Hai! (The Power of Three)

(66 comments)

It's basically what watching this feels like.
A reminder that I'm doing a launch party for the latest TARDIS Eruditorum book at the Way Station in Brooklyn tomorrow at 3:30 PM. It's at 683 Washington Ave. I hope to see you there.

It’s September 22nd, 2012. Script is at number one, with Ne-Yo, Pink, Flo Rida, and Fun also charting. In news, Dale Cregan kills two police officers and is arrested, and the NHL begins a player lockout. While on television, it’s Chris Chibnall’s second effort for Season Seven, The Power of Three.

The Power of Three has its faults, most of them seemingly fairly broad, and few of them actually the objections usually raised. Yes, the villain is a bit rubbish, but that’s largely the point. This isn’t actually a story about alien invasion, it’s a story about the Ponds. It’s the first time we really start to see the narrative acceleration of Season Seven used with some purpose and deliberateness - the resolution of the plot is sped through because it’s not actually the part of the story that matters. The beats are all there, they’re just not given room to breathe. Really, the only two solid criticisms are that “the year of the slow invasion, when the Doctor came to stay” is rather badly undermined by him going away for the bulk of the year, and the closing monologue, with its painfully ham-fisted integration of the title, is absolutely wretched.

But on the whole, we have a story where the oddness of the previous three finally starts to be justified. I mean, in its own way it was in Asylum of the Daleks, which was at least a generative and productive hot mess. This is a simpler thing, though - a story that uses the sped up narrative to fit unusual things in the margins of a Doctor Who story. It’s not, obviously, the first time we’ve played in the margins of Doctor Who stories - that’s what Love and Monsters and Blink were for. But it’s the first time we’ve done it without largely removing the Doctor Who story from focus. Instead of looking at a Doctor Who adventure an odd angle, we’ve got a Doctor Who adventure playing out at an odd speed, so that we get to put the emphasis on different parts. However stuttering the execution, in hindsight, this is the first time they actually show us where this is all going, creatively. 

More interesting, however, is the title. Under the fan nomenclature that sprung up around the new series, The Power of Three refers clearly not just to the numerical operation of “cubing” a number, nor just to the Doctor-Amy-Rory triad, but to the iteration of the Doctor played by Jon Pertwee from 1970-74. And true enough, Three looms large over this entire story. As he looms large over any “invasion of Earth” story, that being the format that defines his tenure. This is somewhat odd if one stops to think about it for too long - over his five years and twenty-four stories, only Spearhead From Space, Terror of the Autons, The Claws of Axos, and Planet of the Spiders are actually alien invasions as such. But much like the phrase “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow,” the legacy of Three is distinct from the actual twenty-four stories that make up his tenure. 

Certainly The Power of Three is invested in trying to reconstruct the infrastructure of the early seventies, with a standing guest cast to be put into service for earth-based adventures. Implicit in this is the continual link to the present day - something that was at least briefly questions in the process of designing Clara, where there were a few months in which she was named Beryl and was going to be the Victorian version we see in The Snowmen. (This was very early on - prior to casting Coleman.) But ultimately, that idea was rejected, and the assumption that we absolutely must have a character from present-day Earth remains a default axiom of the series. And likewise, because the series must exist in contact with the present day, the present day must always be one of the major settings of the series. 

Part of this is simply the growing aggregate of what the series has been in the past, which in turn defines what it will be in the future. The truth is that for an enormously successful period of its history, Doctor Who was tethered to the present day, and unleashing scary things, whether proper alien invasions or not, into contemporary settings was one of its basic functions. That cannot be pried out of Doctor Who, regardless of how much one likes the trick. (And I’m not a huge fan - looking at my rankings of stories, contemporary Earth ones are very poorly represented in the upper places, and when I do like contemporary Earth stories, they tend to be small affairs.) 

And yet it seems strange that this must be accomplished with the same military organization the Doctor worked with in the 1970s, under the command of the daughter of the primary character associated with that organization, with her history being plucked consciously and explicitly from an obscure 90s tie-in video. It’s not that such fetishization of the past is unusual, and sure, if any character is going to get a second generation replacement it’s the Brigadier, but it’s curious that the present is the only place in which the series feels the need to lay down roots like this. Especially given that the effect is in part to create a sense of distance. The UNIT stories were famously only sort of set in the present day, with a sizable contingent of fans being absolutely dead certain that they took place in the 1980s. This is a weak reading, as I’ve argued elsewhere, but it’s persistence highlights a strange tendency inherent in UNIT and the big alien invasions, which is to make it difficult to believe Doctor Who to take place in our own world. 

