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TV Review: Doctor Who 7.8: The Rings Of Akhaten
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The Rings of Akhaten Review

Doctor Who
Series 7, Episode 8 – “The Rings of Akhaten”
Directed by Farren Blackburn
Written by Neil Cross
Starring: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Aidan Cook, Michael Dixon, Feth Greenwood, Emilia Jones, and Nicola Sian
BBC America
Air date: April 6, 2013

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”

If you talk to any avid television fans, they’ll often tell you the exact moment in which they fell in love with their favorite show. But I don’t know many fans who can tell you the exact context in which they fell in love with that show.

Doctor Who was something I was always hesitant to get into, mostly because I felt it was something with such a storied past that I’d never be able to get caught up enough to a point where I’d be able to appreciate it as much as a hardcore fan does. It took months of pressure from friends to jump into the series. I started with Series 5, because many of my friends felt that was the most accessible episode of the series for a new fan. In January of 2011, during a rare snowy day in South Carolina, I fired up “The Eleventh Hour.”

I was hooked.

I tell you all this as context. I started watching the fifth series right around the time my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I remember watching “Vincent and the Doctor” and weeping for hours when The Doctor told Amy about not letting the good things spoil the bad things. And I remember the Doctor telling young Amy that above quote and how that kind of became a thesis for my interpretation of the show.

Again, I tell you all this as pretext for why I loved “The Rings of Akhaten” so much. Most of it has to do with personal experience and how I’ve related to the show over the past few years. But let me tell you, as terrible as some of the production values were this week, nothing compares to those moments with The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in the temple as they work to fight against this week’s threat. So much of that moment is built on loss, for both Clara and The Doctor, that this episode came crashing together in a way that had me sobbing like a little girl.

The future of infinite possibilities, of moments unlived, and of stories untold: episodes like this transcend television and become something so much more personal to me. In a episode that’s so heavy on the themes of stories and the memories of those stories and the way they shape and mold our lives, I found this particular story to be an incredibly compelling one.

Quick Thoughts:

– We certainly get one of Matt Smith’s finer performances as The Doctor in “The Rings of Akhaten.” If you’ve seen the episode, you’re highly aware of the speech he gives during the middle of the episode, which provides a lot of the emotional core I hit on during my review. It’s an incredible reminder of how much this two-hearted alien has lost and works on a variety of levels to remind us of what’s come before. Even better was Smith’s subtle tear. A brilliantly acted moment.

– Clara’s certainly a strong character. The interaction between her and the Doctor at the end of the episode sets up an interesting dynamic for the pairing. It’s certainly different from Amy and The Doctor’s relationship. It’s bold and fresh. I’m excited for the breath of fresh air Clara has brought to the show.

– Speaking more of Clara, I’m glad this episode had enough bravado to place the newest companion on her own for so long. As we saw in “Asylum of the Daleks,” Coleman is more than capable of holding her own for long stretches of time, while still making the show engaging. I would have loved to have seen more of her interacting with Merry (Emilia Jones).

– As I said, the visual and production effects of the episode fell particularly flat for me. That being said, the episode could have spent more time fleshing out this world and I would have been just as engaged. I think those are the episodes of Doctor Who that are the strongest – when the world is so interesting without the Doctor’s involvement that you’re just as entertained watching people walking around as you are watching Matt Smith bark at an alien. It’s great stuff.

– “I’ll walk” was inherently more bad-ass than anything that happened last week.

What did you think of the episode? Sound off in our Comments section below!

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