Saturday, April 13, 2013

Doctor Who Review: The Bells of Saint John

I found "The Bells of Saint John" to be entertaining and satisfying as both a (semi)series opener and as the first episode of a new companion. In the big mystery behind Clara we get a little bit of information that spawns many new questions. Set in modern day London this episode explores how connected we as people are to wifi. It opens with a warning against an odd wifi name and the dangers that can come from selecting these symbols. They can see you, they take you and trap your soul by uploading it, and your body eventually dies. We see a wall of screens with faces and we realize the warning is coming from someone trapped in the wifi already.

It looks like they are going to stick with a brushed metal type finish to the letters of the logo, and after the titles, begin the scene by going through the opening TARDIS doors, which I like. This one opens in 1207 Cumbria, where The Doctor is staying with monks. They come to tell him the bells of saint john are ringing. As he readies himself to go, we see a painting of Clara from "The Snowmen" with her final words "Run you clever boy, and remember" The monks seem to know of her as the girl twice dead, and to decipher the meaning behind her last words is why The Doctor has withdrawn to the monastery. I was so excited to find out what the bells were, the TARDIS exterior phone ringing. The monks were using the name of the Saint John's Ambulance symbol on the TARDIS door.

Now this whole time we have also been seeing Clara trying to connect with a help line for the internet. She seems to be once again watching children with a single father. The younger has a book called "Summer Falls", curiously authored by Amelia Williams. The boy tells Clara he is on chapter ten and she says, "chapter eleven is the best, you'll cry your eyes out." Is there meaning here in reference to the 10th and 11th Doctors? There is interesting speculation of a Rose connection with Clara, especially with Billie Piper coming back. Oswin wore a rose in her hair, Clara in "The Snowmen" worked at the rose and crown pub, and you'll see more references later and in the next 2 episodes.

The TARDIS is in a crypt(?) somewhere near the monastery and when he answers who is on the other line? Clara, whose been on hold this whole time waiting for him to pick up! He doesn't realize it's her and she's just looking for internet help. When The Doctor asks where she got the phone number she tells him some woman in a shop said it was the best help line in the universe. Could it be Rose? Or River? River is coming back for the finale. The Doctor tries to help her, and we see she knows nothing about computers. When she gets the password, rycbar123, she says aloud the mnemonic device to remember it "Run you clever boy and remember" which immediately stops The Doctor in his tracks. I don't know if this means anything, but she typed "1" and they showed Oswin, then she typed "2" and you see Victorian Clara, and when The Doctor blurts out "What did you say" she, instead of hitting "3", accidentally hit "4" and they show this Clara. But then she clicks the strange symbol on the wifi and we can see her face on the wall of screens, and see her turn away from the screen and walk off...

... to answer the door where The Doctor has arrived already. That cracked me up. They do the "Doctor Who, Doctor who?" things and when he says her name "Clara Oswin Oswald" she says it's just Clara Oswald and asks what that middle one was. Then finally we get a glimpse of the group behind this in their fancy offices. They seem to like Clara, wanting to upload her and splice her with a computer skills package. Send for the server, or "Spoonhead." The group is preserving minds in the cloud for their mysterious client. The head of the group, Ms. Kizlet, shows the control they have by adjusting qualities on her employees via her tablet, creating more obedience or less conscience and so on.

Meanwhile, Clara thinks The Doctor is crazy and won't talk to him. She hears a noise upstairs. An oddly familiar girl comes down the stairs and after strangely blank responses her head begins to turn and we see our first Spoonhead. Pretty cool effect and very creepy. The back of the head is concave with circuits and a beam to upload their victims souls. Oh, and it was the girl from the book cover earlier. The Doctor changes clothes (love the waistcoat) and finds Clara incapacitated, but calling out confused from the Spoonhead. The Doctor stops the upload (crazy fast typing skills), to the surprise of Ms.  Kizlet. When she finds out who he is she alerts the client that The Doctor had arrived as was warned.

The Doctor has put Clara to bed and is setting things up for her like a glass of water and some flowers (ROSES) and sees a book of hers "101 Places to See" that she has had since the age of 9. Every age is marked out but two are missing, 16 and 23. 24 is the oldest age. There is also a leaf in the front that The Doctor gives a good sniffing then a lick. He looked a bit confused as he placed the leaf back. There's going to be more to this next episode. The leaf was a Norwegian Maple. Norway is where Bad Wolf Bay was.

