Back to top

Doctor Who "The Bells of St. John" Review

Posted By: Matt McGloin
Sat, 03/30/2013 - 22:10




I’m having to be very cautious typing this while I look at the net. You see I could end up being uploaded – trapped on the web for all eternity having to share dataspace with the editor of Nova while my mindless body lies still gathering cobwebs. Ignoring the warnings of that poor chap on You Tube. Okay, it’s not likely to happen – but as season openers go this was a good start; a contemporary urban thriller with a very scary premise and Jenna-Louise Coleman.

It’s very tricky introducing a new companion after the last incumbents of the Tardis were so popular. More so when you’ve got to do it three times over. Yet here we have Modern Clara; child-minding her friends kids because their mom passed away; good at computers, having a book written by Amy Pond and wanting to travel the world and beyond. I liked the idea how Moffat got the ball rolling with the interaction between the Doctor and his new companion to be. Phoning him in the 12th Century – a metaphor I think of how us Brits have utter contempt for foreign call centres when our internet connection breaks down due to a glitch in the ether. 

It was splendid how after the Spoonhead (mobile base station) attacked Clara and the Doctor reversed the process with a flick of that ever present sonic screwdriver - he decided to stay with her until she recovered - bringing her flowers and a half-eaten jammy dodger. Wasn’t that cosy? So, too, camping outside her house, inventing the quadricycle – then rushing off in the Tardis to land a 747 from crashing down.

We were promised some James Bondian moments in this episode and the plane scene was great. Off course, Daniel Craig would of handled it better, but even he would’ve struggled using an antigrav Triumph motorcycle up the side of the Shard!

With the new look Tardis we got a proper look at the new Doctor’s clothes – well in the flesh as the costume actually made its debut in the present comic strip “Hunters of the Burning Stone” in Doctor Who Magazine three months back! And yes, the fez had a double appearance as well. Fez’s are still cool. It’s a pity it won’t crop up in the "Rings of Akahaten" – it’ll be right at home there alongside the Mummy!

The villains in this story were quite good. I had slight worries the Spoonheads were going to be another joke like the antibodies from "Lets Kill Hitler" – yet the effects of the half-scooped craniums of uploaded victims of the Client were handled brilliantly – as, too, the use of graphics and scrawling visuals often seen in Mofatt’s other series Sherlock. In fact, at one point I expected Benedict Cumberbatch to pop up, but as we suspected, we got Richard E. Grant returning as The Great Intelligence - now at home in the internet watching every move we make - a great way to bring the Great Old One into the modern age. Celia Imrie was also great as Ms. Kizlet, and the revelation at the end that she was really a child when then Intelligence took her over was quite a curve.

The only negatives are two:

One: Plot wise it’s a re-hash of "The Idiot’s Lantern" – wi-fi menace instead of radio menace, and Two: An extra 15 minutes could have let the story breathe a lot more as there was quite a lot to cram into a 45 minute slot.

With the Great Intelligence still out there – the Doctor unaware of its presence – I think I can safely say it’ll be back later on. For now, most fans will want to share space with Clara in the “snog-box” for the next seven weeks. I know I would. However – a mystery to ponder – who was the mysterious woman who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? And did you all guess what the bell of St. John was? 

Head on over here for a pair of previews to the next episode of Doctor Who, "Rings Of Akhaten."