Features the debut of Leaf.
There was some potential here - no, don’t you tell me to fuck off, give me a chance here - but it ended up collapsing into a sad mess at Moffat’s feet with a dull thud. THUD. Maybe instead of the Rings of Ashketon we should call it The Thud Of ThuddingThud. “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” is an aphorism written by a not-very famous and obviously dead poetess named Muriel Rukeyser; if you listen closely, you’ll hear this episode misquote it and they don’t get their own story right either. This episode sorts of rambles about agreeably enough at first, then throws itself at the sky, yearning to to soar but never managing to leave the ground. It sure does flap around a lot though. By the end I don’t think even it knew which was was up.
The Story Thud Edit
The Doctor takes Clerrible Hazmat to her first alien world and it’s pretty neat: an asteroid world full of aliens (including one Douglas Adams created) - so far, so good. Then The Doctor disappears to go arsing about at the market while Clara gets to the real story when she meets a young Cardassian girl who’s afraid because she has to sing in public. The child actress is actually ok so this still looks safe, right? The Doctor comes back to Clara, eats some blue glowing jello-fruit and barks like a dog. They watch the little girl sing in a temple and sure as shit she does mess it up. This enrages a monster inside a box in the temple and this is where shit start falling apart.
The Doctor and Clara fly through space without suits or force fields or any explanation about how they don’t die doing that (but it can be assumed that there is some sort of force field surrounding the asteroids that provides oxygen and heat), and then he has to hold open a heavy door with his magic wand when they get there. Clara gets stuck to a boxed-up-monster’s box (instead of the monster getting stuck in her box as more normally happens), then the boxed monster disappears from the story. The real monster turns out to be the giant gas planet that these asteroids orbit. It grows a jack-o-lantern face so we can tell it’s evil - don’t get me wrong, singing a lullaby to keep an Elder God asleep is a cool idea and everything, but not when it turns out to be silly jack-o-planet. The Doctor shouts at the jack-o-planet but it doesn’t listen, so Clara gives it her special leaf and it goes away. The end, or “The thud.”
MORE NOTABLE THUDS Edit
The shit-ton of music in this episode struggles mightily to sweep us along to a great emotional crescendo, but we just end up watching it squirm like a turtle on its back trying to right itself. Poor little turtle. Thud.
The Whisper men who were (at first) the scary bad guys but don’t even warrant a mention in the story summary above. Wait, maybe I screwed this up - weren’t The Whisper Men those the ghosty-guys in top hats working with The Great Intelligence in that “The Whatever Of The Doctor” story? Jesus Christ, who the hell knows or cares? These monster guys had damn scary voices but did exactly nothing in the story and ended up literally just fading away once the story lost interest, making them an even bigger thud. And that other scary monster guy in the box, what even happened to him? I haven’t no fucking clue and I just re-watched this one like two months ago. Thud.
The Doctor gets another shouty speech and it starts out great I guess, getting all emotional and shit, everyone loves these right? But before it’s over, you realize it’s unearned emotion being wasted on a (pardon the pun) faceless “monster.” Why was he getting suddenly all emotional? I dunno. You also recognize that Matt Smith can do these epic shouty speeches on autopilot - sure, his autopilot is good at avoiding obvious crashes, but it’s still just autopilot, we’ve seen it. The script then gets bored with Matt Smith being speechy and proves it by ignoring it after he's done - his speech literally fixes nothing, means nothing and doesn’t change a fucking thing. The jack-o-planet just cringes away for a few seconds then comes right back, Matty might as well have just walked onto set and cut a loud fart for all the good it did him. So the great speech ends up ringing hollow, not like the sound of a bell but like the thud of an empty wooden box. Which reminds me: what’s brown and sounds like a bell? Dung. Ha ha! Not to say this episode was shit, just thud. Thud.
Looking back at this episode from here, it’s obviously looking forward to Clara’s character arc in season 8, which would be totally fine except for thud. It’s almost like a role reverse: strip the Doctor of the shouty speech and he barely does anything in or for the story and comes across as a bit incompetent; he certainly can’t deal with the jack-o-planet so Clara has to pop in and save the Doctor’s ass with her leaf. SHE HAS TO BE THE DOCTOR FOR HIM - sound familiar? This sort of thing was done much better in Series Eight. It’s almost like the Doctor had to regenerate from 11 to 12 to get be equal to Clara. Which is all fine and dandy for Clara’s upcoming character arc next season but right here, in this season? Thud.
By the way, the evil jack-o-planet was a planet with the asteroids orbiting around it, not the sun in that system - many people make this small autistic mistake. Overall though, even if you get this right, you still end with the same result: “it went away, they’re all gonna die!”, so it’s a small quibble. A bigger quibble would be “where the fuck did the planet go when it shrunk away and disappeared anyways?” This problem is about as panty-knotting as Kill The Moon's bullshit about the moon being an egg which hatches and then gets relaid, but I never hear anyone complain about this. Then again, there’s a lot to complain about in this episode and we’re still digging this well. Thud.