Sunday, April 7, 2013

Singers in the Hands of an Angry God: An Overanalysis of "The Rings of Akhaten"


I think what we really learned here is that, just because your episode is brilliantly imaginative, that doesn’t mean that it’s even remotely exciting.  While I wasn’t really into the action anywhere in this episode, the concept of this episode was unbelievably original, and truly beautiful.  I was not expecting to like this one because it looked like it was going to be a mummy episode.  Mummies are boring as horror villains.  I don’t think actual mummies, like when I see them in museums, are boring.  But I don’t understand what’s so scary about a zombie wrapped in bandages.  Thankfully, that wasn’t what this was.

I think part of what made this less exciting for me was the fact that it was so focused on the Clara mystery.  As much as that fascinated me in “The Snowmen,” by the time we got to the end of “The Bells of St. John,” the Great Intelligence was starting to peak my interest much more than Clara’s weirdness.  Then again, there’s a pretty good chance that the two are linked.

I thought it was very interesting that the TARDIS doesn’t “like” Clara.  This seemed to make a lot of sense.  The TARDIS tried to shake off Captain Jack because it didn’t “like” him, and that was because he was a temporal anomaly.  He should not exist because he defies the laws of time.  Obviously, Clara is the same way, which would explain why it doesn’t like her.

Although, the fact that she couldn’t get in isn’t necessarily a sign that it doesn’t like her as much as it is a sign that she doesn’t have a key yet (he gave it to the 19th century Clara, but not the 21st century one).  What is a bigger sign that the TARDIS doesn’t like her, and which I’m surprised the Doctor never mentioned, is the fact that the TARDIS translator isn’t working very well for Clara.  She couldn’t understand most of the creatures.  The TARDIS translator can translate anything in the universe (except that writing on the wall in “The Impossible Planet”).  It should have easily translated everything that was being said to Clara.  I can’t believe that the Doctor didn’t notice this.  Unless he's trying to hide the fact that this is unusual.  But I feel like he would have reacted somewhat, even if he tried to hide that reaction from Clara, and that didn't really happen.

It was interesting to see that the Doctor went back in time and still couldn’t explain how Clara was born into the late 20th Century.  This was confirmed by the prequel to “The Bells of Saint John,” but this expanded on it a little bit:  She didn’t just spawn into a new century.  She had parents.  That’s extremely unlikely.  And they met because of that one leaf that happened to fall off the tree.  That sounds like a manipulation of the timelines to me.  Something is ensuring that, in each generation, a series of events happens to come together to create a genetically identical person with the same exact name.  How?  A woman who has become fractured or splintered across time is easy to explain.  A girl who has real, human parents who met and fell in love and had a baby in multiple centuries is as bizarre of a phenomenon as you could think up.

And, if it was someone manipulating the timeline to make sure that that leaf landed in her father’s face, then that someone has to be non-corporeal, or else someone would have had to pull the leaf off of the tree with their hands.  What non-corporeal being has been pretty active in the series lately?  I’ll give you a hint:  its name rhymes with Trait Vintelligence.

Speaking of things that seem suspiciously similar to the Great Intelligence, what about “Grandfather,” a.k.a. “The Angry God” or “The Old God”?  It’s a creature that lives off of people’s memories.  The Great Intelligence feeds off of their brains.  That sounds somewhat similar, doesn’t it?  I don’t think that Grandfather was the Great Intelligence, as that would mean that the Great Intelligence is dead, and obviously that’s not the case.  But they seem…related, somehow.

There have been a few people who have complained that, in this episode, the sonic screwdriver was overused.  There were two complaints:  the first was the way it was used to hold the door open, the second being that the way he used it to fend off the attacks from the "Eggheads" (the best name I've heard of for them) made it seem like a weapon.  First of all, I don't give a shit about the door.  The door made perfect sense.  I felt a little iffy about it being used as a sort of a weapon against the Eggheads, though.  However, some have argued on the forums that, since it was defensive, it wasn't really being used as a weapon.  I can see that argument.

Shooting the Cybermat in "Closing Time" still stands as the most weapony use of the Sonic Screwdriver ever.

The Doctor's list of stories was rather interesting.  When he brought up having been in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman, my first instinct was that he was talking about the 2nd Doctor's best episode by far, "The Time Meddler" (which would mean that this half of the season is shockingly heavy with 2nd Doctor references).  However, some people on the Doctor Who Wiki pointed out that this could just have easily have been a reference to the 1st Doctor episode, "The Celestial Toymaker," or the 10th anniversary episode, "The Three Doctors."

The Doctor also mentioned he had secrets that must never be known, which presumably referred to the secret of the Doctor's name.  Isn't that something he shouldn't be passing on to evil, planetoid monsters?

Also, don't forget:  the first ever direct mention of Susan in the new series.  The Doctor mentioned coming to Akhaten with his granddaughter!  Susan is coming back!

Clara is still an amazing companion.  She might have already surpassed Amy in my book.  I understand that that may make me sound fickle after I recently called Amy and Rory the best companions in the history of the show.  But, if Doctor Who is being done right, each new companion should be your favorite.  Each new Doctor should be your favorite.  Each new episode should be moving us forward while still looking backwards at the same time.  So yes, Clara should be able to replace the last companion as your favorite, because Doctor Who lives as much in the present as in the past.

Clara's initiative is almost unparalleled.  There aren't a lot of companions like her.  And she's smart.  Last week she figured out how to locate Kizlet's office.  This week, she figured out that the leaf could overfeed Grandfather because it held an infinity of possible stories.  In both situations, she found the solution when the Doctor was stumped.  How does her mind come up with these things?  She's not only holding her own, she has the intelligence, imagination, and ingenuity to come up with creative solutions.  Even Sarah Jane, the yardstick against which all other companions are measured, never demonstrated herself to be this clever.  And Clara is not afraid to throw herself into danger.  In contrast to the scream queens we saw in the classic series, Clara doesn't seem to be terrified and screaming all the time.  She's ready to charge forward and face whatever is coming at her.

We may be witnessing the beginning of something very special in Clara.  Perhaps something that will be looked back on as a landmark moment in the show's history.

Next week we have a very interesting episode in that we're finally seeing the return of the Ice Warriors. After decades of just talking about it, someone is finally actually doing it and bringing them back.  Unfortunately, the episode was handed over to Mark Gatiss, the most consistently mediocre writer on the staff (#anyonebutgatiss).  So we'll keep our fingers crossed that he wrote another "Night Terrors" and not another "The Idiot's Lantern."

I'll be bringing you a little bit of history on the Ice Warriors later this week.  As well as a little book report about the Great Intelligence.

See you then!

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