Now, on one level, this is hardly a problem. After all, it doesn’t. The TARDIS is made up, much like Robin Hood. The Zygons never lurked beneath Loch Ness. The last time you tripped over nothing was not, in fact, a rotting Silence corpse. But on the other, there is a difference in how “our world with things you don’t know about” and “not our world” read. Up until The War Machines, it was possible to read Doctor Who as taking place in a world identical to ours - to believe that, if you panned the camera steadily from Totters Lane to our own houses, you would find us, staring at our television screens, perfectly represented in the Doctor Who universe. After, this became impossible. Occasional retcons and lampshadings have attempted to reassert this, but a double negation is not the same as never having been rejected in the first place. The show has taken repeated steps to push us out of its fiction.

And Three represents the zenith of this. An extended period in which Doctor Who loudly shouted that it is not set in our world. In some ways, this, and not the fact that sometimes the Doctor’s allies are soldiers, is the most straightforwardly objectionable aspect of the era, which I’ve always presented as something of a problem. And it clearly is. Of the first four Doctors - that is, the ones who played the part during the relatively uninterrupted period in which Doctor Who was consistently adjacent to the beating heart of British culture and identity - Three is unique in having never really been used as the model for later ones. The default position of all Doctors is Four. Whenever the Doctor gets a bit crankier and mysterious, it’s a reversion to One. Whenever he gets impish and mercurial, it’s Two. But nobody ever goes for Three. Not even Capaldi, for all the similarity in facial structure and coat lining. Three, for all his popularity and success, was apparently a dead end. 

And yet he still has his power. And this comes from the very root of Three’s era: the fact that it pushes the viewer out of the world. Because, of course, this creates a lack within the narrative. If it is not our world, if we do not exist in it, then we are free to project ourselves into it. If we can pan from Totter’s Lane to our doorsteps and find ourselves fully represented within the narrative, then all we can do is wait passively for the TARDIS to arrive in our living room. But if we would not find ourselves anywhere within the world of the Doctor then we have an altogether different power, which is the ability to create ourselves. Here we return to the particulars of negation. What is important is that Three rejects us - that is, that it actively establishes a difference between the screen-world and our world. It’s not a matter of declaring the world of Doctor Who to not be our world, but a continual active pushing against the viewer - of telling use we don’t exist in their world, even as it leaves innumerable gaps for us to squirm through.

In this regard the weirdness of Three as a character makes sense. Because his role is to create a barrier that we cannot pass through, he’s the one Doctor who must be almost completely static. The reason for this, though, is that he instead pushes the mercurial nature of the role out to everything else. It’s the classic trick of emboitment - by serving as a rigid box of paternal charm, he is capable of ensnaring the entire world within his fundamentally mad nature. This is why Three can never quite be repeated: because his central trick is to swap the basic paradigm of inside and outside, so that the world becomes mad and mercurial around him. So in lieu of ever reiterating him, the show reiterates the world that existed around him, sustaining the glorious tension that causes us to go poking around the requisite portals to faerie.

And this, more than anything, is what The Power of Three ultimately explores. It embodies the basic tension of Three by having the Doctor simultaneously be drawn into the world and pushed out of it. The Doctor does not belong in the everyday world of the Ponds. That world necessarily resists him. But equally, he cannot exit it. Because, of course, he has the one thing Three himself lacked: the TARDIS. The magical box that is the portal to faerie. This is another essential part of why Three worked in the early seventies and cannot now - because in the absence of a magical box, the Doctor and the television itself filled the role. But this was only possible because it coincided with a conspicuous technological leap in televisual technology - with the fact that the television was now in color, and was thus ostentatious and visible in a way that it had not previously been. 

Now we are back to the standard paradigm, employed when the television has become invisible again, if indeed it’s even a television at all and not some other screen. Doctor Who is decoupled from its medium, and instead has to function on its conceptual merits alone. And so the Doctor returns to his now-standard role as the point of contact between the two worlds. He cannot exist in “our world” or “not our world” entirely, because his entire purpose is to demonstrate that these are not rigid categories in the first place. 


