Thursday, April 11, 2013

Doctor Who, A Show Review: "The Bells Of Saint John"

By: William G. Muir
Does Steven Moffat just sit around his home thinking of ways to scare little children using everyday items. I think he must, cause what else can explain the inspiration for the majority of the episodes he has written for Doctor Who. In The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances he used a gas mask and a child looking for his mummy to scare us. In Blink it was the statues. Books and shadows was his monster of choice in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. And in last years Christmas episode, The Snowmen, it was evil killer snowmen.

Q: What could possibly be left for Steven Moffat to frighten us with?

A: Wifi

Wifi you might say. How could he possible use something as intangible as radio waves to scare people with? Well Mr. Moffat found a way to do it, and not in some heavy handed critique on the ills of society metaphoric kind of way. For that I am grateful. I watch Doctor Who to be entertained, not to be preached at. And to his credit Moffat has never used these everyday items as villains to point out what is wrong with society. It is just a plain and simple scare he is going for.

So our story starts off with a young man, it looks like he is making a Youtube video, warning people not to use a certain wifi connection. He holds up a sign with strange symbols on it and says to avoid clicking on it. He warns that if you click on it your consciousness will be sucked out of your body and you will be dead within a day. The young man then reveals that this has happened to himself and he has no idea where he is, and he pleads for somebody to help him.

After the brand new opening credits we find ourselves in Cumbria, in the year 1207 and a young monk is pounding on the doors to a monastery. He tells the person at the door to inform the abbot that the bells of St. John are ringing. We are than taken to a room where a hooded figure is lost in thought. Well it turns out that this figure is the Doctor (who else would it have been). Sitting beside him is a painting of Clara, with the words Run you clever boy, and remember, inscribed upon it.

On a side note, I really like Clara Oswald so far. There is just a feistiness  about her that is so captivating. Add to that her girl next door good looks and you got yourself a character that is the total opposite of Amy Pond. 

It turns out that the Bells of St. John happens to be the telephone on the TARDIS ringing. Now we seen the TARDIS phone ring before in The Empty Child. In both instances the Doctor comments on how the phone should not be ringing. The Doctor answers the phone and on the other end is Clara Oswald, in the year 2013. The Doctor ask her how she got the number to the TARDIS phone, Clara tells him that she got it from some lady who told her it was the best help line in the universe.

So there is some back and forth between Clara and the Doctor. We get a joke about Clara calling a different time zone because she misunderstood the Doctor when he said it was 1207. We also hear the phrase Run You clever boy and remember being used as a mnemonic device so that Clara can remember the pass word to the Wifi. Then in the next scene we have Clara going down stairs to answer the door. Who is that is waiting for her on the other, why it is the Doctor. In a moment that made me smile we got a bit of self awareness in the show when the Doctor asked Clara to repeat the titular question of the show, Doctor Who.

After a joke about mobile phone being a surprisingly apt description for the TARDIS we get back to the storyline. A young girl, looking suspiciously like the girl from the book cover (written by Amelia Williams) Clara commented on earlier walks down the stairs. Clara begins to question the little girl on who she is,the girl responds by repeating the questions back as statements. The little girl begins twisting  her head around 90 degrees. (At least the second time have seen this done in a Steven Moffat episode) and it is revealed that there no back to her head, but an indention that has bunch of computery looking stuff in it.

The little girl turn out to be a Spoonhead, a robotic server sent out by a mysterious organization. We see that it is this organization that is responsible for the mysterious wifi connection. It turns out that they are working for the Great Intelligence (as seen in the Snowmen). The organization is seeking out the choicest minds for the Great Intelligence to feast upon. The rest just get stored in the cloud.

The server begins to download Clara into the cloud. The Doctor hears hear her calling out for help. (Which sort of sounds like the victims in Silence/Forest calling out after being devoured by the Vastha Nerada. Come on Moffat let us not take the easy way out.) The Doctor bust through the door and see's that the server has nearly fully download Clara. But he is in luck cause there is time for him to save her. The Doctor grabs Clara's laptop and start to hack into the organizations system and reverse the download.

 At the organization headquarters Mrs. Kizlet (the person in charge), her crony and one of the data specialist are stunned by the Doctor being able to retrieve Clara's consciousness. The Doctor send them a message, Clara is protected. This causes Mrs. Kizlet to call their client and inform him that the moment they they had feared was upon them. 

Back to the Doctor and we get a montage of him taking care of the now passed out Clara. He places flowers near her bedside, set out a plate of Jammy Dodgers (takes a bite of one before placing it back on the plate). He then finds her book, 101 Places to See. He flips through the mostly empty book and stopping on a page which with the words propriety of Clara Oswald, The Doctor see a list of ages, each on having been marked out. With the exception of the last one, twenty-four.

The Doctor also notices a leaf in the book, he licks it. 

