Before this season premiered, we’d known the episode titles and basic descriptions for this first batch of episodes — except this one. This episode was a bit of a mystery. There set pictures, there weren’t casting announcements, there weren’t hints being given. Finally, at the end of last week’s episode we got a trailer, and thus a good hint of what was to come — a full year in the life of the Ponds.
Again we open with a voiceover (weird), but this time its Amy. She tells us life with the Doctor is a bit of a whirlwind, but life at home is much slower. Rory and Amy feel like they have to choose between their two lives, but naturally keep putting it off because really, who would want to give up all that? This story is about the one time when they didn’t join the Doctor, the Doctor became a part of their lives: the Year of the Slow Invasion.
One night, millions of these small, black cubes just appeared all over the globe. Brian, Rory’s dad (unexpected! Yay!), comes over, shocked they haven’t noticed yet. Amy notices something — the Doctor sitting up on the power lines, inspecting one of the small cubes. Inside the TARDIS, Brian theorizes every possibility of what these black cubes can be, whether they’re malignant or benign, but the Doctor has no idea what they could be. He tells Brian to watch the cubes while he gathers some materials, deciding to take over the Ponds kitchen and use it as a laboratory to test the cubes, see what happens. Rory’s got to go to work though, which shocks the Doctor — even though he knew Amy had a job before, he’s surprised to hear Rory has a permanent one? Apparently, he though all Amy and Rory did when they were back at home was spend their time kissing. Oh Doctor. You’re so adorably naÃ¯ve. Right now, Amy writes travel articles for magazines and Rory, of course, is a nurse. Like we’d ever forget, since he so kindly reminds us frequently.
Amy and the Doctor continue to set up…whatever it is in the kitchen, unaware that men with guns are piling out of SUVs, approaching the house. She thinks it’s been about ten years since they started traveling with the Doctor on and off, which would explain why Rory said he was 31 a few episodes ago. The Doctor smiles at how she’s all grown up, and on cue, the men burst in.
They surround Amy and the Doctor quickly, and march Rory in to the kitchen, who’s only half dressed for work and still in his underpants. A woman apologizes for the rude entrance and introduces herself as Kate Stewart, head of scientific research at UNIT. They noticed a spike of energy in the house and had to check it out, after the appearance of all the cubes. She recognizes the Doctor from his unique fashion sense and is very pleased it’s him.
UNIT has naturally already run a ton of tests on the cubes, including temperature manipulation, dropping them from thousands of feet, and running over them with tanks, with no change whatsoever. There’s no hints as to what they are or where they came from, and there’s no easy way to gather all of them up to lock them away, since people have started taking them off the streets. The Doctor guesses that the cubes want to be observed, since they arrived as the sun rose, so that’s his plan: watch them.
Four days go by. Nothing’s happened. Naturally, the Doctor is bored out of his mind. He’s getting impatient, even though he said this would need patience. Amy tells him to go do something while they watch the cubes, and he does so tremendously. He starts vacuuming their living room, painting a fence, kicking a ball in the air five million times. He comes back, refreshed for another go, only to find out all of the things he did only wasted an hour. So he races into the TARDIS, probably to escape, only to find Brian relaxing in a chair, still watching the cubes — after four days. Unlike the Doctor, he’s enjoying waiting for the cubes to do something. The Doctor needs to go somewhere, do something to keep himself sane, before he’ll come check on the situation again. He invites the Ponds along, but Rory declines, saying his job is important, there’s more to life than just traveling with the Doctor. A little bitter, the Doctor tells them to call if there’s anything.
It’s October. Months have gone by and the world moved on. Amy commits to being a bridesmaid and Rory agrees to working full-time. In bed that night, they both realize they’ve just started real life and that they rather like it. Meanwhile, Brian has done nothing but observe the unchanging cubes, and is even recording videos of his observations, which he e-mails to UNIT. He’s taking pride in doing what the Doctor asked.
