7.233 "The Rings of Akhaten" - SPOILERS

Synopsis from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rings_of_Akhaten

The episode starts immediately after the events of “The Bells of Saint John” with the Doctor in the TARDIS. He decides to learn more about this Clara’s life and travels into her past to observer her. He finds her parents met by a chance encounter caused by a gust of wind blowing a leaf into her father’s face which led to him meeting her mother. Her parents dote over her, with her mother promising to take her on travels around the world, but Clara is saddened when her mother passes away before being able to make those trips. After attending her mother’s funeral he takes the TARDIS and collects Clara the morning after he left her. He asks her where she would like to go and she requests to be shown something awesome.

The Doctor takes Clara to the Rings of Akhaten. There they observe a series of planetoids orbiting a planet, with a shining pyramid on one of them. The Doctor takes Clara to a giant alien marketplace and introduces her to several aliens, including a merchant named Dor’een who attempts to sell them a space bike rental. The Doctor explains that the market doesn’t use hard currency but rather trades in items of sentimental value. Clara becomes separated from the Doctor and encounters a little girl who appears to be running and hiding. Clara catches up to her and she explains that her name is Merry Gejelh, and that she is the Queen of Years. Merry tells Clara that she is hiding because she is supposed to sing a song at a ceremony and she is afraid to get it wrong. Clara reassures her and Merry heads to the ceremony.

The Doctor and Clara attend the ceremony, where The Doctor explains that since the Rings were settled there has been a constant song sung to keep an angry god asleep. The people fear that the god, which they call Grandfather, will awaken and consume the entire universe if the song is ever interrupted. Merry begins singing, joined by a chorister at the pyramid. During the song, a mummy in a glass case at the pyramid begins to awaken. Merry panics, believing she made a mistake in the song. A beam of light from the pyramid envelopes her and she is pulled toward the pyramid and the mummy. The Doctor and Clara quickly find Dor’een and rent the space bike using Clara’s mother’s ring as payment. They ride the bike to the pyramid where they find the mummy struggling to escape the case and consume Merry’s soul. The Doctor promises Merry that she doesn’t have to sacrifice herself and that he will stop Grandfather. As the mummy begins to escape the case they all turn and see that the real creature is not the mummy but Akhaten itself, which is home to a parasitic creature. As they attempt to leave a group of creatures called the Vigil arrive and attempt to force Merry to sacrifice herself. The Doctor stops them and has Clara and Merry return to the ceremony while he intends to face the planet sized creature.

The Doctor faces the creature and realizes it feeds off of memories, stories, and feelings. He tries to overfeed it by offering the sum total of his Time Lord memories. This by itself is not enough to sate the creature, and Clara returns to help. She offers the creature the leaf that blew into her father’s face on the day he met her mother. The leaf contains an infinite amount of untold potential that Clara’s mother never saw because she died early. The creature, overwhelmed by the infinite potential it has consumed, implodes on itself and the planet and the Rings are saved.
[i]The Doctor returns Clara to her home on the same day they left and gives her back her mother’s ring. He tells that all the creatures that she saved wanted her to have it back. Suddenly Clara remembers seeing The Doctor at her mother’s funeral and asks why he was there. He tells her that she reminds him of someone who died, and she rebukes him for using her as a replacement. He assures her that he was not replacing his friend, and Clara sets off home.


Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but there are a few things I took of note in this episode. Granted, I’m keeping a VERY close eye on Ms. Clara “Oswin” Oswald and think she should not be trusted.

  1. When asked by The Doctor about where and/or when Oswin wanted to visit, she couldn’t think of one.single.place.

  2. The Doctor deliberately took Oswin to a place where items of sentimental value were exchanged in commerce and then required her to make payment on the space bike.

  3. The leaf - the most important leaf in all of human history - vanishes in a puff of sentimentality as Oswin saves the local civilizations from certain death. I think there’s more to the leaf than we saw, but perhaps I’m reading a bit too much into things.

That said, my theory is that something of great importance is stored within our unknown companion Oswin. Is she an agent of The Great Intelligence? Is she a copy? (There are many copies) Has this all happened before and it’s all going to happen again? I look forward to finding out.

This episode jumped instantly into one of my all time favorites. There was a sense of wonder in the episode with very little foreboding. It was held in a spectualuar space setting. There was beautiful music. There was a lot of caring for “humanity.” (The 7 alien cultures I guess). Evil was defeated and they returned home safely to travel again another day.

That’s my 2 cents.

And thanks Solai for posting this thread. I loves me some Doctor Who discussion.

~Shooter Out

Everything that was wrong with last week’s episode was promptly corrected in this one. I find it rather promising that SteMo did not write this as it points to the hope if SteMo were ever to move on the remaining product will be rather less than.

