2nd episodes for companions have followed a certain formula since Rose and #9 jaunted off. Save Cardiff in Episode 1 and go somewhere mind blowing in Episode 2.
The Rings of Akhaten falls somewhere between Love and Monsters and Fear Her on my I want my 40mins back Doctor Who scale of suck.
The episode begins with Clara’s parents meeting, falling in love, raising Clara and the Doctor stalking them over the years which would have made more sense in the last episode.
Clara’s declares she wants to go somewhere awesome. And off we go to a Star Trek er, Farscape, er, Alien Market orbiting this world around this gas giant and finally Doctor Who sheds the let’s save money and shoot everything in Cardiff and we get aliens! No, I’m not talking Star Trek forehead aliens although they do make an appearance, I’m talking sweating your balls off in latex under hot lights and I can see a damn thing in this headdress aliens!
I would have been happy for the entire 40mins just letting Clara browse and let BBC show off their latex.
But, there is something amiss. Clara finds it has something to do with the moppet of the week known as Merry played by Emilia Jones. Merry is running away from playing a song for her grandfather and Clara tries to bring her back to the TARDIS but the TARIDS gives her a: Yeh I don’t think so bong of her chimes and instead Clara helps Merry deal with her anxiety.
Soon all the aliens sit down and watch Merry sing and we’re treated to a lovely scene but things go wrong and yawn the “world” is coming to a end when grandfather, a sleeping lizard wakes up and kidnaps Merry and the Doctor and Clara riding a space scooter with no oxygen gear to save the day. I bring all this oxygen stuff up because I’m pretty sure some of us remember The Satan Pit, right?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of telling and not a lot of showing in this episode. The world building includes no rulers or body of government or for that matter space ships. The market and the Rings of Akhaten simply look really cool against a space background. Sure the gas giant morphing into a skull looks great but it has no voice. Nothing to taunt Clara or the Doctor with.
Like any TV Show, the hero is only as good as the villain and when the villain is a gas giant with no voice. What can a sleeping villain do but employ faceless cool looking minions to stalk the would be heroine of this episode. For once the heroine is not being Clara. Meanwhile the Doctor does his best deus ex doctor by filling in the gaps to explain things to the audience.
It gets dull.
I would have preferred this episode to be taken from the point of view of Merry now grown up. The Doctor saved her and she’s telling the tale to her children of the man in the blue box and Clara. That would have made more sense to me.
So far no arching plot threads from the Great Intelligence plot. Maybe something will pop up next week but we’re at Episode 8 and we’ve got 6 episodes to go.
Going to give it two regenerations out of five. Here’s hoping next week’s episode onboard the submarine makes for Les Miserables of Akhaten.