"Every time we flew away with the Doctor we'd just become part of his life, but he never stood still long enough to become part of ours. Except once..."
— Amy Pond
Written by Chris Chibnall.
One day, approximately ten years
after Amy and Rory started traveling with the Doctor (in their relative time), billions of tiny black cubes fall out of the sky. Professor Brian Cox is on TV talking about it and everything. The Doctor and his Ponds — including Rory's dad Brian
— investigate, with the help of UNIT's new scientific leader, Kate Stewart
. The Doctor decides to stay with Amy and Rory for a while and gets to know them as they do their everyday jobs and live their everyday lives. Amy is now a travel journalist, Rory is considering nursing full-time.
Only the cubes don't do anything. The Doctor can't bear the endless waiting, and takes Amy and Rory on more and more adventures just to stave off the boredom. They fight Zygons, end up in Henry VIII's bedroom
, and so on. Months pass, then a year. Meanwhile, Brian is getting increasingly worried about his son and daughter-in-law when he figures out what kinds of things
usually happen to the Doctor's companions in the end. The Doctor decides to shelve his rampant Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!
for a while and comes to properly live with the Ponds, because he just misses them terribly when they're not around. Brian keeps a daily video log of the cubes, but all they do is sit and be utterly, completely indestructible.
When the cubes do eventually start moving, they light up, spit out fire, experiment on humanity and play "The Birdie Song"
. The Doctor rushes over to UNIT with Amy in tow, while Rory and Brian discover a starship portal in Rory's hospital and some rather scary aliens. While the Doctor and Amy have a quiet Friendship Moment
, realising that their adventures can't last forever, the cubes start a global countdown after which they directly attack people's hearts, sending a third of Earth's population into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, the Doctor has more than one heart
, and has both of them restored to full health after Chewing the Scenery
for a bit. Even more
fortunately, Kate Stewart turns out to be Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, the daughter of The Brigadier
, and the Doctor knows he can trust her completely.
The Doctor and Amy rush over to the starship portal and confront the Monster of the Week
: the Shakri, a bogeyman from Gallifreyan bedtime stories who wants to kill humanity with the cubes as a kind of interstellar pest control. The Doctor saves humanity when he realises he can Reverse the Polarity
on the cubes, Kate gives the Doctor a kiss on the cheek, and Brian gives Amy and Rory his blessing in travelling with the Doctor a while longer.
- The Bus Came Back: UNIT returns for the first time in the Steven Moffat era.
- Call Back: The Doctor talks about a couple previous events and characters.
- Such as what's happened to some of his previous Companions: those who have left, those who have been left behind and those who have died.
- The Doctor also mentions he used to have a metal dog that could float.
- The Doctor's inability to handle the boredom of living in normal time on Earth echoes his Third incarnation's irritation of being stuck on Earth for much of his career, and this is only reinforced by his cooperation with UNIT and the presence of a Lethbridge-Stewart.
- Particularly astute viewers might pick up on the Doctor's quite justified fear of defibrillators.
- Canon Immigrant: Kate Stewart made various appearances in spin-off media before appearing in the show. Her previous on-screen adventure was a straight-to-video release with companions Sarah Jane Smith and Victoria Waterfield, called "Downtime".
- The Cast Showoff: Matt Smith plays football again.
- Companion Cube: After a montage showing people using the cubes to play golf and to make espresso, cut to a little girl in a hospital holding her cube like a dolly. It all goes wrong soon after.
- Continuity Nod: Quite a few background references are present in the episode as well.
- Couch Gag: The show's title is a tessellated pattern of Cubes.
- Creepy Child: The little girl... droid... thing.
- Cuddle Bug: The Doctor spends a lot of time in this episode kissing Amy's forehead and cuddling her, because he knows she's considering a life without him. Rory even gets in on it, grabbing the Doctor's face and very sweetly kissing him on the cheek.
- Deadpan Snarker: Kate has her moments, especially when she's claiming her team are trained in beheadings and she has death ravens. Not so surprising, considering her lineage.
- Description Cut: The news reports show Professor Brian Cox saying that "the answer must come from a greater man than I." Cut to the Doctor at work.
- Brian keeps diligently watching the cubes long after the world stops caring.
- The Doctor himself counts, after one of his hearts stops.
- Development Gag: In one throwaway gag, the Doctor is seen randomly holding a cabbage. Tom Baker once famously joked that he wanted a sentient cabbage as the next companion.
- Doomed New Clothes: Amy's Pimped-Out Dress gets a bit charred, as does Rory's new tux.
- Dumb Muscle: Kate Stewart seems to regard the UNIT troops and possibly the older, not so Mildly Military, older commanders as this.
- Elaborate Underground Base: UNIT has one underneath the Tower of London.
- Emotion Bomb: One of the cubes can inflict mood swings.
