After a long break from its Christmas Day special. Doctor Who returns to re-introduce new companion Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) as well as a potentially recurring villain, the Great Intelligence.
Let’s bitch it out…The Doctor (Matt Smith) is back and ready for new adventures after spending some quiet time among monks in 1207, painting away and pining for the long-lost Governess who toppled from a cloud at the end of ‘The Snowmen’. Thankfully she’s only a tech-support phone call away as the TARDIS receives its first phone call in a good long time and before you know it, the pair are reunited. From there ‘The Bells Of Saint John’ introduces a mostly stand-alone adventure of soul sucking/body hacking internet featuring Celia Irie as Miss Kizlet, the new chief henchmen for the Great Intelligence (whom we saw last trying to possess snowmen in the Christmas Special, but has a long Doctor Who history).
This adventure is more entertaining than Louise-Coleman’s first outing as companion, but its purpose is more or less the same: we’re meant to view the episode as a reunion of sorts (to both the show as well as its leads) and the mind-retaining cloud is merely a means to an ends. Sure it’s topical (albeit a little techno-phobic), but the main point of ‘The Bells Of Saint John’ is to allow The Doctor and Clara to get to know each other all over again.
These elements are both fun and a little intrusive. Fun because it’s amusing to see how often Clara makes references to former iterations of herself, and intrusive because we often get flashbacks (it’s as though the show seems not to trust us enough to catch them). Is there a larger mystery in Clara’s repeated use of the saying “Run you clever boy and remember” or the fact that she’s seems to fall into the role of governess, or the fact that she’s quite good with computers (as her first incarnation was in the season seven debut)?
All questions aside, there’s no denying the chemistry between Smith and Louise-Coleman who have a fun, semi-flirty banter. She, in particular, adds a palpable energy to the proceedings, a wide-eyed enthusiasm for even the smallest details that help to keep the show feeling fresh, even as we hear the millionth person exclaim about how the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. If Coleman can maintain this level of excitement, she could very easily rival fan favourite Amy Pond. We’ll have to see how she does in the next episode when she’s required to do more than look shocked or fall unconscious.
- Is it just me or are we already meant to infer a romantic angle to Clara’s relationship with The Doctor? Much of it comes courtesy of the writing for the episode, but since this episode was penned by series showrunner Steven Moffat, it’s hard not to read into it. Not sure how I feel about yet another companion being lovestruck over our favourite thousand year old alien
- In the same vein, there’s plenty of overlap between Amy Pond, the Girl Who Waited, and Clara, the girl who still maintains a childlike innocence (cue her cutesy dance around the pole in the attic and the maintenance of the travel book from age 9 to 24). Even the name of the book we see referenced is a clue: Amelia (as in Amy) Falls. Are we in for a repeat companion or am I way off in this?
- While the fears of technology are front and center in the episode (for a more disturbing examination of modern day technology, see TVAngie’s fav series, Black Mirror), I did chuckle when everyone in the call center raises their hand when questioned if they’re logged into Facebook, etc. (Side Note: MySpace??? Is anyone even still on that anymore?!)
- I like the visual aesthetics when words, texts and computer screen info appear alongside the actors in Sherlock (Moffat’s other show), but it feels like he’s repeating himself when he does it here
- Finally, for Doctor Who newbies, UNIT refers to UNified Intelligence Taskforce, or United Nations Intelligence Taskforce and has a long history on the series. You can find out more here
- The Doctor (talking himself into some new clothes): “Monks are not cool!”
- Clara (when The Doctor suggests that souls are trapped in the internet): “Isn’t that basically Twitter?”
- The Doctor (when Clara insists she won’t wait for breakfast): “It’s a time machine – you never have to wait for breakfast.”
- Clara (when The Doctor asks her to join him as companion): “Do you just curl your finger and people jump in your snog-box and fly away?”
What did you think of this first episode of Doctor Who‘s fiftieth anniversary year? Are you onboard with Clara as the new companion? Do you see the Amy Pond similarities? Are you interested in seeing the Great Intelligence be the Big Bad for the rest of season seven? Hit the comments below with your thoughts
Doctor Who airs Saturday at 8pm EST on BBC America