Doctor Who Returns with “Bells of St. John”

From the Campus Lantern: April 4, 2013

Saturday, March 30th marked the return of Doctor Who on BBC America for the second half of Season 7. Opening with “The Bells of St. John”, by Head Writer, Steven Moffatt, it continues with the Doctor’s (Matt Smith) search for the mysterious Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Lousie-Coleman). With how Moffatt and the producers, split the season up into two with the Christmas Special running through halfway, it feels like a new season altogether. This makes sense, considering we lost Amy Pond and Rory Williams (Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill) in the first half, I wondered whether or not the beginning arc of Clara would remain consistent with the season’s theme from the first, half, with none of the Doctor’s villains remembering who he is.

I also wondered if her mysterious background, appearing in both “Asylum of the Daleks” (aired September 1, 2012), as a computer genius, and “The Snowmen” (aired December 25, 2012), as a Victorian governess, would completely transfer into “Bells of Saint John”. By this, I am asking if the Clara Oswald of the new episode remembers the Doctor in full. Just minutes into the episode before the main plot forces itself into the episode, I got the impression that this Clara was the same as the ones from before. After all, the Doctor never uses the phone on his spaceship, the TARDIS which looks like an ordinary phone-booth painted dark blue.

However, I was quite pleased that this was the only thing that put this question into speculation since, after the Doctor lands at the 2013 Clara’s house, she has no clue about the extraterrestrial and seldom has any ideas about advanced technology. It makes her official debut as his third companion fresh regardless of how many times the Doctor saw her before. In this case, with the large gap between “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen” leading into April, splitting the season into two halves was a good move. This makes Clara’s third appearance along with her existing character traits less redundant.

In regards to the main plot, where selecting a certain Wifi hotspot uploads the user to a large database, the intrigue into who is behind in fades nearly thirty minutes in when the culprits are revealed. While the direction by Colm McCarthy kept me hooked on the episode, especially when the Doctor and Clara ride across London on a motorcycle, I felt that Moffat rushed out the antagonists too quickly. The Spoonhead robots they send out for the uploads are not the Silence of Season 6 nor the Weeping Angels that gave an eerie ambiance to ordinary places. The viewer already knows before the titles that clicking on a certain hotspot ensures a character’s “up-load”, unlike the “Don’t Blink” in Season 3’s “Blink” where Moffat only hints about the Weeping Angels until the second half.

While the main plot seems rushed, the character development between the Doctor and Clara makes up for the episodes shortcomings. It may not be Moffat’s best work, but I am still looking forward to figuring out the mysteries of Clara Oswald as she travels with the Doctor.

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