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Doctor Who Review: The Most Important Leaf In Human History

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Clara got her official induction into the world of The Doctor in "Rings of Akhaten" with a trip to an alien world. It was magical and fun and reminded me a bit of one of the original words in the Star Wars franchise.

We learned very early in the story of the leaf that was the first page of Clara's book from "The Bells of St. John," and with this magical alien world came the necessity to part with items very precious to you instead of money. It's all setting up a theme, but I'm sure that I cannot figure out what it is yet.

Rings of Akhaten Photo

The Doctor is not giving up on his search for the mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald. If his research is any indication, there will be no end to the intrigue any time soon. The leaf struck a man in the face and he was almost hit by a car. A woman saved him, and she became Clara's mother:

Man: So I've got something for ya.
Woman: What? Ya kept it?
Man: Of course I kept it.
Woman: Why?
Man: Because this exact leaf had to grow in that exact way, in that exact place, so that precise wind could tear it from that precise branch and make it fly into this exact face at that exact moment. And, if just one of those tiny little things had never had happened, I'd never have met ya. Which makes this leaf the most important leaf in human history. | permalink

The first page of Clara's book, "101 Places to See" was a duplicate copy of one her own mother, Ellie, had. In her mother's copy was the leaf. In Clara's was the progression of her age, as little girls will do to mark their possessions.

Minutes later, we see Clara at a grave of Ellie Ravenwood who died in 2005, holding the same book. Inside the book is the name Ellie Ravenwood, the same name on the gravestone, with the age 11 inscribed. The books themselves, from the different timelines, are different colors. Ellie Ravenwood, Clara's mother, died when Clara was 11 in 2005. None of it makes perfect sense to The Doctor and still he says, "She's not possible!"

It makes the story of our new companion all the more exciting, and his enjoyment of taking her on adventures is only enhanced by her mystery. I wonder why Clara's mother's grave was marked as Ravenswood while Clara's last name is Oswald. I'm sure we'll find out. Each time someone asked for a personal artifact to pay for passage of some sort, I imagined her pulling out "101 Places to See."

Nothing seems to phase our Clara, but the possibility of giving up what she remembers of her mother.

Did anyone else think that the god to whom Merry, the Queen of Years, had to sing her song looked an awful lot like a combination of the Grinch who stole Christmas and a sleestak?  It was going far too well for the story to end on a positive note, and for Merry to be captured and summoned to the mummy made perfect sense to the story of Clara so far. Because she is so much like Merry. As The Doctor said to Merry, there is only one Merry in the universe, and whether he likes it or not, there is only one Clara. He just cannot suss out how that's possible.

Something in Merry's song woke the sleeping god and he wanted to feed on her memories. In the end, The Doctor offered himself up as a sacrifice, giving one of the most exquisite speeches about who he is, where he has been and what he has seen over the past 50 years of Doctor Who I've ever heard. If I could have caught it all into a quote, I would have but it was beyond my capabilities. It was truly magnificent, right down to sharing that he had walked alone in the universe when there were no men and he was willing to give it all up to save the lives of all the others.

When in stepped Clara. Clara with her mother's copy of "101 Places to See," a book so well known and yet she was unable to come up with a single place to visit in the Tardis when asked by The Doctor where she would like to go. She opened her book and offered to the god the memories not of herself, but of a life unlived, that of her mother. All of the infinite possibilities that could have and should have been, but were not. The insatiable god took it, and exploded. As The Doctor said:

The Doctor: Well? Come on then. Eat up. You're full? I expect so. Because there's quite a difference between what was and what should have been. There's an awful lot of one but there's an infinity of the other. An infinity is too much, even for your appetite. | permalink

Clara saw that The Doctor was giving up everything to save the people of the worlds they were visiting, and in exchange, she gave up her most precious possession, the life her mother never lived and all of the promise it held to save The Doctor.

You all can argue with me and bring out examples of other companions and Doctors who have had great chemistry, even try to say what Clara has feels forced, but the last 15 minutes of this episode was epic. With Matt Smith's Doctor on his knees begging for his memories to be dragged out of his soul as salvation for generations with tears streaming down his face and Jenna-Louise Coleman's Clara taking that burden from him with a speech equally as emotional, I was moved to sobs. Not just tears. Sobs.

All of this will work it's way to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Can you even imagine what Steven Moffat has in store for us? If the stories and the writing continues in this manner, I'm just going to watch from bed with a box of tissues. I realize they can go campy, funny or emotional, but so far I'm getting an emotional vibe that will knock my socks off. Note to self: don't wear socks.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (88 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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Modwild

Y'all are so jaded. You're fun, but you're watching even harder trying to find more in your entertainment than I am. I have a lot of Who fan friends and we all enjoyed the episode for what it was, especially the end, and we're enjoying Smith and Coleman.

