Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: The Rings of of Akhaten

We begin with the Doctor doing some time-stalking of his latest protegee. He visits Clara’s past and surreptitiously observes bits of her life. To all intents and purposes, she seems normal to him, which he finds frustrating. But sharp-eyed viewers will notice some interesting clues about Clara’s origin…things like dates on tombstones, birth dates, and other more subtle references which I will reserve for another thread.

At any rate, the Doctor returns to pick up Clara for her first adventure and takes her to the titular location: the rings of Akhaten. Apparently the Doctor has been here before with his granddaughter (clue) and seems to like the place. In a scene vaguely reminiscent of “The Beast Below”, Clara encounters a child in distress and elects to help her. Clara comforts her by relating how she faced her greatest fear, and how her mother comforted her with a speech reminiscent of Amy’s speech about Rory in “A Good Man Goes to War”.

Did I mention that the girl was dressed in an outfit vaguely similar to the seers in “The Fires of Pompeii”? Either these little touches are deliberate, or the writing crew is getting soft. As the story progresses we are faced with a gas giant planet that feeds on memories, we get an epic speech by the Doctor that is vaguely reminiscent of, oh, an epic speech by the Doctor, and there’s a lot of singing.

In the end, “Rings” is yet another reasonably tolerable episode that does its best to try to be more than what it is. The problems with Jenna Louise-Coleman’s Clara continue. As I said before, I do like Ms. Coleman immensely, but her character has yet to bring the emotional weight that her predecessors did. With Rose, we got a character whose frustrations with her lot in life were palpable. Donna’s life was similarly empty for different reasons, as was Amy’s. Clara’s plight is similar to that of Martha Jones. Both characters were played by good actresses, but both were replacements for beloved companions and struggled under the weight of that prejudice. Martha at least benefited from some good scripts, but Coleman has yet to find her niche.

The problem is that we don’t really care about Clara yet. Her backstory is very pedestrian and lacks the kind of impact that previous companions enjoyed. The only thing that’s interesting about Clara is the mystery that surrounds her, which has nothing to do with her personal character. In the end, this has probably been the most disappointing companion launch in the revived series.

That said, “Rings” does provide us with another epic speech, ably delivered by Matt Smith, but it seems somewhat overwrought and forced. Previous speeches by the Eleventh Doctor were set up to be the culmination of major plot points. In this case, it just sort of happens, and as much as we care about the Doctor, it doesn’t have as large an emotional payoff as it should.

“The Rings of Akhaten” gets Three Acorns out of Five.

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About Geek Squirrel

Author, Poet, and fan of all things geek. View all posts by Geek Squirrel

One response to “Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: The Rings of of Akhaten

  • DLC

    I agree that this episode had a lot of flaws, but you don’t really go into detail on the major plot problems here so I’ll focus on the Clara issue:

    I think that the way people respond to a Companion, at least at first, is based very much on how they felt about the previous one. Personally, I hated Amy Pond. I found her unbearable throughout season five and nearly gave up on the show. She got better later on, mainly thanks to Rory’s influence – her shining moments were all when she was focused on their relationship and his well-being. Anyway, I halfway liked her by the end but was still pretty happy to see her go, and so far I’m really enjoying Clara. But I also like her based on her own merits. I like her general personality: her energy and good nature, and fondness for children. She seems so much more genuine than Amy, who was always trying to hard and putting on this big, brassy “I’m awesome at everything” show.

    And honestly, I think she’s had one of the best introductions – showing up first as Oswin, who was wonderful, and second as Victorian Clara, who was decent, before being properly introduced. This gave viewers a chance to get to know her and like her instead of just throwing us in with a new companion from scratch (similar to what they did with Donna). As far as her personal back-story being basic and uninteresting… isn’t that sort of the point of the Companions? None of them were really anyone before they met the Doctor.

    Anyway, agree with you that I hope the episodes start being written better; this one was a plotting mess.

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