TV Review: Doctor Who – The Bells of Saint John
I’m a pretty big Doctor Who fan and since I now help run a website it would seem rude not to share my thoughts on the latest episodes. This is the site’s first TV review, if it proves to be popular we may cover some other shows in the future. And as always feel free to share your thoughts – Jack
Full episode spoilers follow:
The official introduction of Clara, The Doctor’s latest companion, is a fun though insubstantial adventure that probably ranks as one of the series’ better openers. We find The Doctor living as a monk in 1207 AD, painting a portrait of Clara. He met her twice in the last batch of episodes, once in a Dalek infested distant future and also in Victorian London for the Christmas special. She died after both encounters and The Doctor has been looking for her ever since, intrigued at the possibilities of the woman twice dead.
His solitude is interrupted when he gets a call on the TARDIS phone, the bells of St. John of the title. It’s Clara, this time in modern day London and unfamiliar with The Doctor, having trouble with her internet connection. Where she got the number from seems to be the first new mystery, Clara only said that it was a shop keeper. My thoughts are that it’s either River Song or maybe Madame Vashtra from The Snowmen, perhaps Silurians are long lived. Or maybe Steven Moffat will never touch on it again, we’ll see. The Doctor heads to Clara’s front door, we get a bit of banter between them and meet our villains. This time it’s Celia Imrie playing the human puppet master, Miss Klizet and a Wi-Fi inhabiting alien menace. Her foot soldiers are the spoonheads, who look like… well the hint is in the name. The use of the familiar for the other worldly aspects is classic Moffat, reminiscent of the cracks from a few years back, although the idea of Wi-Fi being out to get you is fun if a bit creepy, particularly as we have all seen weird sounding hotspots when searching for a connection.
The Doctor saves Clara from the malevolent Wi-Fi, the first of many savings I suspect, and proceeds to guard her house. Clara isn’t one to sit back and let herself be guarded and confronts the Doctor outside about what is going on. By now Miss Klizet has located the pair and uses the Wi-Fi to control a passenger plane and steer it towards Clara’s street. What follows is probably one of the coolest uses of the TARDIS I’ve seen in the show. We follow The Doctor and Clara as they enter the TARDIS on the street, into the control room and then exit the TARDIS on to the plane, where The Doctor can save the day. It’s filmed to sort-of look like a continuous shot and gives the scene an epic scope; when Doctor Who manges to pull off ambitious moments like this it’s absolutely fantastic and a credit to the production crew.
With Clara now familiar with the bigger on the inside stuff the duo can now take the fight to the aliens, although on a motorbike for some not quite explained reason. The remainder of the episode falls into the familiar opener problems of not having enough time to fully explain or resolve things yet I think it can be forgiven since they needed to reintroduce Clara and touch on her mystery a little bit. The last of half of the episode seemed a bit reminiscent of Russel T. Davies era Who, The Doctor riding a motorbike vertically up The Shard seems like something he’d write. The reveal at the end that the Great Intelligence, played by Richard E. Grant, was behind it all was a nice continuity nod. I’m not sure if it was just a throw away reference or if it will come into play later in the series, perhaps he has something to do with Clara? Also it was kind of tragic to learn that Miss Klizet had been under the control of the Great Intelligence since she was a child, not unlike Richard E. Grant in the Christmas special. The spoonheads weren’t a particularly memorable monster although the way that Miss Klizet could control the general population, particularly in the cafe scene, was very well done.
The heart of this episode wasn’t the plot, fun though it was, but the chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (playing Clara). The pair already have their characters relationship figured out and I look forward to seeing them on a standard adventure next week. She seems like a good replacement for Karen Gillan, not as fiery as Amy but just as head strong. The continuing use of her as a nanny shows a nice bit of authority too, something lacking with Amy occasionally. It was interesting that she hadn’t fully agreed to travel with him come the end of the episode, she’s not the sort to just go running off with the mad man in a box at the drop of a hat (or fez). It seems that The Doctor is more interested in her than she is in him which is a nice twist on the usual dynamic. From the few times we’ve seen her so far it seems like she won’t be a boring companion although how she works out long term will probably rest on the resolution of her mystery. I’ve no idea yet on specifics but it must directly involve something The Doctor does or has done as everything in the Doctor Who universe must inevitably involve him in some way.
Overall it’s a good start but I look forward to some deeper stories in the weeks to come. Hopefully we can get something worthy of the 50th anniversary and with epidodes penned by Mark Gattis, Neil Gaiman and more from Steven Moffat still to come we just might.