“Life with the Doctor,” Amy Pond says, was like this: whoosh-whoosh! Quick cut montage of scary moments and fantastic sights! Real life? Sorting smelly laundry and shrieking at the yoghurt that’s gone off. You can’t blame the Ponds for finding Doctor Life so enticing, though clearly Real Life might become less stinky, literally and metaphorically, without all those Doctor Life jaunts and absences.
Just as they agree they’ll soon choose which life they most want, something unexpected occurs: the Doctor comes to stay during the year of the Slow Invasion. Will the Doctor handle the distinct-lack-of-peril Pond Life with good grace? Will the Ponds throw him out in frustration like so much bad yoghurt? And really, what are all these small black boxes doing everywhere?
To start the thing properly, Rory’s dad Brian excitedly wakes the Ponds to bring them up to speed on the Black Cube situation. The Doctor’s already on the case, so after we get the traditional news-clips-during-invasion-exposition, he assigns Brian Cube Watching Duty (a diplomatic kibosh on Brian’s rather chatty list of Cube possibilities).
As for the Doctor, he’ll turn the Ponds’ kitchen into his laboratory! They’ve got nothing better to do than to help, right? Oh, Rory’s got a nursing gig while Amy writes travel articles? While the Doctor marvels at this normal life, Amy comments it’s been ten years, not for him or Earth, but the time the Ponds spent with him. “Look at you now; all grown up,” the Doctor says, proud as can be, awww!
Just then stampeding military men securing the house spoil the mood, as they so often do. It’s U.N.I.T., now headed by Kate Stewart, who has dragged the organization back to a science focus (and high time, too!). Having followed a spike in Artron energy to the address, she recognizes the Doctor not only from a quick scan of his two hearts but his “fashion sense”; I love how clearly affectionate toward him she already is, even as she’s briskly efficient and terribly clever with her run-down of cube testing so far.
All Kate’s findings indicate the cubes are indestructible, impressively so; the Doctor sulks at this, for he’d rather them have an Achilles heel. To top it off, everyone’s already taken to the cubes, bringing them to work or back home, trending the topic on social media. “Twitter,” the Doctor says darkly upon learning the cubes already have a thousand accounts there (I would probably lose days following all those feeds).
Okay, the cubes want to be observed, so observe them they shall: “Team Cube, in it together!” Days later, the Doctor’s bratty: they should be patient, but he needs to be busy! “Fine!” Amy bursts out, the exasperated mother to his hyper six-year-old-style whining. “Be busy! We’ll watch the cubes!”
The Doctor bounces a football, paints a fence, Hoovers the lounge, and unravels a car. Well. That killed an hour. Cripes, he could run an energy station! Meanwhile, Brian’s watched a cube for four days straight: “Doesn’t time fly when you’re alone with your thoughts!” he reflects. The Doctor invites the Ponds on a Cube break, but he’s disarmed when Brian interjects they can’t just go leave, and Rory defends his “little job”, exclaiming, “What you do isn’t all there is!” Chastened, the Doctor leaves alone.
Time marches on to October for the Ponds. Amy promises a friend she’ll be a bridesmaid while Rory takes a full-time job. “Did real life just get started?” Rory asks during a pillow talk session. “I like it,” my says. “So do I,” Rory agrees. Brian has his own responsibilities: it’s Day 67 of Brian’s Log, a video record of the Cube’s complete failure to do anything besides be a Cube (he sends daily reports to U.N.I.T.) “Don’t mock my log,” he says when Rory scoffs. An inspiration to bloggers everywhere!
December rolls round. Rory works the Ridiculous Cases ward, where a serious little girl’s eyes suddenly flash blue. Hey, they match her glowing cube! Glowing cubes seem noteworthy, but not as much as the child supervising two orderlies with vent snoots as they nab an elderly man and rush him to a lift.
Despite this seeming major break in the Cube case, life continues with cubes in the thick of it: acting as paperweights, blocking golf shots, lurking in cafes and on cutlery trays. Up next, June, and the Ponds’ anniversary! The Doctor crashes their party (where the hell do the Ponds get so many friends if they’re completely flighty and unreliable?), taking them via TARDIS for a night at the Savoy Hotel in 1890! They’ll return before the party ends: “no complications, I promise.”
