It's been a week but still... SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!
This episode starts with Clara's "page one", the leaf. The Doctor is watching Clara's parents as they meet, fall in love, and eventually raise Clara. Is he checking to make sure she is real? I think so. Before we can start with the leaf we have to bring up something. It isn't the same leaf from the previous episode. it is a reddish colored leaf like the other, but we see it dangling from a Maple tree (like the other leaf) and the leaves are shades of green and yellow. I have a possible theory on this I'll share later in the review. So this one leaf is blown off the tree into the face of Clara's father, causing him to stumble into the road in the path of an oncoming car. Clara's mom snatches him to safety just in time. As The Doctor watches them later on a date, possibly an anniversary, dad shows mom the leaf he saved, saying it is the most important leaf in human history because it had to grow in the right place and the right time to bring them together. We see them together in a nursery, then with a baby Clara, and then in a park they see The Doctor when Clara is maybe 4 or 5. Then they show Clara as a teen probably (good job on making her appear young) with her father at her mother's grave. Going with the Rose and Clara connection theories, Clara's mother's date of death is March 5th 2005, the date that Rose first met The Doctor in "Rose".
After the credits I love how Clara is on the stairs waiting, presumably the day after "The Bells of Saint John". She even has the book, 101 Places To See. She hears The Doctor arrive and gets excited. It was cool that she couldn't figure out where to go. That would be my hardest decision. The Doctor takes her to Akhaten, her first new world. I thought it was beautiful with the rings and the people living in the rings instead of the planet they circled. A shining pyramid appears and The Doctor explains it is a temple where the song singers are of the 7 worlds, who believe all life originated on the planet.
The interior was very Star Wars meets "The Beast Below". So many amazing looking creatures and robots in a bazaar type feel setting. For some reason Clara wasn't getting translation from the TARDIS, except for the most human looking inhabitants. The Doctor mentions he has been here before with his granddaughter, a nice mention of Susan. They try a blue glowing food The Doctor whimsically describes as an "exotic fruit of some description " Everyone is there for the festival of offerings, which takes place every 1,000 years or so when the rings align. Clara learns that money here is based on psychometry, using items of sentimental value, the more sentiment attached the more the value.
Clara sees a little girl in red velvet robes running from someone. Similarly robed men approach and ask if shes seen the Queen of Years, she says no. She goes to find the girl, Merry, and when she does she caringly reassures her that she wants to help. Merry asks for help when a black/purple cloud appears, fading to reveal The Vigil, 3 cyborg types, very steampunk, with creepy whispery voices calling out to Merry. Clara takes her to the TARDIS. The TARDIS won't open, but Clara didn't have a key. The TARDIS did make a funny gong noise and Clara commented that she doesn't think the TARDIS likes her. We know the TARDIS doesn't like paradoxes.
Clara learns Merry is a vessel for the history of her people, knowing every legend and song. She has to sing a song to a god and is afraid she will get it wrong and anger the god, also called Grandfather. I find this interesting because that's what Susan called The Doctor, grandfather, and they had been here. Does it mean anything? I don't know yet. Clara tells a story we see part of in flashbacks of getting lost as a child. After she found her, her mother took her home and told her a story and that she would always be with her and would always find her. Merry agrees to go back to sing.
Everything gets dramatic as the ceremony begins. The singing is lovely, with more great music from Murray Gold. We see the song singers in the pyramid singing to a mummy seated in a glass box. They sing their songs to keep him sleeping. Merry and the song singer seem to sing to each other from their distance. The crowd displays their offerings, gifts of value and mementos. Something goes wrong, a rumbling begins and an energy bubble surrounds merry and begins dragging her through the air to the pyramid.
Clara mistakenly thinks The Doctor is running away. He tells her pointedly they never walk away. They go to rent a moped but need psychometry money. Now, we know The Doctor's pockets are bigger on the inside and see in the next episode (SPOILER) that there are many things in them. But he makes Clara decide to offer a ring from her mother. Some test or does he know something? The moped ride among the rings was not bad. Fun.
Merry enters the pyramid, the door closes. Merry is scared and doesn't know what to do and the song singer is no help he won't stop singing. She approaches the glass case, the mummy's eyes light up red and Merry screams. The Doctor sonics the door open but it's heavy to hold up. Merry won't go with Clara, zapping her in some electric webbing stuck to the glass case. The Doctor let's the door close. The song ends, the song singer leaves and the mummy wakes.
The Doctor convinces Merry to resist offering herself. The Vigil arrive. Cool effects with their defenses. The Doctor fights back and they get Merry out. The mummy shatters the box. An intense beam shoots from the pyramid to the planet. The Doctor realizes the mummy was just the alarm clock, the planet is Grandfather, now awake to consume the 7 systems and beyond. They are sent back on the moped, but Merry and Clara want to help. Merry sings. Everyone sings. The Doctor tells a story about the people singing. Now forming a face the planet looks a bit like a planet sized jack-o-lantern, but pretty cool. The planet is a parasite, not a god, feeding on memory and love and loss. He offers his memories, if the planet has the room.
The Doctor gives a nice speech about his life and what he's seen and lost and what he knows and secrets that must never be spoken. Good job here by Matt. The planet begins to collapse but recovers. Clara has a flash of her mother, "I will find you" and The Doctor "you don't walk away" and takes the moped to the pyramid. She offers up the most important leaf in history, full of a future that never got lived. Here there is a flash again to the cemetery with Clara at her mother's grave, but we see her turn to where The Doctor stands in the background watching like before. As she offers all the days that never came, rays from the planet slowly dissolve the leaf into itself while The Doctor explains the difference in energy that was and what should have been. There's an awful lot of one, but an infinite amount of the other. The planet gets full and collapses. Infinity was too much.
The Doctor takes Clara home, noting remarkably that it's even the same day, a fact which I feel is significant in some way. Things look different to Clara. She remembers The Doctor at the cemetery and asks why he was there. He tells her of a dead friend she reminds him of. She says she will travel, fine, but as herself. The Doctor then presents her with her mother's ring. The people of Akhaten all wanted her to have it for saving them. He assures her it is only her and no one else.
So, the leaf. This is not totally thought out. But even Clara used it like it was "the" leaf. What if The Doctor went back to see if Clara was real and somehow messed up the meeting because of the leaf and he had to go back and find a leaf to place on the tree that would work, which would explain why he looked so concerned the entire time he was watching Clara's parents. Like i said it's rough, but something may be there.
I liked this episode quite well. I've seen a lot of negativity and I really don't see what they see. I felt it was pretty strong and if anyone has any questions let me know, because I liked the story. Very proper for a new companion's first time to the stars, and it had quite a classic feel to it.
Up next: "Cold War"