NOTE: FULL EPISODE SPOILERS
If I were to describe this episode in word, this episode would be epic. Note because of any great fight scene, or a proverbial bomb that the Doctor Who team dropped on us, but because of the message, the back story, and the mood this episode gives.
When I first began watching this episode, it was off to a slow start. some back story about Clara’s parents, and learning that her mother had been died about 8 years ago. Then, before you know it, the Doctor and Clara are on an alien planet, observing their sun. And, in the distance they can see a gold pyramid, the Pyramid of Akhaten. Clara is curious to see more, so they go into a market.
The episode continues, going through the usual market-goers procedures, until Clara meets the Queen of Years, Mary. She says she is afraid of getting a song wrong. Clara doesn’t realize the importance of this, and encourages her to try it anyways, one of this episode’s many themes – never run away, a theme that resurfaces when Mary sings the song in front of a massive stadium. Suddenly, she is pulled away towards the pyramid, where the “grandfather” is sleeping, to awake rarely to feast on the queen’s soul.
Definitely not running away, the Doctor and Clara follow Mary to the pyramid, where they get trapped in the grandfather’s chambers and protect Mary. After both Mary refuses to sacrifice herself and the Doctor refuses to let her sacrifice herself, the Vigil come. They are a group of cyborg-looking beings that deliver the queen’s soul to the Grandfather.
Once the Grandfather is fully awake, however it sends a signal to the real Grandfather, and it is revealed that the being the inhabitants of the Seven Planet system have been fearing is just an “alarm-clock”. The real grandfather is the sun, and it desires memories and treasured items. After giving the grandfather all of his memories, the Doctor is shocked to discover that it still wants more.
In a daze, Clara offers to the Grandfather “the most important leaf in human history”. Contained in that leaf are an infinite number of “what-ifs”. That leaf led to Clara existing. Revealed in a flashback in the beginning of the episode, if that leaf had not grown that way, on that branch, on that tree, and if the wind had not blown that way, at that time, on his face (Clara’s father) then nothing would have been the same. Because of that leaf, he met her mom, and possibly because of that, she died.
This leads to another one of this episode’s themes, “what-if”. If a strict progression of events had not been followed meticulously, if one thing had been out of place, the world would be different. This is known as “the butterfly effect”, coined after Ray Bradbury’s story “A Sound of Thunder” (can be found here: http://www.lasalle.edu/~didio/courses/hon462/hon462_assets/sound_of_thunder.htm).
No episode of any TV show I have ever seen has not really made me smile as much as this one did. Not because of the aweesome special effects, but because of the message it conveyed. A message so sacred and time-tested, I know it’s true. The universe is a miracle, every life is a miracle, and we need to be grateful for it and not waste it.
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