Monday, 1 July 2013

The Bells Of Saint John

Originally Broadcast 30th March 2013

Written By: Steven Moffat

In a nutshell: The Doctor is going mad in his search for the impossible girl, Clara Oswald. Meanwhile, someone is hacking people through the wi-fi.

Prequel Review: There’s something really nice about this prequel. It’s the right length, it showcases how cool Matt’s Doctor is with kids and it really does have a wonderful script. It’s faultless on everything except the fact the little girl (who is a fantastic actor) turns out to be Clara. It was obvious from the start but I didn’t want it to be true because we did this story with Amy. Otherwise, a fantastic beginning to this half-series!

Episode Review: It’s always interesting to see the ways Steven Moffat is trying to develop Doctor Who and here it’s by putting wi-fi signs and computer language over the screen in a way similar to Sherlock’s text messages. It works for this episode and as for the pre-titles itself, it’s greatly creepy with our introducer being one of the ‘captured’, a twist I’m used to Moffat taking an episode or thirty minutes to get to in the past, but uses here in the first two minutes to great effect as it hurtles us into the opening titles.

I absolutely LOVE where we find the Doctor at the start of this episode, it certainly feels like a long time since the Christmas special and the Doctor has gone mad over Clara or, rather, the lack of her. We’re hurtled into Clara’s world and I don’t like it. Angie is the most annoying character ever, she’s like a bad stereotype of adults’ writing of children but the Amelia Williams book! Oh, very nice touch. The titular Bells Of Saint John is brilliantly clever as is the way the two characters are brought together over the phone with funny lines about the time zones.

The duo finally meet and there’s a really nice chemistry between the two, it’s obvious from the moment they’re on the phone together and now in the flesh it’s even better! Moffat has his bit of fun playing with the Doctor Who line before we meet the people behind the wi-fi and it’s only bloody Celia Imrie! I love her! She’s great and carries a strong presence on screen. She talks of hacking people which is scary. I think it’s one of the greatest modern twists that has been used in the show since it came back to our screens in 2005.

What is it with this show finding brilliant young actors? The Spoonhead disguised as the girl from the book is fantastically creepy and speaks like she’s trying to learn the human language before she attacks Clara. There’s so much strong material here it’s impossible to comment on it all! There’s the Doctor’s change from monk to sensible clothes, his talk of not losing Clara again and, best of all, Murray Gold’s ability to even make typing on a computer sound like the best and most exciting thing in the universe! This moves onto the Doctor caring for Clara and putting out some Jammie dodgers for her and licking a leaf he finds in her book. These tiny little touches are the things that makes Matt the best Doctor and why the show will be losing a powerful actor at Christmas.

Even if we hadn’t met her twice before, Clara is clearly companion material. Look at the ease in which she talks to the Doctor about the alien wi-fi without acting like it’s odd but then I love how she’s so reluctant to accept the TARDIS. It’s like she’s so in tone with the Doctor in one sense but not another. The line about the people switching on the lights but the wi-fi is switching on the people is spooky. These are the kind of ideas that Moffat could dream up before he turned into the show runner and I’m glad he’s back on form now.

The direction of the scene to get from outside Clara’s house onto the plane is seamless. That’s two episodes in a row where there’s been a beautiful shot to get us into the TARDIS and it’s something I’ll never get tired of! Something else I always enjoy, speeches from the Doctor that detail his age, his race and his inability to fly a plane. And the fact Clara still has her teacup…so brilliantly British!

Now it’s time for my favourite scene of the episode; the Doctor and Clara riding through London on a motorbike! It’s just the spirit of the two actors teamed with that wonderful score and those fantastic locations. It all works so greatly before it’s rudely interrupted by Celia Imrie and co with the chilling announcement of London having so many cameras.

I always get a bit bored when people type incessantly fast on a keyboard and it’s classed as entertainment. It’s the same here with Clara typing on her laptop as the Doctor is freaked out inside the coffee shop. I think this scene is the dull part of the episode. I can see how it could be needed to expand on how deadly the control of the wi-fi is, but it isn’t anywhere near as atmospheric as the rest of the episode or as fun. The dialogue still flows with ease on the ears but something about it just doesn’t feel right. One silly thing about this episode – the bad guys still use bebo!?!?! It does lead to one of the big surprises of the episode though, as the Spoonhead-Doctor turns up and uploads Clara. I didn’t see that one coming!

The Great Intelligence!

Everything from here on in is just magical. Murray Gold should score every computer-typing and motorbike riding scene in the history of television as I could watch Matt Smith doing these all day to that music. He really does his job to perfection on this episode and the anti-grav Olympics are genius as is the idea the Doctor came last. I like that he doesn’t always get it or always win and with Matt’s Doctor it’s very fitting he can’t do everything as he’s a tad clumsy. Moff gets to round off his brilliantly clever modern day take on technology with the Doctor’s line about being old fashioned by hacking technology and not people teamed with another great twist with the Doctor still being in the cafĂ©.

UNIT arrive and it’s time for our scarily brilliant final twist as Richard E. Grant turns up as the Great Intelligence! Yet another twist I didn’t see coming, I feel like I’ve been blind through this episode. I like the line about UNIT being very old acquaintances of the GI’s linking us back to The Web Of Fear. There’s also a nice moment as Imrie’s character turns out to have the mind of a child. It’s a great scene to get us to feel pity and remorse for her and it shows how strong an actress she is where she can be evil for forty minutes then flip it and make us feel sorry for her.

We get our final scene which is between the Doctor and Clara in the TARDIS talking about her one-hundred-and-one places to see, it’s heart warming how the Doctor is wearing Amy Pond’s old glasses, showing they’re not truly forgotten. And I love the poignancy of the leaf and the line of dialogue it brings at the close of the episode.

Overall I think it’s a strong and fulfilling opening episode to the golden anniversary of Doctor Who. It’s full of magical lines and strong memorable scenes and kicks us off with a bang! If all the episodes stand up to this then it’ll be a great series of Who. I also like the team of Matt and Jenna, who work so brilliantly together, but Matt Smith just knows a scary amount about the show here and you feel he can act with anything and it’d come off as being amazing and incredible, he just seems to walk through this episode and make it look easy. His incarnation is so good and his acting even more superior. Roll on next weeks episode I say!

What a team!

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