“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: the year of the slow invasion. The time the Doctor came to stay…”
The Ponds are woken up at 6:30am by the doorbell, and more specifically, by Brian Williams, Rory’s dad. The world has been invaded – by very small cubes. The Doctor is, of course, nearby.
The four enter the TARDIS to inspect the cubes, but they’re all exactly the same and seem inactive. Brian’s instructed to stay in the TARDIS and watch them, while the Doctor uses Rory and Amy’s kitchen as a lab; “cook up some cubes – see what happens.”
While Rory gets ready for work, Amy reminisces over her decade-long travels with the Time Lord: ten years not for the Doctor, and not for Earth – but for the Ponds. As the Doctor notes, they’re all grown up. That night little Amelia waited for the TARDIS in her garden is just a distant memory…
But their discussion is interrupted by UNIT, bursting in while Rory’s in his pants. A spike in Artron energy readings brings Kate Stewart, Head of Scientific Research, to Amy and Rory’s kitchen, immediately identifying the Doctor for his two hearts (and dress sense). UNIT have done the Doctor’s experiments for him – exposed the cubes to extreme heat; simulated a water depth of five miles; dropped one out of a helicopter at 10,000ft; and rolled their best tank over it – but the cubes are indestructible. And all around the world, people are taking them into their homes and offices and helping them invade the internet too, with photographs and videos. Within three hours, the cubes have 1,000 separate Twitter accounts.
Team Cube (in it together!) spends four days watching the cubes, as they do… absolutely nothing. But patience is for wimps, so the Doctor busies himself with housework: creosoting the fence, mowing the lawn, fixing the car, hoovering – and doing five million keepy-uppies with a football, naturally. A further hour has passed, so the Doctor rushes back into the TARDIS.
…To find Brian still sitting there, watching the cubes. For four days straight. “Doesn’t time fly when you’re alone with your thoughts?”
The Doctor invites the Ponds to come with him while he restores his own sanity, gallivanting through all time and space. But Rory’s got his job to think about, and the Doctor has to come to terms with that fact that what he does isn’t all there is. The Doctor tells them all to keep monitoring the cubes, and the TARDIS dematerialises.
October. Amy agrees to be her friend’s bridesmaid. Rory agrees to become a full-time nurse. Like they know they’re going to be there. Did real life just get started?
“Brian’s Log. Day Sixty-Seven. Cube was quiet all night, once again; cube was quiet all day, as per previously; no movement; no change in measurements: end of entry.”
Brian “Diligence” Williams films the cube while he’s a asleep, watches the footage on fast-forward, and emails the results to UNIT. He’s doing what the Doctor asked.
December. It’s Christmas, and at Rory’s hospital, a man is wheeled away by two sinister porters with hexagonal, black mouths.
June. The UN have classified the cubes as provisionally safe (whatever that means); Banksy and Damien Hirst have put out statements to say they’re nothing to do with them, and the cubes – well, they’re just there.
A party at the Pond residence. The Doctor visits on Amy and Rory’s anniversary, and the two are dropped off on 26th June 1890 at the recently-opened Savoy hotel. No complications. Except a Zygon ship under the Savoy, with half the staff imposters. So to make up for it, the Doctor takes them to see Henry VIII – but Amy accidentally marries him.
June… again. The three return to the party – but seven weeks have passed for them.
Brian asks the Doctor what happened to the other people who travelled with him. He solemnly explains: “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some… not many, but… some died. But not them. Not them, Brian. Never them.” This obviously affects the Doctor, so he asks Amy if he can stay with them – just because he misses them.
July. “Brian’s Log. Day Three-Hundred and Sixty-One. 8:50 pm. No movement.”
But he’s wrong. Brian’s cube moves. Rory’s opens and scans the kitchen. Amy’s takes her pulse. The Doctor’s interrupts his session on the Wii, flying around, scanning the internet – and attacking him!
Rory is called into work after people are attacked by the cubes, and Brian goes to give him a hand. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Amy are wanted at the Tower of London, where UNIT have set up an underground base.
Every cube around the world activated at the same moment, each doing different things, and UNIT have some under observation. Kate admits that she’s lost; she doesn’t know what to do. “Don’t despair, Kate,” the Doctor says. “Your dad never did.” Kate Stewart: she dropped ‘Lethbridge’ because she didn’t want any favours. Kate remembers what her dad taught her: “Science leads, he always told me. Said he’d learnt that from an old friend.”
The cubes are active for 47 minutes – then they just stop.
The Doctor and Amy go outside to think, and the former confronts the latter, saying: “You’re thinking of stopping, aren’t you? You and Rory?” But they still haven’t made their minds up: “There were years where I couldn’t live without you,” Amy confesses, but she’s made a life on Earth with Rory – and travelling with the Doctor is starting to feel like running away. “One day – soon, maybe – you’ll stop. I’ve known for a while,” the Doctor says, sadly. “I’m running to you and Rory before you fade from me.”
The Doctor realises that the cubes made a full assessment of Earth and its inhabitants and worked out the best way to attack the human race – and suddenly, the cubes start to count down. A warning goes out, but it’s too late: an energy spike is sent throughout the world, causing mass cardiac arrests.
The Doctor tracks the signal back to seven locations, the closest of which is, of course, Rory’s hospital! Then one of the Doctor’s hearts stops.
While Rory and Brian are kidnapped by the hexagonal-mouthed porters, Amy restarts the Doctor’s heart using a defibrillator and the pair head over to the hospital. They step through a wormhole into a ship spearheaded by a Gallifreyan legend, the Shakri; “pest controllers of the universe.” Serving the word of ‘the Tally,’ the Shakri want to stop the “human contagion” before they can colonise space.
The Doctor uses the cubes as a mass defibrillator, sending a wave of energy across the globe to kick-start people’s hearts again – but there’s enormous feedback, and the three escape through the wormhole as the Shakri’s ships blow up.
The Doctor, Amy, Rory and Brian return to the Ponds’ house for dinner. The Doctor tells Amy and Rory he understands; they both have ordinary, human lives that they can’t give up. But Brian corrects him: “actually, it’s you they can’t give up, Doctor. And I don’t think they should.”
“So that was the year of the slow invasion; when the Earth got cubed and the Doctor came to stay. It was also when we realised something the Shakri never understood: what cubed actually means. The Power of Three.”