Let me start with the writing. This episode was stocked full of amazing lines. The one that rang the most true to me was,
“As you get to know me you will learn, we never walk away” which was then further improved later with by adding,

Clara: “You said we never walk away”
Doctor: “‘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 …’”

That line gives me chills. The Doctor then reminds reinforces the sentiment by standing down a BLOODY SUN THAT IS AN ALIEN PARASITE. His rant against the sun was one of his finest moments yet as the Doctor.

Something changed for me with Clara as well. I can’t put my finger on it, but her first appearances did not draw me in. She was wonderful in the ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ and showed real promise. In her next two appearances tho she fell a bit flat and I started becoming concerned she was not going to live up to my expectations. Now, suddenly those fears are gone. I’m with her now and now I wonder if I was going through my transition period that we all experience between new Doctors and companions.

I have a few small nits with the ep, but nothing substantial. Given the importance of the leaf sequence I feel that it should have been tightened up and played with a less comic bent…that’s about it. Loved the rest.

Shooter, I like your observation that she couldn’t think of a single place to go. Could just be that she was overwhelmed with possibility but it does ring a little strange when she has been carrying around a book her entire life about places to go…you think she could have named one.

I agree that this immediately takes a place in my top Doctor Who episodes. It is a gem.

I agree that the writing was above par this episode–I just didn’t believe the characters would actually say it. The Doctor’s speech was great, but as we rarely see such sentimentality from Eleven, it seemed out-of-the-blue to me. If Ten had given it, I would’ve bought in right away. If they’re trying to take Eleven in a different direction, it would’ve been nice to have Smith ramp up to that level of emotion over a few episodes.

I have yet to understand why Clara is a companion. Yes, she’s a puzzle to the Doctor, but as a companion, this incarnation of her hasn’t shown much promise. Last episode she was downright dumb. And how smart was it in this episode to immediately try to take a stranger into the TARDIS? She doesn’t even seem terribly excited to be travelling with the Doctor. She said, “If you want me to travel with you, that’s fine.” Excuse me, “that’s fine”? As we are Whovians who would JUMP at the offer (and likely tacklehug the Doctor into a few bruised ribs in the process), I take some affront that Clara doesn’t seem to care whether she stays or goes. I guess I want an episode like Donna with the Ood, where she realizes the gravity of what they’re doing and still decides to stay because she couldn’t imagine returning to her previous life.

The music was gorgeous, especially during the speeches. It lent to the awesome feeling of the scene (in the original sense of “awesome”).

I’m of the opinion that Clara not understanding the barking lady was a hint that she is something more than normal. She said jokingly “I don’t think it likes me,” but we have seen in the past that the TARDIS really doesn’t like dealing with paradoxes. Perhaps not completely translating for Clara is its way of expressing that.

Overall, I liked it better than last week’s, but it still wasn’t great for me.

After listening to our good friends over at http://www.gallifreypublicradio.com/ I have learned I am in a minority of people who enjoyed this episode. Further, out on the intertubes many are holding this episode as the worst of the worst and that it single-handedly will destroy the Who franchise, lose your car keys and cause cancer.

“Huh” I thought, “I think this requires a little introspection.”

I know I don’t need to defend my position. Those whose company I keep respect my thoughts and won’t challenge me because of it. It does raise the interesting question as to why. What key did I hold that unlocked that small compartment in my heart and let this episode settle in next to other cherished items like “Objects in Space”, “Skytantic” and the Overture to Candide? Why do I have a visceral and passionate feeling for this that is so out of line with others?

I stepped away from my desk and do what I do when I need to think: I took a walk. I stepped outside and being next to the Hudson River walked out on a pier and stared off wondering, what was it? Why? I started replaying the episode in my head beat by beat to see what evoked a response. I literally felt my heart flutter when I landed on why…

It was the girl. The girl was my six year old daughter.

Suddenly all the pieces started clicking into place. It was why Clara got bumped up a notch. Clara, a stranger reached out and wanted to protect her. She calmed and soothed her. Clara shared memories to let her know that it was going to be ok and that ultimately she is not alone in fearing the unknown.

It is why the first quote I think of is, "“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 …” because that is how I feel about my daughter. As the monsters scream in the background I am looking her in the eye telling her she is made of star stuff, special and unique. At that moment I was both the Doctor who would stand up against a God and I am Clara whisking her to safety. At that moment with no plan and no hope I would stare down certain death and give everything I am to protect her. Right then in that elegant fiction I have won, she is safe and there are no such things as the real monsters that I know are out there. A passing car as she chases a ball into the street. Slipping in the bathtub. Living in a town down the road from Newtown and never being able to forget that those kids were her exact age. That parasite, that evil that literally consumes items imbued with love and is defeated by being presented with the infinite potential of a life that was taken away too soon.

