Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode Six: The Bells Of Saint John

Finally! At long last Doctor Who is back after a lengthy eighteen month absence. OK, so it wasn't eighteen months, but it feels like it. The last regular episode aired way back in September 2012 (yes, I know there was a Christmas episode in December, but I said regular). That was six months ago! 

I freely admit I am not a fan of this method of splitting the already tiny seasons into even tinier halves, separated by months. I know, I know, the BBC can't afford to make full twenty four episode seasons like American shows do, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot: 
In the present day something in the WiFi network is stealing people's minds and storing them "in the cloud." In 1207 the Doctor is living with a group of monks in hopes that the seclusion they offer will help him figure out the mystery of Clara Oswald, the Kenny of Who companions who keeps dying every time he meets her. Somehow Clara calls the TARDIS' external phone and he races through time to meet her. Clara's mind is sucked into the WiFi network but the Doctor manages to rescue her. He determines that the Great Intelligence, last seen in the previous episode, is behind the plot. The Doctor does everything in his power to defeat the Intelligence and restore the stolen minds in the cloud to their rightful bodies.

Thoughts:

Still not a fan of this new title sequence. I suppose I'll get used to it in time. Also, didn't Steven Moffat say that all this season the Doctor Who title would have a different texture each week, something relevant to the episode? For example, in Asylum Of The Daleks it had a riveted Daleky texture and in Dinosaurs On A Spaceship the title had a scaly, reptilian look. So what's going on here? At first I thought maybe it was supposed to be an electronic snowy texture, but now that I look at it more closely it just looks like distressed metal. Did they stop doing the textured titles or am I just missing something here?

Speaking of titles, what an awful one this episode has. I thought Let's Kill Hitler was probably the all time worst, but at least that title told you what the episode was about. This one was completely misleading, having nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the episode, instead referring to the ringer on the phone located on the outside of the TARDIS in 1207.

By the way, the "Saint John" in the title refers to the sign on the TARDIS door that reads "St. John Ambulance."

How in the name of Zeus' Abundant Ear Hair did Clara call the Doctor in the first place? She picks up the phone to call tech support in the present day and is somehow connected to the phone in the TARDIS in 1207. In the past I've said that I kind of like how Doctor Who doesn't get bogged down in technobabble, but something like this kind of begs even a half-hearted explanation. Maybe it's something to do with why Clara keeps popping up in the different times the Doctor visits. Some outside force trying to get them together perhaps?

UPDATE: After rewatching this scene I see they sort of answered this question. The Doctor asks Clara how she got his number and see says "a woman in a shop gave it to her." The woman told her it's the best help line in the universe. So who's this woman? Well, since this is a Steven Moffat written episode that means she has to be River Song. Who else does he ever write about?

They did it AGAIN! They made that god-damned "Doctor who?" joke yet again. You know the one-- the Doctor says "I'm the Doctor" and then the other person says, "Doctor who?" They did it three frakin' times in a row in this episode. Three! As I said last year, it was funny the first forty seven times they did it, but now it's become grating.

For years now I've been correcting non-fans who think the Doctor's name is Doctor Who. I patiently tell them that Doctor Who is the name of the show and the character is simply the Doctor. Then Steven Freaking Moffat comes along and makes that same lame-ass joke twelve times in every episode and who the hell could blame a person for thinking it's the character's name?

The only way to stop the madness is to get tough. Listen up, Moffat. From now on every time you make the "Doctor Who" joke I'm going to send you a bill for $100, payable to me. If it takes a financial penalty to make you stop it, then so be it. By the way, you owe me $300 for this episode. You can pay me through PayPal.

The book Clara is reading is titled Summer Falls and was written by Amelia Williams, which of course is the married name of our own Amy Pond. So I guess she started writing books after getting zapped into the past?

Also Clara tells Artie, the kid she's nannying, that "Chapter 11 is the best. You'll cry your eyes out." And guess what? We just happen to be watching the Eleventh version of the Doctor. I don't know if that was some kind of clue to Clara's identity or a shout-out to Amy. Or even some kind of ominous foreshadowing about the Doctor.

It's the return of Jammie Dodgers!  

• When the Doctor snoops in Clara's room and invades her privacy he opens her Book Of Travels. Inside we see she received it when she was 9 years old. She's written her age in the book every year since, all the way up to her presumably current age of 24-- almost. For some reason there's no age 23 written in the book. I'm sure that's supposed to be significant somehow.

Something about this episode seemed familiar while I was watching it, and later if finally hit me-- it's pretty much a remake of Rose, the first episode of the new Who era that first aired back in 2005. 

In Rose, a being called the Nestene Consciousness is creating an army of plastic beings called Autons which resemble store mannequins. A shop girl named Rose Tyler is surrounded by Autons and at the last second rescued by the Ninth Doctor. Rose's boyfriend Mickey is replaced by a plastic duplicate. They determine that the Nestene Consciousness is controlling the Autons from the London Eye and race through the city to confront it and stop it. They defeat the Consciousness, the Autons are deactivated and Mickey rescued. The Doctor then asks Rose to travel with him and she happily accepts.

