BBC Doctor Who - The Stories BBC
QuickNav to a Season: 
QuickNav to a Story: 
 
The Previous Story
The Rings of Akhaten
 The Previous Story
The Previous Story
(The Bells of Saint John)
 The Next Story
(Cold War)
Season
Details
SynopsisGeneral
Information
The
Episodes
Audience
Appreciation
ArchivesNotesFirst and LastThe PlotQuote of
the Story
Release
Information
In PrintPhoto
Gallery
 

Matt Smith
The Rings of Akhaten
Eleventh Doctor Logo


Synopsis


The Rings of Akhaten
The Rings of Akhaten
 In a galaxy far, far away, seven worlds orbit the same star, all sharing a belief that life in the universe originated here, on the planet of Akhaten. For her first trip into space and time, The Doctor takes Clara to Akhaten's vast, bustling Tiaanamaat market, in time for the once-a-millennia Festival of Offerings.

 But something is waiting for them on Akhaten, something with a mighty appetite, feeding on memories of love, loss, birth, death, joy, and sorrow.

 Something hungry…



General Information

Season: Thirty Three (New Series 7)
Production Code: 7-8
Story Number: 233 (New Series: 77)
Episode Number:792 (New Series: 96)
Number of Episodes: 1
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Production Dates: October 2012
Broadcast Date: 06 April 2013
Colour Status: HD Colour
Studio: BBC Wales (Roath Lock Studios, Cardiff)
Location: None
Writer:Neil Cross
Director:Farren Blackburn
Producer:Denise Paul
Series Producer:Marcus Wilson
Executive Producers:Caroline Skinner and Steven Moffat
Assistant Directors:Gareth Jones and Louisa Cavell
Script Supervisor:Rory Herbert
Script Editor:John Phillips (Assistant)
Editor:Sam Williams
Production Executive:Julie Scott
Production Manager:Phillipa Cole
Post Production Supervisor:Nerys Davies
Production Designer:Michael Pickwoad
Director of Photography:Dale McCready
Casting Director:Andy Pryor CDG
Line Producer:Des Hughes
Costume Designer:Howard Burden
Make-Up Designer:Barbara Southcott
Cameramen:Cai Thompson (Assistant), Meg De Koning (Assistant), Sam Smithard (Assistant) and Joe Russell (Operator)
Incidental Music:Murray Gold
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Paul Jefferies
Sound Recordist:Deian Llyr Humphreys
Visual Effects:The Mill
Special Effects:Real SFX
Prosthetics:Millennium FX
Stunt Co-ordinator:Crispin Layfield
Stunt Performers:Andy J Smart, Dani Biernat and Gordon Seed
Title Sequence:Frame Store
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Murray Gold
Chorus: Crouch End Festival Chorus
Chorus Conducted By: David Temple
Music Performed By: The BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Music Conducted and Orchestrated By: Ben Foster
Music Recorded and Mixed By: Jake Jackson
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor)
Number of Companions: 1The Companion: Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara Oswald) (Rejoins) Additional Cast: Michael Dixon (Dave), Nicola Sian (Ellie), Emilia Jones (Merry), Chris Anderson (The Chorister), Aidan Cook (The Mummy), Karl Greenwood (Dor’een)Setting: The Rings of Akhaten and The Sung Sings of Akhet Villains:The Mummy and The Old God

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
792The Rings of Akhaten06 April 201343'44"7.5Yes

Total Duration 44 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 7.5
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2013)52.20%  (Position = 9 out of 9)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)53.44% Higher (Position = 233 out of 241)


Archives


 This story exists and is held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.



Return to the top of this page
 


Notes


This story is called "The Rings of Akhaten". The name comes from Akh-en-aten who was an Egyptian pharaoh (and husband of Nefertiti) whose name means ‘incarnation of the sun god’.

