Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

Doctor Who is back! 🙂 And I think that episode got it off to a good start for the half-season. As usual, this isn’t so much a review as a collection of thoughts, hopefully coherent.

SPOILERS AHEAD! Hover mouse over text to read, or read on entry page:

So, a computer/hacking based TV story that I felt actually worked. OK, so if you stare too closely at the seams then you’ll find the holes to drive the truck through (and I did have one moment where I felt they tried to get too specific & thus the suspension of belief wobbled). But overall I thought they managed to be vague but truthy enough to make it work. (Truthy as in not necessarily true but sufficient for the story to convey the weight and heft of truth.)

I like the way the upgraded Clara & the Doctor complemented each other – he was “old-fashioned and hacked technology” and she knew that the people are always the weak link in a security system. Of course everyone had their workplace on facebook or some other social media site … mind you, that does constitute a bit of a plot hole – high security workplace might be expected to tell people they need to be careful about social media. But the other side of it (that you’d think the top people would be aware of what their employees were doing) is probably fair enough – they’re hacked & running software based on what the Great Intelligence wants/understands so I’m not surprised they were flawed in their understanding of human nature.

And we didn’t see the Great Intelligence coming across as particularly intelligent or able to deal with people in the Christmas special either. Thinking of that – I liked the way that sure the GI knows who the Doctor is and has Miss Kizlet watching out for him, but it’s personal and small scale. It’s because 150 or so years ago it met the Doctor, not because he’s some sort of universe wide saviour figure.

On that note, who is “the woman in the shop” who gave the “best in the universe helpdesk” number to Clara? Presumably that’ll turn out to be a plot point, once we get further into the who is Clara mystery. Still hoping that works out more emotionally true than previous Moffat mysteries, but still refusing to speculate (well, as much as I can help).

Seemed odd that the title of the episode turned out to be just that one early pun – the bells of Saint John being the TARDIS telephone. Incidentally, according to google and to wikipedia a longer version of Oranges & Lemons Say the Bells of St Clements than the one I know has the verse “Pokers & tongs, say the bells of St Johns”. Who knows if or how that’s relevant … last verse of the nursery rhyme is “Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!”, ominous? Probably not.

I didn’t really buy Clara’s complete cluelessness about computers & the internet, but I did think they did well at showing how the computer skills package changed her. Even if the Doctor flagged it up by pointing out her joke about twitter, it still came across in the way she changed around the computer. I do hope the complete cluelessness isn’t a plot point tho (ie it has something to do with her previous Victorian incarnation), that’d feel a bit tedious I think.

I thought they did a good job of drawing out what’s the same about the various Claras – quick witted (with or without computer knowledge), sure of herself, and cares about other people. I also liked how her reaction to the Doctor’s invitation was “what, does that ever work??”. She’s not putting the Doctor up on a pedestal of “oh so special”, so even tho I’d rather it went down the Donna/Doctor friends route it feels less icky than, say, Doctor/Martha.

The end for the Great Intelligence’s human minions was pretty chilling. Well, for most of them it was just an awkward few years of amnesia. But for Miss Kizlet, the woman in charge it was horrific – she’ll grow up now, I guess, into a middle-aged woman’s body with a lot of her physical life behind her. I don’t think the actress quite pulled off the reversion to early childhood though (but she did a good job during the rest of the episode of making us think of a less ethical M-as-played-by-Judi-Dench). And the Great Intelligence not only got away scot free, but the Doctor doesn’t even know it was the same Big Bad as it was when he met the previous Clara.

Oh, and was I the only person who thought of the human Daleks when the sound effects for the twisting head started on the first spoonhead? So another reminder of previous Claras. The book the camouflage for the spoonhead came from was a nice shoutout to the Ponds too, understated but there for those of us who were paying attention.