Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Rings of Akhaten

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 22 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Rings of Akhaten.  My 'translations' are in red.

When I saw the trailer for “The Rings of Akhaten,” and took in the very alien sets and even more alien… aliens, I assumed it was going to be a Star Trek or Farscape inspired space odyssey,

When I saw the trailer for "The Rings of Akhaten", and took in the very alien sets and even more alien...aliens, I assumed it was going to be good.  I also thought that it would be nice to have a story take place somewhere other than 21st-Century London, which did I mention I've been to (and you haven't)?

and while it initially seemed like it, this was again an episode that focused on our two main characters and how they grow to understand each other by dealing with unfamiliar and dangerous circumstances.

While the sets, costumes, make-up, and even music was good, this was again an episode that focused on the Companion and how IMPORTANT she is.  We got to see her whole life story literally flash before our eyes, and realize the Doctor is a bit of a stalker, but coolness.  I don't mind.

In other words, it was a Doctor Who episode, and one that was surprisingly very sweet and touching even if it didn’t offer much in the way of plot.

In other words, it was a Doctor Who episode, and one that was shockingly very dumb and mawkish.  And seriously, what IS it with Anderson's lack of interest in plot?  This is at least the SECOND time where he tells us a Doctor Who story has little to nothing in way of plot, but that it's OK.  NO, Kyle, it's NOT OK.  A story HAS to have a plot to work, otherwise it's just a bunch of scenes tied together for no reason.

Get A Grip, Anderson!

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I was really moved by it, and I’m traditionally a cold-hearted bastard. Huh.

For a guy that goes on and on about how excited he is for the next episode of Doctor Who, he doesn't strike me as 'a cold-hearted bastard'.  Senile, well... 

The episode was written by Luther creator Neil Cross, and I must say, he’s a terrific writer for going so far outside of what he normally does, or at least what I know him for. Luther’s a gritty cop drama about serial killers and corruption and redemption, and this episode is, at its heart, about a little girl who is scared to sing in public.

The episode was written by Luther creator Neil Cross, and I must say, bless him for going out of his comfort zone to try and write something different.  It doesn't necessarily mean he succeeded in creating a proper Doctor Who story versus what he does on Luther, but he gave it as good a go as he could, and for that, he should be commended.

It’s something to which we can all relate.

WE is too many people. 

It also allowed us to get to know Clara – this Clara – better than we already thought we did in her curiosity and then wish to help the small Queen of Years, who is made to memorize the sum total of the history of her people, if only to be sacrificed to an ancient god. I adore Jenna-Louise Coleman.

I masturbated to Jenna-Louise Coleman.

She is the absolute perfect companion,

Come Again?
She is the absolute perfect companion,

Care to repeat that?

She is the absolute perfect companion,

I've got something in my bag for you, Kyle.
It'll be wicked...

and she and Matt Smith, who is also just phenomenal every single week, get on so spectacularly that I’m glad we have another six weeks with them.

and she and Matt Smith, who does his usual "Doctor as Idiot shtick" followed by "Doctor gives BIG speech shtick" every single week, are the Doctor/Companion team we're stuck with for another six weeks (at least). 

The direction by Farren Blackburn, of Luther, The Fades and other such British programming, is mostly good.

Farren Blackburn, also of Luther (it's like these guys took a holiday from the crime scene of London to have a bit of a jolly), did what he could with the material.

I loved the way he handled the “street” scenes on the asteroid, with all the various types of aliens and species, all of which looked amazing.

The make-up, costumes, and sets looked remarkably alien, which for once actually conveyed what the production was going for.  Here's to happy accidents.

He also did the stuff on Earth well, for the small amount Earth was onscreen.

Here were go with more "Companion-centric" story arcs.  Boy, I wish we'd get a Doctor who actually liked to travel through time and space, not one who has to sort out the mystery of yet another Tellurian who has to be the most important being on the planet...again.

I didn’t think, however, the massive blue-or-green screen stuff matched particularly well.

The special effects were horrible, which is shocking considering how much money the BBC is throwing at this thing.  Almost makes me long for when Doctor Who had rubber monsters, though at least these VFX, shoddy as they might be, were at least better than that embarrassing Myrka from Warriors of the Deep.  Now THAT was just an awful story, and I felt so sorry for everyone involved, trying so hard to make it all look believable when they knew it was so dreadful.   So yeah, compared to Warriors of the Deep, The Rings of Akhaten were Lord of the Rings brilliant.  However, that's an awful low bar to pass, isn't it?  

That’s not necessarily his fault, as the special effects were done by other people, but I still feel like the scenes could have been staged a little better so that the backgrounds didn’t look so very unbelievable.

It isn't fair to blame someone who has no control over things, but then again, how can I blame "the Moff" for anything that goes wrong on Doctor Who?  I'm paid to praise him, not bury him. 

That’s generally a minor nitpick, but the fact that they kept having to travel back and forth across expanses of space (which apparently has breathable atmosphere which is always at room temperature) really drew attention to the pretty but sometimes not well-blended CGI.

I already explained that I'm not bothered by a Doctor Who story not having an actual plot (which I don't think I've mentioned in this review.  Funny, huh?).  However, even I question the logic of traveling through space with no means of breathing.  Still, mine is not to question why, mine is but to praise and die. 

Something else that I didn’t really care for were the “evil” creatures. Sure, they looked amazing. Seriously, the designers outdid themselves.

Yes, the sets/costumes/make-up was good.  Broken clock.

No, I’m talking about how they were used narratively.

Again, odd since I don't really mind a story not having a plot. 

