Doctor Who and the Rings of Clara-khenaten


I know that the latest episode of Doctor Who seems a bit slight on the surface, but like Gridlock, which had a number of thematic similarities, there are joys to found in the depths. It's been a long time since I could describe this show of having any subtlety whatsoever, but even while maintaining the usual loud tempo in the A-plot, the episode still offered little reveals about the Doctor, and more importantly, about Clara.

Despite the fact that this episode centered on the loss of a parent, there wasn't a big emotional crying scene. I've realized more and more that when the characters' histrionics overwhelm the scene, there's no room left for the audience to connect emotionally.

In just ten quiet seconds, we feel the weight of the moment when Clara's forced to give up her mother's ring. The Doctor asking her to make that sacrifice clearly plants a seed of doubt in her mind about him, and reminds us that no matter how much he walks the walk, he's not actually human.

Nor do we need a big dramatic scene to understand the significance of the fact that when asked for a physical totem of cherished memory, he can only offer his sonic screwdriver. That's even though he once brought his (assumed long dead?) granddaughter to this very place.

(And because you should see it if you haven't, the scene where the Doctor abandons Susan on Earth for Not!AdamScott is one of the loveliest moments of the classic series. Middleman did a riff on this scene, for those of you who enjoy such things).

I've heard it said on Twitter that the episode relies on the usual Doctor Who deus ex machina that is The Power of Love. For once, I think there's something far deeper going on. Clara doesn't feed the monster with love, but with the infinity of loss. It's neatly scientific, wrapped up in a human bow. People who are grieving don't tend to dwell on moments had, they think of moments missed, moments lost. Every time I miss my grandmother, for instance, I don't think about my youth spent with her, I think about how she isn't here, how she isn't sitting next to me, enjoying Doctor Who with me (and enjoy it she did).

There's an infinity of those moments, and you'd go crazy if you try to understand how enormous those missed moments are. No one can comprehend infinity. You just shut down when you go too far down the path.

Which is my long-winded way of saying, well done Who, for having an vaguely comprehensible ending for once.


Clara Clara Clara. SO MUCH LOVE. She's the first companion in the New Era who I'd actually want to meet, and can imagine myself befriending.



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3 Responses to “ Doctor Who and the Rings of Clara-khenaten ”

  1. I don't have time to go back and watch all the other companions' first real offworld/ alien encounters, but did it seem to you like Clara was maybe a bit too unphased? I know though that it is boring to see people be all scared for a bit and maybe too formulaic. Also I am just assuming that the motorcycle was a psychic one that just flys where you think it to, as that makes it possible for anyone to drive it.

    I was minorly confused by the plot (not paying attention), is it that the queen of years is always sacrificed or is she just a failsafe who might be sacrificed should the beast wake up??

    All in all liked this episode but I think it could have been slightly improved by a couple of small tweaks. The creepy teleporting dudes felt a little bit superfluous for example. And I think we could tone it down about 20% with the doctor superfluities in the whole Moffatt era generally.

    My absolute absolute favourite part was the arrival on the new planet/rock where I really think it succeeded in putting across a sense of wonder and spectacle. I really appreciated getting to see the beauty and magic of one of these places the doctor takes someone to for a while before all hell broke loose! Maybe that's down to Clara, after all the companion is supposed to be our way in to processing what's going on, so if she is full of wonder and excitement and not of fear, maybe we see the whole world she is in a different way!

  2. theoncominghope13 April 2013 at 06:37

    I loved that she was unphased. I think it makes for a different, less paternal dynamic. She clearly has her own life, and understands her place in it, so she can just enjoy her travels for what they are, a dazzlin adventure.

  3. Just wanted to say I only just discovered your blog and I love it. I used to be really into Doctor Who, but I had some really big problems with the Moffat era so I let it go.
    But I've been troubled. What's wrong with me? I love science fiction, I should love Moffat's version. Am I completely wrong and everyone else is right?

    Then I started reading your articles and it expressed what I had felt so clearly, thank you. You saw the interesting parts of the bizarre yet sincere Akhaten (which so many others reviled), you even recognized the ugly flaws in a supposedly intelligent God Complex.

    Reading your articles has been really encouraging for me. And I'd be curious to know what you thought of Nightmare in Silver, the last series' other bizarre yet strangely sincere episode


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