1 April 2013
 DWO reports from The Rings Of Akhaten, with a spoiler-free preview of episode 7.7:

DWO's spoiler-free preview for 7.7: The Rings Of Akhaten.

Having finally caught up with the impossible Clara Oswald, the Doctor is determined to solve her mystery. First, though, he has a date to keep, and offers to take Clara anywhere in time and space. Armed with her trusty guide of 101 Places to See, she only has one stipulation: somewhere ‘awesome’. 

Last year, much was made about Season 7 being comprised of stand-alone episodes. Big, individual, filmic ideas that can really take in the full scope of what Doctor Who can deliver. Taking us from a Dalek Asylum, to a spaceship filled with dinosaurs and back to the old west in the space of three weeks. 

The New Series, while having more of an on-going narrative than the final days of the Ponds, still retains this style. The Bells of Saint John was typified by being set against a backdrop of twenty-first-century London icons, while this episode takes us through to another end of the spectrum, with a rich and textured alien society, where they barter with memories rather than money, and live in a world ruled in part by songs and stories. 

It’s in the design that The Rings of Akhaten really excels, with the TARDIS landing on the inhabited rings of the title, an alien civilisation with an arabic vibe. The heart of the society is the bustling marketplace - crowded streets filled with a whole host of brand new aliens. While it’s perhaps a shame not to not see any familiar faces buried within the crowds, it’s hard not to find yourself drawn in by the sheer... alienness of these new creatures. 

There’s something of a vibe of the Russell T. Davies era present here, with our brand new companion out on her first adventure. The story serves the same purpose as The End of the World or The Fires of Pompeii, and there are elements of both those stories echoed here, opening Clara’s eyes to the wonder of the TARDIS. 

We’re also given the perfect opportunity for Jenna-Louise Coleman to shine on her own terms, removing The Doctor from the equation so we can can witness her first exposure to the universe though Clara’s eyes. Matt Smith continues to - impossibly - keep getting better at simply being the Doctor, and is given plenty of time to shine in this episode, too. 

As this version of Clara first steps out into the stars, The Rings of Akhaten doesn’t disappoint. If the rest of the series continues on in the same quality displayed here, then we’re certainly fulfilling Clara’s desire - we’re headed somewhere really, really, awesome... 

Five things to look out for...

1) The Doctor is a fan of The Beano.

2) Time isn’t made of strawberries.

3) Clara’s leaf is the ‘most important leaf in human history’.

4) The Doctor gets to imitate a certain famous archaeologist.

5) Reference is made to the Doctor’s first incarnation.

[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]

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