And so we get the central magic trick of The Power of Three, which is that a story that is seemingly about the Ponds and their double lives is in fact about the means by which they can have two lives in the first place. It was never a story about these characters, but about the fact that there exists something on the other side of their lives. This is, after all, the only thing a first face can ever be: the first face you’ve ever looked away from. This is the real power of Three - as a set of signifiers that are at once iconic and rejected, he becomes the enduring symbol of the show moving forward. 

Comments

frank fair 2 years, 11 months ago

What really interests me about Power of Three is firstly it's fast creation. It was originally intended for there to be 4 episodes to send off the Ponds, but then, very late in the day, while he was writing Angels Take Manhattan, Moffat decided there should be another Pond story to show them developing and growing. So this was hastily commissioned and shot after the rest of 7a, while they'd started doing the Clara stories. A very fast genesis for a non-throwaway episode .For all the talk of Series 7 being safer it's actually dominated by Steven Moffat second guessing himself and making big changes comparatively late in the day: Clara not being the Victorian Beryl (while scripts were being written), Clara being in Asylum, The massive rewrite of Name of the Doctor, 2 weeks before shooting. It's now impossible to imagine Series 7 without these changes

The second most interesting thing about Po3 is how much of this story was changed in the editing, more than any other. It's structure was always slightly unusual, the Doctor being forced to stay etc, but when it was felt the episode wasn't working it was overhauled. Scenes were cut down to make them go faster, narration was added to make things clearer, new scenes were added, and shot scenes were reordered to put more emphasis on Rory and Amy. The biggest change was the Shakrii, originally Steven Berkoff had a larger role, and played a living alien adversary, not a talking propaganda poster. The Doctor, Amy and Rory worked together to kill him and save the human race. When it was felt this didn't work, a few reshot closeups, and the magic of editing made it seem as though Berkoff was playing an unresponsive hologram

To me, it shows how visually ambitious and creative the show was becoming. For the first time in Who's TV history, editing changed the mood and flow of the story and the nature of the villain. Beast Below did something similar but not on this scale. Imagine if stories like Twin Dilemma or even Fear Her had had people who could reshape their stories like this.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 11 months ago

"THE TALLY!"

That is all.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

The main problem as I see it is that despite being pitched as high concept ('What happens if the Doctor becomes part of the Ponds' life, what happens if the Ponds have to choose between their two lives?') it has no idea how to deal with those questions, and keeps doing the return of UNIT or RTD-era style aliens on the news. It 's one thing to have a shoddy alien invasion if you're really interested in the Ponds' home life; but if the plot keeps sneaking away from the ostensible premise back to the alien invasion you do want the invasion to be a bit better conceived.
Also, that being the case, billing the invasion as the Time Lord Bogeyman is bathetic. It suddenly raises the spectre of Hinchcliffe-era ancient villains, and if you're going to raise that spectre, you'd better be on top aesthetic form in order to sustain the comparison.

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peeeeeeet 2 years, 11 months ago

Under the fan nomenclature that sprung up around the new series

If you mean the use of cardinals instead of ordinals, that predates the new series by quite a way - people on RADW were doing it around 2001.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

The proper names for the Doctors are:
1 = Hartnell
10=Troughton
11=Pertwee
100=T. Baker
101=Davison
110=C. Baker
111=McCoy
1000=McGann
1001=Eccleston
1010=Tennant
1011=Smith
1100=Capaldi

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

The Shakri aren't quite Hinchcliffian, though. Certainly they're not "billed" in the conventional sense -- where the presence of the ancient horror is flagged early on to build tension. We don't get that here; it's RTD that's invoked in the early going. If anything, the Hinchcliffian ethos is rejected, as the cubes and the Shakri are pretty much treated as rubbish, for laughs, not for tension.

Rather, the Shakri is simply mythology itself, and specifically a mythology of judgment. Interestingly, the Doctor ends up taking the role of Christ the Advocate, and one more kin to its conception in Philip K Dick's Divine Invasion than anything else. In other words, the Shakri spaceship is really a Pertwee-era look at the Near Death Experience, all the way down to the set design.

And this too is rejected. The moment of grace comes from Brian, the new icon taken from us too soon, whose near-death allows him to let go of his children and push them out the door into the adventures that they surely love, kind of like a parent who finally consents to letting their kids watch Doctor Who even though they know they'll be wakened by terrible dreams in the dead of night.

