“We were promised that Doctor Who’s latest episode, The Bells of Saint John, would be a no-holds-barred adrenaline-fuelled thrill ride and boy, did it deliver!” is what I really wanted to say after waiting 3 painstakingly long months for a new Doctor Who episode to come out. Unfortunately, while the episode was full of excellent spoilers and mysterious Easter Eggs (and the old theme tune is back!!), the story felt really rushed and left me feeling a teensy bit disappointed.
One of the reasons why the story was rushed would be that the plot was a recycled one. In one of the episodes from the 10th Doctor’s time, The Idiot’s Lantern, we were introduced to an alien known as The Wire which basically sucked people’s faces off and fed off their mental signals. The people were left faceless and brain-dead in a coma-like state and their faces were left on television screens. This episode is essentially the same idea but instead of the TV, the WiFi is used to steal people’s minds and souls. In this case, people actually die instead of just losing their faces. It’s also sort of like another one of Moffat’s episodes: Silence in the Library where people are being uploaded completely when they die in the real world.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter that they used an old plot and reworked it to make it more modern. In fact, I quite like the fact that they decided to update the older story. The Idiot’s Lantern was a good episode so it only makes sense to play it safe and modify the plot with The Bells of Saint John. I also like the fact that The Great Intelligence seems to be the main villain in this series. It connects the older series of Doctor Who with the new revamped series; something which the older viewers must really appreciate. Richard E. Grant seems perfect for the role of the face of the Great Intelligence. I just thought they could have done so much more with the episode’s story. It was over as soon as it began, with no real sense of danger or peril like we usually get with Doctor Who.
One thing I really liked was the episode’s title. Even before the episode was released, we were given the names of the first few episodes in the series. And it got the entire internet thinking about who Saint John was and why his bells were ringing. Theories and ideas were flying all over the place, getting bigger and stranger and more confusing than the last. And then you watch the episode and you laugh at the simplicity of it all. The BELLS of SAINT JOHN. Bells = The sound of a phone ringing. Saint John = The sticker on the TARDIS is from Saint John’s hospital. It was so simple and yet so clever! Good work!
But it does get you thinking. This is only the 2nd time in the TV show that the phone on the TARDIS has gotten a call. The first time was in The Empty Child. Apparently, Clara got the number from ‘the woman in the shop’. But who is this mysterious woman? And how did she have the TARDIS’s number? I’d hazard a guess that it’s River Song but with the news that Billie Piper is back for the 50th anniversary, it might be Rose Tyler. I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.
Like I said before, I felt that the episode was rushed because it was so insanely fast-paced. Moffat did say that this new episode was influenced by James Bond’s Skyfall and it’s clearly seen in the episode. I mean, can you imagine The Doctor riding a motorbike up the Shard and breaking in through the window? Of course you can! Even though you know that it’s coming, it’s still really fun to watch. And the exchange between Miss Kizlet and The Doctor is really similar to James Bond and M’s. Celia Imrie brilliantly portrays the whole ‘ruthless and efficient evil boss lady’ character. The scene where she casually talks about ‘dealing with’ an employee was especially fun to watch.
And now we get to the main point of this whole episode: who is Clara Oswald? We’re introduced (or reintroduced) to the Doctor’s new companion but we still have no idea who she is. She seems to have no memory of The Doctor at all, so she might be a completely different person. Or she might have her memory erased (dying can do that to you). The good thing is that we do get tasty snippets of information, like where she gets her middle name from (“Clara Oswald for the the win… *gasp*… OsWIN!”) and how she is a total screaming genius who can hack pretty much anything. I really like the new companion. It’s been a while since we’ve had a single companion. It’s a nice break from Amy and Rory. The new companion is clever, witty, and can talk as fast, if not faster than The Doctor himself! The two have brilliant chemistry together and just sort of bounce off each other. I also love the fact that we’re slowly figuring out who she is, but this whole mystery-girl story arc idea seems very familiar (River Song, anyone?). The girl twice dead dies yet again in this episode but she miraculously comes back to life, thanks to The Doctor.
Speaking of which, The Doctor has got a new outfit. There was a nice scene in the TARDIS where he’s throwing off his Monk outfit (“Monks are not cool!”) and rummaging through the TARDIS to find some decent clothes to wear. He’s holding up the 10th Doctor’s coat and a purple one, wondering which one he should wear (he chooses the latter). And of course, what suit can be complete without a signature bowtie? I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed but he’s also got a new haircut, which has gotten me a bit worried. Remember what River said in The Forest of the Dead?
The last time I saw you, the real you — the future you, I mean — you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the singing towers…” – River Song
Maybe I’m just getting paranoid and this is not related at all. But then again, it might be foreshadowing. I mean, you’ve got the perfect set up for what I like to call “The Moffat Equation“.
Person + Building = Throw Person Off Said Building.
Aside from all that stuff, this entire episode was full to the brim with Easter Eggs and supposedly coincidental pieces of information. There were so many questions you wanted to ask! Here’s a short list of Easter Eggs/Important Things To Note/Questions:
- Who is the woman in the shop? How did she have The Doctor’s number?
- What does the leaf represent in Clara’s book. She said it’s not a leaf but that it’s ‘page one’. Maybe she’s turning over a new leaf or something. Maybe she just wants to visit Canada one day. Maybe it’s one of the leaves from the prequel.
- Why does Clara have Tom Baker’s scarf in her house?
- Her password is rycbar123 (Run You Clever Boy And Remember…)
- Her book is “Summer Falls” is written by Amelia Williams a.k.a Amy Pond. Is it related to the Fall of the Eleventh? Falls can also be related to River.
- Referring to the book chapters, Clara says “11 is the best! You’ll cry your eyes out!”. Does that foreshadow something? Or is it referring to the end of chapter 10 and the beginning of 11 (10th Doctor’s regeneration?) Maybe it’s just about The Doctor losing The Ponds. The book itself is being published so we’ll find out soon enough.
- One of the faces on the screens of stolen people is really similar to Craig’s face (The Lodger).
- The Great Intelligence is back!
- We finally know why Clara is so good at computers and hacking things.
- The Doctor is now 1000 years old and can’t fly a plane.
- UNIT are back!
- The ages 16 and 23 are missing from Clara’s book. Why?
- Why does Clara keep on finding The Doctor? Does the universe have some sort of massive plan? Is Clara a trap for The Doctor? How can their timelines be so completely intertwined?
- Monks are not cool.
- Where are The Silence?
All in all, I loved the episode because of the number of Easter Eggs thrown all over the place, the quick and witty exchange between The Doctor and Clara and just the sheer madness of it all (riding a bike up the Shard?!) but didn’t really enjoy the story much at all. I think the problem was that it was hyped to such an extent that it was impossible not to be disappointed by it. It felt like a filler episode just to introduce Clara to the viewers. The episode left you waiting for the climax or the main plot point, only to realise when the credits roll up, that it never really arrived.
I give the episode a 7.5/11. Maybe if I rewatch it again after I’ve seen the rest of the series, I might change it. Hopefully, the next episodes will be absolutely amazing. Really looking forward to Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS and Hide.