It’s been a week of accusations and mixed reviews for Doctor Who, with The Rings of Akhaten enjoying a muted reaction compared to the previous episode.
You’ll probably be aware of the low overnight rating, news of which made The Sun, but in fairness until we know what the final, consolidated figure is, the overnights remain largely academic.
Closer to home, however, our own readers voted in a poll launched right after the episode. It seems that The Rings of Akhaten attracted a fascinating three-way split, quite unusual for Doctor Who episodes. Of 474 votes, 37.34% (177 votes) we in favour of the episode, 32.91% (156 votes) considered it “okay” while the final 29.75% (141 votes) disliked the episode. That is a surprisingly tight result, and proves just what an opinion splitter the episode was.
Our own review of The Rings of Akhaten was largely positive, although its weaknesses were admitted, while in our podKast James McLean, Brian Terranova and Christian Cawley discussed its various merits, including Clara’s character development..
But what of the wider web?
Well, let’s start by wishing a fond “welcome back” (yeah, right…) to The Telegraph’s Gavin Fuller. Apparently last week’s reviewer isn’t good enough for long-term reviews (despite clearly understanding the show Fuller is supposed to be an expert on). He starts by observing the similarities with The Rings of Akhaten and other nuWho episodes – so thank goodness he didn’t review The Bells of Saint John or else the “review” might have been much longer than the 303 words he managed to churn out, presumably in his lunch hour.
What was not so clever was to have, in the week after the Great Intelligence and its world wide web of fear, another mind parasite for the Doctor to face, and, as happens so often in the rebooted series, a companion to ultimately save the day.
That would be a good point if the foe in The Rings of Akhaten was indeed a mind parasite. As it turns out, of course, it was more of an emotivore, and in the world of science fantasy there is quite a difference.
Elsewhere, IGN’s review made light of the Star Wars prequel similarities to set and costume design, observing that:
From the bustling alien soukh, and amusing cultural differences, to the beautifully galactic scenery and impressive array of wonderfully costumed, Guillermo del Toro-esque alien species, Akhaten felt like a fully formed world.
It’s just a shame it wasn’t a particularly interesting one.
‘The Rings of Akhaten’ couldn’t match its lofty ambitions and sci-fi inspirations, but succeeded in ingratiating Clara further into the Who-niverse.
Which really is a reasonable summary, we think. But we’ll leave the last word to SFX, who after noting the hard work put in my writer Neil Cross to create an interesting society (for instance the currency, the lullaby, the concept of souls being made of memories) perhaps hit the nail on the head with what went wrong on Akhaten.
…after a slightly overly-pedestrian, plot-establishing first half it starts to descend into Who 101, as the Doctor does the usual and saves the day.
So, let’s put The Rings of Akhaten to bed and concentrate on the final few seconds of the broadcast – the Next Week trailer for this week’s Cold War…