and linked to a multi episode arc (for example, I loved “The Lodger” in season five), but I felt like the story could have been stronger.  Sometimes it felt like there were too many characters.  It didn’t feel like Riddell and Nefertiti were able to be developed very much in this story.  I wasn’t even exactly sure why Nefertiti was there at all, except that she was a valuable historical figure for Solomon to try to steal.  I would have like to see more of those two, but I felt they got lost in all of the things that were going on in the story.

Amy and her “companions” Nefertiti and Riddell

I did, however, enjoy Amy in the Doctor’s role with her two companions.  I felt that this episode provided more evidence of how far the characters of Amy and Rory have come since they first started traveling with the Doctor.  Amy seems every bit as competent as the Doctor, and Rory has really come into his own.  He is able to look after his father, and even displays some of his nursing training.  I loved the interaction between him and his father (although I would think that his father would remember the Doctor from his dramatic entrance at their wedding). I wished the episode could have been a bit more focused on Brian rather than him just being one of many pieces to the story.

I’ve read some reactions to the episode where they were surprised that the Doctor would send Solomon off to his death.  I didn’t think this was surprising at all.  He basically murdered thousands of Silurians in cold blood (no pun intended) and was clearly established as an evil man (he even has his robots kill the friendly, puppy-like stegosaurus).  The Doctor has killed (or stood by while someone was killed) before, even though he would prefer not to.  Just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Abzorbaloff, the Racnoss, the plasmavore in “Smith and Jones,” not to mention the countless Daleks and Cybermen.

The Doctor looks at Amy with concern in a rare peaceful moment.

Of course, I can’t end this review without mentioning the moment of foreshadowing.  We learn that before this adventure, the Doctor hadn’t seen Amy and Rory for 10 months.  Amy confesses that she has difficulty keeping a job (or basically getting too involved in anything) because she’s always waiting for the Doctor to come.  She worries that he’s trying to ween her off of him, to which he assures her that he is not.  He promises that she will be around until the end of him, to which Amy replies, “or vice versa.” And then there is a long pause, with the Doctor looking concerned.  He has the same expression on his face later, when he watches Brian, Rory, and Amy look down on the Earth from space.  Does he know something about Amy’s fate?  Or did he finally realize that he is going to have to say good-bye to Amy at some point, either for her own good or out of necessity? I guess the next three episodes will have to answer that question.

Thoughts on “Asylum of the Daleks”

Yes, I’m adding my thoughts to the already countless posts about last night’s new episode of Doctor Who.  I probably should also say that spoilers abound in what I’m about to write, so if you  haven’t seen it yet, you probably don’t want to read this yet (unless you’re one of those people who enjoy knowing what’s going to happen before you see something, in which case, continue reading).

Movie style poster for “Asylum of the Daleks”

As of right now, I wouldn’t place it among the best episodes, but I thought it was very good.  It was the first true Steven Moffat penned Dalek episode, and I quite enjoyed his take.  Instead of the Daleks out to conquer the earth (or another planet), they needed help from the Doctor. I quite enjoyed the conversation he had with the Dalek Prime Minister, and I loved the addition of the people who had been turned into Daleks (including the eerie blue eyestalk that would emerge).

Of course the huge surprise in this episode was the debut of Jenna Louise Colman, the Doctor’s next companion.  She played Oswin Oswald, a human whose ship crashed into the Dalek asylum.  She is the typical Steven Moffat woman: clever, flirty, witty, and of course attractive (and wearing a short skirt).  I have to admit that I suspected the big plot twist at the end (that Oswin was, in fact,  a Dalek), but I was expecting one of the human looking ones, not a full-blown Dalek.  And, of course, I kept thinking that my suspicions must be wrong because I knew that she becomes the new companion in the Christmas special.  I’m really intrigued to see how Moffat is going to pull that off. I did wonder how she was able to communicate with the Doctor and his companions using her normal voice or most of the episode, but I guess you just have to accept that somehow the conversion to a Dalek allows her to speak in her own voice inside of the Dalek shell.

I have been sad that this will be the final series of episodes with Amy and Rory, but this was a great way to introduce the new companion.  She won’t be a completely new and familiar character when she takes over, and pretty much everyone is waiting to see how the Oswin that was turned into a Dalek here is connected to Clara, the new companion.  Are they the same person? Are they related (like Martha and her identical cousin Adeola or Gwen and her identical ancestor Gwyneth)? It’ll be interesting to see what Moffat has in store.

This episode also allowed for some great performances from Karen Gillian and Arthur Darville.  They managed to make their scenes quite touching, without disrupting the flow of the action.  The one criticism I would have is the out of the blue divorce of Amy and Rory.  I can go with the fact that Amy was giving him up because she thought he’d be happier with someone who could have children, but did she really think this would be a deal breaker with Rory?  He waited 2,000 years outside the pandorica, just to protect her.  In “The Girl Who Waited” he was willing to accept the much older Amy, who probably would not have been able to give him children either.  I could see there being tension between them, and problems, but I couldn’t see how it could have gone so far as to lead to a divorce.  Of course, the Doctor was able to fix their relationship, and I’m wondering if the whole Amy not being able to have children storyline will have a pay off at the end of this group of episodes.

I remember reading somewhere that Karen Gillian mentioned something about new information about Amy not raising River, so I wonder if somehow Amy and Rory will be able to go back in time and raise their daughter.  Their final episode does contain the weeping angels, who, at least in Blink, sent people back to a different time.  Some people have pointed out that the old Scottish woman in “The Eleventh Hour” is wearing a pin that seems to be the same as one worn by River in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” but I’m not completely convinced.  It would, however, be an interesting end to the Pond’s story.  Of course, I like this version because I want Amy and Rory to get a happy ending.  It seems like after all they’ve been through, they deserve on.  All of this is just completely ideal speculation on my part, of course.

This episode also brought up the “first question,” mentioned in last season’s finale.  When the Doctor leaves the Dalek parliament behind (after Oswin has erased him from the Daleks memories), all the Daleks are left asking “Doctor who?” The Doctor himself even repeats this when he is alone in the TARDIS.

The Doctor speaks to the Dalek parliament

Overall, I thought it was another great first episode. Steven Moffat does a great job of opening with an episode that leaves you with more questions than it answers.  It really makes you excited for the season ahead and all the possibilities.  It was after reading other opinions of “Asylum of the Daleks” that I appreciated it even more.  The wide variety of theories that it sparked is amazing.  I love that just one episode can spark so much discussion and theories amongst Whovians.  I can’t wait to see what the seeds planted in this episode blossom into.