So. What I thought as I watched ‘The Rings of Akhaten’.

This isn’t so much a review as a stream of consciousness  with very occasional moments of discussion and/or very occasional rants. If you haven’t seen ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, this probably won’t make much sense.

So we start off with a meet cute, when a leaf blows onto a man’s face and a woman saves him from a car. What are the odds? This is a very meaningful thing, so meaningful that the leaf is now the most important leaf in human history.

And the Doctor licked it.

Huh.

Aaaaand he also happens to be watching the man and woman fall in love.

We flash through the childhood of a baby I presume is Clara – the man and woman are her parents – with the Doctor popping up occasionally to get hit in the head by a football. And – did he just go into a Venusian aikido position??????

Probably not, but it’s an interesting thought.

Awww, Clara had such a happy childhood, what could possibly go-

-oh.

I must say, Coleman has a very good face for portraying younger characters; with the fringe and whatnot, she does actually look as if she could be in her teens. The Doctor is still watching, and it appears that Clara is entirely human and just an ordinary girl, but yet impossible.

This plot arc going to dominate the whole second half of the season, isn’t it?

After the credits, the Doctor takes Clara on a trip. When asked what she wants to see, she doesn’t know. That’s actually a very good response, and I applaud the book comparison. When faced with a lifetime of books that you’ve read and loved, how can you pick your favorite? And, when faced with the whole of time and space, how can you choose just one place to go?

Eventually, after much anticipatory rubbing of hands, she decides upon ‘something awesome’. Wow, way to narrow it down. Although the Doctor doesn’t seem to mind.

I do love the bit where the Doctor reveals their destination to Clara. It’s like in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, when the Beast gives the library to Belle. Gah, they’re so cute-

Wait. Wait. Where exactly are they in order to get this view? What are they standing on to be able to see this? Are they on one of those orbiting rocks? If so, how can they breathe?

All life originated from what planet? You mean the big glowing thing that everything currently on screen is orbiting around? That’s not a planet, that’s a star.

Beware, incoming rant!

(And we’re experiencing a whole new alien planet and culture! My goodness, when was the last time that happened?  Probably Asylum of the Daleks – or, all right, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship took place on a Silurian spaceship, but since all the Silurians were dead and all the bipedal supporting cast either were human or looked human, I’m not counting it.

Although really, if I continue to be picky, I rather want to discount Asylum of the Daleks as well, since we’re going with the basis of ‘whole new alien planet and culture’ and the Daleks, much as I respect and cherish them, have been used before.

So if we’re looking for an absolutely new planet and culture that the main characters actually visit – rather than just encountering people from said planet and culture on Earth – probably the last time we saw that was in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, which had that crazy world with the living trees. And yes, admittedly there were human looking characters who wanted to cut them down, but the trees were still interesting and new and so on and so forth.

I’m whiny and picky, I know, but when the Doctor says ‘whole of time and space’, I expect to be shown the whole of space as well as time. So I was very glad that we got at least one episode that wasn’t set on Earth, and rather resigned that the next few episodes will be a return to the good old Blue Planet.

With the possible exception of Journey to the Centre of the Tardis, which sounds intriguing.)

So the Doctor and Clara get out and good grief, it’s like stepping into Hellboy II’s troll market! Really, there’s even the same theme of Arabic architecture and fashion! So many prosthetics! Someone seems to have fluffy white balls on their head – or maybe that is their head! So many intriguing names! Wow, do Terraberserkers greet everyone with a pelvic thrust?

Gosh, he actually mentioned Susan! And Susan herself at that, if not by name, rather than mentioning offhandedly that he was a dad once and presumably a granddad. I honestly can’t remember the last time he did that – not that he ever did it much, I think. Clara’s reaction is priceless.

Did the Doctor just nick some fruit? And I though Clara was going to ask him how he can possibly have a granddaughter, now she’s snacking on some fruit? I would have at least expected her to try to ask before being distracted by the glowing stuff. By the way, why would you take a bite from something that was glowing?

I do just love how mush shorter Jenna-Louise Coleman is than Matt Smith. He’s a beanpole and she’s pocket sized.

Ah, the Tardis translator microbe things aren’t working. Ominous and meaningful.

The moped is definitely going to come up later, isn’t it? As is the cost. Why is the price something of sentimental value? How would you manage to run a business if, every time someone wanted to rent the moped, they had to give up things like treasured pictures of their kids – oh, wait, explanation from the Doctor, people all over this system use treasured objects for currency. Well, if they’re ready to give them up so easily, then they aren’t exactly treasured, are they?

Ah, and here we come to the other main character of the episode, who just so happens to be a cute human looking girl with just a few smatterings of prosthetics to suggest ‘totally not human, all right?’ I do like her robes, though. Again, it reminds me of Princess Nuala’s travelling outfit in Hellboy II. I love that film.

Oh, so Clara can understand the human looking aliens, but not the non-human ones.

Clara, she’s clearly hiding and running away from something. It’s pretty unlikely that she’s lost.

Stay calm. She can probably smell fear.

Oh, so she was terrified, but now you’re smiling at her she’s suddenly all happy.

Clara, she was obviously fleeing the people chasing her. She did not look lost!

Ah, you though she looked like she needed help. That’s better.

Ah, strange people with heads that could actually be their real face or helmets, I’m honestly not sure which. And whispering. Whispering is never a good sign. Their coats are snazzy. So many buttons!

Oh, you finicky Tardis, not letting the companion in! How conveniently stubborn!

‘The Queen of Years’ is a very interesting concept, a bit like the Dalai Lama, although I do wonder how she can know every song ever. She’s what, ten? Eleven? Unless her species has a really good memory.

