The Bells of St. John

Was there ever a more poorly named episode of Doctor Who?

The series 7b premiere of Doctor Who introduces us (or re-introduces us, depending on how things shake out) to Clara Oswald, the Doctor’s latest companion in the TARDIS, and indications are she’s going to be a cracker.

The Story
People’s minds are being stolen and uploaded to the Internet.

Meanwhile, if “meanwhile” is a meaningful term in a story about time travel, the Doctor is in 13th century Cumbria, in seclusion as a monk, contemplating how to find the twice dead Clara/Oswin Oswald. (in The Snowmen/Asylum of the Daleks respectively.)

The titular bells are nothing more than the phone in the TARDIS door ringing. It’s Clara (21st century version) calling for tech support on the Internet – having been given this number by a mysterious woman down at the shops telling her this number was for the “…best help in the Universe.”

The Doctor arrives but is too late to stop Clara’s mind from starting to be uploaded. He saves her and now discovers she’s been upgraded with super computer skills.

The rest of the episode is spent in a cat-and-mouse game between the Doctor and his enemies, both seen (Miss Kizlet) and unseen (the Great Intelligence.) Along the way we see, very clearly spelled out, that there is some uncanny connection between the various incarnations of Clara, but is this Clara projecting onto the others, or are they projecting onto her?

Commentary
Overall it was an enjoyable episode. The nuggets about the mystery of Clara pepper the story nicely and the concept of “harvesting” minds for food, if ludicrous, is diverting enough.

Although it should be no surprise after The Snowmen, the reveal that the Great Intelligence was behind the plot was disappointing. First because Richard E. Grant was acting as the voice of the Great Intelligence and not Ian McKellan and second because it’s now certain that we’ll be stuck with this rather uninteresting Doctor Who villain for the rest of the series.

It was good to see UNIT back, if even in a periphery capacity. Did the Doctor tip them off, or were they working on the problem, too? Will we see one more pitched battle between UNIT and the Great Intelligence? (see Web of Fear, the first battle between the Great Intelligence and the precursor to UNIT.). Might the Yeti come back for a surprise visit?

Finally, who was the mysterious woman who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? It seems obvious, but oh-so-depressing that it was probably River Song. Time travel what it is, will we ever be rid of this troublesome woman?! With the loss of the folks, the Ponds, it’s time to seal this chapter of the Doctor’s life.

Conclusion
All-in-all, I was happy with the episode and enjoyed it. It’s good to have the Doctor back on our screens.

2 thoughts on “The Bells of St. John”

  1. My answers would be…

    Was there ever a more poorly named episode of Doctor Who?
    Yes. For example, Fear Her, The Twin Dilemma, Journey’s End, most Daleks stories in the ‘of the’ format (Day, Destiny, Resurrection, Remembrance, Victory etc.), Revenge of the Cybermen, Rise of the Cybermen etc. etc. I liked this title.

    Who was the mysterious woman who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number?
    I hadn’t thought of River Song – that would be interesting. My guess is the TARDIS itself in some form or manifestation.

    1. Well, I can’t agree.

      • Fear Her – Story about a girl (the “her”) that manifests something as something to be afraid of. (the “fear”) – it was at germaine to the actual story, such as it was
      • Twin Dilemma – Easy to forget, but this story did have the twins running throughout it. Although, I think the dilemma was which one to jettison into space first.
      • Journey’s End – It was the story of Donna’s Journey’s end
      • All the Dalek titles at least feature Daleks throughout
      • Ditto for Cybermen

      While I’m not arguing that they’re imaginative titles, they aren’t just something incidental to the story dispensed with before the opening credits that have no bearing on the story at all. Following the Bells of St. John naming formula, we should renamed The Leisure Hive to A Day at Brighton Beach.

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