The most important thing is, as always, that our son completely enjoyed this story and laughed throughout most of it. Chris Chibnall’s “The Power of Three” really is an oddball and unusual story, and I think that it’s the best of this season’s first five by miles. It’s really only the ending that brings it down. It’s not as though this is the first Doctor Who adventure to start terrific and end on a nebulous threat, a miracle finale, and a lot of sonic screwdriver magic, but it just rings particularly hollow this time out.
What makes this one really weird is that they booked a pretty famous actor called Steven Berkoff to play the villain, and by all accounts – quiet and discreet accounts, but all of them – the experience was an unhappy one, so they brought Matt, Karen, and Arthur back in to reshoot the ending without him, and with his character turned from an in-the-flesh baddie into a hologram. They did some script rewrites around the footage they had, suggesting that the budget must have been amazingly tight since they didn’t get a new actor in, anybody, even at scale, to just remount the scene entirely. But none of it worked even before Berkoff arrived for his costume fitting; the story suggests that perhaps a third of Earth’s population suffered heart attacks and everybody was successfully revived several very long minutes later, which, even for Doctor Who miracle magic, is silly.
It’s kind of funny that for me, Berkoff remains best known in my memory as playing a character in Octopussy who, for years, I thought was played by Frank Gorshin, when his Who experience ends up like a strange new version of a different Batvillain, Otto Preminger. When the producers of Batman decided to do a new Mr. Freeze story, they didn’t ask Preminger back to play the character since everybody had such a miserable time working with him earlier.
Also, this episode introduces Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, the current leader of UNIT. She appears in five TV adventures across series seven through nine and in a whole heck of a lot of audio adventures from Big Finish. Honestly, I think it’s really odd that Chris Chibnall wrote her television debut episode and then swept her and UNIT offscreen completely in “Resolution” seven years later. I’d have thought once that situation finished, the Doctor would have flown straight to Kate – and Osgood, I suppose – to find out what the heck happened. Or maybe Big Finish has a script waiting for Jodie Whittaker to approve.