Ah, a constant vigil, asking something to remain asleep. The something is probably that mummified…person in the glass box, with the rather elongated head. This is not foreboding in the slightest.

A theatre to rival the one at Epidarus! No pressure for Merry; none at all!

How can her voice reach that temple?

The Doctor reading the information off some strange sort of pamphlet is funny.

No, seriously, how can her voice reach that temple?

Everybody sing along! This can’t possibly go wrong!

Or not.

Clara and the Doctor to the rescue! Naturally Clara has to make a heroic sacrifice of her mother’s ring so they can get the moped. Really, Doctor, you don’t have anything other than the screwdriver? You’re always pulling loads of stuff out of your pockets, surely some of it’s meaningful? Hell, what about your bow tie? You keep it in a frigging box that you open ceremoniously, but it’s not precious to you? Why should Clara have to give up her ring?

Because it shows how much she wants to save Merry. I suppose that’s acceptable. But still!

How are they able to breathe? For that matter, how is Merry able to breathe? There’s clearly no force field around either of them, Clara and Merry are able to clasp each other’s hand for a second! How is the moped able to go so fast? What is the distance between the rock they left and the rock with the pyramid on it?  

The door is incredibly heavy because of course they’re going to be sealed inside, isn’t it?

Oh, yes. Complete with a little nod to Indiana Jones, what with the ‘reach back to grab the screwdriver’ and all that.

So, with the Long Song over, Chorister Rezh Baphix… disintegrated himself? Teleported somewhere? I have no frigging clue.

Oh look, the mummy’s up and about! I do love how the Doctor’s casually explaining thing’s while the creature’s snarling in the background.

I also like ‘it’s not a god, it’s a vampire’. There are vampires and there are vampires, and the worst ones don’t suck blood.

Matt Smith is such a good actor. He really manages to carry a whispering monologue.

Oh come on, how long can they drag this out? Find a way out of the pyramid already! What are these strange goggle wearing things, anyway? Aside from Grandfather’s servants?

‘Tactical boo boo.’ Hee hee heeeeee.

So wait – the mummy was an alarm clock?

What???????????? Howwherewhywhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

It emerges that ‘Grandfather’ is, in fact, a sentient parasite star. Who’s hungry for memories.

Oh. Wow. I do wonder who will step up for a heroic sacrifice.

I sort of predicted something like this when I watched last week’s preview, only instead of memories I thought the Doctor would be offering up his life force.

So, a thousand years worth of the memories and experiences of the frigging Last of the Time Lords isn’t quite enough to satisfy the thing. Of course. But don’t worry, here comes Clara with her super duper oh so special leaf!

Incidentally, the song Merry and everyone else sing is nice…but I can’t help but be greatly reminded of that little ditty written for the Queen’s Jubilee last year.

Hooray, ‘Grandfather’ is gone! You’ve just destroyed a star that was providing light and heat and a gravitational pull to a whole system. Marvelous. 

Also, are there going to be any consequences to the Doctor having his memories and experiences – his very soul – feasted upon? Clara’s leaf, with all its infinite possibilities, was completely disintegrated. If there is not some form of payback for this act on the Doctor’s part somewhere down the line, I am calling foul.

Without appearing to so much as say goodbye to Merry – leaving her in a star system that no longer has a star, lovely – the Doctor drops Clara back at home. Apparently she’s not going to come with him just yet, and is determined not be a replacement for someone that she reminds the doctor of.

Oh, the irony. It hurts.

And that was The Rings of Akhaten! So, what did I think of it all?

Honestly, I quite liked this episode. As you’ve no doubt noticed, having gotten this far, I found some bits of it rather silly or implausible, and I really didn’t feel that we needed those strange minions, even if they did have really nice coats. I personally think they were only there because, in these days, Doctor Who has to have a threat that stands around menacingly, occasionally holding out its arms and whispering.

But I still found it enjoyable. It took place on a planet other than Earth, which was already a point in its favour; it was gorgeous to look at, with more prosthetics and alien races than we’ve seen in a good long while; the concept of the ‘Queen of Years’ being filled up with stories to make a mouth watering snack for a being that feasted on ‘souls’ was great – although I did wonder why Merry had to be so young. Surely an older person would have been able to absorb even more knowledge? Then again, they were probably working against the clock and the possibility of ‘Grandfather’ waking up.

The Doctor’s whole monologue about stories – an very important theme in the Whoniverse – and the worth of every single life was brilliant – and they managed to get an Alice in Wonderland reference in!

And, most importantly, I enjoyed the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. It’s wonderful to see how eager he is to show the universe to her, how excited he was getting when she was making her choice, how protective he is of her. Clara, too, has gotten more interesting; she’s stumped by the multitude of choices set before her, willing to make sacrifices to help people she’s just met, and determined not to let the Doctor define her. And, thank god, no more flirting.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…assuming something horrible doesn’t happen to her at the end of the series. Or even before that; Oswin as a whole doesn’t seem to have a great track record.

All in all, good job on the episode, Neil Cross; may it be the first of many.

On the next episode of Doctor Who, Cold War:

Hijinks on a submarine! (Back on earth, sigh. Seriously, would there even be space for the TARDIS on a sub?) Russians getting tetchy! Lian Cunningham and Tobias Menzies, it’s like a Game of Thrones reunion before that season’s even over!  Nuclear weapons galore! Alien freed from a block of ice that’s somehow gotten on board! Possibilities of similarities to ‘Who goes There?’ and John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’! Shooting! More shooting! Clara/Oswin might die again! And all written by Mark Gattis!!!

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