Way back on 1895 Punch Magazine published a cartoon of an earnest young Curate trying to avoid offending his Bishop and declaring that his morning egg was not bad, but some parts were excellent. Since then the phrase ‘Curate’s Egg’ has been used as journalistic shorthand for something that is of varying quality. Sadly The Power of Three falls into this category. There are concepts, dialogue, performances and casting that are indeed excellent, yet on the whole the entire episode fails to live up to the total of its parts. For example the presence of UNIT is extremely well handled and Kate Stewart, excellently portrayed by Jemma Redgrave, is a wonderful addition to the Doctor Who pantheon. It was a delight to have such a reminder of ‘The Brig’. Equally Arthur Darvill’s performance as Rory was spot in revealing many facets in one episode. Often used as comedy light relief, or occasionally cannon fodder, this Rory could easily be a centurion who waited for two millennia.
Conversely both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan’s performances seem below par in The Power Of Three. Gillan underplays to the extent of being bland, while Smith’s manic posturings undo the three week’s previous high standards of ‘alieness’. Similarly the plot swings from one extreme to the other. The concept of a slow invasion by small black cubes was intriguing, especially as their true purpose slowly became revealed. This slow building intrigue is undone by over the top adventures with unseen Zygons in Paris and yet another historical Royal Family ‘romp’. It is this lack of focus that that is the core issue with The Power Of Three, so much unnecessary frippery is shoe horned into a neat workable plot that when the heroes unveil the villain of the piece the showdown feels rushed and unsatisfying.
It is a repeating criticism of Doctor Who since its rebirth in the 21st Century that the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver far too frequently and apparently as a surrogate ‘magic wand’. In well-written stories this use of a macguffin can be ignored. However in this episode the Doctor simply appears to wave it around a few times and returns one third of the Earth’s population to life. This is an unsatisfying conclusion to an unsatisfying episode who’s villain is brushed aside by actually not even being there.