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ferret 2 years, 11 months ago

You forgot Hurt ;-)
00110001 00110001 00111001 00100000 00110000 00111001 00110111 00100000 00110001 00110001 00110100

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Finding out this episode's entire production was out of order reveals a lot about why this story doesn't feel like it's properly set in 7a. The "Back into the shadows" arc not only isn't present, it's outright rejected by introducing Kate Stewart, who recognizes the Doctor on sight simply by reputation, and confirms it with her neat little handheld x-ray. Eggs barely get a look in either, with Brian suggesting them as part of his various suggestions of what the cubes could be. Knowing that Brian was only supposed to appear in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship suddenly makes Angels Take Manhattan make so much more sense, as well, specifically his excision and banishment to PS. Lucky that Ella and Augustus Pond didn't get a look-in this episode too, or we'd have to cram them in there as well.

At least three times, the Cubes are identified with marketing. Twice in speculation on the news, and a third time on The Apprentice (I assume). It's tempting to construct some metaphor based on this.

If you're willing to look for it, The Power of Three does still have an ambiguous date. It's shortly before the Ponds cease to exist in the 21st century, but they're earlier seen as seemingly older versions of themselves from 2020 in The Hungry Earth, which also flirts with the Pertwee era in terms of plot, theme, and tone. This would seem to set the story, improbably, around 2019, 2020. Meanwhile, Day of the Doctor cannot take place very long after Name of the Doctor, the earthbound portion of which takes place in 2013. And in Day, Kate Stewart and the 11th Doctor are on good terms, yet she only knows of him by reputation in Three. You can still reconcile it all easily enough (The Hungry Earth's end is already retconned within its own text, being retconned by a later story makes perfect sense), but if you want, you can imagine this conscious throwback to the 3rd Doctor era is itself set ambiguously in the present and in the next decade. For that matter, The Hungry Earth is set in 2020 and yet doesn't look any different from 2011 whatsoever.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

Hinchcliffe usually has the ancient evil's servitors show up first, and then we only find out that there's a legendary evil behind it all at the end of episode two, if not later.
I think my point though is that Hinchcliffe is still one of the highs of Doctor Who. It's easy to treat the alien invasion plot as silly and reject because there've been enough alien invasions done silly when the writers were trying to do them straight. But if you're going to try to invoke Holmes-Hinchcliffe to reject it, you've got to show that you've got something better to replace it with. And Chibnall doesn't here really.

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peeeeeeet 2 years, 11 months ago

Nah. I'm all about the non-binary over here! ;)

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I like the way that fits with Phil's 'Three' angle but blimey, you've just invented a new UNIT dating controversy.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I felt the eventual and drawn out reveal of what the cubes actually where to be an incredibly disappointing anti-climax. If only this story had had the courage of its convictions of Listen and realised that you don't always have to have a monster. Our imaginations are sometimes enough.

I'd also add that Berkoff was severely under utilised. The man is a force of nature and one of the most inventive physical actors of his generation. For those who only know him as an occasional Bond villain you should know that he pretty much invented Physical Theatre as a writing and performing technique in the '70s and 80s. Google him. Check out his productions of Kafka's Metamorphosis and The Trial. To reduce him to a static hologram is a ridiculous waste of his talents.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Everything already exists in the marble, waiting to be carved out of it. So long as we have a narrative about time travel, there's ambiguous dating to be found, somewhere.

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Heath 2 years, 11 months ago

This whole episode should have been a full length Pond Life instead.

Love an Ood.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

"Not even Capaldi, for all the similarity in facial structure and coat lining." Well, Capaldi IS the first Doctor since Three to use Venusian Aikido. A few of the previous Doctors might have been physical enough to punch Robin Hood (the probably only Six), but that "Hai!" was, to me, Capaldi channeling Pertwee.

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xen trilus 2 years, 11 months ago

I can pinpoint the exact moment at which this one starts to fall flat for me. The Doctor and Amy have a fairly sweet exchange in which she tells of how the TARDIS travel is starting to feel like running away from real people and real purpose. The Doctor suggests that, because of the ever-changing nature of the cosmos, he's running 'to' things rather than away from them. (Whether that's wholly true is debatable.) IIRC it's also where the 'Eleven's first interaction with Amelia left a tangible mark on him' thing becomes explicit; I'd wager it shaped his affinity with childhood and struggles with real mortality.

