The Power of Three
The Doctor: I’m not running away.
Production Code: 3.4.
Doctor Who Season: S33 (Ep4).
Story Number: 229.
There’s one more story for the Ponds after this…
We know this because of the BBC publicity. There’s a ready-made poignancy for this story then, and it doesn’t waste that and gives us much of the characters of the current TARDIS trio.
For a story that focuses on the characters rather than any monsters of the week – for most of the story it’s just small inert black boxes, and the characters talking about them and other things – it’s not that much of a problem that the actual villain mastermind plotline that closes the story is almost incomprehensible.
Eventually, after the (mainly) inertness of the boxes: there’s the number 7. Seven minutes? Seven wormholes. It seems, though it’s never made clear, Brian is spirited away by the mysterious “Orderly 1 and Orderly 2” to be one of seven people on the spaceship.
“But why??” – asks the Doctor. On behalf of the audience, (well about the seven wormholes and seven minutes at least).
“Service in the word of the tally” replies the Shakri (played in a suitably cosmic manner by Steven Berkoff). And that’s it. That’s the extent of the explanation about those various “7” things. The cubes themselves get an explanation though, they are a kind of cosmic judgement. Similar to ideas from the Golden Age of SF, the human race has been put in the balance.
The obsession with the number “7” that the Shakri have does make some sort of enigmatic sense with this “tally” wordplay. And there are seven Shakri craft? Possibly the most garbled and flip resolution to any Doctor Who story, and that’s including Timelash.
“It has to be a countdown” says the Doctor when “7” first appears on all the cubes. “Not in minutes!” – “Why would it be minutes?” This not-very-clear-what-it-means exchange (is it minutes?) deflates any tension that would be there if it was clear there was a good old minute-by-minute Doctor Who countdown going on. The Doctor’s conversing with the surprise character of this story, all the more surprising for this extra story strand as the episode itself isn’t the standard 45 minutes, isn’t even 42 minutes (41 minutes and 22 seconds says iPlayer, no wonder the ending is rather rushed).
The audience’s bemusement at the Doctor disintegrating the plot with a wave of the Sonic is balanced though by all those earlier scenes which rather than being bemusing and confusing and unclear are actually really lovely and wonderful. There is a high tally of good things about the ep.
The surprise character is Kate (Lethbridge) Stewart, the daughter of well-loved character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The scenes of the Doctor discussing her father with her add some extra poignancy to the idea that the Doctor goes on through the decades while nothing quite stays the same around him.
Of wonderful scenes there’s also the scene with the Doctor explaining what Amy means to him, taking up the Doctor Who motif of “running” and, er, running with it. He’s not running away from Amy and Rory, he needs to run to see all these wonderful things of the universe before they fade. He needs to see the universe. And he’s not running away from them – he’s running to them.
“The first face this face saw. And you’re seared onto my hearts”
“I’m running to you – and Rory – before you… fade from me”
So there’s – like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – a nod to the idea of Amy’s mortality, but the Doctor will go ever on.
Earlier, just how far Amy and Rory had gone from The Eleventh Hour, time-wise, was mentioned.
“Long way from Leadworth”
“We think it’s been 10 years. Not for you or Earth. But for us. Ten years older, ten years of you. On and off”
It begins with Rory pondering what is effectively Amy’s Choice, a running theme of these past seasons, “We have two lives. Real life and Doctor life. Except real life doesn’t get much of a look in.”
“What do we do”
“Somebody’s gotta water the plants”: the ending, it builds on the previous quiet – and marvelously played – scene of the Doctor admitting the risks to Brian of the TARDIS travels, but he gives his blessing even so, so they can save all those other worlds.
All the enigmaticness about “7” is replaced with an emphatic affirmation that yes it’s still cool to be travelling in the TARDIS in your thirties – and the power of “3” is cool.
Such as the film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
See also Time-Flight.
There’s a Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (the Brig’s daughter) in Reeltime Pictures productions Downtime (1995) (also novelised by its writer Marc Platt as part of the licenced-from-BBC Virgin Publishing New Adventures) and Dæmos Rising (2004).