There was a dark cloud looming over "The Power of Three," the fourth episode of Doctor Who's seventh series, which aired Saturday. That sense of foreboding was, of course, the impending departure of companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), who will be leaving the series in next week's midseason finale, "The Angels Take Manhattan." And while "The Power of Three" didn't bring on the tears, it promised that there would be plenty of crying to go around in the near future.
The episode was penned by Chris Chibnall, who also wrote the second episode of the series, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship." While that episode was really just a careless, enjoyable romp, "The Power of Three" was a rather complex episode, employing an ingenious concept (exterminating humanity via the cubes) and some rather satisfying character moments. Amy and the Doctor sitting on the shore, for example, might just qualify for the best episode of the seventh series so far.
Also back was Rory's dad, Brian, who is relentlessly competent at analyzing these cubes. Not unlike his fellow companion father-figure Wilfred Mott, he's also rather perceptive. He knows that his son and daughter-in-law's journeys with the Doctor can't end well, but he also doesn't want them to miss out on a wonderful life of exploring and saving new worlds. Humans are creatures of hope, as the Doctor says, and Brian holds out hope that his intuition is wrong, and that Amy and Rory will be returned home safe to him. Even we, the audience, know that something bad will happen to the Ponds next week, but we hold out hope that they will at least get a happy ending. It's unlikely, but we can hope.
The episode's ultimate villain was dispatched a little too quickly, though I feel like we may have just witnessed a set-up to a conflict instead of a resolution. After all, these Shakri hold way too much personal significance to the Doctor (they were Galifreyian legend) to not make some returns in the future. The idea of humans as pests is also far too thematically rich to not be seen again.
Also, the line that explained the episode's title was fantastically clever.
"The Power of Three" was ultimately the best of the season so far, topping even the fantastic western outing "A Town Called Mercy" from last week. "The Angels Take Manhattan" looks like it could continue the trend of constant improvement. And, despite my apprehension, I'm a little excited. Don't get me wrong: the Ponds are my favorite companions of the revived series. But there's hope yet. Doctor Who is at its most powerful when it breaks your heart and steps on the pieces. But it is at its soaring, triumphant best when, like a roller coaster, it swings back from tragic and into the realm of gleeful chaos and new beginnings, leaving your heart in your mouth.
So yeah, I can't wait.
Doctor Who will air "The Angels Take Manhattan" next Saturday on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in the US.
What did you think of "The Power of Three?" Let us know in the comments section below.