The Doctor takes Clara to her first alien planet, but all is not what it seems. So, how does the new girl do her first time out? Read my review and find out.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, INCLUDING A FULL PLOT SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE EPISODE AND DO NOT WISH TO HAVE IT SPOILED FOR YOU, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE EPISODE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
A NOTE ABOUT REVIEWS: Each review will be broken into 3 parts. Part 1 is the Plot. This will contain a full plot summary of the episode. Part 2 is My Take, where I will give my personal thoughts and observations on the episode. Finally, Part 3 will be the Score, where I will rate the episode on a scale of 1 to 5.
FIGURES AND MORE TELEVISION EPISODE REVIEW
Show: Doctor Who
Series: 7, Part 2
Episode #: 7
Title: The Rings of Akhaten
Credits: The Doctor Matt Smith
- Clara Jenna-Louise Coleman
- Merry Emilia Jones
- Dave Michael Dixon
- Ellie Nicola Sian
- The Chorister Chris Anderson
- The Mummy Aidan Cook
- Dor’een Karl Greenwood
- Director Farren Blackburn
- Producer Denise Paul
- Writer Neil Cross
Following the events of “The Bells of Saint John”, the Doctor (Matt Smith) decides to learn more about his new companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) and travels into her past to observe her. He finds her parents met by a chance encounter caused by a gust of wind blowing a leaf into her father’s face and then later discovers that her mother died while Clara was a teenager. The Doctor takes the TARDIS back to the present and collects Clara as previously arranged. He asks her where she would like to go and she requests to be shown “something awesome”.
The Doctor takes Clara to the Rings of Akhaten. There they observe a series of planetoids orbiting a planet, with a shining pyramid on one of them. The Doctor takes Clara to a giant alien marketplace and introduces her to several aliens, including a merchant named Dor’een who attempts to rent them a space bike. The Doctor explains that the market doesn’t use hard currency but rather trades in items of sentimental value. Clara becomes separated from the Doctor and encounters a little girl who appears to be running and hiding. Clara catches up to her and she explains that her name is Merry Gejelh, and that she is the Queen of Years. Merry tells Clara that she is hiding because she is supposed to sing a song at a ceremony and she is afraid to get it wrong. Clara reassures her and Merry heads to the ceremony.
The Doctor and Clara attend the ceremony, where The Doctor explains that since the Rings were settled there has been a constant song sung to keep an angry god asleep. The people fear that the god, which they call Grandfather, will awaken and consume the entire universe if the song is ever interrupted. Merry begins singing, joined by a chorister at the pyramid. During the song, a mummy in a glass case at the pyramid begins to awaken. Merry panics, believing she made a mistake in the song. A beam of light from the pyramid envelopes her and she is pulled toward the pyramid and the mummy. The Doctor and Clara quickly find Dor’een and rent the space bike using Clara’s mother’s ring as payment. They ride the bike to the pyramid where they find the mummy struggling to escape the case and consume Merry’s soul. The Doctor promises Merry that she doesn’t have to sacrifice herself and that he will stop Grandfather. As they attempt to leave a group of creatures called the Vigil arrive and attempt to force Merry to sacrifice herself. The Doctor manages to hold the Vigil at bay long enough to let Clara and Merry escape from the throne room, but then the case shatters and the mummy breaks free. A ray of light strikes the planet, revealing that Grandfather is not the mummy, but rather Akhaten itself, a planet-sized parasitic creature.
Clara and Merry flee back to the ceremony and the Doctor faces the creature, realizing it feeds off of memories, stories, and feelings. He tries to overfeed it by offering the sum total of his Time Lord memories. This by itself is not enough to sate the creature, and Clara returns to help. She offers the creature the leaf that blew into her father’s face on the day he met her mother. The leaf contains an infinite amount of untold potential that Clara’s mother never saw because she died early. The creature, overwhelmed by the infinite potential it has consumed, implodes on itself and the planet and the Rings are saved.
The Doctor returns Clara to her home on the same day they left and gives her back her mother’s ring. He tells her that all the creatures she saved wanted her to have it back. Suddenly Clara remembers seeing The Doctor at her mother’s funeral and asks why he was there. He tells her that she reminds him of someone who died, and she rebukes him for using her as a replacement. He assures her that he was not replacing his friend, and Clara sets off home.
Does anyone remember the last episode set on an alien planet? It was “Asylum of the Daleks”, the FIRST episode of this series! Every other episode, including the Christmas Special, has taken place on Earth. So, it was about time the Doctor’s “spaceship” went into SPACE! So, it’s time for an alien adventure, and oh boy, do we ever get one. This is Doctor Who’s version of the famous Star Wars Cantina. Aliens of all shapes and sizes are present here. Jenna does a great job of displaying the wide-eyed wonder of a new companion seeing her first alien world. But, she also quickly shows why she belongs with the Doctor, as she befriends the little girl. Matt as usual plays the “tour guide” side of the Doctor to the hilt. However, there is a supplemental star to this episode: the music. Murray Gold has created a beautiful new song for this episode and it is a standout part of the episode. It is destined to occupy the same place in fans’ hearts as “Song of Freedom”, “This is Gallifrey” and “Vale Decem.” This episode also features another emotional monologue from the Doctor, and Matt is getting very proficient at delivering them. Special kudos also should be given to the production department. If you want to know they deserve extra praise, watch this episode while repeating to yourself, “this was filmed on a stage at a studio in Cardiff” over and over again. This entire episode was shot IN HOUSE with NO LOCATION FILMING! Also deserving of special praise is the effects house, The Mill. They have created a truly extraordinary alien menagerie this time around. Finally, special mention should be made of the young actress who plays the Queen of Years. She has an angelic voice and an innocence about her that made her absolutely perfect for the part. I would not be surprised to see her in Doctor Who again. Also, this being the 50th Anniversary year, there will be little nods to the show’s history. This episode featured a reference to the Doctor’s Granddaughter, Susan, who traveled with the First Doctor in the very beginning. This episode really did have something for everyone. The story, it must be said, was somewhat difficult to follow in some places and almost non-existent in others, but ultimately the whole, in my opinion makes up for the defects in the individual parts.
“The Rings of Akhaten” was by no means a perfect episode. A somewhat sporadic and flimsy overall plot is overshadowed and redeemed by the most diverse collection of alien life seen in a long time and some of Murray Gold’s finest work as a composer. The production department hit this one out of the park, making one of the most believable alien planets in the show’s history. Neil Cross is a good writer, but this one was never going to be about anything but the visuals. And, on that front, this is one of the best. The Rings of Akhaten gets a 4 out of 5.
It’s one of the most requested “Classic” Monster returns. An Ice Warrior, on a Submarine, at the height of the “Cold War”. Here’s the trailer.