Leave it to Steven Moffat to give us another seemingly ordinary aspect of life to be afraid of. First it was the dust seen in shadows. Then it was stone statues. And not too long ago, a crack in a wall is not what it seems. Now the simple click of an internet connection can bring about a new fear. Luckily, we also have the Doctor to turn to in this week’s episode ‘The Bells of Saint John’!
This is where I need to put the obligatory warning about spoilers, so unless you don’t want to know what happened in this most awesome episode (yes it was that good), then you may want to go on to the next post.
The episode starts off running with Nabil warning those watching him that clicking on a certain internet network connection is dangerous and could cause your physical body to die as your soul will be trapped in the Wi-Fi. As the camera pans away, we see that Nabil is one of many trapped within the internet whose conscious are trying to figure out where they are….
It’s the year 1207 and the bells of Saint John are ringing. The monks head to a room where the Doctor, dressed as a monk, is contemplating about his encounters with Clara Oswin Oswald. They tell him the bells are ringing and he asks for a horse and leaves.
The Doctor heads to a cavern where his TARDIS is parked and the bells of St. John (that the Monks were referring to) is actually the telephone in the blue box that is located next to a sticker that says St. John Ambulance. (I LOVE little nuances like this!) Anyway, as we already know from ‘The Empty Child’, the telephone on the outside of the box isn’t supposed to be able to work but for some reason, it is ringing.
Jump to the present and we see Clara (who obviously loves children as she is once again working as a nanny) and she is on the phone waiting for tech support as to why her internet is not working. For some reason, her call connects her to the Doctor. She tells him she got the number from a woman at the shop and wants to know what to do to get her internet working again. (So now we have another mystery. Who is this woman at the shop that gave Clara the TARDIS’ number for a phone that is really not supposed to work?)
It doesn’t dawn on the Doctor that the person on the other end is the companion he’s been looking for for the last 3 months (okay 3 months slow Earth time for us Whovians) until she is typing in the password RYCBAR123 which coincidently is the acronym for ‘Run You Clever Boy And Remember’ which tips off the Doctor. Unfortunately, Clara typed the password incorrectly and decides to click on the other network connection that Nabil warned about.
The Doctor, however, latches on and travels to her location and excitedly knocks/rings her door. The meeting doesn’t go as expected as Clara doesn’t remember the Doctor and just sees a crazy monk on her doorstep.
So what happens when you click on that funky wireless network connection address like Clara did? Somehow you get uploaded to a place that is run by a Miss Kizlet who doesn’t care for people calling the servers Spoonheads. She tells her second-in-command, George, to kill him but not until he returns from vacation. After all, she’s not that unreasonable. George tells her that the “company” is uploading too many people too fast and may bring some unwanted notice, but she responds that their client has a need for the “living minds” and uses a tablet to “hack” into his consciousness and dispel his concerns.
Meanwhile as the Doctor heads back to the TARDIS to change from monk Doctor to bow tie Doctor (which, although I’ll miss the short tweed jacket, his long coat does look dashing on him!), an intruder is in the house and comes down the stairs toward Clara. While the little girl reminds me of the android Vicki from the show ‘Small Wonder’, it’s actually a Spoonhead who begins to upload Clara’s mind. But the Doctor arrives just in time to stop the process, save Clara and send Miss Kizlet a message: “Under my protection”.
After recuperating a bit (and maybe after a couple of jammie dodgers the Doctor left by her bed), Clara and the Doctor have a rather sweet exchange where the Doctor’s protective instincts emerge for his new companion. The Doctor then explains what happened to her and soon realizes that although she knew nothing about computers before her incident, she now knows a lot about them. A living sentient computer with the ability to hack into other people’s minds and rewrite them? Even Clara is astonished! The Doctor soon realizes that the short time that Clara was being uploaded, it was enough to impart her with some computer knowledge that he knows whoever is behind this won’t let her keep. It’s time to get into the TARDIS before an oncoming plane controlled by Miss Kizlet crashes into them!
After a harrowing experience in saving the plane from crashing, the Doctor takes Clara to breakfast. But no one is safe where there is Wi-Fi. While Clara works on pinpointing the origin of the hacks, Miss Kizlet decides to play with the Doctor and show him how she can control the people around him. She taunts him about her client needing living human minds and how he takes care of them but in reality is biding time until a Spoonhead looking like the Doctor can get close to Clara and re-upload her. This time, it’s successful and Clara becomes fully integrated into Miss Kizlet’s system.
As we all know, you should never make a Time Lord angry and the Doctor goes back on this motorcycle and heads to the Shard where Miss Kizlet is holding the minds hostage. Yes, at this point the glaring plot hole of how did the Doctor know that’s where she is located since Clara didn’t get a chance to tell her is screaming at me, buy hey, it’s ‘Doctor Who’ and I’m enjoying the episode so much so far, I can forgive this oversight.
The Doctor uses the anti-gravity mode of his motorcycle to ride up the side of the building and crashes into Miss Kizlet’s office. He demands that she download Clara back into her body but she refuses so the Doctor threatens to motivate her. When she laughs in his face at what she thinks is an empty threat, we soon find out the Doctor is really a Spoonhead who is being controlled by the Doctor back at the café! Who needs a Teselecta when a Spoonhead can work just as well?
The Spoonhead uploads Miss Kizlet’s mind who begins to demand that she be downloaded back into her body, but her minions decide, nah, not a good idea because that would mean they would have to download the entire cloud of living minds back. The Spoonhead Doctor then hacks into the consciousness of George who changes his mind and gives the order to return the minds to the bodies.
UNIT arrives to take over the Shard and Miss Kizlet lets it be known to her client what is happening. This is where we see that the client is…THE GREAT INTELLIGENCE!!! He has been controlling her all these years and tells her it is time to “reduce”. She hits the restore button and everyone, including her, reverts back to what they were before their minds were taken over by him. Miss Kizlet, we find, has been controlled by the Great Intelligence since she was a little girl.
The Doctor managed to divert the Great Intelligence’s once plans again but it still doesn’t solve the question about Clara. He returns to her home and does the “come away with me speech” but Clara (like Donna) declines. But unlike Donna, tells him to return and ask her again the next day as she may say yes to joining him in his “snog box”. And for the Doctor, the next day is only a few seconds away in the TARDIS…
What an excellent way to begin the second half of Season 7! It was a great set up for the next 7 episodes with the story arc involving the Great Intelligence and the mystery of Clara. Anyone else think that Clara may have something to do with the big baddie? After all, if he can control the minds of people and is an enemy of the Doctor, what better way to bring down his fall on the plains of Trensalore than to plant an unwitting companion? But then again, it is the mind of Moffat and so anything goes!
Also enjoyable are the little Easter eggs throughout the episode, particularly the book ‘Summer Falls’ which was written by an Amelia Williams (aka Amy Pond?). We know that Amy wrote the Melody Malone book. Who’s to say she didn’t write more? What other Easter eggs did you guys see?
Lastly, no more brooding Doctor! He’s back to the mad impossible man that we’ve come to know and love and if these 7 episodes are a set up to the 50th anniversary special episode, then we’re in for a wonderful wild ride.
So, what did you think of ‘The Bells of Saint John’? I would love to discuss your theories with you in the comments below!