REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Rings of Akhaten

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Office ‘Whovian’ Darren Sykes takes a look at the latest episode...

Doctor Who continued it’s run this Saturday with the exotically titled; The Rings of Akhaten. And with new companion Clara requesting: “Something awesome” for her first trip into space, is this what she and us viewers were treated to?

Well, superficially I would say a resounding ‘yes’.

Taken to a bizarre bazaar, populated with outlandish aliens on an asteroid with a slight Egyptian twist - the creation of this world and look of it works wonderfully well.

The stunning computer-generated images of the star surrounded by it’s rings of asteroids, brought to mind Rose’s first trip in to space in 2005’s The End of the World.

However, impressive visuals only take you so far. What is really important is the story and sadly in the end we were left with a rather less than stellar storyline.

Great rousing speeches and choral music aside, the end left me a little under-whelmed, as Clara literally takes a leaf out of her own book and defeats the pumpkin-like parasite sitting in the heart of the sun.

What really is unfortunate is it could have been so much better.

The underused Vigil, with their eerie whispering voices, were well set to be the main protagonists, but The Doctor simply kept them at bay with a flick of the over-used sonic screwdriver.

Focus then turned towards The Mummy, also confusingly know as ‘Grandfather’, whom The Vigil were protecting.

The Doctor ominously informed us Grandfather will: “Feed on you soul… it’s a vampire”, but then he simply woke up, growled, waved his arms and then collapsed before we went off on another tangent with the parasitic star.

Why not stop at Grandfather? Then you would have left extra time to developed a more original means of defeating The Vigil.

The Doctor’s big emotional speech and the scene with the leaf, could have been delivered at Grandfather before he breaks free from his prison and creates havoc in his world.

The point is, which I’ve mentioned in my previous reviews, if Doctor Who is going to continue to tell adventures over 42 minutes, it needs to be more disciplined with the story telling. A bit of breathing space and explanation is good.

As a viewer, it’s sometimes nice to feel you’ve worked something out in advance of it taking place.

That’s not to say you should be told everything, but after building up your storyline, you shouldn’t have to wrap everything up in the last five minutes with barely any exposition.

Perhaps writer Neil Cross could have spent a bit more time showing, for instance, what happened to the world after the apparent destruction of their sun? Unfortunately, they all lived happily and now we’re going home for tea – isn’t really good enough!

I will, however, add a slight caveat to my criticism of superfluous scenes.

While last week’s introduction, which saw The Doctor posing as a monk, appeared to have no relevance to the rest of episode and merely wasted time, this week was better.

As we saw a potted history of the Oswald family and given the ongoing mystery of Clara, it was good to have some fleshing out of this version of her character.

Additionally, it provided an opportunity to explain the significance of the leaf, which was ultimately used to defeat the parasite.

Happily, apart from the visuals there were some excellent performances.

Young Emilia Jones (daughter of former chorister Aled Jones), carries off her scenes with aplomb, and really sells Merry’s mixture of naivety, knowledge and childlike fear.

She brings out the caring side of Clara, who is clearly has a bond with children – both in this life (as a childminder) and as her former self (in Victorian times).

In this essentially Clara-centric episode, Jenna-Louise Coleman continues to impress, giving us the full range from bright-eyed enthusiasm to convincing sadness as she considers her mother’s days unlived.

Next week we go from the warmth of an alien sun, to the cold depths of an underwater submarine.

In what has been trumpeted as one of the highlights of the new series, we see the return of some old enemies from Marssss…

However, this week a less than stellar: 7 out of 10

Next week: Cold War