Recap: Doctor Who S33 E7 "The Rings of Akhaten"
aka: Doctor Who S 33 E 07 The Rings Of Akhaten
So, about that leaf...
"There's quite a difference, isn't there, between what was and what should have been. There's an awful lot of one, but there's an infinity of the other."
— The Doctor
The first broadcasted Doctor Who
episode by Promoted Fanboy
Neil Cross, who got the job by mentioning Doctor Who
for years in every BBC meeting.
The Doctor quietly watches (and reads The Beano
) as Clara's parents meet for the first time. A leaf blows into Clara's dad's face and he stumbles into the road, where her mother saves him from being hit by a car. The two fall in love, become Clara's mother and father, raise her with kindness and sweet stories. The Doctor is always there, just to watch her grow up. When Clara's mother dies, the Doctor is there at the graveyard, just looking at the scene from a distance. Clara is, for all intents and purposes, a completely normal human being.
On the day after her previous adventure
, the Doctor arrives to come pick Clara up. Clara wants to see something awesome, so the Doctor whisks her off to the gorgeous inhabited rings of the planet Akhaten, where the Festival of Offerings is in full swing. Wandering off
at the marketplace, Clara meets Merry, the very young Queen of Years, as the pilgrims and natives prepare for the ceremony. Merry is terrified
of her role as a ceremonial singer, thinking she'll screw up despite having been extensively taught every song and story known to her culture. Clara encourages her to go through with it, remembering how her own mother raised her to be courageous, and Merry agrees to perform the hymn for "Grandfather", the elder god. However, said god very unexpectedly interrupts little Merry's song and drags her through the air towards its tomb. The Doctor and Clara stop being tourists and leap into action, following suit on a space motorbike.
The Doctor sonics open the tomb door and becomes forced to seal himself, Clara, Merry and a monk (frantically singing sacred lullabies) in together with a tremendously scary mummified vampire, who promptly wakes up and starts attacking its own cage. Merry insists on making a Heroic Sacrifice
and letting it feed on her memories — all the songs and stories she's been taught for this purpose. But the Doctor explains to her the sheer improbability of someone as unique as a living person being born in the first place (glancing at Clara while he talks) and the pointlessness of sacrificing something as beautiful as her own life.
Merry is still intensely scared, though, and she fully blames Clara for convincing her to go through with the ritual, even though no one knew it would lead to this. While Merry uses her knowledge of her culture's lore to improvise an escape, the thing
breaks through its glass and lets out a shrill yell, which triggers a beam that makes contact with the planet, after which the mummy falls unconscious. As it turns out, the mummy isn't the Old God. It was the Old God's alarm clock. The Old God is the entire planet
The Doctor asks Clara to get Merry to safety on the air bike, while he stays behind to confront the living, monstrous planet. Merry takes up her old spot on the ceremonial dais again and begins to sing, hoping to calm the beast. The Doctor exposes himself to it, voluntarily letting the thing Mind Rape
him and showing it every single one of his memories: the Time War, the beginning of life and its ending, the death of entire universes. Entire worlds that laughed in the face of physics and relied on the mind of a madman. The monster isn't quite
sated yet, so while the Doctor, crying by this point, struggles to keep standing up, Clara rushes back into the tomb and offers the monster her leaf: not just its memories, but Clara's grief at what might
have been if her mother hadn't died. Since the thought of innumerable possibilities is stronger even than the Doctor's 1200 years of life, the planet gorges itself on Clara's grief and dies.
In the aftermath, the Doctor explains that Clara reminds him of someone who died. Clara tells him she won't be a Replacement Goldfish
for whomever it is he lost, not realising he's talking about her.
- Appease the Volcano God: Not a volcano, but same principle.
- Badass Boast: The Doctor gets a pretty epic one.
The Doctor: I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me! I've walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a MAD... MAN. I've watched universes freeze and creations burn. I have seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you will never understand! And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods BLAZE! SO COME OOOOON THEN! TAKE IT! TAKE IT ALL, BABY! HAVE IT! YOU HAVE IT ALL!.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: The entire episode is spent on asteroids that should never hold an atmosphere, the habitable parts of these asteroids extend onto the surface and into empty space, and there are several sequences where the characters ride a space-moped without helmets or space suits. It's reasonable to assume there's an artificial atmosphere, but this is not elaborated on in the episode.
- Bazaar of the Bizarre: The marketplace.
- Beam-O-War: The Doctor has a sonic-off with the guardians of the temple. They eventually overcome his sonic screwdriver, but not quickly enough to stop him.
- Call Back: The Doctor's speech to the Queen of Years (and his mention of seeing the beginning of time) call back to "The Edge of Destruction".
- Chewing the Scenery: The Doctor's Badass Boast speech, a particularly hammy moment in the episode.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: Near the episode's beginning, there's a shot of a tree with one big red leaf, and many smaller yellow leaves. Guess which one ends up being "the most important leaf in human history"?
- Continuity Nod:
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The space bike.
- Clara's leaf.
- Declarative Finger: The Doctor gives one to the villain in its final moments.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Doctor and Clara defeat a sentient planet.
- Don't Wake the Sleeper: A textbook example. It's even doubled, in that the sleeping god is a sleeper that will awaken an even bigger sleeper if awoken.
- Eldritch Abomination: The planet.
- Emotion Eater: "Grandfather"/the Old God.
- Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: That mummy has had some dental work, apparently.
- For Want of a Nail: "The most important leaf in human history," an ordinary leaf that, through a series of improbable coincidences, was in just the right position to bring Clara's parents together.
- Genius Loci: A sentient planet.
- Foreshadowing: The inifinite possibilites leaf actually represented Clara, not her mother's unlived future, hinting at The Reveal of Clara's true nature later in the season.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Doctor nearly makes one.
- Humanoid Abomination: "Grandfather" is a mostly humanoid thing that sits on a throne in a temple. Except it's actually just the entity responsible for devouring the Queen of Years' stories in order to satiate the Old God.
- Indy Hat Roll: The Doctor does one under the closing tomb door; rolling back to retrieve his sonic screwdriver.
- Internal Homage: The Doctor's speech to the monster is very reminiscent of the Eighth Doctor's speech in "Phobos". Neil Cross' other series 7 episode, "Hide", made the link more explicit with many direct references to the Eighth Doctor's audios.
- Kill the God: What the Doctor and Clara have done at the end is effectively kill these people's God. The ramifications for these people on a cultural and spiritual level aren't dealt with, considering how much of a bond it created between them and we already (possibly) saw how the monk in the Temple dealt with this loss.
- Load-Bearing Hero: The Doctor manages to open the door to the temple with his sonic screwdriver, but has to keep it there to prevent the door from closing. Paradoxically, he still seems to feel the weight of the door despite not actually touching it, which he lampshades a few times.
- Macguffin Girl: Merry
- Make Me Wanna Shout: The power of the temple guardians.
- Manly Tears: The Doctor cries during his magnificent speech to the beast.
- Meet Cute / Rescue Romance: Clara's parents. Also implied to be Love at First Sight.
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: The Doctor reads the 1981 Beano Summer Special. The track playing is Ghost Town by The Specials, released in 1981. It's probably 1981.