Doctor Who Re-Review: S07E07 — The Bells of Saint John

doctor-who-bells-of-st-john When review­ing The Bells of Saint John for the first time my take­away was that this was a solid but unex­cep­tional episode that used a lot of famil­iar elements.

After a re-watch I think that’s still broadly true. It’s certainly not the strongest episode of the season and the Spoon­heads with their revolv­ing head gimmick are clearly very simi­lar to The Winders in The Beast Below, only not quite as effec­tive.

There’s not a lot of depth to the story either. It’s very much a rein­tro­duc­tion to The Doctor and what he does. Which obvi­ously isn’t going to be incred­i­bly appeal­ing to long time fans. But I think we some­times forget that the show is not being produced and broad­cast exclu­sively for us. That in fact the target audi­ence skews towards the children/family mixture and that it needs to stay very acces­si­ble.

doctor-spoonIf you accept that that was the inten­tion here with this episode: re-intro­duce Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor; intro­duce Clara as regu­lar compan­ion; set up the season. Then you could call this success­ful in that it achieved those goals. Still doesn’t make it a favorite episode though and I don’t think it’s the best exam­ple of what it was trying to do. On the other hand it was better than Part­ners In Crime with which it shares a lot of common elements.

I said it was a stand alone episode and you certainly don’t need to have every seen an episode of Doctor Who for it to work, but for those of us who have there were subtle refer­ences. I was a little slow on the uptake about the name of the episode for exam­ple (refer­enc­ing the ring­ing phone on the TARDIS with it’s St. John’s Ambu­lance logo). Then we have the Great Intel­li­gence putting in an end of episode appear­ance and of course there is the ongo­ing mystery of Clara.

But when look­ing at the episode as a whole, the Macbeth line: It is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signi­fy­ing noth­ing. Is a little more apt than it should be.

It’s fun. It’s fast moving. It’s witty in places. And there are certainly some big action moments like the aircraft and the motor­bike ride up The Shard. But because the pace really never slows down, there is no time to reflect. And because there’s no time to reflect there’s no time to actu­ally wring the emotional punch from scenes that have that poten­tial. Which is a shame because there are a couple of scenes here (the second time Clara gets uploaded, and right at the end with Miss Kizlet) which deserve further explo­ration.

doctor-who-the-bells-of-saint-john-ratingsThe same can be said for a number of the ideas that this show throws out. The para­noia factor of an omni-present wifi and camera network. Hack­ing people and tweak­ing their memo­ries and person­al­i­ties. People lost in cyber­space. This are all good concepts that could be explored further. But not here.

Steven Moffat has a habit of doing that. Just throw­ing out ideas and not fully explor­ing them. It is one of the more frus­trat­ing elements of his writ­ing style. Admit­tedly, in some cases, Doctor Who just isn’t the place or format to explore them, but still.

So perhaps my less than ring­ing endorse­ment of The Bells of Saint John comes down more to missed oppor­tu­ni­ties than anything actu­ally wrong with what I was watch­ing. Because, in truth while I was watch­ing it I enjoyed it just fine. The nit picks and if onlys didn’t really arrive until after­wards.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?