Rory and Amy find themselves in a bit of an impasse. They don’t know whether they should carry on traveling with The Doctor or just knock it on the head and get on with their average lives on Earth. Suddenly the world is covered with small black boxes, which have appeared out of nowhere and appear to be safe. Months pass with the boxes just becoming a part of everyday life until after a year has passed since they arrived, they start to become active. The Doctor, who has been keeping tabs on them since they landed, is being helped by the newly reformed UNIT lead by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewarts daughter Kate Stewart, which is now more a scientific group with military power behind it.
The boxes all seem to be doing different things and some seem to be attaching themselves to people’s faces and turning them into slaves for someone. When Rory’s dad Brian is taken by some of these slaves in the hospital Rory works in, it all becomes clear. The boxes are scanning devices, testing all of Earths and humanities strengths and weaknesses and now they have become boxes of death. They slowly count down from 7 until they all open, which causes a pulse to be released giving anyone near by a massive heart attack. The Doctor suffers one of these heart attacks but is brought back just in time to find out who the culprit is. It is the Shakri, a Gallifreyian legend which is very real. They are pest controllers and have decided to stop humanities voyage into the stars by killing them all now. The Doctor manages to reverse the pulse sent from the Shakris auto piloted ship which restarts everyone’s hearts but also blows up the ship. Rory and Amy see that they just cannot give up The Doctor and with Brian’s blessing go out and do some more adventuring.
This is an interesting episode, which decides to go back to basic and do everything very low-key. This works extremely well because the rest of the episodes before it were either quite bleak or a little bit childish. This episode (though maybe coming of a little soap opera-esque) at least gives us a story we can grip our teeth into. Everyone loves a good mystery. This episode has quite a lot of homages to different episodes in the series. The return of UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce, or United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) which has been around the Doctor Who universe since the second Doctors run is a nice touch, as is having the Brigadiers daughter running it. Not really necessary for the story (as any government team would have done) but well received by this viewer. Also the Doctor is seen eating fish fingers and custard with Rory and Amy, the first meal he had when he regenerated into Matt Smith. Also got to love the Doctor playing Wii tennis. The cameos by Professor Brian Cox and Sir Alan Sugar were great and made the episode feel that much more believable. Little things like this just give the episode a better sense of character. It feels like a long time since we had an episode set on Earth and this felt like the earlier series episodes with David Tennant and the Christopher Eccleston’s first episode, it feels more believable because it’s on Earth.
There are some nice lines of dialogue in this episode too, with the exploration of the relationship The Doctor has with Rory and Amy. The time is equally balanced out between them debating leaving The Doctor wondering if he should let them be and leave the mystery of the black boxes alone. Some touching lines of dialogue to where when The Doctor says to Amy that the reason he keeps coming back is because she was his first companion and he is “Running to them before they fade away from him”. It’s all very well written and flows incredibly well, from say the last episode where it just felt like the emotional baggage aspect was put in at the last-minute. You see a loving relationship between these three and Brian as well, who has some nice scenes with the Doctor about the fate of the companions.
The new villain the Shakri is okay. I was not exactly blown away by the feeble “oh humanity sucks let’s get rid of them” excuse and The Doctor did not seem bothered enough by them to say they are meant to be some kind of fairy tale for his people. If I found out the Easter Bunny was real (sorry kids he isn’t but you needed to find out some time!) I would be going mental. Mind you he has seen a fair bit in his time so probably just water of a ducks back for him. I think I would have found the Shakri a bit more menacing if it was not for the fact he looks like Darth Vader with his helmet off and his nails un-clipped. He is also a bit thick. Make a pulse beam that can stop hearts and then forget to make sure that the beam cannot be reversed. Shame on you Shakri, you are older than The Doctor you should have at least learnt something by now. We will have to wait and see how The Doctor fairs with this group in the future.
Sure there are some faults to be seen here. Why did everyone just leave the little black boxes everywhere. They look awful and being a bit of a clean freak, I would have been popping them in a skip as soon as I could. It might just be me though as everyone else seems fine with them been in cutlery trays and on top of TVs. Also the one in the cutlery tray stays in the same place for over a year which must mean someone isn’t cleaning up the knives and forks in that restaurant! It’s never made clear why the boxes attach themselves to certain people’s faces. Sure it looks creepy but it serves no purpose. It turns them into slaves but slaves with what task? There are people on The Shakri ship to which look like they are being experimented on but it’s never explained. Why bother going to all the trouble when it clearly states in the episode that a Shakri robot spy is in the hospital. If The Shakri can make robot spies why not make a robot to do the heavy lifting? Maybe it’s building up to something later on. Also a defibrillator is used to bring back The Doctor’s heart. Now I’m not a doctor (an actual doctor not a time lord, mind you I am not a time lord either) so I don’t know for sure, but I thought a defibrillator just brought your heart back into rhythm after cardiac arrest, not actually restart it when it’s stopped.
To be fair these are small gripes which though puzzling doesn’t affect the story much, which overall is very good. I actually enjoyed this episode the most so far. Simple, solid story telling with a slightly mediocre finisher but enjoyable. It was certainly a pleasure to watch the three enjoy watch others company in a different, more relaxed setting and Rory in his pants is always good for a giggle. Suitably impressed. Now here is the trailer for the next episode with those pesky weeping angels up to their old tricks again.