That's all nice; and then it's crudely interrupted, the Doctor has an abrupt 'plot realisation' moment, the music honks back in - and everything after that is a blur involving defibrillators, heart attacks, waving a sonic at a screen, and hospital patients someone forgot to remove from the spaceship.

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Froborr 2 years, 11 months ago

I haven't rewatched any of 7a, but I distinctly recall that at the time this was my favorite episode of the half-season.

Another Three: This is the third and final story about Eleven trying to adapt to living on contemporary Earth.

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Nyq Only 2 years, 11 months ago

Base 4, starting at zero works much better
0 = Hartnell
1=Troughton
2=Pertwee
3=T. Baker
10=Davison
11=C. Baker
12=McCoy
13=McGann
20=Eccleston
21=Tennant
22=Smith
23=Hurt
30=Capaldi

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macrogers 2 years, 11 months ago

I find this episode a touch painful to watch because it sets up what for me was the only major botch thus far of the Moffat era. (The mistakes of Season 6, for me, were dwarfed by the triumphs.) I thought Power Of Three was setting up a perfect ending for the Ponds - most specifically for Amy, who's clearly the one with the decision-making power regarding travel with the Doctor. Watching Power I was taken back to the Doctor holding Amy by the ankle in Beast Below, and I remember thinking, "Oh shit, this is it! This is Wendy outgrowing Peter!" I found that incredibly sad but incredibly powerful - we were going to see the first companion not leaving for love or trauma or a new mission, but because they were *putting away childish things.* In an era with a fairy-tale aesthetic, where the companion first met the Doctor as a child, where the Doctor himself was so often portrayed as a big kid, this struck me as a heartbreaking but perfect conclusion. It didn't bother me that Chibnall wasn't the greatest at depicting that in this story - he was fine, no more - because I was thinking Moffat would swing in to bring it home the following week. He was going to write Amy breaking up with the Doctor, telling him not to come to their house anymore, and the Doctor choosing to respect that. But, you know, Moffat-style.

And then we had Angels Take Manhattan, which has a number of good things about it, but which threw away this potentially groundbreaking, heart-rending idea to quickly paste on a Russell Davies-style companion departure. Now, I love a good Russell Davies-style companion departure (well, okay, scratch that, I love Doomsday), but that was so clearly not what was called for here. To the point where it seemed so poorly thought out in detail and consequence (why can't the Doctor meet them in Jersey; does Brian ever find out?). It was as if Moffat and his colleagues thought a divided-forever-by-cruel-fate was the only companion departure the fans would accept. But it was just such a strain after this episode elegantly set up what was to my mind a much more interesting idea.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

A brilliant redemptive reading of an otherwise problematic episode (honestly — when I watch this one, I turn it off before Amy's horrific ending monologue starts; I admire her professionalism in delivering such terrible lines with the maximum possible effort [the only thing worth watching about Selfie is how Gillan dives unironically head-first into those clusterfucks of scripts] but conviction can only take you so far.), taking it as an allegorical manifesto about the power and legacy of Jon Pertwee's Doctor.

There are other dimensions of the portal to faerie aspect of the show that Pertwee and his era opened up for us, beyond what you describe here. If anything, the possibilities this framework of weirdifying the world only begins with this post. For one, the Pertwee era began with a televisual language of realism: its cameras and narratives in Season Seven took the style of popular action adventure shows, with their pretensions to "gritty realism." With the solidification of the UNIT family the following year, the show began to make this field especially strange, introducing heavy camp entirely inappropriate to realism. Yet the new premise for the Pertwee era was explicitly the show coming back to Earth in a literal and narrative sense.

In just the same way, Smith's Doctor is hauled to Earth by narrative conventions, ushered into a world of ordinary events, accompanied by our era's conventions of television realism: Rory's scenes at the hospital are shot with the shaky camera of today's intense medical and police dramas. The media landscape of cable news clips discussing the mysterious cubes is depicted in a style that recalls Russell T. Davies' cable news montages that indicated the real-world scope of events. Even so, the surreal nature of the invasion (and the campy nature of the villain and alien plot) is a jarring moment of weirdness impossible to reconcile, even narratively, with what's come before. Every element of the ordinary in the Ponds' life is integrated with these moments of weirdness, as the real and the insane invade each other.

