Monday, April 8, 2013

Doctor Who Review: Episode 7.8 "The Rings of Akhaten"

Spoiler free to start, spoilers after the poster.

Throughout Season Seven, Doctor Who has been trying to be explicitly "cinematic."  You can see it in "A Town Called Mercy" where Doctor Who does a Western, or "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" where it's Who does Jurassic Park.

"The Rings of Akhaten" is Doctor Who does Indiana Jones.

No snickering, please.

As is pretty typical for the new series, whenever there's a new companion on the stage one almost always gets a companion-heavy episode either right out of the gate or as the second episode.  This time it's the second episode, as we start to get to know Clara as a character in of herself rather than just as the object of the Doctor's obsession.  How well does that work?  Not bad, even if the story itself is a little over the top for my tastes.  Details and spoilers after the poster.

Spoilers in Space!

Sing a Song of Spoilers!

Right, so we've got Clara now.  There's something funny going on here, because while Amy was an actual mother who we even got to see give birth, Amy never had a chance to be particularly maternal since her child was stolen within hours of her giving birth.  On the other hand, Clara, while not technically a mother in that she's never given birth to anyone, has had three out of her four stories so far emphasize how good she is taking care of kids.  In "The Snowmen" and "The Bells of St. John" she's a professional nanny, and here in "The Rings of Akhaten" she spends much of the episode as a surrogate mother for Merry.  

So we have a companion whose motherly aspects are being highlighted and then, all of a sudden, the Doctor explicitly mentions his granddaughter for the first time in decades?  I'm beginning to suspect at the Doctor may actually try to fulfill his vow (see below) in the 50th anniversary special.

Wouldn't that be something to see?  Personally, I can't think of a better way to commemorate 50 years than with a resolution to one of the longest running unresolved plotlines in the show's history.  It took them twenty years to give Sarah Jane Smith the resolution she deserved, while Susan's been waiting for nigh on half a century!

Going back to this week's episode, I enjoyed it.  There was some derring-do mixed in with Clara taking care of Merry, the bit with the door being particularly funny.  The visuals were glorious, especially of the various planetoids in the rings.  We got to know more about Clara, fulfilling the episode's brief, and got some alien world fun.  So why do I find myself somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for this episode?

Well for one thing, watching the show live on BBC America kind of sucks.  The commercials break the flow of the show, especially since I'm used to seeing commercial free versions on Netflix or on DVD.  I also can't get over the fear that scenes may be getting cut short or eliminated entirely on the BBCA version, since I've seen re-runs there that are definitely missing scenes I remember from DVD versions I own.

Beyond that, though, is the fact that I didn't buy the ending.  A leaf with the power of the infinite?  Even with the setup of "things we value become valuable" from the rent the skybike scene, I still wasn't getting it.  It felt hokey to me, too much like all those "the power of love conquers all" stories where you can literally turn love into a demon destroying energy beam or fire ball.  I'm just not buying it.

Nevertheless, the episode served its purpose and rolled the plot forward a bit.  It was fun, if not especially deep.  Good enough for now, but I'll want something with more meat on the bone before this season is through.


  1. I liked the carnival of aliens - this episode must have cost a small fortune, in Dr. Who terms - as most of the aliens did a pretty good job of being alien without just being people with crap on their face.....

    .....except the kid, who was just a person with crap on her face - I understand why, it's easier to force an emotional connection on us that way then if she had arachnid eyes or something.

    I too was a little disappointing in the resolve, having decided that having the Doctor shed a tear as he bleeds out all the things he's lost would have been a great ending - but since it was companion episode, a companion needed to save the day.

    I liked this one far better then last weeks for sure.

    Final thought, it's taken awhile, but Matt's doctor finally uttered the line that I think best defines this doctor (even if it does apply to the others general speaking.) - "We never walk away."

  2. Yeah, I read a quote from the Moff that said that while they'd had two big on location episodes ("Town Called Mercy" and "Angels Take Manhattan") in the first half of the season,k they really didn't have anything like that it the second, so the decided to go all-out and make this their big visual episode. Hence the alien market and the actual alien glories instead of just tunnels. For once, the Doctor delivered the Awesome that Clara asked for.

    And, well, the First Doctor, especially in his earliest episodes, not only walked away, sometimes he ran. And it's a little funny to hear that from Eleven who spent who knows how long in Victorian London trying to walk away from everything. But that's the point of Clara, I suppose. She's the one who's returned him to his world saving ways, after all.

  3. I think it's a blind eye thing - he hid so he didn't see any problems, hence he never walked away. His gotta help them all OCD is visually triggered ;)