Review: Doctor Who – Series 7 – Part 2 – Episode 6: The Bells of Saint John
The Doctor is back. After 3 long months, The Doctor’s search for Clara comes to an end. But, with something lurking in the WiFi, the adventure is just beginning. So, how was the first adventure of the new run? Read my review and find out.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, INCLUDING A FULL PLOT SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE EPISODE AND DO NOT WISH TO HAVE IT SPOILED FOR YOU, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE EPISODE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
A NOTE ABOUT REVIEWS: Each review will be broken into 3 parts. Part 1 is the Plot. This will contain a full plot summary of the episode. Part 2 is My Take, where I will give my personal thoughts and observations on the episode. Finally, Part 3 will be the Score, where I will rate the episode on a scale of 1 to 5.
FIGURES AND MORE TELEVISION EPISODE REVIEW
Show: Doctor Who
Series: 7, Part 2
Episode #: 6
Title: The Bells of Saint John
Credits: The Doctor: Matt Smith
Clara: Jenna-Louise Coleman
Miss Kizlet: Celia Imrie
Mahler: Robert Whitlock
Alexei: Dan Li
Nabile: Manpreet Bachu
Paul: Sean Knopp
The Abbott: James Greene
George: Geff Francis
Angie: Eve de Leon Allen
Artie: Kassius Carey Johnson
Little Girl: Danielle Eames
- Barista: Fred Pearson
- Waitress: Jade Anouka
- Newsreader: Olivia Hill
- Child Reading with Comic: Isabella Blake-Thomas
- Man with Chips: Matthew Earley
- Pilot: Antony Edridge
- Director: Colm McCarthy
- Producer: Denise Paul
- Writer: Steven Moffat
Following young Clara’s advice, the Doctor (Matt Smith) is brooding about Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), “the woman who died twice”, in a Cumbrian monastery in 1207. The monks tell him the Bells of Saint John are ringing. The Doctor realises this refers to the police phone on his TARDIS (next to which is the emblem of St John Ambulance) and takes the call, finding the caller is a young woman in contemporary Ealing looking for Wi-Fi tech support. When she repeats the phrase “run you clever boy and remember”, the same phrase Clara said in “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen“, the Doctor recognizes her as Clara and departs to the future in his TARDIS.
Meanwhile, Clara has tried to connect to a different Wi-Fi network labelled by alien-like symbols. This alerts a technician working under Miss Kislet (Celia Imrie), who instructs him to send a Spoonhead to her address. By the time the Doctor arrives, the Spoonhead has arrived, a humanoid robot that can take the appearance of anyone, with an antenna dish on the back of its head, and has started to download Clara’s consciousness. The Doctor interrupts the operation and restores Clara; his interference is discovered by Miss Kislet and she orders her agents to track the Doctor and Clara.
When Clara recovers, the Doctor explains that someone is using the Wi-Fi networks to download and conform human consciousnesses all over London for some purpose; he demonstrates that Clara has gained newfound computer skills due to her encounter. When Miss Kislet’s agents discover the pair, she orders the Wi-Fi network to be activated, causing the crew of a jetliner to fall asleep as it is landing at Heathrow. The Doctor drags Clara to the TARDIS and boards the plane, waking the pilots in time to save the plane.
The Doctor and Clara land the next morning and take a motorbike to a a café adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Doctor is unable to find the base of operations for the Wi-Fi network from Clara’s computer, but she offers to use her new skills to do so. The Doctor enters the café to get coffee when Miss Kislet, using the various patrons in the café, taunts the Doctor and shows her abilities to control the London population. Meanwhile, Clara discovers by hacking the webcams and using social media that all of the technicians for Miss Kislet work at The Shard. She tells this to the Doctor, realising too late that the Doctor is a Spoonhead, and her consciousness is downloaded; the real Doctor arrives too late to stop this.
The Doctor rides to the Shard on his motorbike, and uses its anti-gravity thrusters to scale the Shard, crashing into Miss Kislet’s office. She calmly explains she is doing the work of her client who needs the human consciousness for its purposes and refuses to release the stores consciousnesses. The Doctor reveals he is really the Spoonhead, being controlled by the Doctor from the café. The Doctor downloads Miss Kislet into the array of other consciousnesses, and then alters the obedience of her second-in-command to release all of them. Clara is restored to normal. As UNIT forces rush in to secure the facility, Miss Kislet explains to her client, the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant), that she has failed him, and proceeds to do a “system reset”; she and all the other technicians are reverts to a mental state before they were part of the Great Intelligence’s plan.
The Doctor introduces himself properly to Clara in the TARDIS and offers to take her with him to any place in space or time. She rebuffs his request, telling him to come back in the morning as she may change her mind. The Doctor, now wishing to know who Clara Oswald really is, begins to travel ahead to the next morning in his TARDIS.
This is exactly the kind of episode I think that we were all hoping for after the gravitas of the Pond’s departure and the moody, brooding, grief-stricken Doctor we were subjected to in the Christmas Special. While, it’s true that the Doctor is back to the Doctor we remember by the end of the special, it’s his search for Clara that really gives him back his mojo. This is a frenetic, silly and somewhat confusing episode, but it’s just the sort of madcap romp that the Doctor needed to have. There are so many great moments, starting right at the beginning. Here are my favorites:The Doctor as a monk, Clara calling the Doctor for tech support, the “Bells of Saint John”, the Doctor changing clothes, the severe Miss Kizlet, “Doctor Who?”, the spooky spoonheads, the lovely London locations, the return of the fez, breakfast money, the Doctor turning the spoonhead against Miss Kizlet, the return of the Great Intelligence, “It’s bigger on the inside”, “Come back tomorrow” and, of course, “I’m the Doctor. I’m an alien from outer space. I’m a thousand years old. I’ve got two hearts and I can’t fly a plane.” The most impressive thing here is how Matt and Jenna instantly develop the nature of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. Although this is only their third time together on screen, it already fells like they have been working together for a while. I can’t wait to see how things develop. The plot is slightly over-complicated, but Moffat did right this one, so it’s not a huge surprise. Nor, it is a huge detriment. You can still follow the basic story, and really the point is to introduce Clara properly and set her up with the Doctor. That is really the biggest problem with the story, the main plot is kind of given a backseat to the introduction of the companion. That’s not to say that this is a bad episode, it just isn’t the greatest I’ve seen. And, to be honest, I know by now what to expect from companion introduction episodes, so I wasn’t disappointed. I know that greater adventures are to come. The biggest nitpicky problem I have is that the purpose of the episode in to introduce Clara and set her up with the Doctor and, at the end of the episode, SHE’S STILL NOT WITH THE DOCTOR! I think it’s kind of cute to see her make the Doctor wait, but part of me wishes they would just get the cat and mouse game over. I’m looking for ward to Clara’s first “proper” adventure with the Doctor next week.
“The Bells of Saint John” is everything we’ve come to expect from a new companion introduction. There is a main plot, but it is incidental, and is really only important for getting the Doctor and his new companion together. This episode was full of clever nods to past series and some really great lines. I also love the nod to “Sherlock” with the superimposed text. It was a clever commentary on how WiFi has become an integral part of our lives. I also like the sly way the Great Intelligence returns. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again. It wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t the best either. The Bells of Saint John gets a 3 out of 5.
Clara finally joins the Doctor for real and he takes her to her first alien planet. But, danger is lurking in The Rings of Akhaten. Here is the Next Time trailer.
The Rings of Akhaten airs Saturday, April 6 at 6:15pm on BBC One and BBC One HD and at 8pm on BBC America and BBC America HD