The girl was my key and I didn’t even recognize it at the time. It raised the water level of the rest of the episode making everything better than perhaps it empirically was. Didn’t blink at the moped, didn’t consider that they were singing pretty dumb words, didn’t even think, “Wait, are they in the open vacuum of space?”

So there it is. Not a defense of the episode nor armor for my opinion. It is what it is, an exploration of the why. When you boil this down to its essence Akhaten was about love. The Doctor has shown us time and time again what he will do and the lengths he will go to preserve humanity. It makes it even more meaningful that he barely knows these people or the girl, he is willing to risk everything in the face of the impossible because it is right and ultimately there is no other choice you can make. Right then I am the Doctor and the Doctor is the person I want to be: Strong, funny, caring and willing to sacrifice himself for those that he loves.

Funny thing is now that I have deconstructed it I actually love the episode a little more.

Take that intertubes.

I liked this episode better on second watch. Good but not great. The story of the The Queen of Years & the sleeping God fell flat for me. And I wasn’t crazy about the set choices. It was supposed to be “awesome” but came off confusing and cheesy. As for Clara, she has more than grown on me --I’m all in. The scenes with her parents worked for me; they gave weight to the value of the leaf and Clara’s loss. I think Clara’s mother’s words, “I will always come and find you every single time,” are important. Either we will see her again or it will actually be Clara who will repeat these words at a dramatic turn. I’m more than a little curious about the significance of showing Clara as a guardian to children. Is this highlighting her role in the larger picture? Is Clara some sort of guardian?

Two bits of dialogue I loved-

“Soul is made of stories, not atoms.” I love this concept. As someone who doesn’t believe in a spiritual soul, I do agree that the stories we have in us are the immaterial parts of us that can live forever. Very cool.

(the leaf representation) “Full of a future that never got lived. Days that should’ve been that never were. Millions and millions of unlived days for every day we live. Between what was and what should have been. There’s an awful lot of one but there’s an infinity of the other.” Pointing out the expanse of possibilities that never happen. My brain just goes round and round on that one. A good thing.

Oh, and… “oh my stars.” :slight_smile:

It strikes me that in the stadium Clara and The Doctor were the only two in attendance that did not offer and offerings to The Old God/Godfather while the entire rest of the stadium/cathedral did.

And the day wasn’t saved until they both gave their offerings.

Just sayin’

Furthering my belief that the leaf is very much more important than it seemed.

Please allow me another attempt to state why this episode was amazing, or at the very least incredibly important in this particular series.

"Hey, do you mind if I tell you a story, one you might not have heard?

All the elements in your body were forged many, many million of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolation of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets and on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing-wax, and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one Merry Galel and there will never be another. Getting rid of that existence isn’t a sacrifice, it is a waste."

Apart from the wonderfully elegant Sagan-esk speech that I love, The Doctor wasn’t just talking about Mary Galel. He was talking about Clara “Oswin” Oswald.

“There’s always a way…cross my hearts.”

Also very Sagan-esk. And I believe important as it applies to Clara.

~Shooter Out

I didn’t particularly like either episode (this or St. John’s) but didn’t hate them either. I feel similarly about Ms. Osw[old/in]. Maybe I’m just ambivalent all-around on the show, I can’t tell, which is itself a sign of ambivalence.

In both episodes I had an eye-rolling moment, though. In St. John’s it was when it was revealed that this was a major corporation that was harming Humanity on behalf of some alien. Why in this show does no one (in particular The Doctor) ever sigh and say… “AGAIN?” In this episode, it was the yelling monologue. It was well written, sure, but it came off very cheesy to me. Were I that sun I’d have asked, afterward, “Are you finished? Because I’ve got a planet to inflame.”

I am going to have to do a rewatch of this episode because i tried to watch it while tired and that didn’t work well. I wasn’t in the same frame of mind as your were Solai when i watched it. I am more looking into what Clara could be, than how the Doctor rescued the Queen of Years. I did get jazzed up by the Doctor’s speech. I am going to be watching the next episode here hopefully tonight.

New theory: The Doctor deliberately turned off the TARDIS translation matrix for Clara when he took her to Akhaten.

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I have a personal story that relates to this episode. And re-watching it last night with my daughter, made me remember it.
I posted this on a social media spot, but it occurred to me I should probably share it here:

when I was 9 year old I got lost in the woods of North Andover. I was lost for nearly 8 hours…police and fireman searching the woods for the missing boy-me. My mother was frantic. I eventually got home by myself by finding a road and knocking on a random strangers door. But like Clara in Doctor Who…the experience affected me. Like Clara I feel alone sometimes, but I never feel lost :slight_smile: