Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.7: The Rings of Akhaten

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Clara offers up her Leaf, which carries all the lost potential
of her mother's life.
Written between 9th and 10th April 2013

Hey y'all. Sorry I'm late with this, I was in Wales and there was very little internet reception and we were burning sweet wrappers to keep warm and tons of other stuff. Luckily, I did get to see this week's episode, The Rings of Akhaten, which despite having a few nitpicks managed to work so much good into the fundamentals that I didn't really care. New writer Neil Cross is obviously someone I want to look out, what with his life-affirming concepts and one of the best alien worlds in ages.
     Trying to discover what the hell's going on with the present-day version of new companion Clara, we discover The Doctor looking back through her history, retelling the story of how a stray leaf helped her parents to meet, and how Clara was affected by the tragedy of her mother's death. The Doctor then picked Clara up and took her to the Rings of Ahkaten, a system of asteroids surrounding a massive sun that carried many species, all coming to witness the continuating of an ancient tradition - the Song, which was used to keep asleep the great God Ahkaten. Witnessing the ceremony for the first time, The Doctor refuses to let young Merry Galel (Emilia Jones) have her memories eaten by the Old God, and offers his own experiences in order to try and defeat him. Eventually, it's left to Clara's leaf and the potential it holds to save the day.
     The episode's wonderful exotic setting was complimented by a set of stunning visuals that swapped Moffat!Who's standard blue pallete for a set of warmer colours. Ooh. That sounded a bit Changing Rooms. Anyway, the episode looked great, and that only helped the fact that this is one of the first genuinely new alien worlds since probably The End of the World. The idea of a world that sues memories and sentiment as currency was something both novel and fits in well with similar themes thoughout Moffat's era so far. Except, done better.
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The Doctor offers his memories to Akhaten.
     One of my friends argued that the episode is simply another of NuWho's Power of Love endings, and while I see where they're coming from I disagree on the implications of that statement. It's a matter of context - previous Power of Love endings have let the power of emotions do things that were previously outside of the series' defined parameters: the ability to weld steel with love in Closing Time, a love-powered spaceship in Fear Her. The nature of emotions in this story was established very early on, and it isn't just a random solution, it's a theme that runs through the episode and allows us to see our characters in a better light, culminating in a speech each for Smith and Coleman, the former almost making me tear up.
     I get the impression from the fandom that this episode isn't well liked. But each to their own, eh? I love the Rings of Akhaten - it's Doctor Who that's both smart and emotionally charged, that balances both complex characterisation and a set of well-executed ideas. It was fun to watch, it looked good, and it's gonna go down as one of my favourite episodes from Matt Smith's era so far.

Thanks.

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