And we’re back. The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who has officially begun with season 7 re-starting this past Saturday with “The Bells of Saint John.” The Doctor gained a new companion and battled a rather old foe, although the audience knows more about that last part than the Doctor at this point. The Doctor drove a motorcycle up the side of a building, and ultimately saved the day while enjoying a latte on the patio of a high-rise cafe. Oh, Doctor, please never leave us.
Rather than engage in a full episode recap or review I thought I would instead offer a more conversational series of stray observations:
The Title “Bells of Saint John” Is a Direct Reference to the Tardis. I Knew That Already…Okay, I Had No Idea
When the show began in 1963, the Tardis contained on its outer doors the now-familiar “Police Telephone” instructions and a telephone on one door and a St John Ambulance badge on its other door. This St John badge remained on the Tardis for five seasons of the tv show and both of the non-canonical Peter Cushing feature-length films.
However, it was absent from the Tardis at the start of the sixth season in 1968, and had not been seen again until its rather quiet re-introduction in 2010. Steven Moffatt decided to bring it back as an homage to the show’s earliest days as well as the somewhat forgotten Cushing films.
Yet when I watched the new episode I was the guy who smacked his own forehead and muttered, “So, that’s what that meant” when the ringing telephone on the exterior of the Tardis is referred to as “the bells of saint john.” I had honestly not given the name of the episode a second thought until then. I feel like my officially distributed Doctor Who fan-card has suddenly been downgraded from “huge fan” to “average fan” or maybe the dreaded “and you call yourself a fan.”
Amelia Pond is Gone But Not Forgotten
Pretty much everyone caught this reference: the book being read by Clara’s friend in “Bells of Saint John” is credited to author Amelia Williams. Of the book, Clara observes the 10th chapter is good, but the 11th is where she cried her eyes out, a good kind of crying though. 10th=David Tennant, 11th=Matt Smith; nicely done there, Moffatt.
However, this is far more than a simple reference. The fictional book (Summer Falls) created by a fictional character (Amelia Williams) is going to be available to read as an e-book.
How To Make Friends and Watch Them Die Two Times Before Getting It Right
The dramatic resonance of Oswin Oswald having her mind trapped inside the body of a Dalek in “Asylum of the Daleks” and her doppleganger having her mind stuck inside cloud-based storage here is immediately obvious. This time, the Doctor saves her because he usually does that, and then makes sure she has a cup of water, a plate of jammy dodgers, and a standing guard outsider her door for when she awakes.
This is incredibly adorable and paternalistic. However, because the Doctor has been established as having become obsessed with Clara, and the two share such a flirtatious, screwball comedy style of banter there was something potentially creepy about the Doctor snooping through her things. Yet this never occurred to me, due in part to Murray Gold’s score and the fantastic performances of Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman.
Get Used to Hearing A Lot of This
As has been the case since the show re-launched in 2005, a new Doctor and/or full-time companion means a new orchestral theme for the new character from composer Murray Gold. Similar to an insistent melody in a musical, you may enjoy the music on its own merits, but chances are you will eventually like it simply due to its consistent usage on the show.
Clara’s theme was first heard in a truncated form in the “The Snowmen” when Clara first discovers the Tardis. We get it here in its fuller glory during the scene with the Doctor searching through Clara’s bedroom. It has similar structural elements to prior themes, e.g., slow-build, piano-dirven. However, it strikes me as unique among the themes thus far, coming off as surprisingly hopeful and romantic without a hint of foreboding. In my expert analysis, I think…it’s pretty.
How Did Clara Not Spill Her Drink?
Clara goes from standing outside the Tardis to being inside the Tardis to inside the cabin and then cockpit of a descending airplane and then back into the Tardis in a matter of minutes. The entire time, though, she is holding a cup of tea, as a visual reminder of just how quickly life moves when you’re with The Doctor.
Throughout it all, she never appears to be in any danger of spilling anything. Surely, that little talent will come in handy during an upcoming episode (answer to my own question: no, it probably won’t; remember Rose and her gymnastics from “Rose”).
A Doctor Who Pop Song?
What was with that peppy “Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba/Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh” track playing in the background of Clara and the Doctor driving through London? Also, did anyone else notice during this scene the glaring continuity mistakes with the location of Jenna Louise-Coleman’s hands, i.e., sometimes around his waist, sometimes directly underneath his arms?
The Return of the Slow-Burn Villain – Great Intelligence
It’s a good thing for the Great Intelligence, which has now been set up as the current season’s big bad, that The Doctor is so obsessed with the impossible girl, Clara. Otherwise, one imagines he would have been far more motivated to not only best the bad guys but track down their boss. Granted, he does ask about the boss, but never seems to pursue it any further when his question goes unanswered.
So, is the Great Intelligence our new peripheral mystery of the season, ala Harold Saxon in season 3, the Rose Tyler cameos in season 4, and the tears in time and space in season 5? Or will we not be seeing any sign of the Great Intelligence again until his likely season finale appearance?
What If The Doctor Had Failed Clara….Again
Fellow WeMinoredInFilm writer Julianne and I wondered after “The Snowmen” if perhaps Jenna Louise-Coleman’s character would just die at the end of every episode. We kid, we kid. And then she almost died at the end of “The Bells of Saint John.” Boy were our faces red. We were both mentally composing our “Is Clara the South Park’s Kenny of this show now that Rory has died?” We were glad to see her survive because we had nothing beyond that one sentence. Plus, the Doctor can only have so many meet-cutes with girls played by Jenna Louise-Coleman.
Clara Taking the Power Back in the Relationship
Rose ran away from a boyfriend to jump into the Tardis. Martha Jones took the invitation to join The Doctor as a definite romantic overture, and Freema Agyeman played her initiation scene at the end of “Smith and Jones” rather flirtatiously. Donna Noble dismissed any such notions with a bemused and defiant, “You’re not mating with me, sunshine.” Amy was still in her nightgown when she entered the Tardis, and it was the fulfillment of a girlhood dream others would have understandably called unhealthy fantasy.
Clara? Perhaps the best reaction of all in that she laughs somewhat derisively and asks, “Does this work? Is this actually what you do? Do you just crook your finger and people jump in your snog box and fly away?” Coleman plays it like a girl who recognizes a pick-up line when she hears it and even though she is clearly going to fall for it she is going to call the guy out and make him wait, thus her leaving and telling him to come again and ask her tomorrow. I loved this.
Favorite Theory As To The Mystery of Clara, the Impossible Girl
The “City of Death” fan theory which posits Clara is in fact the same girl simply splintered throughout time, ala the Jagaroth from the classic Tom Baker story of the same name. This presupposes all of the Clara’s are telepathically linked, as was the case with the Jagaroth. This might explain the recurrence of the phrase, “Run you clever boy and remember me,” although Clara is likely completely unaware of this.
Trailer for Next Week
Unless I missed it, there was no trailer for next week’s episode over the closing credits on the airing of the episode on BBC America. Well, there is a trailer and here it is:
- Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John Left Us With a Ton of Questions (madgeekgirl.com)
- Hilda Benard: ‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘The Bells Of Saint John’ Reintrodues Clara … Sort Of (huffingtonpost.com)