So, the Vigil are tasked with feeding the Queen of Years to the Grandfather if she decides she doesn’t want to be sacrificed; fine. I loved that they used sound to attack; that was great.

Worked great in driving Noriega out of Panama too.

The mummy in the glass box is not the elder god itself but is the alarm clock which awakens the god, which happens to be the sun around which the titular rings orbit. What’s the point of the alarm clock in the first place other than for us to think it’s the god?

To hit the snooze button?

If all the songs and everything are meant to keep the alarm clock asleep so that it can’t wake up the god, then why didn’t the people just kill the damn alarm clock while it was asleep?

Why ask why?

Did everyone think the thing in the box was the god? If so, then what did they think happened to the Queen of Years each time she got taken to the pyramid? Are the Vigil feeding her to the god or the alarm clock? And why would a god, even just a parasitic one, need a bipedal mummified creature that ALSO hibernates all the time to wake it up? That’s a very strange symbiotic relationship. What does the mummy get out of it besides a lifetime supply of lullabies to listen to from inside its cozy, see-thru box? It just didn’t make sense, really.

It's not suppose to make sense.  It's BRITISH!  Dear Heavens to Betsy, Kyle.  Why are you suddenly hung up on plot points that most of us questioned?  You haven't been before.  In fact, sometimes the lack of a plot is in your view, a good thing.  Why bother to complain now?! 

Also, “Cozy, See-Thru Box” is the name of my third album.

Nothing like a good joke to take the edge of the closest he'll get to actual criticism, analytical critic's mind be damned.

However, the episode wasn’t about the Vigil or the mummy or even the god itself;

If it wasn't, then a.) what was the point of your mini-tirade, and b.) what was the point of the episode itself?

it was about parents and what they mean to us when we’re scared.

it was about the Companion and how IMPORTANT she is. 

The Doctor actually mentions in this that he had a granddaughter, not just making weird allusions to the fact that he had a family at one point. This is juxtaposed with the sun god, which is also called “Grandfather.” Stories are to be passed on from the old to the young, but in the case of the god, he needs stories from the young to keep him alive. He’s a bad grandpa.

The Doctor learns about Clara’s past, which, we learn, colors the way she deals with the situation at hand.

The Doctor stalks Clara from even before she was born, which we learn, is a quick way to get sentimentality into Doctor Who.  Also, isn't curious that last week, Kyle was happy to see we were getting a Companion who was a clean slate and we didn't know anything about her family.  Now, ONE episode later, we learn All About Clara, right to how her parents met. 

Lessons she was taught help her face her fears and all that.

One lesson she apparently never learned: don't talk to idiots in bow ties.  Now, someone remind me: at one point in her childhood she did literally meet the Doctor, yet she has no memory of this?  Granted my own memory of The Rings of Akhaten is a little vague, but am I wrong in my recollection? 

She also learns a bit about the Doctor’s past and who he is, and what traveling with him will be like. Clara’s final speech, about being her own person and not the shadow of a ghost, is a wonderful little moment that lets the Doctor (and the audience) know that she’s more than a mystery.

She has to be. As much as I liked her, I don’t think Amy ever really was.

My, my, aren't WE mercurial.  In The Snowmen, you praised Moffat for coming up with a Companion "even more mysterious than Amelia Pond".  Now, you say Amy wasn't all that mysterious.  Yes, I agree with you there: Amy wasn't all that mysterious (just a mean girl who pushed her wimpy husband around to where she called him "Mr. Pond" to his face and he just said, 'Thank you may I have another?').  However, Clara is boring.  Pretty, yes, but unlike Kyle Anderson, I require more than a pretty face.   

Despite those few misgivings, I really, really liked “The Rings of Akhaten.”

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!


I hope the rest of Series 7 continues the way the previous seven episodes have.

I hope the rest of Series 7 makes sense.

I’ve always said Series 5 is my favorite New Who series, but at this rate, 7 will have it beat by a mile, even with “A Town Called Mercy” in there.

No surprise, given you've given positive 4-star reviews to 6 out of 7 stories (counting this one).  As for A Town Called Mercy, I think you have a quota of one negative review per season, and that one was the one chosen.   Let's go over a few things before we wrap up this little retro:

You didn't mention much if any of the actual plot (which isn't a big deal to you).
You mentioned oddities (like breathing in space) but pretty much papered over that.
You declared someone to be the perfect Companion after appearing in a total of four episodes (two if you don't count her dead and dead again shtick from Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen). 

Remind me, these ARE the actions of one with an 'analytical critic's mind', right?
Next week, it’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: “Cold War,” written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Douglas Mackinnon, the one that sees the return of the Ice Warriors, this time on a 1980s nuclear submarine, and even features Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham. I am excite!

Next week, it's the one we've all been dreading: "Cold War", written by my boss, Mark Gatiss, the one that sees the return of the Ice Warriors (which may suffer the same fate as previous Classic Doctor Who monsters), and even features someone from another geek-centric show.

I am not excite!

I am not even EXCITED!


  1. This story was astoundingly poor. Remember watching it thinking who commissioned this piffle.

  2. The Rings of Akhaten COULD have been good, but we got too many tropes of what we've seen before: the IMPORTANCE of the Companion, the Companion as a child, feelings saving the day.

    Oh, and the 'flying through space w/the ability to breathe normally' bit that even Anderson questioned in a rare moment of lucidity.

    But the sets & costumes were nice, and the song pretty too.


Views are welcome, but I ask that there be no foul language. Any comments with either vulgar words or that are bigoted in any way towards anyone based on sex, race, religion, or any other protected category will not be published. Keep it clean and keep it respectful. Thank you.