Who on earth* is Clara? What is The Doctor’s mental state? Does he still miss the Pond-Williamses? Well we’ve got absolutely no idea, and we won’t for a while, but nevermind that let’s all go to a market stall on a distant planet with all sorts of weird and wonderful aliens, hurrah!- seemed to be the order of the day in this week’s Doctor Who episode, ‘The Rings of Akhaten’.
In what has become standard Doctor Who second episode of a new companion fare, ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ began with The Doctor asking Clara what in all of time, space and all the bits of fluff and otherwise in between, that she would most like to see. Clara, betraying little touches of her character with almost everything she says, again standard fare at this point in a new character’s TV lifespan, asks simply to see ‘something amazing’. That something turns out to be a suitably far off planet, or more accurately, seven planets, rotating around a pyramid commonly believe in those parts to be not only a God, but the source of all life. Conveniently for the plot, if not for Clara’s “nice day out”, they arrive just in time for the Festival of Offerings, where a young choir girl is in danger of becoming a young sacrifice to an old God.
With its issues of religion, faith and it’s prominence in society, as well as the presence of a giant godhead sleeping just out of sight, this episode is very reminiscent of Series 2’s ‘The Satan Pit’. The resemblance actually went further than just the basics, with Matt Smith’s Doctor confronting the god figure in much the same impassioned and heartfelt way as David Tennant’s did the devil back in 2006. Said speech was undoubtedly one of Smith’s finest moments as the time travelling hero so far, with the solitary tear streaking down his cheek at one point as he spoke of “those lost” adding sincerity, rather than the melodrama it could so easily have been accused of. He really did act his socks off, and, for me, usually more of a fan of his predecessor, finally standing up and owning the role as his own. Hey, it’s only taken me three years to come around.
And speaking of coming around to a character, Clara is developing into a bright and witty companion, much more instantly likeable, dare I say it, than the two parts feisty seven parts grumpy Amy Pond (I mean she was married to Arthur Darvill for goodness sake!). We still don’t know who she is, but we are being slowly drip fed details of who she might have been. Albeit in the style of ever frustrating programmes such as ‘Lost’ – i.e in a way which pretends to give you clues but actually just presents yet more questions. Aside from that, though, my fellow Blackpool born Jenna Louise Coleman is very watchable, and I look forward to seeing what she can do when given a plotline that isn’t entirely based around who, what, where, how – HUH?!? The second most googled phrase about her beyond her full name also happens to be ‘Jenna Louise Coleman hot’, so er, good for her I suppose.
Many people seem to have been annoyed in their droves by this episode, presumably because it was a little too Fiction, with not enough Science, falling foul of that age old Doctor Who problem of wrapping up the main drama far too quickly without a thought for the consequences or how this is all meant to have happened. Personally, though, I think the main point of an episode such as this, what with Clara being the new girl and The Doctor still grieving his lost friends, was always going to be more to do with character than the plot itself. Whilst others were not happy with that, and understandably so, given just how fantastic said character development was, particularly in the case of Matt Smith, personally I’ll happily take the compromise.
Perhaps tonight’s episode, ‘Cold War’ we’ll satisfy a wider range of viewers? Becky will let you know.
The next episode of Doctor Who, ‘Cold War’ is on tonight, BBC One, 6pm.
*Consider that your first ‘what on earth’ pun of this series. Plenty more where that came from, fret not.
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