Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Bells of Saint John - initial musings...

As always - best not to read any further until after you have seen the episode yourself, though I've tried to avoid overt spoilers....

First of all, that title. One of the most tangential, irrelevant story titles we've ever come across. Significant only in that they bring the Doctor and Clara together. The woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor's number is obviously River Song, as we already know she features in the finale in which the mystery of Clara is revealed. Her mum was also referenced in the book we saw - "Summer Falls", written by Amelia Williams. (Apparently this is going to be released as an e-book by the BBC on 4th April).
The monks featured prominently in the Christmas trailer, but proved simply to be a bit of background as to what the Doctor has been up to since The Snowmen.
As it is an introduction to a new character, there is quite a bit of time expended in introducing the contemporary Clara and setting up the threat. The pre-credits sequence luckily gets the audience up to speed on what that threat is, thanks to someone basically telling us.
The villains rather stupidly give Clara IT knowledge, which she subsequently uses to track them down. This at least helps move the story along as we only have 45 minutes - and there is all that introductory stuff to squeeze in.

I wouldn't say it was the most original of stories. The people being absorbed, trapped in an electronic limbo, was reminiscent of the Wire in The Idiot's Lantern - which also featured the Doctor driving a bike out of the TARDIS. The revolving heads of the Spoonheads recalled the Smilers in The Beast Below. The TARDIS telephone ringing has been used once before as well - and by Moffat - in The Empty Child. There was also the use of the Spoonhead Doctor to infiltrate the enemy base - which made me think of the Tesselecta. There were shades of Matron Cofelia / Miss Foster in Miss Kizlet. And of course the alien intelligence had already tried to use the internet to attack mankind in the unofficial production Downtime.
The true enemy behind the scenes I might have guessed at - though I didn't need to bother due to it being leaked by the BBC themselves earlier in the week.
I loved the Earls Court joke - but does everyone know there is a real Police Box outside the underground station?
Also liked the way the BBC ident was incorporated into the start of the story - something I'm not sure anyone outside the UK will get to experience.

Overall, a good (half-) series opener - but not a great one. The actual substance of the plot is a bit thin and resolved all too quickly. We don't learn anything yet of who - or what - Clara is. I've said I thought the woman in the shop was River - but it could easily be someone like Madam Kovarian and Clara is some kind of a trap for the Doctor. Then again, that would just be River all over again.
What was the thing about the leaf? "It's not a leaf. It's the first page..." Didn't quite get that. Leaf as in leaf of a book?
I will give The Bells of Saint John another viewing tomorrow, and report back on any further musings in due course...

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