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The Bells of Saint John

ShowDoctor Who / Series VII / Episode 7
First Broadcast2013/03/31 - 19:30 (Link: ABC Details)
Related LinksDoctor Who Wiki Wikipedia
Previous EpisodeThe Snowmen
Next EpisodeThe Rings of Akhaten

A solid story to kick off the remainder of Series 7. In classic Doctor Who fashion, this episode takes something familiar, in this case, wi-fi, and makes it something to be feared. We're also re-introduced to Clara Oswald in her third (?) incarnation. All up, a pretty good episode.

The story begins with a warning. Stay away from certain wi-fi networks or you'll end up not knowing where you are. And seemingly uploaded into some sort of intelligence database run by a Miss Kizlet. We then go back in time to a monastery and a monk raising the alarm over the ringing of the bells of Saint John.

The abbott realises they have to tell "him", not a "mad monk", but a man who has retreated to a place of solitude to ponder the meaning of the woman twice dead. The monk turns out to be the Doctor of course and the woman is Clara. In a nice plot point, the bells of Saint John turn out to be the ringing of the TARDIS' phone, next to the Saint John's Ambulance plate.

Incredibly Clara has called a technical support line and got through to the Doctor. Oddly, it seems she has no computer skills and got the number from "a lady in the shop". It's for the best help line in the Universe. The Doctor, not realising who the caller is, begrudgingly helps, until Clara tells him the mnemonic she uses to remember her wi-fi password, "Run you clever boy, and remember". The Doctor then races off to find her.

Back in the 21st century, Clara does not recognise the Doctor. Nor is her middle name Oswin. She refuses to let the Doctor in. Meanwhile the evil entity at the heart of the story, latches onto Clara and tries to upload her. The Doctor, having changed into a familiar, but new, costume, rescues her. And sends a message to the uploaders: "Under my protection". Miss Kizlet speaks with her "client" and tells him that one he warned her about is here.

We then have a regulation battle between the Doctor and his enemy with some cool, anti-grav motorbike riding thrown in. We find that Clara has ninja computer skills now, spliced in during her upload. The enemy controls many people via the wi-fi. Once they're uploaded various aspects of their mind are controlled through an iPad app. While they hack humans, the Doctor hacks the technology and uses the enemy's own mobile, wi-fi base station against it to defeat it. UNIT storms in to save the day. The enemy is revealed to be Great Intelligence. It bails out and releases the humans under its control, who revert to the time before they were uploaded. In Miss Kizlet's case, a young girl.

The Doctor shows Clara the TARDIS, but she is unimpressed by it or his routine. She seems to think it's simply a lure for young women and refers to the TARDIS by the delightful term "snog box". The Doctor asks her to come with him, but she declines. But she does ask him to ask her again tomorrow.

Interesting Bits:

  • Who was the woman in the book shop with the phone number for the help line? Sally Sparrow perhaps?
  • The Doctor's love for Jammy Dodgers appears again
  • Clara's hack to find the location of the enemy was a very clever bit of social engineering, probably the best way to break into well defended systems
  • The Great Intelligence, again played by Richard E. Grant, is back. From its point of view it has encountered the Doctor twice (as the 2nd Doctor) since the events of The Snowmen.
  • Both the monk and the Great Intelligence are aware that Clara is the woman twice dead. How? And what is this all about? No doubt this is the major story arc for the remainder of this series.

Clara:

  • Has a journal with her ages listed at the front. Two are skipped. Why?
  • Why is a leaf "page one" of this journal (over and above paper being made from trees)?
  • Do the advanced computer skills Clara now has, relate to her skills in The Asylum of the Daleks?
  • In all three appearances:
    • Is very smart (even for her time)
    • Looks after children: junior entertainment officer, governess and nanny
    • Has a similar, but different, name
  • Oswin is a name she creates from Oswald FTW

The book that features in this episode, Summer Falls:

  • is written by Amelia Williams, Amy's married name
  • "the 11th [chapter] is the best" is a clever reference to this Doctor
  • refers to a season, as does Winter Quay
  • is actually a book in real life and the 11th chapter even contains a sad moment