Guess what? COMPLICATIONS! Who knew there was a Zygon ship under the Savoy and half the staff imposters! Contrite at the fiasco, the Doctor takes the Ponds to a wedding: Henry VIII’s to Amy (watch it when your attention wanders during ceremonies! You might mistakenly marry an early modern king on your anniversary!). Of course the Doctor gives away their hiding place to a peevish Henry with a sneeze.
The Ponds return to their party, but Brian’s noted their absence on the Doctor’s seven-week jaunt (“I got sidetracked. A lot.”) What happened to the Doctor’s other companions? Mark Williams’s marvelous here, understated but stoutly protective. Some left, some were left behind, and some died. But “never them,” the Doctor promises. Later, he asks Amy if he can stay. He’ll keep an eye on the cubes, and besides, “I…miss you,” he says with difficulty. Amy looks away to hide her pleased smile.
Next jump in Pond-time: Brian’s on Day 361 of his log. Cream crackered (knackered), he dozes off. At Chez Pond, Rory, Amy, and the Doctor enjoy Custard Fish Fingers (aww, origin moments!) while the Doctor claims he invented Yorkshire Pudding. Slacking at diligence, Brian nods off again, only to realize his cube has moved the moment he stopped watching. “Do it again!” he urges.
At the Ponds, other cubes come to life: Rory’s opens and shuts; Amy’s measures her pulse; and the Doctor’s hovers, interrupting his game of Wii tennis. He warns it this planet and its people are precious to him before insulting its hovering trick. He had a metal dog (K-9) that could do that! The Cube, obviously miffed at this scoffing, shoots lasers at him before it zips off to surf the internet.
Rory’s summoned to work to help Cube attack victims; Brian goes with him. Glancing at the Psychic Paper, the Doctor grins: he’s been summoned to the Tower of London. Upon arrival, Amy points out she hopes they’re not there because they know too much. “Yes, I’ve got officers trained in beheading,” Kate says drily. “Also ravens of death.” “I like her,” Amy declares. So do I! Let’s hope this is the start of regular Kate Stewart appearances!
Kate explains there’s no pattern to the Cubes’ behaviors (Amy quickly shuts the door on one playing “The Chicken Dance”) and worries about the worldwide panic. “Don’t despair,” the Doctor says warmly. “Your dad never did.” Ahhh, I LOVE that Kate’s the Brigadier’s daughter! “Science leads,” he always told her, something he learned “from an old friend.” And seriously, I barely know Classic Who, and I was so touched by this moment! I can only imagine how other viewers who know that canon felt!
Suddenly the cubes go dormant, after 47 minutes of activity. The Doctor, frustrated, steps outside with Amy. “You’re thinking of stopping, aren’t you?” he asks suddenly. She hesitates but explains now they’ve built their own life, she doesn’t know if she can have both. “They pull at each other…pull at me,” she explains, adding Doctor Life has begun to feel like running away.
The Doctor objects he’s running to all the universe offers before it flares and fades. “You’re the first face this face saw,” he says emotionally, adding she was “seared onto my hearts.” He keeps coming for her and Rory before they can fade.
She leans on his shoulder, saying gruffly she doesn’t want him to be nice to her. “Yeah, you do, Pond,” he says. “And you always get what you want.”
Ah, the Cubes have gotten what *they* want: the Doctor understands quickly the Cubes shut down because they’d finished assessing humans. They rush back underground, where the Cubes have begun a countdown from 7, causing a break in U.N.I.T.’s power. “Humans, the great early adopters,” made the Cubes part of everyday life; the Cubes wanted this “To discover how best to attack us,” Kate realizes.
The Doctor declares humans have to get away from the cubes. Rory supervises Cube disposal at the hospital. Sent to fetch something, Brian asks directions from orderlies who turn out to be the horrible guys with vents for snoots! By the time Rory gives chase, they’ve taken Brian into a lift acting as a portal to an alien ship orbiting Earth. Tables aboard hold unconscious humans (seven, I assume), and it seems Rory will make one of the number as the Vents for Snoots guys advance on him with syringes.
