Doctor Who – The Bells of Saint John Review
Steven Moffat loves that little catchphrase that he wrote back in Season 3’s Blink. When Moffat writes, you get the sense that wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey will be involved at some point. (That or Weeping Angels.) With new companion Clara Oswald, we got our fair share of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey fun. There just wasn’t that same Moffat writing that we come to expect from his episodes in The Bells of Saint John.
After two-and-a-half series with Amy Pond along side, the Eleventh Doctor gets a new companion. We’ve met Clara Oswald twice before. Once in the seventh series premiere Asylum of the Daleks and again in The Snowmen Christmas special. She was a familiar sort of Moffat companion in that she was sharp and sassy. However, she seemed a bit more fun than Amy though I think that’s because she was willing to call out the Doctor on his various claims that a normal person wouldn’t take at face value. And it was nice to have a companion who wasn’t immediately whisked away on an adventure, though I think that she’s going to take up residency on the TARDIS sooner rather than later.
Anyway, my prediction for this episode was wrong. I figured that Moffat would turn Clara into the Doctor’s version of Kenny from South Park. I reckoned that she’d keep getting killed and the Doctor would actively search her out to discover her secret since she keeps dying and coming back. It seems as though the Doctor never really did much digging in this episode but I’d hazard that we’ll find out more as the season goes along.
As for this episode, it didn’t seem like what we expect of a Moffat episode. Apart from the Doctor knowing having met Clara twice before and her not remembering it, there wasn’t much time manipulation. There wasn’t a scary new enemy for the Doctor to face. Heck, the enemy felt a little borrowed from elements of Moffat’s Ten/Donna adventure Silence in the Library which saw people downloaded into statues by the library. That was here to an extent with the downloading machines being camouflaged as people. Granted, wasn’t a downloaded intelligence what we had with Clara in Asylum of the Daleks.
One Moffat trick that was in force was being scared of everyday things that previously wouldn’t have scared you. Now, he’s got you running scared of unsecured wi-fi networks with weird names. Say what you will about the Davies vs. Moffat fan argument, Moffat sure does write some uniquely fun and scary stuff.
Still, it was a fun episode. The Doctor and Clara sure looked like they were having a good time on this adventure. My problem is that it wasn’t the strongest new Who episode as a standalone experience. Presumably this will start building into a season-long arc with the big baddy being the Great Intelligence.
Next up for The Doctor and Clara is The Rings of Akhaten. It’s a new alien race in a new location for us. Either that or there are few gaps in my knowledge of the 50 years of Doctor Who lore. At the very least, this adventure does look visually similar to The Beast Below which was Amy’s first off-world adventure. Also of note is that this episode was written by Neil Cross who was the man behind the award-winning Luther. It’ll be interesting to see what another award-winning writer can do with The Doctor.