Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten Review -

Doctor Who Review

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  • Episode: The Rings of Akhaten (Season 7, Episode 8)
  • Starring: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Aidan Cook
  • Written By: Neil Cross
  • Directed By: Farren Blackburn
  • Network: BBC, BBC America
  • Studio: BBC
  • Series:

Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten Review

Brings the audience back to the Doctor

By Kimberly McCall     April 11, 2013

This past week's “Rings of Akhaten”  may be the most crowd pleasing episode of Doctor Who in quite some time. Steven Moffat took a step back from this one leaving the episode, instead, scripted by Neil Cross (Luther, Mama).  

The beauty of “Rings of Akhaten” is that it brings the audience back to the Doctor (Matt Smith) a bit. During the last season (or, one might argue, TWO seasons), the focus has been dominated by the companions; first with the epic story surrounding the Ponds, and now the ever mysterious Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman).

Well, the truth is we still don't learn a heck of a lot about Clara. The story opens, however, with a trip taken by the Doctor into Clara's childhood. It is here that we learn of the loving relationship between her parents and her mother's eventual death. Given this concrete history, we see the Doctor wrestle with whether Clara really is timeless or just another girl in the present. 

Apart from that brief backstory, the adventure picks up like a classic Doctor Who episode of old as the Doctor scoops up Clara at her residence and whisks her away to see something amazing. In this case, the planets of the Akhaten system.  It is here that the inhabitants of the system gather every generation to honor (yet not awaken) the Old God. The scenery is incredible. It will take your breath away whether you're watching it on a giant screen or a tiny smart phone. Such a visually appealing and other-worldly setting is just what Doctor Who fans need to rekindle their wonder and amazement. 

Also, expect to be delighted with a reference the Doctor makes to his own granddaughter! Blink and you'll miss it. The original companion to the first doctor in 1963 was Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford). From the tearful farewell in 1964 until now, the whereabouts of Susan remain a mystery. Despite the Doctor mentioning on multiple occasions that he is the last of the Time Lords, there is no reason to believe that his beloved granddaughter is not still out there. Perhaps the writers aim to bring her back into our heads? Or perhaps it was simply to please fans by connecting the stories. 

One of the best bits about Doctor Who is putting the puzzle together. Matt Smith certainly spreads his acting wings during a plea to the Old God that reminds us how astoundingly awesome and inexplicably painful it is to be who The Doctor is. Yet, after decades of watching, we still know precious little about him. This time around, his companion is the same way. Some will tire of the guessing game, others will remain transfixed.  “Rings of Akhaten” is an enjoyable ride for whichever type of Doctor Who dan you may be. There are great characters, beautiful scenery, both witty and heart wrenching dialogue, and, of course, the Doctor saving the day in an hour of brilliant television.



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wrrlykam 4/11/2013 3:14:35 PM

Susan appeared in the 1983 episode The Five Doctors.  Somewhat older looking.

Wyldstaar 4/11/2013 5:40:19 PM

Yes, Susan was in The Five Doctors, but we learned nothing about her life after the Tardis in that story.  She just gets pulled off the street by the Time Scoop and dropped into the Death Zone.  As always, the writer didn't know what to do with Susan other than have her scream and twist an ankle for the upteenth time. 

I am enjoying the episodes of this half of the season so far.  Moffat is clearly doing his best to do more than just a string of 'alien menace of the week' stories.  It's not easy to find writers who can bring something new to a show that's been on for fifty years.  As much as I love the classic era of Doctor Who, many of the stories were hopelessly generic.  I lost track of how many times the Earth was being invaded by aliens with the aid of a human traitor.  Even RTD fell into that trap several times in the new series.

wrrlykam 4/12/2013 12:59:06 AM

Twisting an ankle didn't happen very often in classic DW. May be only every other story to every other charcter in the early 60s. Susan's story was picked up in novels and I think and audio stories but  these tended to contradict each other wildly.

Noovtere 4/12/2013 1:43:44 AM

I was disappointed.  Didn't care for the deus ex machina solution to the conflict.

Iridan 4/12/2013 4:56:08 AM

I really liked the episode. Perhaps because Moffat didn't write it.

Funstin 4/12/2013 5:47:16 AM

According to the Big Finish Audios, Susan has a son named Alex Campbell now (The Doctor's great-grandson) who is voiced by Jake McGann (Paul McGann's son) and they have had a couple of stories with the 8th Doctor.  The first was called 'An Earthly Child' I believe, a takeoff of the Doctor Who first episode title "An Unearthly Child"

lusiphur 4/12/2013 6:02:37 AM

I enjoyed this episode, but being two episodes out of eight into this half of the season, I'm expecting more meat to the stories. Especially leading up to the 50th Anniversary.  I'm really looking forward to this week's installment.

lusiphur 4/12/2013 6:04:36 AM

 Oh, and The Doctor's speech may have been the best dialogue and delivery given to/by Matt Smith yet.  I got all "feely" inside when he finished.

ObiWannaJones 4/12/2013 7:52:42 AM

 I enjoyed it, but it wasn't a "favorite" episode by any means for me.  Prior to the relaunch, my only Dr. Who  connection comes from the Tom Baker Doctor (back when PBS was showing Who in the 80s),  However, the fanboy in me learned a lot of Who history from various sci fanzines (pre-iternet) and I was curious about his Granddaughter.  With the mystery of Clara, my first theory was "I wonder if she is really Susan, regenerated with amnesia". 

Who (no pun intended) knows?  I'm anticipating a fun ride, and hope they don't drag it out too long until fans lose interest. 

wrrlykam 4/12/2013 2:03:38 PM

In one novel Susan has three adopted children, she couldn't conceive with her husband. Hence the reference to conflicting stories mentioned earlier.

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