It’s December. At the hospital where Rory works, a girl in the waiting room holds one of the cubes. Her eyes glow blue for a second, and then the cube glows blue. A man is lounging in a room reading a book, waiting for his prescription, when a few nurses come in. Their mouths are distorted, and as the little girl looks on, they do…something to the man. We hear his screams. The cubes have simply become a part of daily life. They’re used as paperweights, stands for mugs, decoration, holding up menus in restaurants. They’re everywhere.
Now it’s June. Amy calls the Doctor, gives him an update saying the cubes have been declared to be “provisionally safe” and people are just taking them for granted, not paying them any attention. Amy and Rory are having a barbecue in the backyard for their wedding anniversary, which she’s a little sad the Doctor isn’t there for, but he’s snuck up behind her with a huge bouquet of flowers and demands she and Rory come with him.
He brings them to the Savoy Hotel in 1890, all dressed up for the occasion, as an anniversary present. They’re thrilled, but it’s premature — naturally, something goes wrong and the Doctor has to save the day. Then, instead of going home, somehow, Amy ends up married to Henry VIII. Oops. But somehow it gets fixed, and the Doctor brings them back to the barbecue in time for the cake. Brian’s noticed they’re wearing different clothes from when they left and learns they were gone a full seven weeks. He questions what happened to the other people who’ve traveled with the Doctor. He sadly confesses honestly that some leave him, some get left behind, and others die, but he insists that will never, ever happen to Amy and Rory. He later asks Amy if he can stay with them, saying he misses her and he’ll be better this time. She’s clearly pleased.
A month passes. Its day 361 of Brian’s log, where he reports there’s still no movement before falling asleep. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory all eat fish fingers and custard (aww!) on their couch while watching a reality show. Suddenly, the cube vibrates and moves an inch, which jerks Brian awake. He gives it a funny look and starts to fall back asleep, but it moves again and he knows it.
The Doctor’s playing Wii tennis in the living room while in the kitchen, Rory washes dishes. The side of a cube sitting on the table lifts up and a blue light emits from the center of the cube for a split second. When Rory turns around, it’s back to normal. Amy’s gone upstairs for a bath, but she spots a cube on the dresser glowing blue. She goes to pick it up and gets stabbed by a ton of small needles that jump out of the top. As they disappear, it starts showing a heart monitor, like they use at hospitals. Downstairs, Rory spots the cube lifting up its sides and tries to see inside. A cube floats in front of the Doctor’s face. He naturally tells it to move out of the way before he realizes what he’s seeing. He promises the cube that he will defend the planet until he’s dead, since the people on it are precious to him. The cube opens up and tries to shoot at him before it uses the Wii to surf the internet. Amy, Rory, and Brian all dash to tell the Doctor what they’ve observed, and he’s clearly pleased something is finally happening. Rory and Brian go to the hospital to help the people who’ve been attacked, while the Doctor and Amy head to the Tower of London after he gets summoned on his psychic paper.
Kate Stewart meets them at the entrance and leads them to a secret base underneath, where 50 different cubes are being observed. Every cube around the world activated at the same time, but it appears they all do something different. One emits fire. One affects people’s moods. One plays the chicken dance on a loop. They’ve invaded all of the world’s defenses, and Kate has no idea what to do. The Doctor tells her not to despair, that her father never did. She’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter! She dropped the Lethbridge so she wouldn’t get any special favors. Suddenly, the cubes worldwide stop again after 47 minutes of activity.
The Doctor and Amy go up to the Thames to think, where he confronts her about them wanting to stop traveling. She admits there were years she would go crazy not seeing him, but she’s starting to feel like traveling with him is just running away, and she doesn’t need that anymore. He explains that he’s not running away, but that the universe is ever changing and he’s running to see all those new amazing things. He’s always known they’ll leave someday. She questions then why he always comes back to them, and he says it’s because they’re the first faces he saw and he’ll never forget them. She tells him not to be nice to her, and he laughs, saying he always will because that’s what she wants, and she always gets what she wants. Which he then realizes is exactly what happened with the cubes — they got all the information on the planet they needed before they shut down again.