This story has been written by Neil Cross – who has contributed to Spooks and is the award-winning creator of the BBC drama Luther. Despite being a fan of the show up until now he has never had the time to write a story for the show. Executive Producer Caroline Skinner, who was new with the seventh series, knew him and offered to work his schedule around writing a story. This is Neil Cross’ first televised Doctor Who story. However, he had actually first written "Hide" but was asked to write "The Rings of Akhaten" because both Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner liked "Hide" so much.

The concept behind having this story based around an alien planet occurred to Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner, and Producer Marcus Wilson when realising they had done big location pieces in the first half of the series with "A Town Called Mercy" and "The Angels Take Manhattan", but none for the second half.

They decided to do a story set in ‘a world created in our studios to make you really feel you're out there’, rather than having The Doctor ‘promise unearthly wonders to his companions, and then get them trapped in an underground tunnel’. This story was also designed to allow The Doctor to actually show his new companion the wonders he had promised.

This story was directed by Farren Blackburn who previously directed the 2011 Christmas special "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe".

The read through for this story took place at BBC Wales’ Roath Lock studios on Wednesday the 17th October, 2012 and filming started the following week, on Monday 22nd October. Matt Smith celebrated his 30th birthday during the shoot - and even received a surprise cake from the cast and crew!

This story received generally positive reviews with many noting and comparing similarities to the Russell T. Davies era of the show, particularly to the 2005 Ninth Doctor story "The End of the World", where The Doctor takes Rose Tyler on her first adventure.

According to Matt Smith, there were ‘between 50 and 60 prosthetic aliens’ in a scene set in an alien market. Millennium FX's Neil Gorton remarked that he had ‘always wanted to do a scene like the Star Wars cantina’ and had worked on different moulds in his spare time in case they could be used in the future, as making thirty different aliens would be out of the budget.

This story is Clara Oswald’s first trip in the TARDIS to an alien planet.

Jenna-Louise Coleman named "The Rings of Akhaten" as one of her favourites of the second half of Season Thirty Three (New Series 7), as it was the first real adventure for Clara.

The Doctor is heard saying to Clara ‘I came here a long time ago… with my grand-daughter…’ – A reference to Susan Foreman. Though she is not mentioned by name, this marks the first explicit mention of Susan Foreman in the revived series.

The Doctor very seldom talks about his family and on the odd occasion he does mention his relatives - in adventures such as "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The Doctor’s Daughter" – though he never gives much away. However, this line appears to reference his grand-daughter, Susan, who travelled with the First Doctor.

The Old God is also referred to as ‘Grandfather’.

At the market, The Doctor recognises a number of alien species. These include: Pan-babylonians. a Lugal-Irra-Kush, Lucanians, a Hooloovoo, Qom VoTivig, a Terraberserker of the Kodion Belt and an Ultramancer. The Hooloovoo is also a species in The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

A native of the City State of Binding Light is seen among the crowd at The Festival of Offerings (see the 2005 Ninth Doctor story "The End of the World").

One of the alien species at the market appears to be related to the Hoix (seen briefly in the 2006 Tenth Doctor story "Love & Monsters" and in the Torchwood story "Exit Wounds"). It also has a bubbling breathing contraption like a Hath (first seen in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "The Doctor's Daughter") and fronds like an Ood ("The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit", "Planet of the Ood", "The End of Time" and "The Doctor's Wife").

The Doctor references The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll.

The Doctor is seen wearing Amy Pond's reading glasses again (see also "The Angels Take Manhattan", "The Snowmen" and "The Bells of Saint John").

The Doctor indicates that his sonic screwdriver is the only thing he has on him that has sentimental value. He doesn't want to give it up as currency as it ‘comes in handy’.

The Doctor tells Clara that the one thing she needs to know about him, ‘aside from the blue box and the two hearts’, is that he doesn't walk away. He later clarifies that, if he's holding onto something precious he will run away until out of the shadow of danger.

Clara mentions that The Doctor is a thousand years old. The Doctor is heard stating this in "The Bells of Saint John" despite, in "A Town Called Mercy", where he claimed to be 1,200.

