Doctor Who Recap: “The Rings of Akhaten”

By April 8, 2013

She’s an impossible girl, and the Doctor doesn’t know quite what to make of her. How can there be three versions of one person…especially of one person who has lived such a normal life?

The Doctor travels through time, watching her parents meet in a twist of fate–a leaf breaks free of a branch, hits Clara’s father in the face, and sends him stumbling into the path of an oncoming car. Her mother snatches him out of the way, and he keeps the leaf as a reminder–it is “the most important leaf in human history,” full of life, love, and stories. The Doctor meets them later in a park, greeting a young Clara. Then, some years later, he watches her stand at her mother’s grave, shedding tears for a life lost too soon.

Back in the present, it’s time for Clara to join the Doctor in the TARDIS for her first alien adventure. He takes her to see the Pyramid of the Rings of Akhaten, where an important religious ceremony is about to occur. The Queen of Years shall sing a song to placate Grandfather, the regional god, and keep him asleep.

The Doctor takes Clara to the marketplace, where he offers her a glowing blue fruit and explains the local customs. On this planet, items of great sentimental value are used for currency. The Doctor wanders off, and a frightened little girl runs past Clara. Her name is Merry Galel, and she is the Queen of Years, running from her singing duty, for fear that she err and upset Grandfather.

Clara brings Merry to the TARDIS to hide, but she’s locked out. They sit behind the blue box, and Clara tell the little girl a story; when she was a child, she was terrified of getting lost. Eventually, she convinces Merry to sing, and the Doctor takes Clara to watch the ceremony. The crowd makes offerings–also objects of great sentimental value–but suddenly, something goes wrong. A golden glow surrounds Merry, lifting her off her feet and pulling her through space, toward the Pyramid.

The Doctor runs back to the marketplace to procure a moped, and Clara must sacrifice her mother’s ring in payment. They follow Merry, but she is sucked inside the Pyramid, and the Doctor struggles to open the door with his sonic screwdriver. There is a monster sleeping within the chamber, and the only way to placate him is to offer up the soul of the Queen of Years. The Doctor talks the young girl out of it–she is unique in the universe, he says, and it would not be a sacrifice, but a waste.

The monster awakens, but the Doctor holds him off while Clara and Merry escape. Soon, the Doctor realizes that he made a mistake; the monster is Grandfather, but he is not the Old God. The Old God has awakened, threatening to consume everyone and everything in its path. The Doctor sends Clara and Merry back from whence they came while he stays to fight the deity. As Merry sings again, the Doctor feeds it his memories–over a thousand years of stories, imbued with great history and pain, but it’s not enough. Unwilling to walk away, Clara joins him with the ultimate sacrifice–“the most important leaf in human history,” full not only of stories of the past…but of an infinite number of unlived futures. It is more than the deity can bear, and consuming the leaf destroys the Old God.

The Doctor lands the TARDIS back at Clara’s house, but before she leaves, she asks him why he was stalking her at her mother’s gravesite. He admits that she reminds him of someone who died, and she firmly tells him she won’t be his replacement for someone else–she’ll only travel with him if it’s her he wants. He assures her that it is, and tells her that she, and no one else, saved the people of the Rings of Akhaten. He hands Clara her mother’s ring, returned to them as an expression of the people’s gratitude. She walks out of the TARDIS, and the Doctor stares after her, a look of dire seriousness on his face. Whatever he may have said, he’s not letting this mystery go.