Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Rings Of Akhaten

Originally Broadcast 6th April 2013

Written by: Neil Cross

In a nutshell: Clara wishes to see ‘something awesome’ so the Doctor takes her to the Rings of Akhaten where trouble is brewing.

Review: OK, I’m expecting a lot from this episode. So much, in fact, that it’s my Saturday night movie. You're reading this on Tuesday but due to the timey-wimey nature of blogging it’s Saturday night=check. A pint of Bulmers in one hand (other ciders are available)=check. Some chocolate in the other hand=check. Lights dimmed=check. I’m ready to go. Impress me, Rings Of funny place name!

The opening certainly stands up, with the Doctor now so in denial over Clara he’s stalking her entire lifetime in a couple of minutes with a Beano summer special. The whole speech about the leaf is delivered pretty naffly and it’s all so embarrassing and corny you wouldn’t want to show your friends but it’s rescued by the Doctor getting hit by a football! This introduction of Clara is basically giving us the character without the characterisation, I feel like I’ve got the kids fact file on her but I’m lacking the person. I want to experience these things through her, not behind a tree at a distance with the Doctor, that’s not how this show rolls.

But now we’re back in today and Clara is finally here as a companion. After dodging the responsibility by being a Dalek then a Victorian Nanny but now she’s here! And the way she decides her first destination and is led from the TARDIS is just great. I feel Clara is the companion the Doctor has always needed and wanted. Unsure, but excited and wanting to explore everything. The way the Doctor just puts his hand out when she asks to get closer is impressive. We get to the marketplace and he’s clearly showing off. It impresses the newbies like Clara, but as the audience we’ve been here for a few years now, this sort of stuff just gets in the way a bit. The same was done to us back in The End Of The World where it worked.

The USP of this planet is the currency isn’t money but valuables. It’s a clever idea in the same way the movie In Time was a clever idea, but it wasn’t a good movie. We’ve now got the Doctor mysteriously disappearing just as a way to get Clara to be by herself for a bit, which is a bit poorly done and, if the Doctor did it on purpose, a tad cruel. Obviously she gets into an adventure and finds a little girl (my names Merry) who she needs to hide from some pretty cool robotic-looking aliens. I know it’s central to this episode, but I feel like we’re getting too bogged down in Clara’s family tree. She said she hated history and I think I’m starting to. There’s even a flashback shoved in for a line or two of dialogue. It’s as if Cross is forcing her mother’s imprint upon us under the assumption we’ll automatically care for her.

"You have it all!"
The Doctor randomly appears again with a throwaway line and now we’re into singing. That guy ain’t exactly Pavarotti is he? But what’s he singing to? That looks pretty good! Emilia Jones as Merry Gejelh opens her mouth now and her voice is amazing! Really special. This girl can act and sing beautifully. The song is awful and rubbish and I feel it shouldn’t be inserted twenty minutes into a Doctor Who blockbuster but here it is for everyone to judge. Great…

At least it leads to trouble though and Clara is forced to give up her mother’s ring for a speeder. It’s really bad of the Doctor to force her into this situation and I really do feel for her. On the sacred ground we’re blocked by a great big door which the Doctor says how difficult it is before waving his screwdriver and it works. In fact, the screwdriver doubles as a magic wand in this episode. The Doctor waves it at everything, doors, the servants, bursts of bright blue energy and even more doors! And then the trio escape through a secret door that’s opened by a song? Please!

The thing about this episode is it looks stunning, it really is one of the best looking episodes of all time and there are some utterly fantastic bits of dialogue but everything else is not good. The overuse of the sonic, the silly song, the storyline, the shoehorning of Clara’s family. I’m really enjoying it though, it’s an easy watch but so clearly fallible.

When we find out what the big God is, it’s stupendously brilliant. I love the fact it’s a giant Parasite the size of a planet. The Doctor’s quip about having seen bigger is fun too. It’s inevitable the Doctor has to face up to this beastie and these scenes are shot just right to give a huge sense of scale, danger and, above all, fun! Cross decides to give the Doctor a great big speech to deliver here and if there’s one thing the Doctor can do well, it’s deliver powerful emotive passages of dialogue and this is one of the finest and saddest the Doctor has ever had to give. It’s sad and beautiful and, oh I admit it, it gets me every time! If I wrote this passage of dialogue, I’d be so proud of myself and Cross should be too.

Clara with the most important leaf in human history.
What I love is how the Doctor clearly gives his all, every emotion he has, all the memories and secrets he’s lived and yet it still isn’t enough. He’s exhausted and then, after another crap flashback, Clara comes to his rescue. I didn’t think it was possible but Jenna Coleman delivers an even more emotional speech than Matt Smith just did! Clara has had to sacrifice so much in these forty minutes. She’s spent the episode asking why the Doctor has no valuable items in his thousand year life and she’s just found out the reason. He’s sacrificed them all just as she’s had to. I still feel like I don’t really know her, we haven’t moved on a great deal since when we started, yet we love her and trust her. She’ll sacrifice everything to save a life and she does that here. I’m glad she gets her mothers ring back, but it does make her sacrifice feel a little less important. We’ve just enough time for a couple lines of dialogue about who Clara is, getting us no further than we were before and a close up of the Doctor looking nasty before we roll into the next time for Cold War!

Wrapping up what I said earlier, this is a pretty fun watch and it is a bit reminiscent of Star Wars with all the aliens, but it isn’t a good episode. It’s a shame to admit it, because I love Cross’ work on Luther and think he’s a genius, but just not here. He shows off he can be a mastermind when it comes to dialogue and gives us some of the very best in these forty minutes, but the story itself could’ve done with some more work.

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