Monday, 1 April 2013

Doctor Who - The Bells Of St. John Review

The Doctor makes his return to our screens with a new TARDIS, a new look and a new companion

So here we are; part two of season 7 of the reboot of Doctor Who. Got that? Good. Whilst season 6 was a season of 2 halves, season 7 is very much two mini seasons. As such, The Bells Of St. John should be seen as a season opener, and whilst they never tend to be the best of episodes; their main aim is to successfully introduce the new companion or Doctor. I'm pleased to say that The Bells Of St. John worked very well indeed.

Only Doctor Who could follow a teaser about the dangers of Wi-fi with a trip to 13th century Cumbria. Here we find The Doctor contemplating the impossible girl, Clara Oswin Oswald. Moments later the TARDIS phone begins to ring and The Doctor has found his impossible girl once again.

Jenna Lousie Coleman as Clara Oswald
After 2 and a half seasons of Amy Pond, or Amy and Rory, it was important to establish Clara as a sufficiently different companion. For Amy, The Doctor was a figure of her childhood; deemed to be imaginary by those around her. With Clara, there is no such emotional connection and, to her, The Doctor is a odd man with a snog box. The ease with which Clara and The Doctor interact is delightful. Clara is not afraid to point out the ridiculousness of a two hearted time travelling alien with a blue telephone box. Steven Moffat also ensures to establish Clara as someone who values her responsibilities to the family she is looking after and is not ready to leave behind those who depend on her.

As we've come to expect from Moffat era Doctor Who stories, this opening episode refers back to the glimpses of Clara from The Asylum Of The Daleks and The Snowmen, as well as hinting at what might be in store for the next 8 episodes. Why are the years 16 and 23 missing from Clara's book? What is the significance of the book written by one Amelia Williams? And who was the women who gave Clara the number for the TARDIS phone? Many have complained about the overly complicated plotting of recent seasons (season 6 in particular), but it's refreshing to see populist, family entertainment that demands your full attention.

Matt Smith in his new look TARDIS
The actual mystery of the week feels a little too familiar to fully work. Using technology to control people and feed on their souls is alarmingly similar to The Idiot's Lantern from series 2. However, it did offer both Smith and Coleman their moments to shine. Celia Imrie is a sufficiently vicious and maniacal ("Actually he's about to go on holiday; kill him when he gets back. Let's not be unreasonable."). The set pieces are entertaining enough and there is enough humour to hide the somewhat convenient resolution to the evil plan.

Most importantly however, The Bells Of St. John is a whole lot of fun and it is a great pleasure to have Doctor Who back on our Saturday nights.

Doctor Who returns to BBC1 next Saturday at 6.15pm in 'The Rings Of Akhaten'.

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