Clara's leaf, that The Doctor discovered in Clara’s book in "The Bells of Saint John", is featured and the story behind it is explained. It is also revealed that this book used to belong to her mother.

The music we hear at the beginning of the story, when the fateful leaf falls, is Ghost Town. This song was originally a hit for The Specials in 1981 when it stayed at the top of the UK charts for three weeks.

The Doctor is seen sliding under a closing door, and then reaching for his sonic screwdriver, which he'd dropped on the other side, very much like the trademark move of Indiana Jones.

The comic The Doctor is seen reading is The Beano Summer Special 1981. The cover depicts the character of Dennis the Menace and his dog, Gnasher, causing havoc at a ‘dolphinarium’. The comic’s cover price was 32p.

The Doctor talks about seeing the beginning of time, ("Castrovalva") living to see time run out, ("Utopia" and "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang") and being in a dimension where the laws of physics were devised by a madman ("The Celestial Toymaker", "The Mind Robber" and "The Three Doctors"). He also mentions the Last Great Time War and the destruction of the Time Lords (see the 2009/10 Tenth Doctor story "The End of Time") and also mentions knowing knowledge that must never be told ("The Wedding of River Song").

Clara’s dad is heard to say, ‘She wants to be Bryan Robson!’ This is a reference to English midfielder (and later football manager) Bryan Robson, OBE. Throughout the 1980s he achieved fame playing for Manchester United and for England’s national side which he often captained.

This is not the first time The Doctor has faced a living star, although he implied that it was the first time he'd faced one so massive (see the 2007 Tenth Doctor story "42").

Clara tries to open the TARDIS without a key. When it won't open, she says that the TARDIS doesn't seem to like her, an issue that former companions Jack Harkness and Charlotte Pollard had (see the 2007 Tenth Doctor story "Utopia" and the Big Finish Productions’ Sixth Doctor audio story "The Condemned").

Clara tries out a blue ‘exotic fruit of some description’ but does not like it. The Doctor also eats one.

It’s generally accepted that the word ‘psychometry’, used by The Doctor in the marketplace, was first coined in 1842 by the American Joseph Rodes Buchanan. It literally means soul or spirit measurement and tied in with Buchanan’s belief that living things have emanations that if understood, can help reveal facts about that particular thing’s past.

Clara is heard telling Merry that she hated history.

Jenna-Louise Coleman likened her sequence on the moped to a ‘James Bond moment’.

The Doctor is heard saying: ‘Home again, home again, jiggedy jig’ when they return home, which is part of a famous nursery rhyme known asTo market, to market. It's also spoken repeatedly by two of J.F. Sebastian's toys in the acclaimed sci-fi film Blade Runner.

This is the first story since "The End of Time" where there’s no overt reference to Amy Pond. Although the character departed in "The Angels take Manhattan" she’s brought to mind in "The Snowmen" (with talk of the ‘pond’ and the way in which that word hooks The Doctor) and in "The Bells of Saint John" we glimpsed a book written by Amelia Williams.

Unlike the previous stories, of the second half of this season, this story does not introduce a new variation of the Doctor Who logo.

This story contains a number of errors. Namely: The crack on the glass case containing the mummy disappears and reappears between shots; The leaf that Clara has in this story appears to be shaped differently, possibly even having come from a different type of tree than the leaf shown in the previous story.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first televised Doctor Who story to be written by Neil Cross.

 The first story since "The End of Time" where there’s no overt reference to Amy Pond.


Return to the top of this page
 


The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
The Rings of Akhaten

The Doctor
The Doctor

Curious about who Clara Oswald is, after locating her in the previous story ("The Bells of Saint John"), The Doctor decides to learn more about his new travelling companion and travels back in time to observe her past. There he discovers that her parents met by a chance encounter caused by a gust of wind blowing a leaf into her father's face who is then rescued, from being run over by a car, by a woman who would become his wife and Clara’s mother. The Doctor then discovers that Clara’s mother died while she was a teenager – both events explaining the importance of the leaf that he found in Clara’s book.

