Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten Review

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By Will Barber – Taylor

Having found himself a new companion in the shape of Clara Oswald, the Doctor asks where she wants to go first. Her request for somewhere awesome takes the pair to the rings of the planet Akhaten which is inhabited by all manner of amazing creatures. Clara meets the young queen who is about to take part in a ceremony called the Festival of Offerings.  However, what begins as a happy sing-song soon turns very grim.

After last week’s bizarre episode, The Doctor takes Clara to “somewhere awesome” which ironically turns out to be not that awesome. Though it is impressive set wise, The Rings of Akhaten is once again an uninspiring episode that leaves the viewers feeling  bemused by the end.

The episode begins with The Doctor stalking Clara’s parents through time before finally arriving in the present to pick her up and take her somewhere “awesome”. There are many things wrong with the sequence. The first is that The Doctor is stalking her to find out how she can exist. Okay, I can understand he wants to find out how Clara can exist in several time streams but stalking his new companion is downright creepy. The second is that this suggests that The Doctor has nothing better to do then follow her around time. Shouldn’t he be out saving planets or rescuing somebody? Obviously Clara is much more important than any impoverished country being controlled by an evil dictator.

Soon the dynamic duo arrive on the brilliantly CGIed world of Akhaten and engage in some light banter and chit chat with the inhabitants. The costumes are  impressive and varied even if they are basically just to fill up the set. Clara then meets up with Mary who is apparently the Queen of Years. After a pep talk from Clara, Mary goes off to sing for the old God known as Grandfather. The Doctor and Clara go with Mary to give her some moral support. However, something goes wrong (this is never fully explained, is it meant to happen? Or does Mary sing a wrong note and get voted out?) Mary is then transported up to the giant sun where Grandfather lives to be eaten. The Doctor and Clara race off on a hovering motorcycle to save her.

Next comes the silly part. The Doctor manages to enter the building and finds Grandfather’s alarm clock being guarded by The Vigil (this sounds like a 70s Christian rock group) who wish to sacrifice Mary to Grandfather. Mary’s brilliant solution is to sing at them using the sonic as a microphone. Not only is it ridiculous to suggest that singing at someone can hurt them but it is amazing that this was used. The Doctor and Clara escape and send Mary home. The timelord then gives a good speech (one of the few good moments of the episode) about life and stuff before Clara defeats the alien creature with a leaf.

The episode ends with Clara realising The Doctor has been stalking her. At first Clara, rather naturally, is a tad creeped out by this particularly when The Doctor mentions that he has been doing it because she reminds him of someone who “has died”. Clara, amazingly, in the end is perfectly happy with this and leaves the TARDIS in a happy mood, obviously meaning she is going to continue to travel with the Timelord.

This episode is odd beyond words. It is the only episode I know that features stalking and singing to get out of problems a few scenes apart. The plot is stronger than Bells as this is a plot driven story but even so it is not the best plot in the world. Maybe if the story had a heavy re edit then it might have worked but in the state it was broadcast, nothing could really save The Rings of Akhaten from its inevitable fate of in the dustbin of Doctor Who history.

There is no particular great performance in this episode. Smith and Coleman’s chemistry is still as good as ever but there is nothing particularly good to pick out.

The CGI was very impressive and shows that The Mill (creators of the CGI for the show) will be sadly missed when they stop working on the programme. The Mill manages to give the Sun god Grandfather character and brings something out that would otherwise have been an uninspiring model to life. Even the basic sequences with The Doctor and Clara on the hover bike are wonderfully realised. Well done to The Mill for serving on Doctor Who for many years, you will be sadly missed. 

The Rings of Akhaten is a sad little episode, it seems nobody really liked it and a million viewers who saw Bells didn’t even bother to watch it. If the story had been better edited then it could have been a good episode, instead it was possibly one of the worst of the recent Moffat era.

NEXT TIME:

COLD WAR

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