Singing Doctor Who's praises?
Jenna-Louise Coleman takes her first trip in the TARDIS in this divisive episode. The story is full of impressive visuals, but does the story live up its grandiose setting?
As mentioned before, the story is a visual stunner. The amount of progress Doctor Who has made in its Special Effects Department since its inception; the fantastic CGI on the planet, great sets and fantastic prosthetics make the Rings of Akhaten truly feel like a alien world. The acting is very strong all round, with young Emilia Jones giving a performance way beyond her years, Jenna-Louise Coleman retaining her feisty, but caring traits from the previous epiosde, and Matt Smith gives one of the best performances of his career, somehow managing to capture the character of The Doctor perfectly.
Murray Gold created some modern classics for this episode, with a couple of songs sending shivers down my spine. Songs play a large part in the story, and, to be honest, it's be entirely subjective whether you'll enjoy that part or not. Personally, I enjoyed the singing very much, and one song in particular added enough weight to a scene to nearly move me to tears (nearly. I'm still a man). Director Farren Blackburn does a perfectly good job of displaying the episode, making good use of the sets, although, sometimes it's not totally clear what's going on. However, this is a problem somewhat more inherent to the plot.
The plot is, frankly, a bit of a mess. Ideas aren't fully utilised, plans are flimsy at best and logic appears to have thrown down the stairs by the Chuckle Brothers. What was going on with the mummy? What was the Chorister going on about? It all smacks of being rushed, and the confines of the story not being to hold all the ideas it had. The Vigil (some creepy, steampunk prison guards) get barely two minutes of screen time, a the mummy does nothing but dodder about in its cage a bit. I think this a real shame, because it's obvious some real work went into creating the costumes, and there was an absolute heap of potential that never came to anything.
The plot is rescued, however, by a truly brilliant scene of The Doctor facing off against the parasite-god. Matt Smith pours his very soul into the speech he makes, painting smiles on the faces of Whovians across the land. Accompanied by another of Gold's wonderful songs (one that rivals 'Abigail's Song' from A Christmas Carol as my all-time favourite), it makes for a stirring moment. It's let down a little towards the end, as Clara turns up to inject some forced sentiment into the situation, but it doesn't really detract from the moment as a whole.
The Rings of Akhaten is very divisive. Some will love it, others will despise it. And, as per my tradition in Love/Hate situations, I think it's okay. Whilst it wastes much of its potential, it's good to see a proper alien world, complete with culture and religion and detail. In fact, this story would most likely appeal to Star Wars fans, as both are rich in detail.
To sum up, this story is pretty good. Whilst it's held up on flimsy logic, it's engrossing enough, and littered with enough good moments to make it a perfectly good first adventure for a new companion.