Doctor Who: Season 7 “The Bells of Saint John”: Review

Steven Moffat, writer and super fan of Doctor Who, tends to bring us some of the best episodes. Anything that freaked the hell out of you or made you cry was probably written by Moffat.

That being said, I was stoked to see that this new episode was one written by Moffat. I mean, he’s successfully made fans of the show scared of statues and having two shadows (see episodes “Blink” and the two part-er “Silence in the Library”/ “Forest of the Dead”) so, yes, I was intrigued to see how he was going to make me wary of wi-fi.

Doctor_Who_-_The_Bells_of_Saint_JohnThe episode begins with people all connecting to various wi-fi signals all over. Then this guy shows up, warning you to stay away from a certain network. He tells you that once you’re connected “they” are in your computer. “They” can see you. And many times, you die. Intro music. Blah. Blah.

Then, we see Clara again, this time, as a live-in nanny to family friends. She’s having a hard time getting her computer to locate any wifi signal. She’s gotten a phone number from “a girl in a shop” for a help line.

In Cumbria, year 1207, a bell starts to ring. A ring. A monk fetches the Abbot, and the Abbot finds the Doctor. He informs 11 that the bells of St. John are ringing. In case you’re wondering, the TARDIS has a St. John’s Ambulance sticker on the door since Matt Smith came onto the scene.

The Doctor answers the phone, and guess who’s on the other line. That’s right. Clara.

The rest of the episode revolves around the company that is downloading people’s souls into the “data cloud.” It’s a fun episode. To me, in many ways, it had the feel of older Doctor Who episodes (such as “Blink” and “Silence in the Library”) where something normal and mundane in your life is twisted into something horrifying.

I really liked this episode on many levels, and then not so much on others…

I’m going to start with where the episode didn’t wow me.

The plot just didn’t really live up to my expectations. I mean, yes, some human company working for a mysterious client (later identified) is downloading people’s souls and also controlling many people. But, not that scary. Maybe had the villains been more faceless, or less human, the ominous factor would’ve been there more.

Also, I was a bit confused about the whole thing. At first it seemed that some people were fully integrated into the data cloud while others are just like sleeper agents… Now, the TV I was watching on had a funny sound system so it’s possible that I missed something that explained that factor.

But now! Now fun things!

What I liked about this episode: where I felt like it was lacking in plot it made up for in character building.

3923737-high-doctor-who-series-7bThis time around, we get to know Clara better. She’s twenty-four. She’s kind, clever, and very mysterious to the Doctor. What I like best, she bates him on. Unlike other companions, she doesn’t come when called. When he invites her to travel through all of space and time, she tells him to come back the next day and then she might say yes. Instead of being like Amy (who is known as The Girl Who Waited) or even Donna (that spent the better part of the year hunting the Doctor down) the Doctor comes looking for her. To me, that says a lot.

I think we even get to see a different side of the Doctor this time. Now, I’m not a walking Doctor Who encyclopedia, but in this episode we see him tuck Clara in, pour her water, get her flowers, and lay out a plate of cookies for when Clara wakes up. He doesn’t just care for her; he’s taking care of her on a very normal level. Now there could be other instances of this, but really, to me it’s the first time the Doctor has shown how much he cares and hasn’t used a big gesture to do it.

PS – the fez comes back for just a bit. Why? Because fezzes are cool.

Something’s that really intrigued me: UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Task force) is back. They showed up for an episode earlier in this season (“The Power of Three”) but here they are again. Does this mean that Moffat is weaving them back into the story line? Martha Jones was a big player of UNIT in the end days of Tennant.

Also, along with the mystery over who Clara is (known as “The Impossible Girl”) we meet the client. Something/one known as “The Great Intelligence.” Yes, he made an appearance in the Christmas Special, “The Snowmen.” With a name like that, I hope he comes back again. And, I think he will. What with the Daleks having no memory of the Doctor, someone needs to come and fill the gap. Having done some research, I can give you this: he’s a blast from the Doctor’s past. And not just from this season. Going way back in the Doctor’s timeline. (SIDE NOTE: and you may be asking yourself, well if it’s from the Doctor’s past why doesn’t he remember him when he meets The Intelligence again in “The Snowmen”? Good question. I’m thinking that and also, why doesn’t he recognize Clara’s voice when she calls him? Hm? Maybe after 900 years age catches up to you a bit and things fall in-between the cracks in a Time Lord’s memory.)

Overall, I thought it was a good way to kick off the second half of this season. For an hour, I didn’t worry about any of the stress in my life. I got to escape into the world of Doctor Who and have most everything fixed with a sonic screwdriver. Am I looking forward to the rest of the season? Do you even have to ask?

Caroline Whitney

Caroline Whitney

Caroline Whitney

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