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Doctor Who- The Rings of Akhaten

Written by Dr. Improbable on Sunday, April 07 2013 and posted in Features

Doctor Who- The Rings of Akhaten

Always make sure you know what you're signing up for before becoming leader of a planet-god cult


Watching all these series 7.2 episodes makes me feel like I really need to go back and watch the classic series. However, I haven’t got the time or energy to deal with a bunch of dustbin Daleks (definitely my new band name), so I guess I’ll just continue to miss all the references and nods to the original series.

Let’s begin. Caution: many, many spoilers.

The Doctor creeps on Clara from essentially her conception, going so far as to travel to the terrifying time for fashion known as the ‘80s. Her parents met when a leaf blew in her father’s face and her mother narrowly saved him from being hit by a car as a result. We see glimpses of her early life and learn her mother died in 2005. The Doctor yells at his TARDIS, saying she is impossible.

He asks her where she wants to go and she imaginatively replies, “Somewhere amazing.” Girl, you’re travelling through time and space in a box that’s bigger on the inside. The prospect of going anywhere is amazing. He brings her to the Rings of Akhaten and shows her a pyramid on one of the rocks that makes up the planet’s rings, which the natives believe is the source of all life in the universe. Why is the BBC’s CGI so superior to anything I see on ABC or NBC?

We see a large sampling of alien life and hear a reference to the Doctor’s granddaughter (first series I think) because we’re still bringing back all sorts of stuff. He heads off to find something with emotional attachment to use as currency while Clara gets distracted by a fleeing girl, who is the Queen of Irez (or something, you’d think I could undertand British accents by now). She tells the girl she doesn’t know who she is, but is here to help. The girl tells her she is hiding from some people, and sure enough we see some nefarious-looking aliens materialise in a puff of black light. Clara brings her to the TARDIS, which is locked.

They duck behind it for cover and Clara asks the queen- named Merry- to explain why she’s scared. The girl explains that she was chosen to be queen as a baby and learned all the histories and songs, and now she has to sing a special song to a god, which frightens her. Clara shares that when she was a kid, she was terrified of getting lost- until it actually happened, and her mum found her, and fish and chips saved the day because England. She encourages Merry, then takes her back to her handlers.

Clara and the Doctor show up at Merry’s ceremony, but not after some monks prove that organised religion is pretty creepy on every planet. Merry and the monk in the pyramid sing a weird duet to the mummy/god/”grandfather” in the pyramid. Those in the crowd offer mementos to the old god, which dissolve into magic gold dust, and they join in the singing and holy shit could this get any more unnerving? Also the Doctor looks even more like Gordon Gee with those spectacles.

Suddenly the monk hits a sour note and Merry is lifted up in a golden sphere and transported to the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara run to Doreen, the barking alien, and Clara is forced to trade her mother’s ring for a ride on the celestial waverunner, since the only thing the Doctor has of sentimental value is his screwdriver.

They fail to intercept Merry during her trip in the ethereal golden hamster ball, but the Doctor screwdrivers the heavy pyramid door open so Clara can get the girl out. Merry refuses, and says the hungry, soul-eating god wants her rather than Clara. The Doctor is no longer able to hold the door, and dives into the sealed pyramid; soon after, the monk finishes his song and the soul-eating monster wakes up. The Doctor teaches Merry about astrophysics and Lewis Carroll and tells her she doesn’t have to sacrifice herself to the soul-hungry god-thing.

The nefarious black-clad aliens have other ideas, and blast Clara and The Doctor off their feet, taking hold of Merry to bring her to soul-eater. The Doctor and these henchmen duke it out with sonic forcefields, while Merry remembers that there’s a convenient song that opens a convenient secret door that she conveniently knows the lyrics to. They make it to the waverunner, right before the soul-eater breaks free and aims a laser blast at the planet.

Turns out, The Doctor done goofed. The soul-eater was just sort of the last barrier before the true god, which is basically that whole planet. The Doctor is determined to fight the planet-god, and sends Clara and Merry off on the “moped.” (Nope, still a waverunner.) Back on the observatory rock, Merry leads the crowd in a rousing song, and the Doctor gets all inspirational, telling the god that all these people have sacrificed to him.  He isn’t a god apparently, just an entity that feeds off the memories and nostalgia of the people. The Doctor sacrifices his own memories to this planet-parasite-god. Of course, his knowledge is too great for the parasitic memory-god to handle, so it just sort of re-implodes on itself.

Since we still have five minutes to kill, Clara space-waverunners her way down to The Doctor and offers the pressed leaf that led her parents to meet to the capricious planet-memory-eater (I could make up names for this entity all day!).  Despite apparently being full off the Doctor’s memories (which contain not only written pasts but also unwritten, infinite potential futures), it consumes the leaf.

The Doctor brings her back. She remembers that he was at her mother’s grave, and he says she reminds him of someone. Someone, you know, dead. She only agrees to travel with him as herself, not as a ghost. He returns her mother’s ring to her as a token of thanks from the people.

Ever feel like a show is trying to do too many things at once? It seems like they’re trying to set up a new arc with this Clara stuff while still doing fanservice in anticipation of the upcoming 50th anniversary.  I am interested enough in Clara’s story, but I don’t know how long they’ll be dragging it out. Plus this episode felt a little slow- and it reminded me too much of when Ten fought the devil or whatever in The Satan Pit. Eh, whatever, it’s still better than most stuff on TV and has better heart, so it’s not like I’m about to stop watching.

Next week: The Hunt for Red October!


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About the Author - DrImprobable

Before you ask, no, Dr. Improbable is not that kind of doctor, and will not be diagnosing your genital warts today. Seriously, put it away. The doc does more of the "mad science" brand of doctoring, though one day hopes to be that "time and space traveling" kind of doctor. In the meantime, Doc passes time cloning things, memorizing acronyms, and using large magnets. When not plotting all the terrible ways to destroy the human race (particularly those found on public transportation), the doc kills time by watching television and making sarcastic commentary on it.


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