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01 April 2013 @ 11:31 am
The Bells of St. John  
I liked it. It reminded me of Rose in a lot of ways, in that the story was focused upon the journey of the companion rather than on the plot itself. I liked the new companion though, and I thought Celia Imrie was excellent and since one of other of them was in pretty much every scene, I was happily entertained.

I am actually surprised, in retrospect, that New Who hasn't made milage out of the Great Intelligence and the World Wide Web before. If ever there was a classic Who monster/villain which could have been made to exploit the internet the Great Intelligence is it - its never adequately explained interest in covering in the London Underground in cobwebs is just the icing on the cake from a thematic point of view. No Yeti though *sadface*. I was prepared to forgive the lack of Yeti in The Snowmen since they had real snowmen to make up for the lack of abominable ones, but really there was no excuse here, though I suppose a cameo appearance of the Yeti on the sidelines somewhere would probably have given the game away too soon, at least to fans of the classic series.

Did I mention how wonderful Celia Imrie was? I loved the fine line she walked between villainy, practicality and a kind of sympathetic vulnerability. This wasn't a villain who blamed her henchmen for failures, which was a nice change. You got the impression she would have been a good person to work for, a tendency to get HR to bump you off notwithstanding. I also thought she did a good job of conveying someone who's personality was half hijacked by something else, without resorting to dramatic shifts in expression and delivery.

While we still don't know what the "secret" of Clara is, we do now know where her mad computer skills come from and that suggests a direct link between this Clara and the Oswin of Asylum of the Daleks (ruling out, I think, ancestor/descendent and clone type theories - and the little girl from Silence in the Library which was popular on the internet last week). Since we have an undefeated villain who can upload, dowload and, presumably, copy human personalities I'm prepared to bet that the analogy of a human personality/soul as a program that runs on a human body machine, is going to be a key point in unravelling her identity. I was dubious about the "has no computer skills" set up at the start of the episode. I find it hard to imagine a "genius level" person in modern Britain who hasn't even heard of twitter. It was one of those moments were characters are being warped in order to further the plot and those always irritate me. I should probably also add that much as I like Clara as an individual, she's really not that disimilar to Amy from the point of view of Doctor Who companions alone, let alone a wider view of diversity in modern Britain. It would have been nice to have a companion who was a bit more of a contrast to her immediate predecessor.

While I'm on negative points, the entire set-up of mysterious wifi links, mobile base stations, control of anyone who has ever used wifi, the hacked employees at The Shard, and the personality cloud doesn't really hold together in any logical fashion (or at the best was inadequately explained). So I'm not going to think about it too carefully.

I'm in two minds about titling an episode over a joke that happens in the first five minutes (albeit a nice joke). I assume, given Moffat's predilection for the timey-wimey, someone (my money is on either Clara herself or River, though Idris/Tardis is an outside contender) is going to go back to be the woman in the shop who gives Clara the number to phone. So it is possible that The Bells of St. John may turn out to have deeper significance as the season plays out, and I suppose they do forge the link between the Doctor and Clara and, as I said, this episode was clearly all about Clara. Maybe it works.

I was very `meh' about Rose when it first aired but have come to appreciate it a lot more in retrospect. While very different in lots of ways, in particular The Bells of St. John has no need to present Clara as an everyman, who can stand in for an audience encountering the Doctor for the first time, I think the similarities are important. We have a very linear plot that in many ways is secondary to the actual story being told. The Doctor Who type plot (a villain, with a villainous plan, that the Doctor defeats) is really peripheral and largely a distraction. In this case the story isn't just about the companion, since I think there is good reason to suppose it is also introducing us to an ongoing villain and its modus operandi. The contrasts between Rose and The Bells of St. John may also be instructive. Clara absolutely isn't an everyman figure and her grounding in the domestic is far less explicit than Rose's was. Time (and viewing figures) will show us how well the audience responds to a companion explicity has magical skills the rest of us do not possess.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/94161.html.
reggietate: river-doctorreggietate on April 1st, 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
I found it largely enjoyable, but I did think it unlikely that anyone of Clara's age would be that ignorant of computers, which suggests there's definitely more to it (apart from the whole being Oswin/the governess thing). I definitely suspect the title will have more significance, too, in later eps.

Wasn't entirely sold on the new version of the theme and credits, though I liked the echoes of the original theme.

Clara seems to come without too much in the way of family baggage, which I must say I like. Time to get away from that - and away from Earth if at all possible. I think it's past time the Doctor left Earth to fend for itself for a while, and got back to roaming the galaxy saving other civilisations.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 2nd, 2013 12:05 pm (UTC)
I doubt we'll get a lot of "away from Earth" stuff in future - keeping humans central is an axiom written quite firmly into the New Who DNA....
reggietate: river-doctorreggietate on April 2nd, 2013 12:12 pm (UTC)
Yes :-(

It just seems to diminish the Doctor somewhat - he was always wanting to escape Earth, much as he loved it and its inhabitants. All of space and time to roam in and all he wants is to hang round SW1