Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Rings of Akhaten - initial musings.

As usual - don't read if you ain't seen it yet...
After a somewhat underwhelming (in my opinion) series opener, we have just been treated to a mini-epic. The pre-credits sequence - which shows the Doctor investigating Clara's birth and childhood (and explains that leaf) - is wonderful. We learn everything we need to know about Clara in a few short scenes - from the meeting of her parents to the death of her mother. Everything apart from the mystery of the other Claras, that is. Seeing a car bearing down on her dad, I had sudden flashbacks to Father's Day, and was wondering what is it about companions' dads and motors? They couldn't have been paying much attention to Jon Pertwee's "SPLINK" campaign.
The opener does not prepare us for the visual and aural treat that then follows. It was fun trying to spot familiar aliens amongst the crowds in Tiaanamaat Market. A re-modelled Hoix mask, someone from Platform One (there are shades of that story in this), and another from the Maldovarium.
There was certainly a Star Wars feel to proceedings. We got to learn more about Clara in her scenes with the young Queen of Years. Normally, I expect the worst from child actors, but Emilia Jones was very good.
The Vigil were only seen twice, but were very effective. The Mummy proved to be a massive red herring. The true villain of the piece had been hiding in plain sight the whole time.
Which brings us to one of Matt Smith's best scenes as the Doctor. Another Stonehenge moment. I had read one preview in which the writer found this scene a bit cringe-worthy, so was bracing myself for something a bit embarrassing. Not a bit of it. The Doctor's description of what he has experienced over the centuries actually hinted at some of the possible secrets which, we have been promised, will be revealed by the end of this series.
Not only did we learn the significance of the leaf, it proved crucial to the resolution of the threat - as a sort of "waffer-thin mint".
You do have to wonder what a solar system does without a sun, however.
The earlier mention of Susan conjured up an image of her and the First Doctor sitting in the arena listening to the music and marvelling at the spectacle. No doubt his singing would have charmed the birds out of the trees. Smith only manages a very brief warble.
Talking of which, there was some beautiful choral music courtesy of Mr Gold and the Crouch End Choir.  Music was intrinsic to the story.
Regarding the visual effects, I would just say that it is a crying shame that The Mill TV are no more.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable episode and a great (proper) start for Clara as a TARDIS traveller - even if she does seem to pop home after every jaunt.
How significant was it, however, that she thought home looked different? Something portentous - or just that home does look different after you've done a bit of travelling.
Lastly, the Next Time teaser. If you were expecting Martian Grand Marshals you would have been disappointed. All we saw were his pincer tips. The TV trailer does offer a bit more Ice Warrior.

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