Doctor Who Logo 'The Rings of Akhaten'
(Story Code 7.7)

by Neil Cross
The Doctor and Clara

“That’s it then. Song’s over.” – the Doctor

Before collecting Clara, the Doctor takes a trip through the impossible girl’s past: he watches as a stray leaf blows into the face of her father, Dave Oswald, sending him into the path of an oncoming car – only to be saved by Ellie, the woman destined to become his wife. Soon Clara is born, and the Doctor watches from afar as she grows up, even managing to speak to the young girl on one occasion as she plays with her parents in the park. Finally the Doctor watches as Clara and Dave stand over Ellie’s grave, the woman’s life cut all-too-short. After that, the Doctor sets the TARDIS on course to see Clara on the day after their first adventure together; he finds her eagerly waiting for him on the stairs of her home, her travel-book clutched in her arms. When Clara asks to see something awesome, the Doctor whisks her off to a ledge of rock hanging in space amidst the rings of the planet Akhaten, a huge, beautiful world of red and orange clouds. As they watch, a giant pyramid situated on another chunk of rock lights up; the Doctor explains to an awe-struck Clara that the pyramid is the temple of the Sun Singers of Akhaten, who believe that the planet is the origin of all life in the universe; and now, all across the rings, the Festival of Offerings is in full swing, a holy celebration that takes place every thousand years. Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor takes Clara to a marketplace full of exotic food, drinks, clothes, trinkets and a multitude of incredible-looking alien creatures. The two time travellers soon get separated, and Clara bumps into a young girl called Merry, who is running from two robed monks; quickly befriending the girl, Clara helps her to hide as three creepy, masked humanoids – the Vigil – materialise and join in the search for the wayward child. Clara sneaks Merry back to the TARDIS, only to find the doors locked; hiding behind the blue box, Clara listens as Merry explains that she is the Queen of Years, specially chosen from birth as a vessel for her race’s entire history. Hearing that Merry must sing a song to her people’s god at the Festival of Offerings, but is scared of getting it wrong and upsetting her ‘Grandfather’, Clara gives her a pep-talk; once the girl’s confidence has been restored, Clara then takes Merry back to some other monks, who lead her away just as the Doctor reappears. A while later, the Doctor and Clara take their seats amongst an alien audience in a huge amphitheatre overlooking the pyramid as Merry steps upon on a dais and begins her song to the Akhatens’ god. Her beautiful singing is echoed inside the pyramid, where a Chorister is serenading a fearsome mummy, the Grandfather, that is locked inside a glass cube, his words forming a lullaby that keeps the creature asleep. Back in the amiptheatre, Clara listens as each member of the audience takes up the lullaby; they then present offerings to the god: a personal item that is steeped in the owner’s memories. As the Doctor joins in with the singing too, the Chorister suddenly stumbles in his song: a huge tremor rocks the rings of Akhaten, and then a beam of energy strikes out from the pyramid, which encapsulates Merry and draws her through space towards the temple. As the assembled audience starts to panic, the Doctor and Clara race back through the market to a merchant named Dor’een, who rents them her space-moped in exchange for Clara’s mother’s ring. Speeding through space, the Doctor and Clara attempt to reach Merry – but they aren’t fast enough, and the girl is pulled inside the temple, its doors slamming shut behind her. While the Doctor tries to sonic open the heavy stone door, Merry joins the Chorister, who is desperately trying to keep the mummy asleep with his singing; but Merry doesn’t know what to do, and the mummy’s eyes suddenly glow red… The Doctor eventually manages to activate the door, and he struggles to hold it open while Clara goes inside to get Merry; but the girl is frightened, and in her panic she unleashes a psychic burst of energy that pins Clara to the front of the glass prison – just as the mummy within awakes. As the savage creature attempts to break free of its cage, the Doctor lets the door slam behind him and then urges the Chorister to run – and the man does just that, teleporting away and leaving the others to their fate at the claws of the soul-eating monster that is now trying to escape its prison. Merry is prepared to give herself up as a sacrifice to her god, but the Doctor is having none of it; when he promises to save her, Merry releases Clara – just as the mummy smashes a hole in one of the glass walls. The three Vigil materialise inside the temple and immediately blast the Doctor and Clara to the ground. However, as the sinister trio drag Merry towards the mummy in the glass cube, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to hold them at bay, allowing the girl to sing a secret song that opens a hidden way out of the temple. As Clara, Merry and the Doctor rush to safety, the mummy finally shatters the glass; but instead of leaving the prison, the creature collapses – and a huge beam of energy strikes out from the temple and strikes the planet Akhaten below. The Doctor realises he has made a boo-boo: the actual god isn’t the Grandfather mummy – it is Akhaten itself! The planet is now glowing with tremendous power, a massive face forming within the clouds that cover its surface. After sending Clara and Merry back to the amphitheatre on the moped, the Doctor fearlessly confronts the god-planet before him. Meanwhile, Merry begins a song to help the Doctor, this time encouraging her god to wake up; as her words are taken up by the audience, the Doctor tells Akhaten a story: of how the inhabitants of the planetary system have devoted their lives to their god for millions of years, living in fear while the massive creature feeds off of their souls, emotions and memories like a giant parasite. The Doctor offers his own memories, and for a time it looks like all the wondrous and terrible things he has seen and experienced are enough to overwhelm Akhaten… almost, but not quite: the creature is still hungry. Clara takes the moped back to the Doctor’s side and then offers Akhaten her own memories, in the form of the leaf that she has kept safely inside her travel book all her life: the leaf that brought her parents together. After Akhaten consumes the memories in which that the leaf is steeped, it then goes on to feed on the potential future of Clara’s mother: the infinite possibilities of a life cut short overload the parasitic planet, triggering its destruction as it collapses in on itself. Some time later, the Doctor takes Clara home in the TARDIS, arriving outside the Maitlands’ house on the same day that they left. When Clara recalls seeing the Doctor at her mother’s graveside, the Time Lord tries to explain how she reminded him of someone he once knew, but Clara refuses to listen, telling her new friend that she must travel with him as herself, not as the dead woman he is chasing. In response the Doctor gives Clara her mother’s ring, a gift from the Akhaten people for saving them; Clara accepts the gift, but then steps out of the TARDIS and returns home…

Matt Smith (The Doctor), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara), Emilia Jones (Merry Galel, the Queen of Years), Michael Dixon (Dave Oswald), Nicola Siân (Ellie Oswald), Chris Anderson (The Chorister), Aidan Cook (The Mummy), Karl Greenwood (Dor'een)

Directed by Farren Blackburn
Produced by Denise Paul
Series Producer Marcus Wilson
Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner
A BBC Wales production


TX (BBC 1 & BBC 1 HD):
6th April 2013 @ 6.15 pm

Notes:
*Featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Clara

*One of the aliens that the Doctor points out to Clara is a Hooloovoo - a super-intelligent shade of the colour blue, as described in ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

*The Doctor tells Clara that he has been to the Akhaten marketplace once before, with his grand-daughter...

*Music heard in this episode: 'Ghost Town' by The Specials