Doctor Who – The Rings of Akhaten Review
This week, we got our fourth Clara adventure. Well, it’s technically only her second as a proper companion. As such, she gets her first trip in the TARDIS and gets to see what life with the Doctor is really like and how he operates. Not only does changing companions allow for a change alongside the Doctor but it gives the opportunity for him to tweak some habits too. But the one thing that really didn’t change was what the format of the first off-world adventure for a new companion.
What immediately grabbed my eye was how the first adventures with both Donna and Amy seemed to have a similar visual palette and style to “The Rings of Akhaten.” Both “The Fires of Pompeii” and “The Beast Below” had a lot of red and browns dominating the sets and costumes. The sets all looked a little dirty and dusty rather than clean, futuristic sci-fi. And each had a scene in something that looked like a market.
Similarly, we had almost something of a reprisal of the plot of The Beast Below where the companion gets separated from The Doctor and learns that the future isn’t as great as she always imagined. The new companion also does something to save the day that the Doctor couldn’t quite do himself.
Anyway, the episode started with what I expect to be a weekly reminder that Clara’s existence seems to transcend the normal laws of space and time and that the doctor is being almost creepy in investigating her current incarnation’s past (for lack of a better term). And that would be brought back up later in the show.
As with “The Fires of Pompeii” and “The Beast Below,” the new companion meets someone and is compelled to save them. In Pompeii, it was the family that the Doctor and Donna met. In “The Beast Below,” Amy wanted to save the space whale. This time, Clara wants to save the Queen of Years, a young girl who facilitates the Festival of Offerings (or something like that) and gets her soul fed to The (very creepy looking) Mummy.
It’s the whole saving the Queen of Years that causes the whole episode to get confusing. There are some creepy looking aliens with telekinetic powers making sure The Mummy gets fed. And somehow The Mummy went from being a mummy to taking over an entire planet and melting it down into something that looked like a face.
Then, continuing the theme of The Doctor disappearing from history, The Doctor offers all his memories to the planet/mummy to feed it. When that didn’t work, Clara saves the day by offering up the leaf that led her father to meet her mother (introduced at the start of the episode) and somehow this is enough to defeat the planet/mummy. Somehow, it represented an infinite number of possibilities rather than just memories which is enough to overfeed the mummy. Like I said, I was utterly confused as to how that works but wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.
Other random points of note:
- Susan Foreman shout-out!
- The Doctor got a cool Indiana Jones moment with the door at The Mummy’s temple.
- While the set design folks went back to the well once again, the alien design and costuming departments outdid themselves this week. Absolutely fantastic.
- Sure was a lot of singing this week.
I just wasn’t feeling this week’s episode. It’s nowhere near terrible but it wasn’t a great episode. Sometimes, you’re willing to take things The Doctor says at face value and other times you just scratch your head when you try to sort it out. This week was the latter. Next week, who knows?
Next week, Steven Moffat’s partner-in-crime from Sherlock returns to Doctor Who. Mark Gatiss comes back to pen his fifth episode of the series and first of two episodes this season. His efforts under Russell T. Davies’ stewardship of the series received mixed to negative reviews while his two Moffat episodes received more positive reviews.
Anyway, in next week’s “Cold War.” The Doctor and Clara find themselves on a Russian nuclear submarine during the Cold War in 1983 captained by Ser Davos. Presumably, The One True King of Westeros, Stannis Baratheon, let him out of his cell to try his hand at naval supremacy again.
Anyway, Eleven and Clara aren’t the only unexpected passengers as an Ice Warrior is also on-board. The return of the Ice Warriors marks the first time they’ve made an appearance on TV since a 1974 adventure with the Third Doctor. I’ve watched a lot of serials from the first three Doctors but even I can’t remember the Ice Warriors. It’ll be nice to finally get acquainted with a classic villain.