Doctor Who Review – “The Rings of Akhaten”

I am sure of two things. One: Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara Oswin Osgood will most likely be my favorite companion for a long, long time. Two: I need to watch more of the classic Who before November 23 hits.

Cast and Crew Information

Matt Smith as the Doctor (11)
Jenna-Lousie Coleman as Clara
Michael Dixon as Dave
Nicola Sian as Ellie
Aidan Cook as the Mummy
Feth Greenwood as Dor’een
Emilia Jones as Merry

Written by Neil Cross
Directed by Farren Blackburn

Availability Information

This is available from Amazon.com, iTunes US and iTunes Canada in digital format now. It can be preordered on DVD along with the rest of season seven, part two from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca for its May 28 release.

Premise

The Doctor investigates Clara’s past before taking her on a grand day out to see the Rings of Akhaten. Once there, they discover trouble couched in an ancient ceremony.

High Point

“There’s one thing you need to know about traveling with me. Well, one thing aside from the blue box and the two hearts. We don’t walk away.”

Low Point

How many people who haven’t seen Hartnell episodes were jolted out of the episode when he mentioned a granddaughter?

The Review

This seems original to me, but having only seen half of the first ten stories, it’s entirely possible that this is a sequel to a story I’m just not aware of, particularly given the granddaughter comment. Of course, since he only mentioned seeing it with his granddaughter and not her school teachers, it’s quite possible that this takes place prior to “An Unearthly Child” and is merely being used to set up the origin story that has been promised later this year. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were decently done. There are some issues with lining up the cracks in the glass with the physical objects causing them, which threw me out of the episode for a moment. Also, if you are going to point the cameras at the aliens who are singing, make their mouths move. If you can’t afford mouths that move, point the cameras somewhere else. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story does a nice job of setting up the dynamic between the Doctor and Clara, and (unless I miss my guess) adding to Clara’s mystique while setting up the character arcs colliding during the fall of the eleventh that was promised at the end of series six. I’m not sure how necessary the mummy was, though, but given how elaborate the makeup was and how little relative use they got from it, I’m betting we’ll see that species again. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting from the leads is brilliant. Smith has a very clear picture of who his Doctor is, and Jenna-Louise Coleman is immediately likeable and brings an independence and challenge to their dynamic that is wonderful to see. Dixon and Sian are also impressive in their roles. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is nicely done. The BBC is clearly increasing the funding for the series, and Moffat is clearly stretching every dollar to its absolute limit. I do have minor quibbles, particularly in regards to the original placement of the camera when the Doctor started crossing his hearts, making it difficult to see that both hands were, indeed, crossing himself. Similarly, the shots of the “singing” aliens were disorienting, and we saw too much of the crowded area to really believe the Doctor’s disappearance early on. Each is in a minor complaint, but I had six or seven such moments in about 40 minutes time, which is enough to be a problem. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was excellent. From the high point speech to single passenger moped, this worked very well. The comfortable banter between the Doctor and Clara, such as when she asked if he was going to fight, helps endear the pair to the viewers. Part of me also wonders if last episode’s “big bad” is going to be seen traveling in time to posess interstellar matter just as it posessed snow for the Christmas special. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, we’ve got a decent second chapter to this part of the series, propelled in large part by a very strong companion. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, The Rings of Akhaten receives 34 out of 42.

13 replies on “Doctor Who Review – “The Rings of Akhaten””

  1. JD DeLuzio says:

    I found the ending went a little heavy on the cheese platter, but it was a good-looking, interesting ep. I’m pretty certain this the first appearance of Akhaten, so the first Doctor and Susan must have visited it before ending up in the junkyard on Totters Lane, where we meet them in the first episode.

    We also get a reference to the domain of the Celestial Toymaker, an early Doctor Who adversary.

  2. I get the feeling a lot of Epic Dialog and speeches was written for the fiftieth, but ended up not being really used for that. Since he had this good stuff, they worked it into other episodes. The Doctor’s speech seemed like one of those.

    • Kiersten says:

      The Doctor is great at making epic speeches.. Why only wait till the 50th?
      Also, the writers make the speeches, so it was Neil Cross’ brilliancy with this one! :)

  3. TheYellowLantern says:

    A little like the nicer neighborhood across the way from Mos Eisley?

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      A LOT of the ep feeled derivative of a lot of other things, so I would have given it a lower rating for originality. As I said, fun start, cheesy ending, and some things not really explained.

  4. Kiersten says:

    Oh come on, really? Do we want the camera’s to shove it in our faces that he crossed both his hearts or are we allowed the intelligence we deserve as a fan to KNOW he crossed both his hearts?
    *grin*

    *huggles*

  5. quantaman says:

    Am I the only one who found the ending a little worrisome in the sense that a solar system had its sun extinguished? Seems to me that there might have been some collateral damage in that solution…

    • Jethro says:

      Came here to say that…did I miss something or did that local system just lose it’s star?… cause that seems like it’d be bad.

      • quantaman says:

        I heard it might have been a planet, which would be a little less worse, though the actual vanishing of the planetary mass may cause some issues a la Wrath of Khan.

        • Either way, if the evil god died, the mass that comprised it might still be all in the same general place, gravity should end up being the same, shouldn’t it?

          • quantaman says:

            It should be but I seem to recall there being just a big void after, meaning either the mass vanished or it wasn’t there to being with, either case has some problematic implications but I guess that’s the hazard of Doctor Who physics :)

            • There was a large grey area. Not a black area, a grey area that eclipsed background stars. The mass is there so the orbital dynamics should be fine. It’s just the energy received that needs to be dealt with, but that’s much less traumatic for peoples at that technological level.

              • quantaman says:

                Ok I guess I missed that detail.

                Though my other theory, that it was the Doctor’s and Clara’s off tone singing that screwed up the lullaby, is still intact :)

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