I was chatting with Gareth about the appearance of the Great Intelligence at the end of ‘The Bells of Saint John’. He and I fear it’s going to be this series’ recurring theme, repeated with depressing abandon in every episode, like the Schrodinger’s pregnancy scan in series six.
“If it’s any consolation,” I said, “There were no references to it at all in the next story. There was a fair bit of stuff about Clara, but nothing on the G.I.”
“But you’re still going to do God is in the detail, presumably?”
So here’s the roundup for ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, an episode that was apparently loathed by almost everyone except me, and with a title I still have to Google to check spelling every time I write it down. I picked up on most of these last night, during a second viewing in the company of Josh and Daniel, both of whom had been away at the weekend. Daniel lingered by the door, as he is wont to do when we’re watching something he’s not sure about. Joshua sat next to me on the sofa and I reflected that it was far too long since we’d de-loused his hair. I only noticed this in particular because I’d failed to brush it that morning. What Lies Beneath doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Let’s start in that graveyard.
11 September was the date that series three of the original Doctor Who run was first broadcast (yes, it was 1965, but it still counts). We’re on the Doctor’s third chronological encounter with Clara’s character. The story in question was ‘Galaxy 4’, a mostly incomplete story that contains Steven Taylor, Vicki and an alien race called the Chumblies. Six months later, on 5 March 1966, the First Doctor took Steven and Dodo to meet the Monoids in the first episode of ‘The Ark’. Conclusions? Peter Purves is coming back.
Next: Clara does a little exploring.
Don’t let that innocent-looking pillar fool you. That is quite clearly a SONTARAN HELMET. Just as the alien skull in the trophy room of the Predator’s ship spawned an entire franchise, it’s abundantly obvious that the secretly treacherous Strax is shadowing the Doctor and Clara throughout their intergalactic travels, ready to spring at the last minute with a well-placed grenade. Make no mistake: beneath all the jokes and that cuddly, spud-like exterior lies the cold and remorseless heart of a killer. I’d go further and argue that it was Strax who was responsible for the death of the 19th century Clara, whom he could have saved if he’d really wanted her to live. And what do you mean it looks nothing like the Sontaran helmet?
On the right? On top of the gigantic cotton reel of time? That’s clearly a pyramid. A pyramid of Mars, do you think?
Meanwhile, in the central arena:
The grandstand is divided into ten clearly-marked components, which is IRREFUTABLE PROOF that we are returning here at the end of the series for the Doctor to have a final battle with Sutekh the Destroyer, observed and abetted by his ten previous incarnations.
But will it indeed be Sutekh? Or will it be the Daleks, given that the number 88 (the year ‘Remembrance of the Daleks was broadcast) is clearly printed below?
No, it’s there. On the right. On the big oil drum thing. Tilt your head a bit. No, that way. Now squint.
Then there’s the so-called “lava lamp” in Clara’s bedroom.
Most lava lamps resemble rockets, of course, but the fact that this lamp is sitting next to an illuminated globe cannot possibly be a coincidence. It’s a clear throwback to ‘The Seeds of Death’, in which the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe piloted a rocket to the moon when the T-Mat broke down. Conclusion: Jamie is coming back. (The clues, of course, exist elsewhere: the Tenth Doctor namechecks Jamie in ‘Tooth and Claw’, and before hitting the dizzy heights of Doctor Who, Jenna-Louise Coleman also starred in Emmerdale, a soap opera that had – once upon a time – carried a prominent role for Frazer Hines…)
And yet the web grows thicker, when we look very carefully at Ellie Oswald.
There. Just above her left (stage-left) eyebrow. IT’S THE MOLE. Clearly, Ellie is not all that she seems.
Of course, the bottom line was that this was a fairly simple-to-follow episode, with little in the way of ontological paradox or wibbly-wobbliness. Which was just fine, as it meant that for once I didn’t have to sit there explaining everything to Josh. I just had to worry about coaxing Daniel out from behind the coffee table, where he’d hidden the moment he saw the mummy (calling, of course, for his own).
When we were done with the singing and the closing credits had rolled, Joshua turned to me and said “Well, I’m going to be scratching my head for the rest of the evening.”
“Why?” I asked. “Did you seriously not understand it?”
“No Daddy, I’ve still got nits.”