Ringing in the new – The Bells of St John reviewed

The excitement mounts as we near the return of the Eleventh Doctor in The Bells of St Johns (BBC episode page here). Meanwhile the Beeb have already leaked some news about the 50th Anniversary (see separate post) which is odd timing.

I reprise what we know and what I expect after the break then will review the episode shortly after transmission (as will 100s of others!). Enjoy…

What we know

There’s a decent shopping list – Clara becomes a real companion, Spoonheads, monster in the wi-fi, the Shard, motorcycle chase and a James Bond style story.

What I expect

First off a quick reference to Lewis Christian’s Tumblr bingo-card for tonight’s story which is here [link removed as post has moved]. If he has much success I will steal the idea for a later post.

As to my ideas: I picked the above picture as I sense a Matrix like approach to snaring Clara into the Doctor’s path with her not believing what is going on. By this I mean sneak hints, refusal to acknowledge the truth on first encounter. Apart from that lots of action in short bursts and some soul-searching. I also wonder how long it has been since the Ponds left and he hid away in Victorian London.

The actual episode

Well it was fun but I’m not sure the plot stands up to much scrutiny. Here goes:


People are getting trapped in alien wi-fi and being downloaded and are effectively dead. Clara Oswald is a nanny who can’t get the Internet working being rubbish at computers so phones the number the lady in the shop gave here (see later). In a monastery in the past the Doctor is disturbed by monks who tell him that the Bells of St John are ringing and we are back in Empty Child territory with the TARDIS phone ringing (well done Lewis Christian for tweeting that idea just before the episode started).

The Doctor travels to Clara who initially won’t let him in the house; while the Doctor changes Clara gets sucked into a Spoonhead (ambulatory wi-fi access points with camouflage capability. The Doctor saves her and she is brought back now with added computer geek skills. All the time we are shown Celia Imrie’s shadowy organisation at the heart of this.

After much mooching around Clara is re-uploaded but has first worked out that The Shard is the heart of the threat (all very Torchwood); the Doctor sends in a Spoonhead disguised as him and quickly saves the day but not before we find that the Great Intelligence is at work here.

We end with Clara almost a companion as she tells the Doctor to come back tomorrow.


I surprised myself by liking the Spoonheads and there was much to enjoy visually. The anti-grav bike scaling the side of The Shard was great and London looks as wonderful as ever. Clara is less confident that the previous two versions we saw but has a more measured attitude towards events. I was also pleased at the Great Intelligence re-appearing.

The new look TARDIS is solid so far and the motorbike in the garage was very Eighth Doctor adventures novels.


Lots of things bothered me – who shut the TARDIS doors once the bike came out; how slow the whole section was when the Doctor was camped outside the house waiting for Clara to wake up; the near miss plane was too near (shades of Voyage of the Damned); the defeat of the wi-fi threat was rapid and Clara wasn’t really gone for long. Basically I felt the first half was too slow-paced and the second skipped too quickly to the end.

The arc and final thoughts

I really hope the ‘woman in the shop’ means something. Some people are suggesting River Song; my money was on Ace but is now getting more exotic such as Susan. I will come up with a better theory no doubt.

The Great Intelligence is turning into a good villain and presumably we ignore the time-line given that between The Snowmen and The Bells  the calendar would have given us both Troughton Yeti stories.

So, my critical mind was annoyed, my fan mind enjoyed it. What about you? Did it ring your bell? Let me know!


Tony, March 2013

6 Comments Add yours

  1. DrWhofan007 says:

    Really good fun story to welcome back Dr Who. I think the woman in the shop River Song and loved the Book being written by Amy. G.I good villain and also good to see UNIT back.


    1. Tony Jones says:

      Thanks. Yes I thought UNIT were a good touch as well


  2. DrWhofan007 says:

    With River coming back is it the beginning of her end???


    1. Tony Jones says:

      We know she’s returning whether the anniversary (I think not) or the season finale (probably) we don’t know.

      Obviously we saw her ‘end’ already but yes this could be her last year in the show methinks


  3. Josh Kirsh says:

    I got the feeling that this was supposed to be after Troughton’s encounters with the Intelligence, considering the fact that it knew what UNIT was.


    1. Tony Jones says:

      I tend to agree though I can’t quite join the dots between the eleventh and second Doctor stories involving the GI. Plenty of time though!


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