In this episode an entity called the Great Intelligence is using a secret high tech organization to upload people's minds into the cloud (to create an organic computer I guess). The Intelligence also employs robots called "Spoonheads" that can take the form of anyone and upload victims. A nanny named Clara Oswald is about to be uploaded by a Spoonhead when the Doctor appears and rescues her. The two race through the city to try and find out who's controlling the Spoonheads. They determine the signals are coming from London's iconic The Shard building. The Doctor confronts the organization and the Consciousness is defeated, which restores everyone's minds. The Doctor then asks Clara to travel with him but she declines, telling him to ask again tomorrow.

Sound a bit familiar? I see what you did there, Moffat. Don't think I didn't notice you copied the exact structure of Rose and put your own name on it.

Useless trivia: Clara makes a remark about the TARDIS appearing to be made of wood. Real police boxes were actually made of cement. There were never any wooden ones.

Clara is partially uploaded to the cloud but the Doctor is able to retrieve her. However, she brought back something with her-- she now has superhuman computer hacking skills where before she could barely operate one. I guess this is to explain how she's such an expert hacker in Asylum Of The Daleks? If that's the same Clara, that is.

• OK, I'm confused by this whole uploading minds thing. When someone's mind is uploaded into the cloud their bodies are left behind, lying unconscious where they dropped. We see it happen to various people throughout the world and later to Clara as well. So... what exactly is happening to their bodies? Are they in comas? Are all those other people in hospitals somewhere? Surely they're not dead, since the Doctor somehow "restores" everyone at the end. 

I don't expect much logic in a Steven Moffat script (yeah, I'm kind of dogging him today) but this was something that needed a bit more explanation.

I was also confused by Miss Kislet's (the head of the brain-sucking organization) flunkies. Their minds had all apparently been uploaded into the cloud, as she was shown being able to control their personalities and traits with her iPad, but they were still up and walking around. Why did they get to keep their bodies if their minds were in the cloud and everyone else didn't? And why oh why oh why would her staff of mind controlled workers have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts? So many questions...

My, how the Great Intelligence has changed! In the previous episode The Snowmen, the Intelligence was voiced by Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellan. This time it's (he's?) played by Richard E. Grant.

At the end of the episode the Great Intelligence orders Miss Kislet to restore everyone in the organization to their "factory settings." She does so, which wipes everyone's memories of the past several months, maybe years. Kislet's right-hand man was apparently a plumber or maintenance man who was uploaded when he came in to work on a plugged toilet. 

Then we see Miss Kislet has been returned to her factory setting as well, which is apparently that of a six year old girl. Cheezus, how long was the Intelligence controlling her anyway? Physically she appears to be around 55 or 60. Did it really control her for over five decades? Sure looks that way. But why? WiFi's only been publicly available since 1999. How were they uploading minds before that? On floppy disks?

Kislet's fate was indeed chilling, but ultimately just didn't make a lick of sense. 

This is the first time we've seen Kenny, er, I mean Clara, survive an entire episode. 

• The Doctor asks Clara to travel with him and she declines, telling him to ask her again tomorrow. It's a cute scene I guess, but ultimately useless and we all know she's the new companion and will eventually say yes.

2 comments:

  1. First, I want to say how much I really love your Doctor Who & The Walking Dead reviews. However, I believe you made two pretty big mistakes here.

    (1) The Doctor did not save all those people who had been uploaded to the cloud. He even said while trying to convince Kislet that he knew not all of them would be saved but that there were many bodies lying around that could be & that even if most died, they wouldn't be living in some sort of hell.

    (2) Not all the people are being uploaded to the cloud. At the very beginning, where the guy is warning people not to click the weird WiFi link, he said that if you do they can see you & know everything about you but if you are chosen, you will die & be trapped inside. The rest of the people are essentially hacked. Kislet's right-hand man even makes a comment about her hacking him.

    Also, you mentioned about it being similar to Rose's into. Clara mentioned that the number was given to her by a shop lady. I swear I read something about Rose & the 10th Doctor are supposed to show up sometime for the 50th anniversary. I wonder if that has anything to do with it. :)

    Love your reviews. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, kris_tea, glad you enjoy the reviews!

    (1) Hmm. I must have missed that line. That makes sense that they couldn't all be saved.

    (2) I heard the right hand man ask if Kislet had hacked him (which she had) but I was just confused as to *how.* So if a person clicked on the link they could be controlled without being in the cloud then?

    (3) Yes, I read that Rose & Ten were coming back for the 50th anniversary too. Is Rose here or is she still living on Pete's World? If so, then she probably wasn't the shop girl. Some people are speculating the shop girl might be Sally Sparrow, which would be cool.

    ReplyDelete

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