Doctor Who Season 7 Review “The Rings of Akhaten”

Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 7 The Rings of Akhaten (2)

Clara’s cryptic explanation of the leaf in her 101 Places to See book at the end of last week’s Doctor Who got a full exploration in this week’s episode “The Rings of Akhaten.” Not only did we get to see why the leaf was significant to Clara, the leaf itself became the key to saving the first alien community that Clara would encounter. Clara was right when she told The Doctor that the leaf wasn’t just a leaf, it was page one.

In an attempt to solve the mystery behind Clara, The Doctor took it upon himself to spy on Clara and her family during different stages of her life. To his surprise, there was nothing extraordinary about Clara’s origins and upbringing. The way Clara’s mother was presented in the episode makes me think that she’ll play a significant role in Clara’s story throughout the remainder of this season. We don’t really find out what happened to Clara’s father, but Clara’s deceased mother remains a comfort and inspiration to Clara. There were multiple flashbacks of Ellie Oswald (née Ravenwood) reassuring Clara that she would always come and find her no matter where she was.

Clara and The Doctor’s trip to Akhaten started off as most trips into time and space usually do. Clara was captivated by her first alien sun and the unusual inhabitants of outer space. Their leisurely adventure was quickly sidetracked when they decided to save Mary Gallel and an entire system of civilizations from a soul-sucking parasite sun. To be honest, I was more frightened of the vampire mummy they thought they were fighting against than the big blobby sun monster that would ultimately be the real threat to this particular planetary system.

I’m not really sure I completely understand how Clara and The Doctor defeated the giant memory parasite. The Doctor delivered an incredible and heartbreaking speech to the memory parasite, telling the beast that it should have its fill of all the painful and lonely memories that he had been carrying with him for almost a thousand years. It wasn’t clear if the memory parasite actually took what The Doctor was offering, consumed it, and still decided it needed more, or if it attempted to take in The Doctor’s memories only to reject them because they were too painful.

If the parasite took some of The Doctor’s memories and still wasn’t satisfied, what did The Doctor lose in the process? Did he forever lose some of his memories? If it rejected The Doctor’s memories, why did The Doctor then make it seem like the parasite was being gluttonous and simply desiring more emotions and memories to have its fill? When Clara stepped in to offer the parasite the infinite possibility contained in her mother’s leaf, did she lose anything more than the leaf itself? Did she forget the meaning of the leaf, or its emotional significance to her and her family? The Doctor and Clara’s words emphasized how powerful memories and emotions are, but I’m still not clear on what – besides the leaf – was lost in their sacrifice to fight the space parasite.

We’re not much farther along in figuring out what the deal is with Clara and her doppelgangers scattered throughout the Universe. Clara made an interesting comment about how she thought the T.A.R.D.I.S. didn’t like her, and I’m wondering if she’s right. Perhaps the T.A.R.D.I.S. is trying to reject her because Clara is a time anomaly or maybe “Sexy” is just a tad jealous that her Doctor has been so completely preoccupied with the mystery of Clara.

Before The Doctor returned Clara to her normal timeline, she asked him why he had been checking in on her in her past. He explained that she reminded him of someone who had died and I appreciated Clara’s assertive reaction to The Doctor’s answer. He may have been talking specifically about the two versions of Clara that he had encountered in his past, but Clara wasn’t interested in replacing any of the people that may have died in The Doctor’s past regardless of if she looked like them or not. She already knows that she’s different from any of the companions he’s had in the past and she’s determined to make sure The Doctor knows it too.