The Ninjabot

Doctor Who – “The Rings of Akhaten” Review

Posted on April 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm by Amanda Andonian

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Another week, another episode of Doctor Who. This time, the Doctor takes us and Clara to the colorful and vibrant Rings of Akhaten where a big festival is going on, bringing people from all over the system to hear the Queen of Years sing their god, also known as Grandfather, to sleep. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

The episode started off pretty strong, giving us some backstory into Clara and how she grew up. It was a bittersweet look into the new Companion’s life, and the tone reminded me (in a good way) of Amy Pond’s entrance into the series way back when. Everything I like about Doctor Who was in those first few minutes: real emotion, quirky humor, and the Doctor being the Doctor. Unfortunately, things start to go downhill quickly from there.

doctor-who-the-rings-of-akhaten3After spying on Clara in the past, the Doctor returns to the present to pick her up and ask her where she would want to go if she could go anywhere in time and space. From the look on his face, I think he might have been a little worried that she would want to go back in time and see her mother, but instead Clara takes a long pause and just says, “Somewhere awesome!” That awesome somewhere just so happens to be the Rings of Akhaten—seven worlds orbiting the same star, all believing that life in the universe originated from a small pyramid near the sun. How much you wanna bet that our intrepid Doctor and Companion are going to end up in that pyramid?

Long story short, the Doctor and Clara have shown up for festival season, Clara runs into a little girl named Merry (the Queen of Years) who apparently is the center of this festival because she contains all the history and memories of her people; the ceremony “goes wrong” and Merry is pulled into the pyramid; some creepy looking whispery dudes fight the Doctor; there’s a monster in a glass cage (it breaks out, but that doesn’t matter apparently); and Clara has to sacrifice the memories and potential of what could have been in her life in order to appease Grandfather, which isn’t a god, but a parasite that feeds off of people’s memories.

Whew! What a mess!

doctor-who-the-rings-of-akhaten3Aside from a plot that made almost no sense, my biggest problem with this episode was that there were no real stakes in the conflict with Merry and Grandfather. Her running away from her duties just turns out to be a little girl scared of messing up the ceremony, rather than a sinister plot to hurt her; but then the story gives us the ol’ switcheroo and it turns out that the ceremony is meant to sacrifice her after all. Then, the monster in the glass cage (which we thought was Grandfather) just turns out to be Grandfather’s alarm clock? The god is actually the giant star that’s been hanging there the whole time. Finally, the Doctor and Clara both give up their memories to stop it, and then everything is honky dory in no time at all.

The idea of an alien parasite that feeds off of people’s history and memories has a lot of potential, but it’s a little too similar to the Weeping Angels in my estimation, and it didn’t seem like the Doctor and Clara suffered too much in sacrificing their memories. Sure, it looked uncomfortable, but they both walked away relatively unscathed. There were cute moments here and there, like the Doctor sliding under the stone door before it fell, then reaching back to grab his sonic screwdriver before the door slammed down; but references like that can’t carry an entire episode.

doctor-who-the-rings-of-akhatenOverall, it felt like kind of a rehash of Rose’s first foray into the galaxy with the 9th Doctor—all it needed was the universe’s last living Human Being. I wanted to like this episode so much, but it left me feeling like something big was missing. With six more episodes to go, I’m hoping that they ramp things into high gear soon, rather than waste Jenna-Louise Coleman’s rejuvenating presence on more lame story lines like this. Hopefully, once they really start to delve into Clara’s existence, Doctor Who will feel well and truly BACK!

At least the episode posters are stunning! Hmmm, that artwork reminds me of the films of another dashing adventurer I’ve talked about recently…

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Doctor Who: Season 7 Episode 7, “The Rings of Akhaten” aired April 3rd, 2013 on BBC America.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @reiko516.

    • I actually enjoyed this episode. Perhaps it had something to do with loss, memories, love, death, and infinite possibilities. These are concepts humans are all too familiar with. Anytime the show is able to find a way to make the Doctor seem more human, I'm onboard.

      In just two episodes the audience has a wonderful understanding of where Clara comes from. Not just the where and when, but also the how and why. Her parents were brought together by the universe. Some like to believe in things like fate and everything happens for a reason. This episode showed us a beautiful origin story that had a moment of sadness, but also showed us how the possibilities of the future are endless. Especially when you're traveling with a time lord. That's an encouraging thought.

      Clara is well on her way to becoming my favorite companion. She's quick to take action, and doesn't ask a million questions. Not to mention she just saved seven worlds by defeating an old god with a leaf.

    • Jennifer

      I liked it! My question is, why didn't the TARDIS translate for her? The Doctor had to tell her what the different species were saying to her. I think she's right, the TARDIS doesn't like her. But the bigger question may be, why?

      • She's a special little snow flake. So far these last two episode have us asking so many questions. How fun and engaging! It only took me 2.5 seasons to enjoy the show again.

      • JediJay

        I think the TARDIS doesn't like her because she shouldn't exist. She's an anomaly of space and time, and the TARDIS can directly sense the threat she poses.

    • Jennifer

      Stupid phone. I meant thumbs up! That's a good theory.

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