In which the Doctor continues to isolate himself from the world, but this time at a remote monastery in 13th Century Cumbria. Here he has been dwelling on the mystery of Clara - the woman whom he has met and seen die twice, at different points in history. One day, the monks come to see him and notify him that the "Bells of St John" are ringing. This is the TARDIS' door mounted telephone - the monks having seen the St John Ambulance badge on the door beside it. The Doctor is surprised, as no-one should have that number. He answers and finds himself talking to a young woman in 2013, who was given this number by a woman in a computer shop. She wants to know how to get on to the Wi-Fi.
Intrigued, the Doctor pilots the TARDIS to her location - a suburban house in North London. He discovers that the young woman is none other than Clara Oswald, who is a live-in au pair for a couple of children - Angie and Artie. She shows no signs of recognising him. She has found a way onto the Wi-Fi via a strange symbol on her computer. The children are at a school, so she is surprised to see a girl appear in the house. What is more bizarre is that she is identical to the girl on the cover of the book which she has borrowed from Angie. The girl's head revolves, revealing that she is robotic in nature.
Across London, in a large office, Miss Kizlet and her team have been harvesting people via the internet. All across the globe, people have vanished after logging onto the Wi-Fi using the symbol Clara used - their minds downloaded to the cloud. The Doctor manages to access the house and stops Clara suffering the same fate, breaking the connection before she can be downloaded.
The Doctor camps outside the house as he investigates the robot, which he identifies as a mobile server.
At her office, Miss Kizlet endeavours to trace the Doctor, using other mobile servers (which the Doctor calls Spoonheads due to the shape of their heads). He and Clara see large areas of the city plunged into darkness, then notice an airliner heading straight for them on a collision course.
The Doctor takes Clara into the TARDIS and they travel to the aircraft, where all the passengers and crew are comatose. Miss Kizlet has an app on her tablet which can affect how people think and behave. The Doctor manages to steer the airliner off its collision course, and Miss Kizlet wakes everyone up again - needing to find an alternative plan to foil the Doctor and to trap Clara. The client she works for is particularly keen to have her in the cloud they have created.
When the TARDIS materialises, Clara is surprised to find that it is no longer night but broad daylight, and they are on the South Bank by the Thames. The Doctor emerges from the ship on a motorbike, and he and Clara head for the City to trace their attackers base of operations.
At a rooftop restaurant, Clara is attacked by a Spoonhead which has been made to resemble the Doctor, after discovering that Miss Kizlet is based at the Shard, the city's latest landmark, at London Bridge.
Clara is downloaded. The Doctor takes to his motorbike and goes to the Shard - driving the machine up its glass walls to Miss Kizlet's office.
Miss Kizlet thinks she can overpower him, but is shocked to discover that he has reprogrammed the Spoonhead copy of himself and sent it to the Shard. He is still back at the restaurant. He has Miss Kizlet uploaded to the cloud. She is forced to order her staff to free all the minds from the cloud.
She contacts her client to explain that they have failed, but he has already been sated. He is the Great Intelligence, still using the likeness of Dr Simeon. He elects to abandon the project, and has her reset everyone who has been affected by her app, as UNIT troops storm the offices. They find Miss Kizlet alone in her office, with the mind of a child - the age she was when first taken over by the Intelligence.
None of her staff know how they got there either, her deputy - Mahler - claiming the last thing he remembers was coming to fix something.
Back at her house, the Doctor offers Clara the chance to travel with him, but she defers the decision to another day. The Doctor decides to persevere, so that he can find out who this impossible girl really is...
The Bells of Saint John was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on 30th March, 2013.
It marked the beginning of the second half of Series 7, and is the first story to feature the version of Clara who will actually be the Doctor's new companion, other than the brief scene at the end of the 2012 Christmas Special. Like the Victorian version we saw in that, Clara looks after children.
This story also follows The Snowmen in that it once again has the Great Intelligence as the main villain, though we only find this out at the conclusion of the story. It is once more portrayed by Richard E Grant.
The Intelligence has another new mobile weapon, following the Yeti and the Snowmen. These are the Spoonheads - disguised robotic computer servers with concave craniums, hence the name.
