I review the second episode of Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2, and Episode 7 of the entire series to date, The Rings of Akhaten, written by Neil Cross, he of Luther fame. Spoilers within.
Doctor Who S7x06 “The Rings of Akhaten”
If you’ve been following Doctor Who since the beginning of the 2005 series, then you’ll notice a reccuring theme. All of the companions that were introduced for the first time, have not only been introduced in the present day (I would say present day London, but for Amy), before being taken on a trip backwards or forwards into the future. For Rose, it was first to witness the destruction of Earth, Martha, to The Globe Theatre to meet William Shakespeare. Donna, to Pompeii shortly before the volcano exploded. And Amy to an encounter with the Beast Below.
It’s only fair then, our latest addition to the list of women who have travelled with the Doctor throughout time and space, Clara – gets a trip to what was potentially the most foreboding title of a second episode so far apart from maybe The Beast Below, entitled The Rings of Akhaten, and it’s also a strong entry to the series for Neil Cross, who’s the man behind Luther, a series that sadly I haven’t seen. Whilst this episode may be a strong debut however, it’s not overly impressive. It doesn’t match, for example – the spectacular debut of Steven Moffat in Blink, or current Wolverine writer for Marvel Comics – Paul Cornell’s fantastic Father’s Day way back in Series 1. However, it isn’t as bad as the awful The Angels Take Manhattan and Fear Her either. Sure, they may not be Who debuts, but they were still fairly poor episodes.
The Rings of Akhaten certainly does fit the bill of a blockbuster episode, like last week’s The Bells of Saint John, even if it may not quite as be as action packed as the opener for the second part of this season. The special effects aren’t that good here, and the sun-esque planet felt a little weak in design as did the ride on the space-scooter to get there and back. Clara’s first encounter with aliens also felt very similar to Luke Skywalker’s first steps into the Mois Eisley Cantena in A New Hope – we were constantly bombarded with a variety of aliens to remind us that this is very much a science fiction show, and not an urban thriller with a sci-fi aspect like The Bells of Saint John. This was an interesting, if tried-and-true way to introduce Clara to the vast amounts of aliens, however – I felt we’d already seen this before in The End of The World, and I really didn’t like that episode which sure Rose’s introduction. But thankfully, Cross is on hand to make sure that The Rings of Akhaten is not as bad as it could have been.
The script is fairly strong, even if there are a few moments – and it’s only a certain amount of times where you can watch Eleven give a monologue to his enemy in the final showdown before you start to get another sense of deja vu. The opening sequence where The Doctor was following key events in Clara’s life – such as seeing the first meeting of her parents and her mother’s death, didn’t really work for me in prehaps the way it should have and this was a very different approach to the bombastic pre-credit title sequences that we’ve seen in the first part of the series, including Asylum of the Daleks and the recruiting mission of Dinasours in Manhattan. It just felt somewhat flat for me here, which was a shame.
So, was there anything that I liked about The Rings of Akhaten? This sounds so far like I hated it and whilst there were some weak moments there were some strong ones too, with this line in particular standing out:
“We Don’t Walk away, but when we’re holding onto something precious, we run – and we don’t stop running until we’re out of the shadows.”
The characters were short in number as well, giving Cross more time to develop them. The only non-TARDIS occupant who was a key character to the plot and more memorable than the bad guy was the Young Queen of Years, played by Emilia Jones, who delivered a strong, rootable performance and a good addition to the characters that we’ve met across Space and Time over the series of episodes. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about the villain though, and whilst the Vigil and the Mummy-creature were an effective enough whilst they were there, they vanished all too quickly and would – in my opinion, have been a much better main ‘monster of the week’ than the actual one, the poorly CGI created ‘god’.
This was a fairly light-hearted episode with no real scares. Whilst Doctor Who isn’t a horror show like Supernatural, it has come close – Blink, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit being some of the scariest episodes of the show – and among the best as well, proving that maybe Doctor Who is better off scary. But anyway, next week’s episode looks certainly set to be fun – with The Cold War.
DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7 EPISODE GUIDE – Part 1: S7x01: Asylum of the Daleks, S7x02: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, S7x03: A Town Called Mercy, S7x04: The Power of Three, S7x05: The Angels Take Manhattan CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: The Snowmen PART 2: S7x06: The Bells of Saint John, S7x07: The Rings of Akhaten, S7x08: Cold War, S7x09: Hide, S7x10: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, S7x11: The Crimson Horror, S7x12: Nightmare In Silver