Anyone who saw the preview last week for this week’s episode of “Doctor Who” might have had the same thought – on no, it’s the Doctor vs. the Cenobites, disco Cenobites. Well, not quite, but I am sure that The Vigil do shop at the same fabulous boutique as the Hellraiser crew however. My spoiler-filled recap and review of “The Rings of Akhaten,” perhaps more fashion discussion, and much, much more, when you join me after the jump.
The Doctor Reads Comics
Our opening sequence starts with The Doctor reading The Beano Summer Special from 1981. I kinda dig that The Doctor is a comics fan, and seeing how he’s a Brit, the adventures of Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, Gnasher, and the UK Dennis the Menace seem much more appropriate than say, Judge Dredd.
The opening sequence also marks a rather disturbing trend in Matt Smith’s tenure as The Doctor – the time travel stalking of his companions. With Amy Pond, he first met her as a child, and didn’t get back to her for years. Later through time travel he made up for that however.
With Clara, perhaps because of her mysterious origins, perhaps so another Amy doesn’t happen, he watches her through the years, dropping in occasionally. We know what he’s doing, yes, but it really doesn’t make it less creepy.
The Doctor has motive. He’s met two other versions of Clara before, so there is something amiss about her. Personally I think she’s a trap, set by the Great Intelligence or some other baddie. Either way, I can understand The Eleventh Doctor wanting all the facts about a companion – he did have to deal with Riversong completely out of order after all.
The writer of “The Rings of Akhaten” is Neil Cross, best known as the writer/creator of “Luther” and also the writer of the recent and quite terrifying film Mama. When I had heard he was doing “Who,” I really didn’t know what to expect.
In the first of his two episodes to air, but the second one written, Cross offers a tale of not just terror but hope. We are delivered much character depth, not just of Clara, but also The Doctor. I was very impressed and can’t wait for the next Cross offering.
The episode really begins with The Doctor picking Clara up, almost like a date (!), and asking her where, or when, she wants to go, or what she would like to see. With all the enthusiasm of a “Doctor Who” fan on the TARDIS for the first time, she replies, “Something awesome.” Okay, final answer, I like her. Jenna-Louise Coleman has officially won my heart.
The Doctor shows her the rings of Akhaten, a place of religious meaning, where they believe life began in the universe, and it is indeed ‘something awesome’ to behold in HD. They go in for a closer look and find a bustling marketplace filled with many aliens not unlike the clientele of Mos Eisley.
This is big budget for the wardrobe and make-up department at the Beeb. I’m betting we will see these aliens again in this form or recycled at some point. They all seem to be new creatures. The best part of the whole scene however is when The Doctor tells Clara that he’d been here before, “a long time ago with my granddaughter.” Love it!
The real adventure begins when Clara runs into Merry Galel, the Queen of Years, a little girl pursued by two men, and other stuff. Separated from The Doctor, Clara goes after her because she thinks she’s in trouble. She is, the pseudo-Cenobites, officially called The Vigil, are after her. They try to hide in the TARDIS, but it won’t let Clara in. Clara thinks it doesn’t like her. Ha. Maybe she doesn’t. Thanks to Neil Gaiman, we know exactly how temperamental a gal the TARDIS actually is.
While hiding behind the TARDIS, the two girls bond, my fondness for Jenna-Louise Coleman growing. And her backstory with her very special mum growing as well. The mystery deepens. Clara talks Merry into doing what she has to do, sing a lullaby to the Old God to keep him asleep.
In an intriguing distraction to the usual hijinks, we get to watch the ceremony as the Queen of Years serenades the Old God. Of course, something goes horribly wrong, the little girl is taken away to the pyramid of the Old God. Last week it was a antigrav motorcycle, this week The Doctor and Clara ride a space moped to the rescue. If I didn’t know better, I would think there was a toy merchandising angle at work here.
When the Queen of Years is talked out of sacrificing herself to the Old God by way of The Doctor showing how he is still a good soul, The Vigil show up to feed her to the Old God. Don’t you hate when that happens?
As much as I love when the old Who foes and menaces show up, like the aforementioned Great Intelligence, I do also dig the new monsters that have come with the new series. The Weeping Angels, The Silence, and the Racnoss, are among the more terrifying. Now these disco Cenobites, The Vigil join their ranks. The Old God, revealed to be just a sleepy soul-eating mummy/vampire as well.
And then there’s Grandfather, an angry intelligent sun about to go supernova and eat a solar system. Good luck fighting that one, Doctor. As usual, he talks him to death, and that’s a good thing.
Can’t wait for next week, more Clara, more new monsters, maybe more Neil Cross, maybe more Fun Boy Three, and definitely more “Doctor Who.”