The power goes out in the Tower of London right as he’s explaining this to Kate. The cubes have a blue number 7 lit up, and before they even have time to really guess why, it changes to a 6. A countdown. The Doctor thinks the best plan is to tell everyone to get away from the cubes as fast as possible while they try to figure out what the cubes will do when the countdown runs out.
In the hospital, Rory’s anxiously following these instructions and sends Brian to get something from the supply closet for him, just to keep him busy and feeling useful. He runs into those two nurses from earlier. When Rory goes to look for him, the nurses are wheeling him down the hall on a stretcher into an elevator marked with Keep Out tape. He doesn’t make it in time to catch them, but he gets in the elevator when it returns. Rory notices something off about the back wall and walks through it, teleporting onto a ship orbiting Earth. There are bodies lying on these concrete tables all around the room, and Rory races to his dad, but runs into the nurses instead.
Meanwhile, the Doctor’s in a room alone with the cube when the countdown ends. The top of the box opens, but there’s nothing inside. They race to see if the same happened to all the cubes worldwide and are shocked to see that people are just falling down, all over the world. The Doctor asks for electrical scans of the cubes when the countdown ended and determined that they emitted a strong electrical pulse targeted at human hearts, causing a slightly delayed cardiac arrest. Suddenly, one of his hearts gets knocked out of commission as well. The one good thing? This has helped them isolate the signals of the cubes and have narrowed down 7 places worldwide that they seem to have transmitted information to. The nearest one happens to be the hospital Rory works at.
The Doctor puts Kate in charge of telling the world how to deal with this while he and Amy use the sonic screwdriver to find a wormhole portal that should be located inside. First they find the little girl, who turns out to be a droid used to observe. He shuts her down before slumping to the floor, unable to continue much longer without the use of both hearts. So Amy, despite his protesting, shocks the heart back into use. They locate the elevator, which of course is the wormhole portal.
They find Rory and Brian, and the Doctor sends the three of them away immediately so he can face the Shakri, the “pest control of the universe,” apparently a myth that used to be told on Gallifrey to discipline youngsters. Their goal was to stop humanity before it spreads across the universe colonizing according to the “word of the Tally.” The Doctor promises that humanity is hopeful, they learn and adjust and thus aren’t pests to be eliminated, but the Shakri wants to release the second wave. He disappears, leaving the Doctor with Amy and Rory, who naturally have returned, to save the day.
The Doctor realizes that if the cubes were used to stop people’s hearts using an electrical pulse, they can be used to start people’s hearts the same way. He uses the sonic to reverse the setting and disconnect the seven portals from the Shakri ship, and the three of them race through the wormhole portal before the ship explodes. All of the people who were affected by the cubes get back up, fully recovered.
Kate thanks the Doctor and tells him he really is as remarkable as her father said, which clearly pleases the Doctor. He’s off to dinner with all three of the Ponds, where he tells them it’s ok that they want to live their messy human lives. Brian interrupts that really, they want the Doctor, that it’s him they miss, and tells them it’s ok if they go. The Doctor asks him to come too, but he says he’ll stay behind and “water the plants.” He just insists that the Doctor bring them home safe as the music turns dramatic and Amy’s voiceover returns. The Year of the Slow Invasion is over, the time the Shakri cubed the Earth. While she and Rory enter the TARDIS with the Doctor, she says they’ve learned something the Shakri never could’ve realized: that cubed actually means the Power of Three. Such a sweet thought, except…
Unfortunately, next week we say goodbye to the Ponds. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in denial about it for a while, and still probably am. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t give Jenna-Louise Coleman a chance. On the contrary, I’m very excited to see what her character will be like, especially after her (COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED) role in Asylum of the Daleks. But first we have to get through The Angels Take Manhattan. I will bawl my way through it, no question. So good luck everyone!
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