- Eureka Moment: "Oh, Amelia Pond... you always get what you want.... ...[the cubes] got what they wanted."
- Faux Horrific: One of the cubes emits the Birdie Song/Chicken Dance on a constant loop. The Doctor and Amy are suitably horrified.
- Foreshadowing: At the very start of the episode you can hear a voice message saying how a pair of reading glasses were ready to be picked up. Guess what Amy is wearing in the next episode?
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Although it's obvious someone's behind the cubes, there are no hints as to the identity or motive of this Monster of the Week until the last few minutes of the show.
- Gilligan Cut: The Doctor drops Amy and Rory off at the Savoy in 1890 for their wedding anniversary, promising "no surprises". Cut to them sitting in a burned out hotel:
The Doctor: Bit of a shock. Zygon ship under the Savoy. Half the staff impostors.
- Historical In-Joke: The Doctor claims to have invented the Yorkshire pudding.
The Doctor: Sweet, yet savoury. (holds up a custard-dipped fish finger) Sound familiar?
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: This is the motivation for why the cubes are used, to prevent the spread of humanity throughout space.
- I Always Wanted to Say That:
Rory: There are soldiers all over my house, and I'm in my pants!
Amy: My whole life I've dreamed of saying that, and I miss it by being someone else.
- Internal Homage: A massive homage to Russell T Davies-era Earth-invasion stories.
- It Came from the Fridge: Amy is cleaning out the fridge; there is milk two months out of date, and when she picks up the yoghurt, she simply screams and throws it.
- Large Ham: Matt Smith gives his grand ode to overacting, and it's glorious.
- Like Father, Like Son:
- Brian is a Genre Savvy Determinator who calls the Doctor out. He truly is Rory's dad.
- Kate seems a lot like her dad, Alistair.
- Magical Defibrillator:
- Amy restarts one of the Doctor's hearts with shock paddles. That is, of course, not what they do.
- The Doctor also restarts a good chunk of humanity's hearts after a period of time spent dead with the Cubes, although it does at least mention on the news reports that emergency care is being set up for them, implying they are suffering some ill effect from this.
- Mundane Utility: The cubes spend so long doing absolutely nothing that people eventually take them for granted. Among other things, they've been put to use as paperweights. Of course, this is precisely why it takes them so long to act.
- Noodle Incident:
- The Doctor takes Amy and Rory to the Savoy, which is invaded by Zygons, and Amy accidentally gets married to Henry VIII. The Doctor also once ran a restaurant and ended up inventing the Yorkshire pudding.
- One of Rory's patients at the hospital shows up in a wheelchair... with one of his feet stuck in a toilet. Apparently, it's not the first time.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: The Doctor gives a nice one in defying the Shakri's Tally:
The Doctor: So. Here you are, depositing slug pellets all over the earth. Made attractive, so humans will collect them, hoping to find something beautiful inside. Because that's what they are. Not pests or plague; creatures of hope. Forever building and reaching. Making mistakes of course. Every life form does. But. But -— they learn. And they strive for greater and they achieve it. You want a tally. Put their achievements against their failings, through the whole of time. I will back humanity against the Shakri every time.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Amy wears one briefly when they visit the Savoy.
- Power Trio: Discussed.
It was also when we realised something the Shakri never could: what "cubed" actually means. The Power of Three
- Ship Sinking: The Doctor says he's never been kissed by a Lethbridge-Stewart before.
- The Doctor likes to play Wii Sports.
- UNIT's collecting and testing the cubes is more than a little reminiscent of the SCP Foundation.
- A reference to, of all things, Power Rangers RPM: When the doctor gets his hearts going, he says, "Back in the game," and makes a pose — the exact same words and pose were used by Ziggy in the episode "Dome Dolls".
- Sinister Geometry: The little black cubes.
- Skewed Priorities:
There are soldiers all over my house, and I'm in my pants
- The Slow Path: The Doctor still considers anything in excess of a few minutes The Slow Path. He gets intensely frustrated with boredom after a couple of days.
- Sneeze of Doom: Rory, the Doctor and Amy are hiding under Henry VIII's bed. The Doctor sneezes.
- Special Guest:
- Professor Brian Cox appears, talking about the origin of the Cubes.
- Alan Sugar does an episode of The Apprentice where the challenge is to sell them.
- Title Drop: Amy does this in the final line. Both the actual episode title and the working title, actually.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Amy and Rory have been married for ten years (in their personal time-line). When the story is set is unclear, as she's adding Earth time and Doctor time together.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: There were a number of people on the ship that exploded and we only saw the Doctor, Amy, Rory and Brian escape. In fact, it looked like some of those people were still lying comatose in the background as we watched the Doctor and the Ponds escaping from the exploding ship.
- The X of Y: The 118th time the naming structure has been used in Doctor Who history.