Back in the early 1970's Robert Holmes had sought to make everyday objects frightening for the younger viewers - to the point that producer Barry Letts got into trouble with police and politicians over it. Moffat has taken on the mantle of the new Robert Holmes - also seeking to make the everyday scary, when he is not plundering traditional childhood fears for his stories.
In this instance he has used Wi-Fi as the weapon which is being used against the human race. When Victor Pemberton adapted his radio series The Slide to become Fury From The Deep, he changed the intelligent mud into North Sea gas - on the basis that here was a medium for the monsters to use which was increasingly present in everybody's home. When this story was written, people were increasingly turning away from the ethernet broadband connection to Wi-Fi, and were uploading their photos, music and videos to cloud hosting services.
It has been pointed out that there are certain similarities between this story and The Idiot's Lantern, in that a disembodied entity wants to consume people who have been uploaded to some recently introduced popular technology, new to people's homes.
The episode had a fairly slight prequel. The Doctor is looking for Clara and ends up at a children's playground. Sitting on a swing he gets chatting to a girl - unaware that this is the young Clara.
Other than Richard E Grant's brief reappearance, the only guest artist worth mentioning is Celia Imrie, who portrays Miss Kizlet. Owing to the story having to properly introduce Clara, it is practically a three-hander. One of Imrie's first big TV roles was in the Doctor Who-ish The Nightmare Man, written by Robert Holmes and directed by Douglas Camfield. It could almost be a Doctor-free UNIT story. Since then she has gone on to many film and TV roles - from Scottish sitcom Still Game to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. She is particularly well known for her regular appearances opposite the late Victoria Wood. Kizlet's assistant, Mahler, is played by Robert Whitelock.
This episode also introduces the two children Clara looks after - Artie and Angie. He is played by Kassius Carey Johnson, and she by Eve De Leon Allen. They'll return later in the series.
Overall, it is a fairly good start to the second half of the season, reminiscent of Russell T Davies' present day companion introduction stories. Whilst they tended to be stand alone tales, this one is part of a much bigger story arc - what with this being the first story of the 50th Anniversary year and all. (We will have a longer wait to find out who the woman in the shop was, who gave Clara the Doctor's number). There is some nice topical humour in the mix (such as the London riots being caused by Kizlet's app, and people mistaking the real Police Box at Earls Court for the TARDIS).
Things you might like to know:
- The TARDIS has a garage somewhere in its depths. We'd previously seen the Tenth Doctor ride a Lambretta out of the ship (in The Idiot's Lantern) although he left that behind in the London of 1953. The bike the Doctor has here is fitted with anti-grav, and he tells Kizlet that he participated in the Anti-Grav Olympics of 2074.
- The bow-tie which the Doctor puts on after changing out of his monk's habit is one that was worn by Patrick Troughton.
- The Doctor wears a new costume - with a longer purple jacket. We see him discard his old costume in favour of this one - the last time we'll see it until he rejuvenates prior to regenerating.
- The Wi-Fi password for the Maitland family is RYCBAR123 - Run You Clever Boy And Remember. This was the phrase spoken by both the previous versions of Clara the Doctor had encountered, and was what made him realise that they might be the same person (as he never actually saw the Clara from the Dalek Asylum). The 123 refers to this being the third iteration of Clara.
- Fans thought that Clara omitting her height between ages 16 - 23, recorded in her mother's book, was going to be significant. It wasn't.
- The pressed leaf held between the pages of the book, which we'll see more of next time, was originally going to be a sheet of passport photographs. It's a travel book, and Clara was about to go on a round the world trip when Mrs Maitland died. She cancelled her trip to help look after the children.
- The book whose cover seems to come to life is Summer Falls, by Amelia Williams (AKA Amy Pond).
- For the remainder of Series 7 the opening logo remains constant, and is no longer personalised for each story.
- The Doctor mentions a dislike for monks. This might be a reference to his recent encounters with the Headless Monks, or going further back to his Time Lord foe the Meddling Monk.
- The opening scene of the story is of a man named Nabile, who has been trapped in the cloud. This was a reshoot using another actor to the one who originally shot the scene. That was Fady Elsayed, who will feature soon as a regular on the Doctor Who spin-off Class.