I’m just going to say it.
I’m going to stop lying to myself and just come out and say it.
Doctor Who sucks now.
God, what a relief to get that off my chest! I’ve been holding it in since season five, pretty much. That season had only a small handful of episodes I enjoyed (“The Eleventh Hour,” “Vincent and the Doctor,” “The Lodger”). Season six was a mess, and so far it doesn’t look like season seven is going to be any better. As evidence, I present “The Power of Three,” one of the worst Doctor Who episodes in a long time — which is really saying something after dreck like “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “The Beast Below.”
Zillions of identical extraterrestrial black cubes rain down all over the world, and then proceed to do nothing for a year. A whole year. In that time, the Doctor comes to stay with Amy and Rory because he misses them, and to investigate the cubes. Several long, long minutes of the Doctor being bored and Amy and Rory being completely over him ensue. Here’s a tip for anyone writing narrative fiction: If your characters are bored, or if they’re feeling over another character, the audience will be, too. The first half of this episode is utterly interminable. Then UNIT shows up to collect the Doctor and investigate the cubes a little more thoroughly, and things pick up a bit.
Surprise, UNIT knows the Doctor is alive, even though everyone is supposed to think he’s dead now! Well, not everyone. The Daleks in the first episode this season knew he was still alive, and knew how to find him. The Indian Space Agency in the second episode knew he was alive, too, and knew how to reach him. Good job with that whole faking your death thing, Doctor!
Anyway, there’s a scary little girl who’s tied in with the alien cubes somehow, but is never truly explained and is eventually brushed off as an “observer,” at which point her character completely disappears from the story. There are man-shaped alien orderlies with weird-shaped mouths who are stealing people from the hospital Rory works at and bringing them to the space ship that’s responsible for the cubes, but it’s never explained why they’re kidnapping people or what they intend to do with them, and then they, too, disappear before the end of the story. Aboard the space ship is a helmetless Darth Vader called a Shakri, an alien race that the Doctor thought was only a legend, yada yada yada, destroy humanity to bring about the end of the universe or something, whatever. It doesn’t make any sense.
Oh, and the cubes, after studying humanity for a full year, finally determine our ultimate weakness: stop our hearts! It takes the cubes a full year to figure this out! So the cubes open and release an electro blast to stop everyone’s heart, killing off roughly a third of the population, but then the Doctor presses some buttons on a console on Darth Vader’s ship and everyone gets up, okay again, and no one has any lasting brain damage or is in a coma from being technically dead for like an hour. Yay!
This entire story is a disaster, but there were a few things I liked about it despite that. The appearance of Kate Stewart as the new head of UNIT, and the revelation that she’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter. The secret UNIT HQ under the Tower of London. A mention of the Zygons, who haven’t been seen since 1975′s serial “Terror of the Zygons.” (Even though the Zygons invaded Earth then, presumably the 1980s by the show’s timeline, only because their world was dying and they were looking for another one to colonize. So why there would be a Zygon ship under the Savoy Hotel in 1889 is beyond me.) So yeah, the stuff that ties in with the classic series gets a smile from me, as it always does, but the rest of the episode was dreadful.
Next week’s episode looks like it might be better, though, and I’m hoping the introduction of a new companion will be the shot in the arm this show desperately needs. But the truth is, I just haven’t been enjoying the show very much since Davies and Tennant left. I gather that puts me in the minority, but it is what it is. All I can do is repeat what I said to Alexa after “The Power of Three” over, when I turned to her and said, “Well, that’s it, then. Doctor Who sucks now.”
Addendum: I meant to point this out, but it slipped my mind. To the show’s credit, Amy is no longer a model. Now she’s doing something that actually values her intelligence and experience, namely writing travel articles. This despite her never mentioning an interest in writing before, but whatever, it’s better than having her make a living on her looks alone. That said, her asperations are still treated as less pressing than Rory’s. When he and Amy discuss what’s going on in their lives that will keep them grounded instead of running off with the Doctor at the drop of a hat, Rory mentions a career opportunity: he’s such a valued member of the hospital staff that he’s been offered a full-time position. Amy’s reason for sticking around? She’s going to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. Not a plum writing assignment, like covering the next Olympics. A bridesmaid. Because men are about careers and women are about weddings!