Clara wakes up, doesn't remember what happened, sees The Doctor camped outside guarding her, he suggests sleep but she joins him with a cup of tea. Ms. Kizlet sees the TARDIS in a view of Clara's house. They still want her. She increases the IQ of a worker on her tablet to devise a plan of attack. The Doctor explains the wifi problem, having worked some of it out, and Clara makes a Twitter joke which alerts him that Clara is suddenly computer savvy. The Doctor sees a Spoonhead (or walking wifi base station) and tries to get Clara in the TARDIS, which leads to a comical exchange where she wonders if it's his snog box. But something new has started. All the lights on the street are coming on. Then all the lights of the surrounding town start to go out. Then they see the plane coming towards them, in the middle of a lit target. IN THE BOX, a very quick bigger on the inside as Clara stumbles around amazed, not letting go of that tea cup. Shocked The Doctor is going out, Clara is even more shocked when the doors open to reveal they are in fact inside the airplane, where all passengers are asleep. . "It's all very sciency" explains The Doctor as they struggle their way to the cockpit. After pleas for explanation The Doctor reveals to Clara he is an alien with two hearts who is 1000 years old but can't fly a plane. Together they raise the plane to an upright position and The Doctor switches off the wifi allowing the crew to resume control. The Doctor snatches a dazed Clara, still holding that tea cup, away.

Quick scene of Ms. Kizlet confused at the TARDIS' disappearance. In the TARDIS, Clara wants more explanations and can't wait until the suggested breakfast discussion, again getting surprised when the door opens to reveal morning. We can see The Doctor popping down another hall of the TARDIS on his way to the garage, soon he comes out riding a motorcycle. Now a nice little spring zoom around London on motorbike. People taking pictures have alerted Ms Kizlet to the TARDIS' whereabouts as well as Clara's.

The Doctor can't hack the system to find out where these people are. He learns Clara has been watching the children about a year, since their mother died. Also a year for Oswin in "Asylum of the Daleks", and a year as governess in "The Snowmen". Clara notices how The Doctor keeps looking at her. She says she can hack in and get the location. In the coffee shop, The Doctor can't get coffee because Ms. Kizlet keeps talking to him through the people there, telling him he has no hope of saving Clara, so he goes to check on her. Meanwhile Clara just needs a password to set up what shes setting up. She says aloud "Oswald for the win" Then, "Oswin!" Again this jars The Doctor, and he goes back to the shop.

Clara uses the webcams of the workers at the, I don't even know what to call it. Organization? Anyway, she snaps all their pics and uses a face matching software to find them on social media, leading her to their work location, The Shard building in London. Clara tells The Doctor when he returns but it's actually a spoonhead and she gets properly uploaded this time. The real Doctor finds The Doctor spoonhead with Clara's face in it and aims his sonic screwdriver.

Ms Kizlet and company discuss Clara being fully integrated and how she can't be downloaded now, and also that The Doctor is coming, on the motorbike. Speaking through a bum, Ms Kizlet scoffs at The Doctor's attempt to enter the building. He shows her his motorcycle he rode in the anti-grav Olympics of 2074, where he came in last. But she tells him the building is on lock-down and he says wonderfully, "did you even hear the word anti-grav?" He hits a big button and zooms off and up the side of the Shard, crashing into Ms. Kizlet's office. He tells her to download Clara. She says they'd have to download the whole cloud and many have no bodies to go to. He then motivates her by revealing he never came, but sent the spoonhead, which hoovered Ms. Kizmet right up. The Doctor spoonhead then uses Kizlet's tablet to increase her aide's obedience to 100, so when her face on the wall of screened faces calls out to download her, he obeys and they all go back, but some to death. Still, better than frozen on that wall.

Then something funny happens. UNIT comes to secure the building, but nobody knows who UNIT are. Even Ms. Kizlet tells the client they must be friends of The Doctor. The client confirms because he does know UNIT.  The client ends up being The Great Intelligence again, this time using Simeon's face on the screen. He withdraws from their minds and she is reverted back to before he had control of her, a scared little girl looking for her mummy and daddy.

The Doctor shows up at Clara's. She comes in. Talks about how she was going to travel when she came here and their mother died. The Doctor says it's a time machine, they can always get back in time for anything and still see all of time and space out those doors, which cracks Clara up. She asks if his little act works to get people in his snogging booth. She says to ask her again tomorrow, then she might say yes. Before she goes he asks about the leaf she has in the book. She tells him it isn't a leaf, it's page one. The Doctor does look a bit confused at that. I hope so because I kind of am, especially given what happens in the next episode.

Up next, "The Rings of Akhaten"

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