Doctor Who S7 EP7 – The Bells of Saint John Review

Doctor Who – Series 7 – Episode 7
The Bells of Saint John Review – Beware Spoilers!

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Writer: Stephen Moffat
Director: Colm McCarthy

“I’m ever so fond of Alexi, but my conscious tells me we should kill him”
“I’ll inform HR”
“Actually, he’s about to go on holiday. Do it when he gets back. Let’s not be unreasonable.”

And so the Clara plot thickens! At least we get to see her actually starting to travel with the Doctor rather than dying at the end of the episode (although there were a couple of close saves).

The Story
I thought the story was a reasonable idea. The linking of the story to the modern day, with fears over the extent of technology, was an inspired choice. But this episode was written by Stephen Moffat – his episodes should be brilliant ideas. I know I’m not alone in thinking that some of Mr Moffat’s more recent stories have been average at best, particularly last series. However, I don’t think this episode being average was a fault of Moffat – most opening episodes suffer in the same fashion; establishing Clara is more important than establishing an amazing story. Although, the addition of the Great Intelligence, a throwback to the Classic Era is one of the reasons I like Moffat’s leadership. The fact it is regarded as the ‘client’, but ended up controlling Miss Kizlet – I can’t wait to see where they take the GI next.

The Acting
Matt Smith was on top form as usual here – it’s almost as if he’s been doing this for years! The youthful joy which Matt exuberates really does add another dimension to the show. Jenna Louise-Coleman fits perfectly into her role, although I wouldn’t say it was exactly a new role for her by now! I enjoyed her throughout the episode, but I thought her ability to really grow was limited by the fact we had to have yet another episode where her character had to be established. I think the relationship which is developing between The Doctor and Clara is looking good, it’s a little early to call yet though, so I’m not sure on where they are going to go. Personally, there were moments when it was a tad to flirty for me – okay, it’s kind of funny to see Eleven react to people flirting with him, but I think its tired and Doctor Who should lose the Doctor/Companion romance element which has developed post-2005. The only other main acting to discuss is that of Celia Imrie aka Miss Kizlet. I thought she did a brilliant job when it came to pretending to be a child, also her casual indifference to her employees and nonchalant attitude to “hacking” people also came across as a really promising enemy – but I think she was underused in the episode, again, so Clara could be established as a character.

The Enemy
The Spoonheads/Servers didn’t do anything for me to be honest. I found them too similar to the nodes from the series 4 episodes Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. Overall they didn’t get much screen time, we didn’t find anything out about them and they just seem rather dull. The Great Intelligence on the other hand made a nice cameo appearance – can’t wait to see where it goes from here, they are clearly building up to something, presumably that we are going to have to wait until the finale to find out what it is. I just hope they keep using Richard E. Grant – he was criminally underused in the Christmas Special.

The Ending
It was pretty typical of opening episodes really. Exited companions, Exuberant Doctor, vanquished enemies. It’s all pretty substandard really. I don’t know about you, but I saw the spoonheads being involved. Must say though, the scene with Miss Kizlet when the influence of the Intelligence was gone was really strong – I think it was a snippet of the level of control we have yet to see. Also, something I’ve been wondering about is the recurrence of UNIT since this series began. A sign of things to come perhaps?

Conclusion
Well. It was a nice enough story, but I wouldn’t say it was a brilliant episode. I enjoyed it throughout, but I couldn’t help feel it was a little generic. Then again, it has been for a while with a change in companions. I hope one day we might get an alien companion, or one from the future. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly memorable either. The first mention of the ‘Snog box’ was funny, but when it came to the second and the “romantic tension” between Clara and the Doctor it irritated me. It’s like River Song Jr.

“Why are we travelling by motorbike?”
“Because I don’t take the TARDIS into battle”
“Why? Because it’s made of wood?”

Episode rating:
Acting: 8/10
Enemy: 5/10 (And its only that high because the Great Intelligence made an appearance)
Storyline: 7/10
Ending: 8/10

Average: 7/10

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Post Script:
Full ratings data for the week ending 31st March 2013 is now available and puts Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John as the eighth most watched programme in the UK for the week. The episode achieved 8.44 million viewers had 35.8% share of the available Television audience.
On Saturday 30th March, Doctor Who was the highest rated programme getting 120,000 more viewers than Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway, even though the ITV programme had a later start time.

On iPlayer The Bells of Saint John has so far been accessed over 1.4 million times.

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