Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John Review

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By Will Barber – Taylor

The search for Clara brings the Doctor to London, 2013, where something deadly is waiting in the Wi-Fi.

The Bells are ringing! The Doctor is back in a new action packed episode; or so that is how it was advertised. The story is, rather like The Snowmen (The 2012 Christmas Special), a tad of a stop start affair. Like the Christmas Special, it has good moments but it also suffers from the same problem as that story suffered: the plot takes a backseat to characterisation. If this was a literary piece then that would be fine, however seeing as Doctor Who is a plot driven series then this is a great problem. Clara’s third reintroduction feels unnecessary seeing as we have seen the character two times before. Even if you are a new to the show, I’m sure you don’t need to be spoon-feed in such a way.

The plot is basic to the extremes: There are bad guys who want to take over the internet to feed off humanity. So because this is “bad and stuff” The Doctor and Clara must stop them. However, the way this is executed is messy to say the least. We have The Doctor in Cumbria as a monk (don’t ask, it looks nice) with a painting of Clara. The other monks inform the Timelord that The Bells of Saint John are ringing. The Doctor gets up and soon we are at the TARDIS. It turns out that the phone in the TARDIS is ringing. What is silly is the fact that even without the other sounds of the modern world, The Monks could not possibly hear the phone with the sea raging nearby and the fact it is several miles away. When we finally get to the present day, Clara is living as a Nanny to two children in a house in the middle of London.

After some hijinks with a Spoonhead, Clara then finds herself asleep in her bed. Accepting this, Clara then has a chat with The Doctor out of her window. Clara seems perfectly all right that The Doctor has put her in bed, been through her friend’s house and now has her laptop. Amy’s reaction to The Doctor in The Eleventh Hour is much more believable. When Amy finds him in her house she hits him with a cricket bat. Most people would do something similar, maybe not attack them with a cricket bat but at least try to defend themselves. Clara, on the other hand, is okay with the situation and is so happy that she flirts with The Doctor a few minutes later. This is, of course, a completely normal reaction to such a situation.

The Doctor and Clara then hop onto a motorbike to have a confrontation with the evil “bad guys who aren’t named”. Of course, the battle of wits doesn’t actually happen straight away, instead they have a coffee. Maybe you should get your priorities right, guys?  The episode then trundles along with Clara getting zapped again, The Doctor saving her, dialogue, blah, blah. By this point the audience is still interested but we have put all the little nagging plot holes to the back of our minds. The great annoyance in this section is that the international evil group, working for The Great Intelligence can’t stop its members, who are effectively puppets, from revealing their location on the internet. If Moffat could have added a “doh” sign above Celia Imrie’s head, I’m sure he would have.

However, when the episode has come to its end we realise there are some good points. The cinematography (when it isn’t CGIed) is  wonderful. The scenes filmed at the Cumbrian monastery are dark and atmospheric and add flavour to an otherwise bland episode. The acting isn’t bad either, Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman’s chemistry is as good as before and the supporting cast are interesting enough. Once again, the bad element and a major element at that, is the writing. It seems that the effort is not put in and the result is a sloppy mess. Moffat is coming off as the boy who could do better but isn’t for some reason. Hopefully, subsequent episodes will not be as fractured as this one.

Celia Imrie is wonderfully over the top as she breathes life into an otherwise dull part. She purrs like a Bond villain and her stand off against Smith’s Doctor is brilliant to watch. They match wits excellently as we see that she is the opposite of Smith’s Doctor, older, authoritative and serious. It is a shame that the character is then undermined by Moffat when she reverts to being a child at the end.

The Bells of Saint John may be a mess script wise but the acting, directing and even the music is just as good as we might expect. Once again, Mr Moffat has concocted a mediocre story. If only Moffat could regain the ability he had before then maybe his episodes would be utterly brilliant.

NEXT TIME: The Rings of Arkhaten

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One response to “Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John Review

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who: The Bells of St. John (2013) | An American View of British Science Fiction·

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