Clara wakes up and we get some more banter between the two of them. The who time back at the headquarters they are watching the Doctor and Clara. They decide that they need to get rid of the the pair, so they send a airplane straight towards them. In to the TARDIS the Doctor and Clara (she refers to it as his snogging booth) go and we get the usual reaction of someone who has foot in the TARDIS for the first time. Off they go, and reappear on the airplane. 

On the plane they discover all the people were asleep, this is explained by the fact the plane has Wifi. They run into the cockpit were it is discovered neither one of them has any knowledge on how to fly a plane. The Doctor grabs hold of the controls and steers the plane clear of hitting any of the house. (Not unlike what Doctor did in Voyage of the Damned were he keep the Titanic from crashing into Buckingham Palace.) The Doctor turns off the plane's Wifi and when the cabin crew is awake the two of them are off again, this time landing the next morning.       

The organization looks all night for the blue box.

The Doctor pulls out a motorcycle and him and Clara ride off to get breakfast. While enjoying breakfast they try to workout where the bad guys are at. They go back and forth before Clara convinces the Doctor that she would be able to find the baddies easier since they had given her a head full of computer knowledge. So while Clara tracks down our villains the Doctor goes to get more coffee. While in the cafe the Mrs. Kizlet uses the people around the Doctor to talk through them. She tells him that the Doctor will never succeed.

The Doctor informs Mrs. Kizlet that he will stop her. During this time Clara manages to find out where the baddies are (doing it in a manner I am pretty sure would not work in real life). But before the Doctor can get to her, another server, this one disguised as the Doctor, downloads her. The Doctor (the real one) arrives to find Clara pleading for help in the back of the server's head.

We learn from Mrs. Kizlet that there is no way that Clara can be retrieved again, she is now fully integrated into the cloud. Yet this does not stop the Doctor as he races towards The Shard on his motorcycle. When the Doctor arrives at The Shard, Mrs. Kizlet is there to taunted the Doctor one more. There is no way in, all the doors had been locked. That is when the Doctor reveals the motorcycle he was on, is the one he rode in Anti-gravity Olympics.

The Doctor slams his fist against a red button and then he zooms up the side of The Shard building.

The Doctor rides up to Mrs. Kizlets office, breaks the window and rides his motorcycle in. There he confronts Mrs. Kizlet, demanding she releases Clara. But she can't do so, because Clara is now fully integrated into the cloud, that means they would have to download the whole cloud. Those without bodies to go back to would die. The Doctor claims death would be better for those individuals, much better than living on in the cloud. Once more Mrs. Kizlet refuses.

The Doctor then tells her that if she will not do it he will just have to motivate her. Mrs. Kizlet calls him ridiculous and ask him why he came there. The Doctor informs her that he is not there, that he still sitting at the cafe enjoying his coffee. Then the "Doctor" in her office takes of his motorcycle helmet and reveals that he is the Doctor Server. The Doctor hacked into it and plans to download her.

Once in the cloud Mrs. Kizlet demands to be let out. Her second decides not to. Back in Mrs. Kizlet's office the Doctor Server grabs Mrs. Kizlet's tablet and changes the crony's obedience setting.The crony then changes his mind, giving the order to download the cloud.

And Clara returns to her body.

Back at The Shard U.N.I.T. arrives. Mrs. Kizlet talks to her client, he informs her that it is time to put an end to everything. She then hits the factory setting button on her tablet. All of her employees minds are wiped clean, none of them know what they are doing in The Shard.  When the U.N.I.T. soldiers enter Mrs. Kizlet's office, they find her sitting on the ground, among the broken glass. She looks up to one of the soldiers and in a child's voice, ask if they were her mummy and daddy.

We end with Clara and the Doctor in the TARDIS. The Doctor wishes to know the answer to question he asked her earlier, why is she a nanny? Clara tells the doctor that is not what she had intended to do. She had stopped at her friend house just before she set off to travel, but the mother died and she stayed to help the family out. The Doctor ask her to travel with him. He tells he can get her back before tea, Clara tells him to ask her tomorrow, she might just say yes.

The Doctor ask her about the leaf in her book. She tells him that it is page one.

I have to say that I rather enjoyed this episode. It was a great way to come back from the mid series break. It is my opinion that is is the best episode of series seven so far. It really didn't have to work that hard to achieve that honor. I thought it was silly when it called for it and serious when it was needed,  a good combination. I thought the story was paced well. It move at a fairly brisk pace but not too fast. I thought Jenna-Louise Coleman did a good job of playing Clara as different yet the same as in her two previous appearances.

Over all I give this episode a thumbs up. Go watch it.


  1. I have never actually watched Dr. Who, but I have many friends and family members who are Big Who fans. I keep saying I'm going to. I should probably go back to the beginning to start or else I won't understand! Have a great day!

    1. When you say go back to the beginning, are you talking about going back to the 2005 with the start of the new series? Or are you talking about going all the way back 1963? I think if you started with just the new series you would get enough of feel for the show to understand what is going on. And if you ever have any question you can always ask and I would gladly try to answer them for you.

      Thank you for the kind wishes and I hope you have a great day as well.
      -William G. Muir