I usually find Doctor Who to be of a hit or miss show. There have been some amazing episodes and some that are less than great. (I'm the biggest Doctor Who fan though, so I'll try and find a redeeming quality for every episode)
This week's episode, The Rings of Akhaten, fell somewhere in between.
The Doctor and his new companion Clara embark on the traditional second trip to somewhere vastly different to modern day London.
He takes her "somewhere awesome", that is, to see the Rings of Akhaten, which some believe to be the beginning of all life in the universe.
The planet had a Star Wars-esque vibe and we finally got to see new alien creatures (including one whose behaviour could only be described as dog-like)
The Rings of Akhaten was based around the importance of memories. Basically, the population of Akhaten has (as they have throughout their entire history) appointed a child who has to appease their "God" by singing or risk having their souls taken - souls, which the Doctor says, are made up of stories.
When Merry, the young child, errs in her singing and awakes the God, the Doctor steps in to save her because she is the only Merry and is just as important as everyone else. This is one of my favourite things about the Doctor and something that has always been consistent through the show. Modern Doctor Who anyway.
By far the best bit of the episode was the Doctor's monologue to the god. Damn, Matt Smith, that was some quality acting. Some people think that the whole "travelling alone for a thousand years" spiel has been overdone lately but I love it. I love knowing that beneath the childish exterior, the Doctor is a weary old man who has seen so much and is so alone. He has the world on his shoulders and so many people don't even realise.
Even with all this travelling, the Doctor's memories weren't enough to feed and ultimately kill their nebulous sun-god creature (I'm still not entirely sure what it was) It was the infinite possibilities that Clara's leaf represented that ultimately destroyed it.
And yay for character development! Clara isn't just some plot-driver, "the impossible girl" that the Doctor is obsessed with finding out about any more. We get to see her past in a somewhat cheesy (and a little bit creepy - thanks Doctor) opening scene. Her parents meet on a windy autumn day and if it weren't for that exact leaf existing, they wouldn't have met. Then we are told (because the Doctor has been basically stalking her) that her mum died when she was young - in March of 2005 as well, right around the time Nine was meeting Rose - and she has since postponed her dream of travelling to look after the Maitland children.
In The Rings of Akhaten, Clara proves herself to be companion worthy: adventurous, willing to be challenge and ready to leave her old life (at least for a while)
When she and the Doctor need a means of transport across the planet, she offers her mother's ring in exchange. She then sacrifices the "most important leaf in the world" to save Merry and the rest of the planet. Her willingness to do so shows how she wants to move and also how selfless she is (which I think was pretty obvious when she did not travel and instead babysat children who also lost their mother)
Again on the theme of the importance of memories, I found the 'currency' of Akhaten to be very interesting. The more sentimental value a person gives an object, the more it is worth in the market. It just emphasises how significant it is that Clara gave up her mother's ring for their ride.
Overall, I think the episode was better than The Bells of St John but maybe that's just because of the Doctor and Clara's monologues but that it could have been better throughout 7.5/10