At zero, the Cubes finally open. All are completely empty. “Glasses! Is it the same?” the Doctor demands of a U.N.I.T. research wearing large specs. Yep, all over the world, empty cubes. Next CCTV cameras worldwide show people clutching their chests and dying as they peer into the now-open empty boxes; the Doctor unfortunately follows suit, reeling as one heart stops.
“How to destroy a human: go for the heart!” the Doctor gasps upon learning there’s widespread cardiac failure worldwide. Wait, the Cubes observed for a year before they figured out heart attacks were the way to go? Didn’t they wonder if “The Chicken Dance” wasn’t a more effective weapon? The Doctor spots seven signal cubes on the radar, “Pulsing, bold as brass!” The closest, of course, is Rory’s hospital.
The Doctor leaves Kate to lead the world efforts against the Cubes and rushes with Amy to the hospital. They find the strange silent child with the glowing blue box; turns out she’s a monitoring droid. Rats, I thought maybe it would be a “Fear Her” thing writ large, a child actually controlling the Slow Invasion. “Desperate measures,” Amy exclaims as the Doctor collapses (his one heart can’t keep up). She defibrillates him. “Welcome back, Lefty!” the Doctor shouts. “Back in the game!” I like his wacky half-shirted victory dance.
“Through the Looking Glass, Amelia,” the Doctor beckons as he and Amy locate and step through the lift portal. Siboran smelling salts, “outlawed in seven galaxies,” awaken Rory and Brian; the Doctor sends the others to safety while he confronts a Shakri, who looks like he could give the Galactic Emperor a run for his Dark Side.
Thought to be a Gallifreyan myth to scare children, the Shakri serve “the word of the Tally”, acting as the “pest controllers of the universe” to wipe out threats. The black boxes were intended to deal with the “human contagion”, wiping out humans before they could colonize space. Oh no, now they’ll release the second wave of Cubes! Er, why not just release them all at the get-go?
Emperor Shakri disappears; he was only a “talking propaganda poster,” an automated interface of the ship. Hey, the Doctor says casually: he can disconnect the Shakri and stop the Cubes. Well. That’s a rather quickly dispatched threat, wouldn’t you say? But how to save all those people who died? Gosh, they’ve been dead for fifteen minutes, so I don’t think there’s anything — nope, nope, MASS DEFIBRILATION, making the boxes work for them to resurrect all those people somehow!
Cue a “terrible wave of energy ricocheting” through the spaceship. “Run,” the Doctor says mildly; he and the Ponds leg it. Back on Earth, Kate tells the Doctor he’s “as remarkable as Dad said!” She kisses him on the cheek, while he declares bashfully, “My! A kiss from a Lethbridge-Stewart. That’s new.” I love all Jemma Redgrave did with this character; I hope we’ll see more of Kate Stewart.
Over dinner with the Ponds and Brian, the Doctor allows their “beautiful, messy lives” are what make them human; he can understand if they don’t want to give them up. “It’s you they can’t give up, Doctor,” Brian says serenely; he’s reconciled his fears for Rory and Amy and wants only for them to take this amazing chance to keep exploring with the Doctor. He’ll stay and water the plants, he promises (aww, where’s the travel bug Brian of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”?).
Amy and Rory run for the TARDIS with the Doctor while Amy pronounces the one thing the Shakri never understood, what Cubed really means: “the power of three.” Well. That sure is the title!
Whoooo eeeee whoooo phooo! Too bad the villain, for all his promising menace, came on too late in the episode; similarly, the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver-ing solution seemed far too easy. Still, I enjoyed experiencing Pond Life and the Doctor’s jittery reaction to it! Even so, all of this tribute episode’s antics made me wary; Brian’s blessing at the close felt like a reboot for the Ponds and their travels with the Doctor, but we know they’re leaving, and soon. How exactly are we going to say goodbye to the Ponds? Tune in next week with me to find out in Doctor Who 7.05 – The Angels Take Manhattan!