Sunday, April 07, 2013

My Review of Doctor Who's 7x08: "The Rings Of Akhaten"

Written by Neil Cross
Directed by Farren Blackburn

The Doctor (to the parasite): “Okay then, that’s what I’ll do. I will tell you a story.”

Much of Steven Moffat’s era has had the recurring motif of memory embedded into it so much that an episode where you have a creature that can be almost quelled with the memories and losses of a Time Lord was one that you could be forgiven for thinking the show had already done one but nope, not until now and what an episode.

It’s been a while since an episode has generated this much of divide within the cyber sphere, which to me, is a tad mystifying considering that this isn’t the sort of episode that you imagine that would create that sort of a divide. Aside from filling in some more gaps into Clara’s growing back-story and rehashing plots from adventures like “The End Of The World” and even “42”, this didn’t feel too big an episode to generate the reaction that it’s managed to do online.

Clara’s first trip to an alien world had to be exciting and something that would provide a cultural shock for the woman twice dead and Akhaten as a whole managed to be pretty successful in that regard. After all, it was a world littered with different varieties of aliens, customs that would make no sense to any human and the near death of a child in lieu of an unsatisfied deity as well. In fact, all of those things are enough to really rank this episode as one of the best from the show’s history but realistically, it’s more of a good episode than a spectacular one though.

Clara pretty much managed to pass every companion test by being handy in a crisis. While this show has and overreliance on having children to tug at the heartstrings and sometimes put the companion in a guardian type of role, considering Clara’s profession and her general compassionate, it really did work wonders here when it came to her looking after Merry Gejelh, aka the Queen Of Years.

Merry’s story managed to be both simple and sympathetic enough with her locked into a destiny of singing to a glassed monster in order to appease Grandfather’s angry side, so when she inevitably failed, it was a good way of revealing that not everything was entirely straightforward with the whole belief system in their first place. Namely, being that the mummy in question was the alarm and the god in question was little more than a parasite, playing on people’s fears and paranoia in order to be appeased.

This is one of those episodes that in a positive light are going to at least be remembered for the stirring speech that the Doctor delivered to the parasitic gas giant in relation to the losses that he’s suffered over the years. It’s without a doubt one of Matt Smith’s best performances on the show and it’s ably backed up when Clara managed to deliver a speech that managed to reduce the gas creature into nothingness and ultimately save the day.

While these cheesy types of solutions have been done to death on this show many times over, I still think that it was an effective tool in this episode. A lot of what we saw in this episode was Clara dealing with her first space adventure and also remembering her past. I liked that the leaf’s significance managed to be poignant in a believable way and it was certainly a moving speech from Clara too when she talked about her mother as well too.

Speaking of which, I liked the flashbacks we got to Clara in this episode and I liked that they were part of the Doctor’s determination to actually find out who she is and I think the way both Ellie and Dave Oswald were handled worked far better than with any of Amy’s relatives during the fifth series.

The other thing I extremely liked was Clara confronting the Doctor on who she reminded him of. While a part of me would’ve liked him to have been a bit more forthcoming to Clara about meeting her other selves, at least he seemed a bit more honest here than he was with Amy for a good portion of Series 5 and Clara not willing to be a substitute for another is also a wise move too. However, the only real bug bear of the episode was not having Clara officially join up. It’s time for that little part of their merry dance to be sorted out now, show.

Also in “The Rings Of Akhaten”

The leaf blinded Dave Oswald and Ellie Ravenwood saved him from being hit by a car. Ellie however was less successful from preventing a younger Clara from hitting the Doctor in the face with a football though.

The Doctor: “That’s not dangerous, is it?”
Ellie: “What's not?”
The Doctor: “Embarrassed.”

Clara got lost in Blackpool when she was six – a nod to Jenna-Louise Coleman’s home town and Ellie died on March 5th 2005, around the same time another Doctor met Rose Tyler.

The Doctor: “Where do you wanna go? Hey, what do you wanna see?”
Clara: “I don’t know.”

The Doctor (re Akhaten): “You know, I forget how much I like it here. We should come here more often.”
Clara: “You’ve been here before?”

Loved the mention of Susan in this episode as well as the references to the Time War and other moments from the Doctor’s history. The aliens as well were brilliant – Dor’een, Terraberseker, Lucanians but the Vigil themselves should’ve been more utilised as an antagonist in this episode.

Merry: “You don’t know me?”
Clara: “Sorry, actually not!”
Merry: "So why did you follow me?”
Clara: “To help. You look lost.”

The Doctor: “What have you been doing?”
Clara: “Exploring.”

Clara and the TARDIS didn’t seem to get on in this episode but then again, she didn’t have a key. I liked that the Doctor also got Clara’s mother ring back as well from Dor’een.

Clara (re gas giant): “It’s really big.”
The Doctor: “I’ve seen bigger.”
Clara: “Really?”
The Doctor: “Are you joking? It’s massive!”

Clara (to the gas giant): “Still hungry? Well, I’ve brought something for you. This. The most important leaf in human history. The most important leaf in human history, it's full of stories, full of history and full days that never got lived. Days that should've been but never were, passed onto me.”

Standout music: Well, that’s obviously going to be Merry and the Chorister’s singing throughout this episode to appease ‘Grandfather’. I know some thought it went on too long but I think it was perfect for the episode as a whole.

The Doctor: “You remind me of someone.”
Clara: “Who?”
The Doctor: “Someone who died.”
Clara: “Well, whoever she was, I’m not her.”

Chronology: I imagine it’s the day after “The Bells Of Saint John” for Clara.

“The Rings Of Akhaten” visually managed to be one of the most gorgeous episodes we’ve had, with music that certainly made the atmosphere and while there was a sense of familiarity with parts of the episode, I think Neil Cross overall did a decent job with his writing debut, plus the further development for Clara worked well too.

Rating: 8 out of 10

No comments: