Doctor Who and The Rings of Akhaten

The Rings of Akhaten


Image by Francesco Francavilla

“We never run.”

Story 7.07
Written byNeil Cross
Transmitted 6 April 2013

The Doctor is increasingly curious about Clara Oswin and creepily travels through her timeline watching how her parents met and raised young Clara into the precocious gal she is today. Not only was the opening sequence incredibly self indulgent (honestly, does anyone think that the story of their parents meeting is written in the stars??) but it was also so poorly told. Clara’s father-to-be stumbles through the streets of a British suburb while the Doctor peers over the top of an issue of Beano (apparently listening to the Specials on an iPod) while said father is assailed by a massive leaf and is almost hit by a car if not for the timely intervention of Clara’s mother-to-be. A man who is nearly killed by a seemingly deadly leaf deserves to die in my book.

(Special noteyes, I am behind on my reviews. This was not on purpose. As I no longer have cable, I have to rely on other methods to find the episodes and the BBC has apparently been cracking down on this. I appreciate the patience of readers who may have been waiting on my two cents’ worth)

The Doctor takes Clara to some cosmic event that is totally awesome at first and becomes very very dire in no time flat. The initial reveal of the TARDIS on an asteroid is impressive, if not for the fact that the Doctor is still a chap who likes to impress ladies with his neat tricks. Honestly, where has the gentleman traveler of space and time gone? Despite his lack of romantic interest, it seems like he’s just trying to wow her enough to get lucky.

Getting closer to the event, we are assailed with goofy aliens milling about on a set. It looked bad the last few times they did it, it looks worse now. Clara soon becomes wrapped up in some local intrigue over a missing girl Merry, gives her some pat advice involving her dead mother even though it is apparent that this girl is in some serious trouble and sets her on her way. It soon transpires that Merry is the latest in a long line of singers to lull a god called ‘Grandfather’ into perpetual sleep. But something goes horribly wrong and the Doctor tries to save the situation. But in the end it is the simple leaf kept in Clara’s book that saves the entire population, with its promises of what could have been.

Some time ago, Charlotte Church had a variety show and performed a brilliantly spot-on lampoon of Doctor Who. In it, even the Doctor was confused that they were just sitting on a bench watching Charlotte cry rather than fighting Daleks but she insisted that it was important. Likewise, we get Clara’s book of 100 places and her leaf connecting back to her parents which is somehow on the same level of a galactic mummy guarding a planet-sized monster kept complacent by lullabies. It just doesn’t work and is very lazy.

The Doctor’s use of the sonic screwdriver is downright comical as it somehow holds a ‘very heavy’ door up in the air, but relies on his ability to hold it up with his own strength. If it’s a sonic resonance, I can understand that.  The entire culture of Akhaten revolves around resonances (albeit through painful singing) but it should not also involve effort. Also, how can the sonic screwdriver stop the Vigil who I admit look very cool but are in the end useless? It’s almost as silly as the Doctor offering up ‘all his stories’ to the giant sun monster-thing which looks like it is killing him and pulling that magic fairy dust from his body but…. what? Did they take a break?

Why is the Doctor not dead? Is he only kinda dead? Did the monster give the energy/stories back when Clara walked on with her magic leaf? It makes no sense.

The concept of this story is so backwards and weird that it reminds me of Fear Her by Matthew Graham, the brilliant creator of Life on Mars. Fear Her was written (quickly) from the point of view of a child, something that Graham thought was relevant since Who is a children’s program. In this case, Neil Cross, the likewise celebrated screenwriter of Luther has some very wring ideas of how Doctor Who works. The set piece is contrived, the logic juvenile and the resolution ham-fisted. Adding a child guest star to singing and throwing in over the top acting is the surefire way to produce one of the worst stories since the program returned in 2005.

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… aren’t you glad I got to see this one?

I am almost halfway through Cold War and it is much better, by the way.

The Rings of Akhaten had an overnight audience of 5.5 million viewers, a share of 28.8% of the total TV audience.

Doctor Who was once more third for the day, although the gap between the series and the programmes at the top of the chart was slightly larger, perhaps reflecting the lighter evenings.

Top of the list was Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with 7.3 million watching, while The Voice was second with 6.4 million viewers. (via Doctor Who News)

Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:

The Bells of Saint John – 6.18 million (overnight) 8.44 million (final figure)
The Snowmen – 7.6 million (overnight) 9.87 million (final figure)
The Angels Take Manhattan – 5.9 million (overnight) 7.82 million (final figure)
The Power of Three – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.67 million (final figure)
A Town Called Mercy – 6.6 million (overnight) 8.42 million (final figure)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.57 million (final figure)
Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight) 8.3 million (final figure)

Next time: Cold War


3 thoughts on “Doctor Who and The Rings of Akhaten

  1. Cold War is much better… although I have a gripe at the end that you no doubt will wonder about yourself.

    Hide is actually good too. Not an entirely original story, mind you… but executed fairly well…

    Journey to the Centre of the Tardis, this past weekend, was a little odd. Felt like it should have been so much better… then wasn’t… and has an ending that really bugs the heck out of me.

    Back to Rings of Akhaten… It felt like the Satan Pit crossed with something else… so it felt like something we had seen before. It’s also hard to buy into someone’s life story being important when we’ve known her for all of five minutes… this is Rose, Amy, and countless others syndrome all over again.

    It reminds me of Star Trek TNG Season 1… where upon re-watching it isn’t as horrible as I remember… but where it fails most is that it wants you to like everybody and think everybody is important… but you don’t know them and don’t have a reason to care… so when they kill off a major character, you just aren’t bothered by it.

    Counter that to what Joss Whedon did in Angel… started off the series with a new character… and developed him… and before the season was halfway over, this main character of the show was killed off! And you actually cared and missed him… because he wasn’t forced on you… he was introduced to you and allowed to breathe.

    The new Who characters just aren’t being developed in a way that makes you care as much as they keep trying to tell you that you should care.

    Strangely, I think the casting on new Who has been very good… I want to like Clara because of Jenna-Louise… not because of the script or plot. Just like I wanted to like Amy because Karen was doing well with what she was given.


    • I loathed this episode particularly because I hate Murray Gold’s music with a passion.
      So far this series has *kinda* been better than part 1
      Bell of St. John: Was an okay opener.
      Rings of Akhaten: Waste of time. One of those episodes one never has to revisit
      Cold War: Best episode in a long time and a Classic monster that is given a proper re-introduction
      Hide: Liked this episode until the last 5 minutes. Shoe-horned romance between the two scientist leads.
      Journey to the Hear of the Tardis: Another good episode. Not as good as Cold War but entertaining. It was anything ground breaking but it wasn’t stupid so I’ll take it.

      Not particularly looking forward to The Crimson Horror as it features the Victorian B-team, high hopes for Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver, and don’t know what to expect with Moffat’s The Name of The Doctor.
      Even with the lousy episodes I do like this version of Clara waaay more than her previous incarnations and even with the lousy writing of some of the episodes this series it so far trumps the last batch of episodes featuring Amy and Rory.


      • Yeah… it’s hard to be objective. I find myself asking… do I like these better because they are actually good? or simply because they are not as bad as they were? I wish I wasn’t asking myself that!


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