The worldly transformation that the Pertwee era set going can never be rolled back. It only becomes more complex and strange.

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Dustin 2 years, 11 months ago

Forgive my density, but why are we talking about faeries (or "faerie")?

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

I actually really love this episode because it's just so fun to watch. I mean, the Doctor plays Wii Sports.

The question of "Is this really our world?" was something that actually bugged me more as the RTD era progressed than Pertwee's era, because then it is very obviously widespread knowledge about some sort of alien encounters; after "Aliens of London" it was practically a parallel Earth, and in some ways that took out the original magic of discovery and wonder that is often found in Doctor Who.

Anyway, the general complaint about "The Power of Three" is that it should have been a two-parter and this is the reason they should never have done a season of stand-alones, but really, that isn't true. They just shouldn't have gone for the extremely cheap explanation of "oh it makes everyone's heart stop!" and come up with something much more creative, not a widespread deadly attack on everyone that would be hard to easily reverse. Plus, they probably could have worked the hospital patients into that, too...they always seemed to be experimenting on humans, but that wasn't very clear.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

Ella Pond? Has time been changed again so that she's no longer Tabetha Pond? :p

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 11 months ago

Few things out of the way, title reminds me of Charmed, aside from that, I don't see any other connection. Amy loves changing jobs, there have been two Brian Coxs(?) On the show, And The Doctor has superspeed as one of his rarely seen Time Lord capabilities.

This clearly needed more editing work, very much seen in the last act of the episode, and even if it was one of the better ones, certainly #2 on my list, it would have benefited more from that.

Also, given Amy's comment about ten years of the Doctor, Clara starting to travel with the Doctor in 2013, and Kate knowing The Doctor during Day of the Doctor, we have the Doctor traveling, at different points in his life, during the same time frame.


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peeeeeeet 2 years, 11 months ago

title reminds me of Charmed, aside from that, I don't see any other connection

Well, it involves an attractive young woman balancing the responsibilities of her ordinary life with her superhero responsibilities, with her grumpy know-it-all mentor materialising in at arbitrary moments.

I mean, it's nowhere near as good as Charmed at its best, but what is?

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John Seavey 2 years, 11 months ago

That was the biggest problem with the whole thing for me. If a race of aliens has the ability to teleport boxes all over the planet, why not just fill them with explosives? I'm pretty sure that not many races out there could withstand a massive planet-wide network of bombs detonating without any warning or countermeasures in place. In fact, their whole plan pretty much revolves around the idea that their victims will respond to a bizarre, inexplicable event like this with total apathy, which is a lot less likely than them being able to survive the bombs.

Don't get me wrong, I know that every story has holes if you look hard enough. But few stories require you to turn your brain off as aggressively as this one.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

Wait... "The Name of the Doctor" had a massive re-write? Where did you learn this? :-/

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

To be fair, he wasn't originally a static hologram before they re-shot parts of the episode...

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

Not to mention "Sontarans, perverting the course of human history!"

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frank fair 2 years, 11 months ago

It's in the DWM Essential Guide to 2013 (along with a description of the Beryl draft of Cold War). With Name, so much was planned differently, but using mostly the same sets, Moffat turned altered it significantly. When she fell into the timeline, Clara would perceive herself to be in a cottage by the sea, dreaming of the Doctor each night. The episode would've opened with this then flashed back. Clara wasn't in each Doctor's story, just Matt's. The Great Intelligence's motivation was different, there was a scene between the Doctor and River's gravestone. A second TARDIS landed and someone else's footsteps were leading up to the timeline. After the Doctor saved Clara she screamed at him "Get away from me! I've seen what you become!" and is then stunned by Strax to calm her.

There were many other big changes very late in the day. I think Jon Blum pointed out it's almost the same amount of time that Pip and Jane had to do Part 14 of Trial, also using the same sets, except Moffat did this himself. And again like all the other last minute changes (including Power of Three's existence) it's hard for me to imagine Series 7 any other way

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

Jeesus... could you name them all? :-O (Pun not intended.)

Also, I find the name "Beryl" has an unfortunate side-effect of constantly making me picture Beryl Reid; I doubt that's the effect Moffat wanted...