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What truly dreadful episode! If they'd spent less time making a zillion different alien heads they might have had more time for the script. Sorry, but if Carissa (reviewer above) really did "sob" at the end she needs to up her dose of Prozac.
Where was the plot? What little there was lifted from Star Trek: Voyager. And, as usual, instead of real ending we just got the Doctor saving the world by being clever - not by DOING anything clever, just by BEING clever.
This was really lazy "effort" from the writer, which the production and design staff tried to hide by throwing money at make-up and special effects.
E.G. - If the emotion-eating sun had been going for millions of years, why were the Doctor's mere 1,000 years of interest? Not to mention Clara's pathetic 101 stories and a leaf. Did the Queen of Years really mess up a line - how could we tell? Why all that pointless faffle about the mummy who turned out to be just an alarm clock.
And Clara's knowing "winks" at the audience as if to say "We all know this is appalling and I am WAY too good for this but let's just play along until I get a better offer" is already grating and she's only been in the show for 5 minutes.
The above mentioned ST:Voyager, in the same amount of time every week managed to pose some important and relevant moral issue, allowed our heroes to resolve the matter while battling some sort of believeable (in context!) alien threat with appropriate use of existing technologies and established dramatic criteria involving all eight recurring cast members and (usually) 3-4 aliens AND furthering the ongoing plot of the series. They didn't just flash a flashing "screwdriver" at every problem and then allow the human to get away by making a clever quip.
No idea why or how this episode could possibly have been of interest or amusement to an audience of intelligent children.
Very, very poor. MUST do better.

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One thing I noticed is that the leaf is different than the one in Bells. They probably lost the first one, I guess.

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There have been some powerful statements made by the many incarnations of The Doctor over the years. The only one to bring me to tears was the final quote from the Seventh Doctor episode, "Survival". Knowing (as was believed at the time) that we were seeing the final "DW" moment ever, lent those words emotional impact: "There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold! Come on, Ace...we've got work to do!"

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Okay, then, that's what I'll do, I'll tell you a story. Can you hear them? All these people who have lived in terror of you… all these people who's ancestors have devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves to you! Can you hear them singing? You like to think you're a god, but you're not a god, you're just a parasite eating now with jealousy and envy - longing for the life of others, you feed on them! Their memory of love and lost and birth and death and joy and sorrow! So… So, come on then, take mine, take my memories! I hope you have got a big appetite, because I have lived a long life and I have seen a few things. 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 walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man. I watched universes freeze and creations burn, I have seen things that you wouldn't believe! I have lost things you will never understand and I know things, secrets that must never to be told, that must never be spoken, knowledge that would make parasite gods blaze! So come on then! Take it! Take it all! Have it! You have it all!

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If Clara is 24 in 2013, then she was 16 when her mother died in 2005. In Clara's book, her ages jump from 15 to 17 and 22 to 24.

Modwild

You're right! I did miss some things. The color of the book, no matter how many times I watch, still looks different. What I DID miss was her turning the page at the grave, and Oswald on the marker. I watched it several times, but you know how when you're looking for something that just isn't there? I was searching and found something where there was nothing. So - thanks for setting me straight. As for Matt Smith and the ending, sorry. Can't agree with any of you who disliked it. I felt he was all in and looked great and still love their chemistry. It's for the ending that it got 4.7. I'm re-watching Rose episodes today. We'll see how that affects next week's review! Wish I was a bible on all TV, but I'm only human, and easily "fazed.' ;-)

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You may want to re-watch this one. The books are the same; in one scene, when Clara is younger and in bed, the lighting on the book makes the color wash out but it is the same book (look closer at the top corner of the book).
The grave has Clara's mothers married name on it which is shown just after Clara looks at the book with her mothers maiden name.
Maybe your sobbing got in the way of watching the show.

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Another thing - the name on the grave was Ellie Oswald. Ellie Ravenwood was written on the book from Ellie's childhood, before she was married and had taken her husband's (the man she saved) name. I usually love your reviews but this one is just a little off...

Watchestoomuch

You guys still aren't covering "Orphan Black." Tonight's episode was easily twice as good as the egg they laid on "Doctor Who." I really enjoyed the way they used Sarah's criminal knowledge and skills to get her out of jams. This will obviously be an ongoing part of the show -- Sarah's rocky past will become a big asset for her and her sisters. Another ongoing part of the show were be her inability flee Toronto with her daughter. I was intrigued by Allison's apparent temptation to knife Sarah out on the soccer field and by her oblique "Why me?" remarks. It will be very interesting to see what we learn next week, as Sarah communes with her fellow Cylons. P.S. Did anyone notice how awful Matt Smith looked in the "Who" episode? Was he ill, or was he really not enjoying himself?

Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 8 Quotes

She's not possible!

The Doctor

Man: So I've got something for ya.
Woman: What? Ya kept it?
Man: Of course I kept it.
Woman: Why?
Man: Because this exact leaf had to grow in that exact way, in that exact place, so that precise wind could tear it from that precise branch and make it fly into this exact face at that exact moment. And, if just one of those tiny little things had never had happened, I'd never have met ya. Which makes this leaf the most important leaf in human history.

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