Saturday, September 28, 2013

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 7.07: "The Bells of Saint John"

“When you say, ‘mobile phone,’ why do you point at that blue box?”
“Because it’s a surprisingly accurate description!”
-Clara and The Doctor

“The Bells of Saint John” was the first episode to feature the “real” Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) as a companion. It was a welcome return to the type of story that was often told during the Russel T. Davies era of the show, where there are threats lurking in everyday things. This episode actually kind of reminded me of an updated version of the series 2 episode where Ten and Rose go to the 1950’s, and Rose gets sucked into a television set. Just replace 1950s with present day and television set with wi-fi. Yep, wi-fi is evil in the Whoinverse, y’all! In this version of the story, the Doctor and his companion do not have the deep bond of many shared adventures together to see them through. This version of Clara has no memory of the Doctor at all. Eleven has to gain her trust as he tries to keep her from essentially getting sucked into the Internet for eternity.

We begin the episode seeing where this version of Clara lives. She’s a live-in nanny for a family with two kids. She’s also very technologically inept, and she can’t for the life of her figure out how to get the Internet to work on her laptop. Meanwhile, the Doctor is living sort of as a monk in the thirteenth century. He’s trying to figure out just who Clara might be. Since she’s died twice, he’s intrigued. The Doctor’s thoughts are interrupted by a ringing telephone, which must be quite strange in the thirteenth century. The ringing phone is the TARDIS, and Clara is on the other end of the line. She wants help with her internet connection, and she’s calling the “help line” that someone in a shop gave her. The Doctor just haplessly plays the annoyed IT guy for a bit until Clara uses “Run you clever boy, and remember” as a mnemonic for her password. The Doctor realizes it’s Clara and heads to present day London as quick as he can.

The first present-day meeting between the Doctor and Clara doesn’t go well at all. He’s still in his monk’s habit, and when he knocks on the door of Clara’s house, she thinks he’s just creepy, and she doesn’t let him inside. Clara has made a big mistake, though. In trying to get an Internet connection, Clara clicked on a network name made of strange characters. This is the gateway into the bad things lurking in the wi-fi. There’s an office of people in a famous London building called The Shard who are working on downloading people’s consciousness into the Internet. Their leader is a woman called Miss Kizlet, and she’s able to control the people working for her through a tablet computer. It’s kind of creepy really. She can essentially use the tablet to “hack” their brains. Anyway, Clara’s clicking on the mystery network brought her to the attention of this group, and after evaluating her, they think her brain could be useful.

The Shard group sends a “spoonhead” to tap Clara’s brain. A spoonhead is basically a robot disguised to look like something in the victim’s consciousness. When the robot turns its head around it’s a spoon shape that has the capability of uploading their brain to the Internet. Clara’s spoonhead looks like a character in a book she was reading with one of the kids she nannies. A book that was written by none other than one Amy Pond Williams, I might add, which was a nice little continuity touch. The Doctor, having changed out of his habit and back into “sensible clothes,” manages to save Clara mid-upload. He then sends a warning message to the Shard saying “Under my protection.” Miss Kizlet confers with her “client,” they talk about how they were expecting the Doctor might get involved, and they decide to work even harder to do what they want to do against the Doctor’s will.

Much of the rest of the episode involves fun action sequences as the Shard folks and the Doctor kind of chase each other, but before we get to that, trust has to build between Clara and the Doctor. The Doctor camps outside of Clara’s house, determined to protect her from a repeat brainnapping event. Clara sees him still lurking about, and instead of being freaked out, after a brief conversation, she joins him outside. Shard operatives begin to close in, and the lights in the neighborhood start going on, then turning off. When a mysterious figure appears and seems to be a spoonhead, the Doctor hurries Clara into the TARDIS, where she has the obligatory new long-term companion “it’s bigger on the inside!” moment. She doesn’t have long to marvel before Miss Kizlet sends a plane hurtling towards them. The Doctor blocks the wi-fi so that the previously controlled-by-Kizlet pilot and co-pilot can wake up and start piloting the plane again. That’s the first good action bit.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to the next morning, and he and Clara sit at a café, trying to work out what’s going on. Clara has obtained some serious computer knowledge from the time she spent semi-uploaded, and she demands that the Doctor let her use those skills to find out who is behind this. The Doctor goes to get some caffeine and snacks, and the Kizlet-controlled people in the café distract him. While the Doctor is distracted, a spoonhead disguised as the Doctor successfully uploads Clara. The Doctor figures out what she had been working on, though. Clara managed to trace the activity to the Shard, so the Doctor appears to head there on an anti-gravity motorbike. This would be the second fun action sequence, and it ends with the Doctor crashing the motorbike into Miss Kizlet’s office. This isn’t the Doctor, though, but the spoonhead, and he/it uploads Miss Kizlet herself. Trapped, Miss Kizlet demands that she and everyone else in the Internet be released.

Clara is restored, and back at the Shard, we figure out who Miss Kizlet’s “client” was. It was none other than the Great Intelligence. The Great Intelligence demands that everyone involved in these activities, including Miss Kizlet, be “reset” so they have no memory of what they did. This reduces Miss Kizlet to the mentality of a small child. Across town at Clara’s house, the Doctor offers to let her be a full companion. Clara’s unsure, though, so she tells the Doctor to try asking her again the next morning. Clearly she won’t keep turning him down forever! All of time and space has been too much of a draw for any of the other people the Doctor has recruited!

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