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frank fair 2 years, 11 months ago

I keep being reminded that it's the name of Moffat's mother-in-law, the legendary Beryl Vertue. An odd injoke that he must have been aware of. Not quite as weird as Saward naming the daughter character in Revelation of the Daleks after his own ("Kill me Natasha")

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 11 months ago

If we simply look at Doctor Who as a premise (and, given the nature of the show and its title, a promise), itis the Pertwee era that really stands out as the one significant change doesn't it? Being stuck on earth, removing the truly alchemical nature of who the Doctor is and making him the fixed point, that the glam spectacle revolves around, is an interesting idea. But, ultimately, a limited one. And its not an era that i particularly enjoy watching in hindsight.

does this episode show how poorly the Doctor, and the concept, fair with a Pertwee style episode? I believe so. I just wish that the episode had the courage of its convictions to dispense entirely with the monster/alien plot and deal with the characters. just as i wish that Rings had the courage to deal with it the same way later. but niether did, sadly. I would have loved to have had the Ponds and the Doctor walk in to the apartment and say, "well, that was tough, defeating those aliens..." and run the whole damn thing off screen. Give the ponds a better send off then they got.

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sleepyscholar 2 years, 11 months ago

The Berkoff production of Metamorphosis with Tim Roth as Gregor was one of the few stage productions I saw during the period I lived in London, and I still cite it as an exemplar of what can be done on stage: Roth's physical realisation of the insect, and the scenes where three characters simultaneously addressed the audience particularly stick in my memory.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that Berkoff, as an actor, is going to be able to lift this episode. Brilliant, he may be, but he is still capable of phoning in villain performances, and if that's what he does here, his dramatic repertoire becomes almost irrelevant.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 11 months ago

what should have replaced the ancient evil would have been a concern for the secondary characters, for the Ponds, that the old program never had time or inclination for. and that is what it wanted to achieve, if only they had pushed the rubbish aliens all the way off to the side.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

To be fair to Saward, though, that was probably echoing his own feelings about being script editor on the show, at the time.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

Right; if it was something more "slow invasion" like experimentation, it would have worked much better given the restrictions.

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storiteller 2 years, 11 months ago

"The land of faerie" is often a shorthand that Phil uses to refer to the idea of magical spaces that are nestled within real ones, where you can travel between the two. It's a really common trope in British children's literature, like Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and several others. It derives from the Celtic idea of faerie, which were mysterious and dangerous, not cute and silly. He talks about it fairly extensively in the Harry Potter Pop Between Realities: http://www.philipsandifer.com/2013/04/pop-between-realities-home-in-time-for_17.html

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 11 months ago

Hurt would be 1000.5.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

That's pretty much it, all right. I'm still with Froborr, though -- it's my favorite of 7a, because of everything leading up to that point.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

A friend of mine was convinced that the last we see of the Ponds would be the Doctor at their bedside, as they die peacefully of old age. That would be a new one, too. Either that ending or yours would have been vastly preferable to what we got.

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Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

I found his example of Venusian Aikido in Robot of Sherwood more as being a joke and a brilliant piece of comedy. Yeah reminding us of Three, but not being him, as it was such a limp affair as compared with the hugeness of Pertwee's moments. Brill!

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Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah agreed guys. It was a shame the more strained over-dramatic route had to be taken, rather than what could have been real moments of human drama.

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Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

Good reading Phil, enjoyed reading that. On initial watching I did really get into the episode, and could even forgive the rushed ending (yes, *massive* waste of Berkoff's talents!), but it was the shoehorned narration from Karen Gillan and the straight to camera scene at the end that distorted the story to be apparently based on the Power of the Three leads that simply left me feeling quite empty in response to the story. Unfortunately that made the story not work for me - and I would so love it to have a different ending.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Indeed. He's given some shallow and melodramatic performances in the past, mostly for the money. But it seemed a cruel irony to cast Berkoff, the arch promoter of forcing audiences to use their imaginations to see horrors in this particular episode which not only fumbled the revelation about the cubes but underwrote the antagonist as a pre-recorded hologram. I'd love to see him recast as a proper character.

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What Happened To Robbie? 2 years, 11 months ago

"and the closing monologue, with its painfully ham-fisted integration of the title..."

