The Rings of Ahkaten
Original Air Date: Apr 06, 2013
Maria – Associate Staff Writer
Last week we saw a book that Clara had since she was nine. Pressed between the cover and the very first page was a leaf. In the teaser, we see the story of that leaf. It was the leaf that brought Clara’s mom and dad together. Clara’s mom died in 2005, but that leaf remains. It’s a very important leaf.
And Clara is a very important person to the Doctor. He needs to understand her, he needs to impress her. So he takes her to an alien world, a world he visited a long time ago with his granddaughter Susan: Ahkaten. The world, the culture, the aliens may be… well, alien, but Clara is still able to bond with a very special little girl.
The alien bazaar is very impressive, filled with the exotic which can sometimes appear to be intimidating. The TARDIS translator doesn’t seem to translate barking, which leads to some communication problems for Clara. The marketplace may be alien, but it has a currency more universal than money: items with sentimental value. Clara isn’t ready to part with something sentimental just for a ride on a space moped.
The Doctor wanders off and Clara bumps into a scared little girl, Merry, The Queen of Years. That means nothing to Clara. All she sees is a scared little girl, and her instinct is to help. Merry is scared because she has to sing a very important song to appease a God. The weight of the planet has been placed on this little girl’s shoulders, but Clara calms her down and gives her the confidence to do so.
It would be so easy just to take Merry into the TARDIS and relieve her of her burden, which Clara tries but the TARDIS won’t open for her. She believes the TARDIS doesn’t like her. Considering what the TARDIS did to Captain Jack, the anomaly, it’s not surprising it doesn’t like the woman who died twice and is still traveling with the Doctor. Or perhaps it’s just because she doesn’t have a key. Curiouser and curiouser.
The time comes for Merry to perform, and the audience offers up their prized possessions which are absorbed into the ether, sacrificed to the “grandfather”. Merry’s song, with all its history and emotion, still isn’t enough to appease the God and she is dragged away whilst others watch. Clara can’t just watch. She sacrifices her mother’s ring so she can use the moped to reach Merry.
There’s an impossible door blocking the way, but thankfully the Doc has his sonic screwdriver and he pries the door open. Merry is convinced she must sacrifice herself to appease the God, because the grandfather wants her soul, not Clara’s. She tells Clara to go, but Clara refuses to listen. The door is very heavy, and unable to keep it open any longer the Doctor lets it close, trapping him, Clara and Merry in with the monster in the cage.
There are other monsters too. Freaky guard monsters who use sonic pulses from their mouths and hands. The Doctor fights off the monsters with his sonic screwdriver, whilst Clara is left to convince Merry that she doesn’t deserve to die, she doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. The Doctor and Clara both promise that everything will be fine. They’ll keep her safe. Merry remembers a secret song which opens a secret passage. They follow the passage, but it definitely doesn’t lead them to safety.
It leads them to the real monster. The sun. The sun is alive and wants to devour pure souls. Souls are made of song and memories which is why Merry was groomed as a sacrifice. The Doctor won’t let that happen. He makes Clara take Merry to safety, and then he offers the sun his soul. The sun feasts.
Back on the planet, Merry and Clara watch. Merry is no longer afraid. She offers up a different song, and the crowd joins in. Clara, moved by this display of courage and unity, goes back to the Doctor with a very special gift. The sun fed off the Doctor and is still hungry. Clara offers the Grandfather the leaf, and it is defeated.
Merry’s song, Merry’s stories and The Doctor’s speeches combined were not enough to satiate the sun’s taste for soul. But the leaf was all about hope and possibility, and possibilities are endless. Poor Clara. Her sacrifice was the greatest of all, but it prevents further sacrifices. The citizens are so grateful they return her mother’s ring.
It’s a rather unusual episode, with an unusual idea. The whole concept that time isn’t made of strawberries but souls are made from songs and stories and history is somewhat difficult for me comprehend. I don’t really understand this episode, but I understand the concept of fear and sacrifice.
I’ve just recapped this episode, but I’m still not sure what happened in it. I know that the acting was awesome, especially from the little girl (and often children grate on me, but I found myself being quite protective of her). The emotion was sincere and strong (even if I’m not sure what that emotion was). The aesthetics of the episode were amazing. The characters were brave and independent. I enjoyed it. I think.
Do you understand what happened in this episode of Doctor Who? What did you think about the Queen of Years? Did you find Grandfather scary? What did you make of the sonic monsters? Do you have any theories on Clara’s identity? Please, leave a comment with your TwoCents because I’m not too sure of my own, so I’d love to hear yours.