As we said on Verity! episode 9, “The Rings of Akhaten” was kinda dumb in some ways. And like I said, I don’t care! But these “Last Word” posts are supposed to be where we include the thoughts we didn’t get a chance to voice, so I’ll try to avoid retreading too much. Bottom line: I really enjoyed this story.
Now on to what I didn’t get a chance to say. (Sometimes an hour is just not long enough to talk about Doctor Who—actually, an hour is *never* long enough to talk about Doctor Who!)
Doctor Who often walks a fine line for me between silly and over-the-top silly. This story straddled that line. I enjoyed cute phrases like “tactical boo-boo,” but the ridiculous moments in the marketplace were just too much for me. I didn’t need to see the Doctor thrusting his hips at a random alien. (I’m sure there’s plenty of fic out there where he does just that, but I don’t want to see it!) Nor did I love the bit where he and Clara bark at the moped rental clerk. And why isn’t the TARDIS translating all this anyway? That circuit is on the fritz nearly as often as the steering. The other moment I had real trouble with was the two of them bursting into the arena late. It’s supposed to be this lovely, solemn occasion. Of course that’s where the comedy is supposed to come from, but it fell flat for me.
I suppose this is a good place to segue into the things my nerd-brain couldn’t help but notice. Yes, it’s time for nit-picky stuff that I really should ignore. For one, the leaf. It would be completely dust by this time! Yes, leaves can last a while when you press them between paper, but unless you wax them (which is really easy to do, and highly recommended if you want to keep dead vegetation for a long time), they’ll crumble when you try to take them out of that book 25 years later!
It’s also never completely clear why the song stops. Mary thinks it’s her fault, though the cloaked dude seemed to stop singing first (or at least simultaneously). Did he stop because he saw the “alarm clock” move? Or did him stopping cause it to move? The Doctor tosses off a line saying it was simply “time to wake up.” Which are we supposed to believe? As pretty as the direction of this story was, it fell short in keeping us apprised of what was happening and why.
I also have a specific complaint about the rather anti-climactic confrontation between the Doctor and the giant solar-jack-o-lantern. I already mentioned my confusion about whether it was removing his memories (a failure of the writing or directing—or both), but regardless of how long and interesting a life the Doctor has had (and it’s been amazing, I grant that), why would his stories come close to filling the pumpkin? It’s about to “eat” the entire system full of people. One very exciting thousand-year life is still a drop in the bucket compared to millions (billions? or even just thousands?) of folks with normal lives. This monster would have to stop for a post-Thanksgiving-style nap after every neighborhood it munched. An oft-napping alien is somewhat less terrifying.
But enough of that. Let’s get back to squeeing. I still do (audibly) every time I watch the opening credits. I LOVE the new sequence. The colors, the music, Matt Smith’s face. It all makes me SO. HAPPY. I also forgot to point out the fact that Clara’s mum died on March 5th, 2005. Ok, her death doesn’t make me happy, but that’s the day Rose met the Ninth Doctor, which is neat. Perhaps Clara’s mum was killed by Autons? And I know I mentioned this on the episode, but it bears repeating: the Doctor mentions his granddaughter! I’m not expecting to see Susan turn up during the 50th or anything (amazing as that would be), but I adore the fact they’re acknowledging it. It makes me wonder what other tidbits we’re going to get in throwaway lines later this season. Yay for the anniversary year! I will eat up that fan service nonsense with a giant spoon!
Ok, what else can I squee about—oh yeah. Clara! Let’s get back to her. One of my favorite moments is in the TARDIS at the beginning when the Doctor asks her where she wants to go, and she totally blanks. I am loving how Clara is smart and witty and doesn’t always have the perfect answer. She’s so real. There’s a balance to her character that I’m completely into. She’s strong, but she doesn’t bluster. She’s matter of fact about her indecision and fear, and she lets neither hold her back from doing what she wants and contributing when she feels she can. I think the line about getting lost was heart-breakingly beautiful: “The world ended, my heart broke—then my mum found me.” She experiences fear, but she doesn’t let it rule her. She lets it go and moves on to the next challenge. I want to be Clara Oswald when I grow up.
Okay, I’ve babbled lots (and lots) here. I’ll end with a few random observations.
A part of me wonders if this episode is Steven Moffatt thumbing his nose at all the 40-something fanboys who said they’d stop watching the show if Doctor Who ever did a musical episode. This isn’t strictly that, but it’s as close as we’re likely to get!
When the Doctor is feeding his stories to the Great Pumpkin, he says “Take it all baby!” I’m a big fan of the movie Center Stage. There’s a certain joke told in that film that this line reminded me of. If you know what I’m talking about, you won’t be able to un-see (hear) it. (Sorry.)
Clara’s (musical) theme is much less intrusive this time. I even quite liked how it played at the beginning of the episode to tip us off the couple were Clara’s parents.
I’m not a great fan of children in Doctor Who, but that little girl was AMAZING. Thoroughly adorable, a competent actor, and I quite enjoyed the character—frightened, but able to call upon inner strength to either defend her people (zapping Clara to the mummy cage) or do her part to help save them (leading the crowd in song to help the Doctor).
I’ll close with this week’s “Wendy Update.” Wendy started watching Doctor Who last week with “The Snowmen” and “The Bells of Saint John.” For those curious, I happily report she is still firmly on board. I think she liked “The Rings of Akhaten” even more than I did! I got a bit misty during this episode, but I caught Wendy using a napkin to dab at running mascara. She’s well on her way to becoming one of us! Huzzah!