It was terrible but it lead to an entertaining game with a fellow fan of trying to insert title drops into classic series stories. For example:

The Doctor "I'm afraid it's an attack. An attack....of the cybermen!"

This works particularly well with the 6th Doctor since you can imagine the crash zoom into his horrified face as it cuts to the credits.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Brian Pond is much better than Hinchcliffian horror.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

That the cube Reveal was an "anti-climax" was actually the point, I think.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

... where did I get "Ella"? Wow. And it's especially odd since I take great pleasure in the peculiar names of the Pond clan. "Ella", where did that come from...

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Leela's narration as the TARDIS leaves: "And I will always remember the horror we faced there... the Horror of Fang Rock."

That said, I think The Brain of Morbius managed a perfectly fine title drop, as I recall. I might be simply mentally editing one in, though.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

I think that's a false dichotomy. (If it were a true dichotomy this would be a Broadchurch blog.) Hinchcliffian horror with Brian Pond is better than Hinchcliffian horror without Brian Pond. But Hinchcliffian horror in Doctor Who means Robert Holmes, who is a bit Brian Pondish in his own right. So if you're rejecting Hinchcliffian horror in Doctor Who, you've got to show that you're at least as good as Robert Holmes.

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Aylwin 2 years, 11 months ago

HE IS NOT A POND!

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elvwood 2 years, 11 months ago

i am definitely trying this game, now!

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

"That was amazing what you did to the Daleks, Professor!"
"No, my dear Ace, they did it to themselves. Perhaps I should say a few words, in Remembrance of the Daleks... they were, in a way, my finest enemies."
"They tried to blow me up!"
"They tried to blow everyone up, Ace. They tried to blow everyone up."

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Not sure I understand where you're coming from on this one jane, which is unusual. I think if the cubes had just turned out to be an invasion of random, mostly harmless little boxes with no expressly evil intent, that would have been fascinating. Inasmuch as just watching the Doctor driven insane by boredom is entertaining in its own right. The fact that the cubes turned out to be little machines that stopped people's hearts was...well perhaps the word is bathetic not anti-cimactic.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, he's not an rapping newscaster so we can't call him Brian Williams.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YCeIgt7hMs

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William Silvia 2 years, 11 months ago

When listing alien invasions, you left out the gum-drop invasion in "The Three Doctors".

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William Silvia 2 years, 11 months ago

Except in the example of the above it would be more like "Rrremembrrrance of the Daleks".

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William Silvia 2 years, 11 months ago

If Clara was named Beryl, the Missy=Clara rumors (which I personally think are bullshit, though I still need to see yesterday's episode) would have more credibility, and everyone would believe she was off fighting Sailor Moon when not on-screen.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Mel: "I'm glad to see you coming back around to your old self, Doctor."

Doctor: "It only took time, Mel, time....and the Rani."

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Doctor: Ah, Paris. Nothing on Gallifrey can compare to Paris, Romana. It's a city of light, a city of romance, a city...a city...

Romana: A city of death?

Doctor: What? No, I was going to say "art."

Romana: "Paris, City of Art."

Doctor: Yes, well, never mind.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

DOCTOR: Hello, Sarah. I got lost in the time vortex. The Tardis brought me home.
SARAH: Oh! Oh, Doctor, why did you have to go back?
DOCTOR: I had to face my fear, Sarah. I had to face my fear. That was more important than just going on living.
SARAH: Please, don't die.
DOCTOR: A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. I'll always remember the times we had together, on the Planet of...
SARAH: No...

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Ozyman Jones 2 years, 10 months ago

I'd count that more as a surgical strike, or a kidnapping (building - napping?), than a widespread invasion.

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Ozyman Jones 2 years, 10 months ago

Apologies. Supposed to be a reply to William S above. Damn phone!

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John Seavey 2 years, 10 months ago

This is even more often if you imagine it in the Hartnell era, when they had a title for every episode. "Be careful of the sea, Susan...for I fear it may be the sea of death!" "Those Morphoton Brains certainly caught us in the velvet web, eh?" "Beware the screaming jungle!" (Actually, that one may have been in there...) By the end, it'd be quite exhausting.

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Random Comments 1 year, 8 months ago

I think that the ending monologue would have worked much better if this episode had kept its working title, "Cubed." Because then it's almost a clever pun reveal, and feels slightly less hamfisted.



Edit: These CAPTCHAs are still impossible.

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