Arriving back in current day earth, on the day after he left Clara, The Doctor takes her to the inhabited Rings of Akhaten, a series of planetoids orbiting a gas giant one of which has a shining pyramid on it. After observing the spectacle of all the rings The Doctor takes Clara to a marketplace full of aliens. There Clara witnesses The Doctor conversing with the locals. Clara however, encounters a seemingly aggressive alien who The Doctor introduces as Dor'een. Dor'een was simply trying to barter a sentimental item from Clara in return for her wares. The Doctor explains that sentimental belongings are used as currency in the market - the more beloved the item, the greater it is worth.

Clara then finds herself separated from The Doctor and while trying to find him she encounters a little girl but she runs away as two men approach asking Clara for the Queen of Years. Curious about the frightened little girl Clara finds her hiding nearby, and after reassuring the child that she means her no harm, they escape after encountering some sinister masked beings.

Clara Oswald
Clara Oswald

The little girl eventually reveals to Clara that she is Merry, Queen of Years and that she is hiding because she is supposed to sing a song at a ceremony and she is afraid to get it wrong because she must perform this important song in order to keep a malevolent god, that she refers to as 'Grandfather', asleep. Clara convinces Merry that all will be okay and reunites her with her carers so that she can attend the ceremony.

The Doctor then finds Clara and they both arrive at the ceremony where The Doctor explains that since the rings were settled there has been a constant song sung to keep the angry god asleep. The people fear that the god will awaken and consume the entire universe if the song is ever interrupted. Merry then starts singing, joined by a chorister at the pyramid.

Inside the TARDIS
Inside the TARDIS

However, during Merry’s song a mummy, in a glass case inside the pyramid, begins to awaken. Merry panics, believing she has made a mistake in the song. A beam of light from the pyramid then envelopes Merry and takes her to the pyramid, where the door locks behind her, trapping Merry and the chorister inside with the mummy.

The Doctor and Clara run off to find Dor'een so that they can rent a space bike. Clara reluctantly sells her mother's ring as The Doctor is unwilling to part with his sonic screwdriver. They take off to rescue Merry and soon arrive at the pyramid where The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to gain entry. Inside they discover the chorister attempting to lull the mummy back to sleep by continuing to sing. However, it does not work as the creature begins to stir.

Realising that the mummy is struggling to escape the glass case, so that it can consume Merry's soul, Clara attempts to persuade a distrustful Merry to leave with them, but she seems determined to sacrifice herself in order to placate the god. The Doctor explains to Merry that she doesn't have to sacrifice herself and that throwing her life away would be a waste.

The Doctor and Clara
The Doctor and Clara

The Mummy then wakes up and summons the masked beings, revealed by Merry as the 'Vigil', a taskforce that ensure the success of the ceremony by making sure the sacrifice of the Queen of Years happens if it is not done willingly. The Doctor, using his sonic screwdriver, manages to hold the Vigil at bay long enough to let Clara and Merry escape from the throne room. But then as The Doctor makes his escape from the throne room the glass case shatters and the mummy breaks free of its prison and emits a beam of light that penetrates the giant planet.

The Doctor then realises that the mummy was never the god, but rather the god's ‘alarm clock’. As the planet glows red, and a sinister skull-like face appears on its surface, it is revealed that Akhaten is a planet-sized parasitic creature. On discovering this The Doctor orders Clara to take Merry to safety while he confronts the creature. He has realised that it feeds off of memories, stories, and feelings, and so tries to overfeed it by offering the sum total of his Time Lord memories.

While The Doctor has his memories drained, and Merry sings to pacify the God, Clara realises that she needs to help The Doctor and so returns to the pyramid to discover that The Doctor’s memories by itself is not going to be enough to satisfy the creature. She therefore offers the creature the leaf that blew into her father's face on the day he met her mother. The leaf contains an infinite amount of untold potential that Clara's mother never saw because she died early. The creature, overwhelmed by the infinite potential it has consumed, implodes on itself and the planet and the rings are saved.

