“I don’t know where I am.”
Tonight Doctor Who fans tuned in to BBC for the mid-series 7 premiere, and after being introduced (for a third time) to the Doctor’s new companion, were thrown into a world in which wi-fi can’t be trusted. Acting as a street performer, riding a Triumph up the side of a building, preventing a plane crash, and saving human consciousness from being uploaded into a data cloud are all in a day’s work for the Doctor, and while a bit lacking in some areas, “The Bells of Saint John” is good old Doctor Who entertainment.
The episode picks up where “The Snowmen” left off, the Doctor hunting for Clara while masquerading as a monk in the year 1207. He is informed by his fellow monks that the “Bells of Saint John are ringing,” which humorously enough ends up being the phone of the TARDIS (a phone booth with a ringing phone–imagine that!). The caller turns out to be none other than the girl he is looking for, who is under the impression that she is calling an internet help line. But it’s when the Doctor traces her location with the TARDIS and finds her in person that the real trouble begins.
In “The Bells of Saint John,” the Doctor’s enemy is acting as a corporation, based in the Shard, that is attempting to upload human consciousness to a data cloud through the internet. Upon successful infiltration, the corporation cannot only control the user’s electronic devices, but can control the user’s actions, emotions, and thoughts through a relatively simple interface. The company is fronted by Miss Kizlet (Celia Imrie), who is later found to be a puppet of the “Great Intelligence,” a seemingly digital entity that has a craving for human minds. This Great Intelligence will almost surely make another appearance, as its identity and motives remain shrouded in mystery. Also: remember this? Clever boy, indeed.
We find 24-year-old Clara living as a nanny, not entirely sure what to do with her life following the death of her mother. As in the Christmas special, she has no memory of the Doctor, yet seems to be the same person, even while she may not have retained her memories. She has lived an entire life in this time stream, which serves to only further complicate the story of the mysterious souffle girl. The maple leaf that the Doctor finds in Clara’s book is something to watch out for, as it will likely play a significant role in unlocking her past.
The episode focuses more closely on the new duo’s quest to eradicate this new technocratic evil than the personal life of the newest companion. Still, we get a glimpse of the Doctor’s motorcycle-riding abilities as well as Clara’s newly
found downloaded tech skills, and there are plenty of lighthearted moments (can Matt Smith get any more adorable?). But again, there are more questions than answers that arise as a new enemy enters the fore, and we still are no closer to figuring out the mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald.
As always, I was impressed by the new episode, but found its substance falling short of the hype that preceded it. It’s flashy, and the admitted influence of Skyfall on Moffat’s writing is evident. It seemed short and sweet, and while Matt Smith’s and Jenna-Louise Coleman’s performances were fantastic (the pair definitely have chemistry), the baddies could have had a bit more depth. Though perhaps that was the point, seeing as they were all mindless robots anyway. Nevertheless, “The Bells of Saint John” served as an acceptable introduction for the modern Clara, and a springboard for any deeper story lines involving the “Great Intelligence” that the creators might want to utilize in the future.
The eighth episode of series 7, “The Rings of Akhaten,” is set to premiere next Saturday, April 6.