Doctor Who: The Bells of St. John

Matt Hepworth

The Bells of St. John brought back our beloved series in an action packed new light. Ever since we saw Clara last Christmas, every one has been asking who she is, and how she can be in three different places at once. This past week, we got a pretty good taste of what is to come; overall the episode was pretty good, albeit a bit awkward and with some faults. In addition to re-meeting Clara, it seems we also encountered this season’s over-arching theme, The Great Intelligence.

This goal of this episode was to create a brand new monster to add to the Who universe, the Spoonheads. They have the appearance of normal human beings, yet once they rotate their heads 180º, their head becomes akin to a “spoon head” that can download the subconscious of anyone who looks at them and uploads them to a massive database where they are trapped. They appear when anybody connects to a Wi-Fi network with a mysterious alien name; they controlled by some mysterious organization with unknown intentions. Clara is yet again clueless it would seem and has no memories of the Doctor. She is the daughter of a governor and is working as a nanny for a family as a favour (sound familiar? The Snowmen seem to think so). Because of her incompetence with computers she is given the number of the Doctor who is currently in the 1200s, through some timey-wimey shenanigans (most likely it happened a lot like it did in Blink) she tells the Doctor she was given a password, RYCBAR. As Clara said to the Doctor when he last saw her, Run You Clever Boy And Remember. As soon as the Doctor realizes who she is, he hops into her time hoping for a heartfelt reunion…except she has absolutely no idea who he is. Slamming the door on him she connects to a strange network, as soon as she does the process begins.

(By the way, did you get a close look at the book Clara held? Look at the author’s name very closely after remembering Amy/Rory’s last episode. Also her mention of “You’ll cry at the 11th chapter”)

The Doctor barges into the house and sees she is being “downloaded” after encountering his first Spoonhead, we see an older woman controlling a tablet that seems to be able to gain total control over these creatures/her fellow co-workers. The Doctor out hacks the company and is able to save her, yet Clara still has no clue who he is. We then learn that this company has been targeting her specifically, and they force the Doctor and Clara to escape. Somehow when Clara was downloaded she gained immense technological knowledge, and works on finding the location of the company. The Boss, Mrs. Kizlet, decides to toy with the Doctor a bit, revealing herself and her intention of downloading all of these people for their “leader” and in the process of explaining herself, they re-downloaded Clara. After a James Bond style rescue via an anti-gravity motorcycle, The Doctor is able to save the day by forcing their Boss to release all of the downloaded subconsciouses, thus the day is “saved”. Clara agrees that she has interest in travelling with the Doctor, as she departs, telling him to return the next day; he is ready to start their new chapters together. Meanwhile, Mrs. Kizlet speaks to their leader on screen, and it’s to a familiar face, The Great Intelligence. According to him, everything is according to plan, and as UNIT invades the headquarters, the memories of all the workers are wiped to before they were involved with The Great Intelligence.

As a new Villain; the Spoonheads…were honestly kind of meh. They certainly weren’t on par with the Weeping Angels, that’s for sure, though they do share some similarities. They both “steal you” sending you to another location, thus ruining your day (or in the case of the Ponds, the lives of every fan). They weren’t as terrifying as the Vashta Nerada, creatures who thrive in darkness, consuming your flesh. Sure the idea of being trapped in your computer is horrifying (let’s face it, that’s most of society today if you think about it). The Silence was a horrifying concept too, (again more similarities as the downloaded have no clue how they got there). They are both like the soldiers of some great-unknown force, fighting a battle yet to be determined. The Spoonhead’s weren’t terrible honestly, it’s just they seemed somewhat hyped-up. Odds are though they won’t be the creatures that Moffat is remembered for, the Angels will most likely fill that position.

One thing that is interesting is that Moffat mentioned he is done with overarching themes, but take a look at the last few minutes of this episode. In The Snowmen, the villain we see is The Great Intelligence, a villain from the classic who era (I am not as knowledgeable on much classic who, so there could be a lot I’m missing here). He took control of a young boy, Dr. Simeon who the Doctor and Clara manage to thwart last episode. It seems however that he is still around, at the end of this episode it’s revealed that The Great Intelligence possessed Mrs. Kizlet at a very young age as well, and has since used her for his bidding. He seems to be after Clara now, and by downloading her he managed to get something from her. Knowing Moffat, he seems to be setting us up to be the main villain/theme of this series, it is possible he has something to do with whatever causes our Clara dilemma. He supposedly still accomplished something worthwhile, so what happens next we will have to wait and see.

Character wise, Clara is still extremely mysterious and we learned next to nothing about her. Which is somewhat disappointing, but you never want to go “all in on a royal flush, you want to draw it out as long as you can”. What we did learn is The Doctor has great interactions with Clara, they’re both trying to figure each other out, after the loss the Doctor suffered with Amy and Rory she is exactly what he needs (plus his knowledge of what will happen to Riversong probably haunts him on a daily basis). We see the Doctor’s sense of adventure has returned, which is such a refreshing change after last episode, and it will be interesting to see what their relationship will develop into. Personally I’d rather it not become romantic, that’s what ruined Rose for me and made me love Martha. If it is forced it ruins the character, though I feel Moffat knows what he is doing.

Overall I can’t help feel that some of the earlier episodes this series were “better” but this was a great episode just for the sake of characterizing Clara, and giving us a face of what the Doctors final challenge may be this season. Make sure to tune in next Saturday for “The Rings of Akhaten”.

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