Monday, 1 April 2013

Review: Doctor Who - The Bells of St John

The hype around this year of Doctor Who has been like no other. As it is the 50th anniversary of the show – it is the longest running sci-fi drama in the world, I’m sure you know – the pressure was on the show to be at its best, to celebrate its illustrious past but to also look to the future and where the series will go next. I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday night when Steven Moffat’s series opener (come on, it is!) ‘The Bells of St John’ did exactly that.

Whereas last year’s half of Series Seven had a slightly varying quality, ‘Bells’ carries on from the Christmas special ‘The Snowmen’ as first-class Who. Similar to that story, Moffat pulls off a belter of a plot at top speed and interweaves some time for the Doctor to get to know his new companion.
With hints of previous episodes - there’s a feel of ‘Partners in Crime’ and lashings of ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ – ‘Bells’ carries on the ‘movie-a-week’ motif from last year, being labelled an ‘urban thriller’ – and it certainly is thrilling. As you can tell by its fantastic central conceit alone – there’s something living in the wi-fi and it’s eating your soul...

Great fun as the plot is the most important thing about this episode is the chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman which, as we've seen from her previous two appearances, is top notch. Coleman plays the genius, compassionate Clara like she’s been in the role for years and you utterly buy hers and the Doctor’s budding friendship. The brush strokes for her character are finer than the previous versions of the character and she now feels like proper companion material. Also, Clara’s prominent flirting of ‘Asylum’ and ‘Snowmen’ has been toned down, making it feel less like another River Song relationship and more like a good friendship with hints of attraction which suits the Doctor and his companion much better. The ‘snogbox’ is a good name for the TARDIS though.

As it is a big old series starter featuring the proper introduction of a extremely enigmatic character it’s not too surprising that there’s a fair bit of mystery and unanswered questions that we'll have to ponder over for the next few weeks. Just why is the Doctor in a 13th century monastery at the beginning – and surely there’s a wider significance to those bells? There’s several more sprinkled through the episode – some more obvious than others. How does Clara have the Doctor’s number? What is that ‘client’ up to? And just why can’t Clara compute the number 23 (watch the episode again if you missed this the first time)?

With all this plus Celia Imrie as the scheming Miss Kizlit; a classic Who villainess, echoes of Sherlock in the direction and that wonderful blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Pond Easter egg there’s much to love here. Though the climax does feel a little rushed Moffat is at the top of his game here delivering a fresh new start to the show but retaining that uniquely Doctor Who feel. A fantastic start to the biggest year yet of Doctor Who


It is official! The Tenth Doctor and Rose are set to feature in the 90 minute anniversary special episode to be shown on the 23rd November, the show's fiftieth birthday. It's great news for fans as it leaves the door open for other previous Doctors and companions to return. As for these two, it might be tempting to visit their character after we last saw them; Rose trapped in the parallel world with a duplicate Doctor, but I think it might be more fun if we got to see the Series Two versions of them, still hurtling round the universe. But who knows what Moffat's got up his sleeve...
Also, it has been confirmed that respected British actor John Hurt (the wandmaker Ollivander in Harry Potter, the voice of the dragon in Merlin etcetera) is to appear in the special too. I'm already theorising that he's going to be some sort of future Doctor. Well, we'll see how I did in my predictions in a few months' time. Until then tune into 'The Rings of Akhaten' by Neil Cross this Saturday on BBC One/ BBC America!


  1. I did enjoy "Bells of St John" - it reminded me of the first episode with Rose and Christopher Eccleston - probably because we were back in the once-overused London setting, and with a prominent London landmark being a significant plot point. I did think that the problem was too-easily solved though - the hacking of the alien tech was rather vague. Also, are we honestly expected to think that a smart young woman in her twenties wouldn't know what to do with the internet? (Moffat showing his age, perhaps?) Still, it was all in all very enjoyable, and I liked the banter between the two leads, the twist at the end with the identity of the bad guy.

    Pleased to see David Tennant's making an appearance for the 50th anniversary special. It'll be good if they get some classic characters back too.

  2. Glad you liked it. Yes, it does feel very much like a Russell T Davies series opener. I see your point about the hacking as I did feel the ending was rushed - the episode's first half was the stronger one - and Clara's lack of internet knowledge does seem a bit odd. But then we don't know her whole story yet so it may make total sense! I also liked their banter; Matt and Jenna work very well, I think, and I've already got used to their dynamic.

    Tennant coming back is great news, yeah. I don't know if you've heard but they are definitely bringing back the Zygons, who were in a Tom Baker story about the Loch Ness Monster, so it seems like they're paying respect to it all. Which is good news. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...