The Doctor then returns Clara to her home on the same day they left and gives her back her mother's ring. He tells that all the creatures that she saved wanted her to have it back. Suddenly Clara remembers seeing The Doctor at her mother's funeral and asks why he was there. He tells her that she reminds him of someone who died, and she rebukes him for using her as a replacement. As Clara exits the TARDIS The Doctor tries to assure her that he was not using her to replace his friend.

 
In the Marketplace
In the Marketplace
Queen of Years (Merry)
Queen of Years (Merry)
Clara with Merry
Clara with Merry
The Vigil Arrive
The Vigil Arrive
 
The Doctor Using His Sonic Screwdriver
The Doctor Using His Sonic Screwdriver
Facing
Facing "The Old God" Together
Clara Offers Her Leaf
Clara Offers Her Leaf
A Worried Doctor
A Worried Doctor




Quote of the Story


 'I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe, and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time, no space – just me. I've walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman. I've watched universes freeze and creations burn. I have seen things you wouldn't believe. I have lost things you will never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken, knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So, come on, then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!'

The Doctor



Return to the top of this page
 


Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
DVD
Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 Box SetMay 2013BBCDVD 3802Photo-montageDVD boxed set containing all 8 stories and the 2012 Christmas Special
Video
Blu-Ray
Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 Box SetMay 2013BBCBD 0232Photo-montageBlu-Ray boxed set containing all 8 stories and the 2012 Christmas Special
Audio
CD
Original Television Soundtrack - Series 7September 2013Photo-montageMusic by Murray Gold
Video
DVD
The Complete Seventh Series Box SetOctober 2013BBCDVD 3838Photo-montageDVD boxed set containing 15 stories
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Seventh Series Box SetOctober 2013BBCBD 0241Photo-montageBlu-Ray boxed set containing 15 stories
Video
DVD
The Complete Seventh Series Box Set (Limited Edition)October 2013BBCDVD 3878Photo-montageLimited Edition DVD boxed set containing 13 stories
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Seventh Series Box Set (Limited Edition)October 2013BBCBD 0251Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray boxed set containing 13 stories
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Series 1-7 Box Set (Limited Edition)December 2013BBCBD 0242Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray boxed set containing all Series 1-7 stories at full 1080p high definition
Audio
CD
The 50th Anniversary CollectionDecember 2013Photo-montageOriginal Television Soundtracks
Video
DVD
The Complete Seventh Series (2014 Re-release)August 2014BBCDVD 3971Photo-montageBoxed set containing all 15 stories


In Print

No Book Release
Doctor Who Magazine - PreviewIssue 459 (Released: May 2013)
Doctor Who Magazine - ReviewIssue 460 (Released: June 2013)

Return to the top of this page
 


Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companion

 
Matt Smith
The Eleventh Doctor

   

 
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Clara Oswald
 
   




On Release

DVD Part 2 Box Set
DVD Part 2 Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Blu-Ray Part 2 Box Set
Blu-Ray Part 2 Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Original Television Soundtrack Cover
Original Television Soundtrack Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Complete Series DVD Box Set
Complete Series DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
   
Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Complete Series Ltd Edition DVD Box Set
Complete Series Ltd Edition DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Complete Series Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Complete Series 1-7 Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series 1-7 Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
   
The 50th Anniversary Collection Cover
The 50th Anniversary Collection Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Complete Series DVD Box Set<BR>(2014 Re-release)
Complete Series DVD Box Set
(2014 Re-release)

BBC
VIDEO



Magazines

Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 459
Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 459

Marvel Comics
 
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 460
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 460

Marvel Comics
   

Return to the top of this page
 
 
Who's Who
KJ Software
Who Me
Episodes of the
Eleventh Doctor


Season 33 (New Series 7) Press to go back to the previous visited page References
 
 
Doctor Who is the copyright of the British Broadcasting Corporation. No infringements intended. This site is not endorsed by the BBC or any representatives thereof.