Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

Posted on April 01, 2013

While it’s always fun to have the Doctor come roaring back into our lives, this episode gnawed a little at the edges of our brain and we couldn’t quite figure out why until the end of the episode and a sense of deja vu settled over us. The Dclara doctor 2octor has a new mystery on his hands and he’s excited to find out more about it – who is this new girl on the TARDIS and why is she impossible? That sounds great and all, but … River Song and Amy Pond.

We JUST GOT DONE with a several-years-long story about two mysterious women who should not exist and how the Doctor is simply compelled to deal with them until he knows all their answers. This doesn’t feel like new ground to us at all. In fact, the entire episode, once you view it through the lens of repetition, is a testament to the idea that showrunner Steven Moffatt just might be creatively tapped out.

There’s the mysterious, impossible girl on the TARDIS (River, Amy, Clara), with a flirtatious catchphrase (“Hello, sweetie.” “Run, you clever boy.”) who should not exist (Amy, Clara) and who the doctor first met just as she died (River), but she has a tendency to die a lot (Rory, Captain Jack). There’s the sneering, evil, middle-aged woman in a business suit (Madame Kovarian). There’s the everyday, nonthreatening item or thing that is rendered sinister and dangerous (Half of modern Who episodes). There’s the converting of human beings to digital or electronic beings (Dalek Clara) and the use of a (very “Silence in the Library”-style) robot to impersonate the Doctor (The Tesselecta). Not to mention the person staring back at us from a screen, imploring us not to BLINK click on the wrong wi-fi. Sure, a show like Who is clara doctorgoing to re-use and return to concepts over and over again, but when a showrunner keeps returning to his own concepts, then it smacks of burnout to us.

Was this episode fun? Well, sure. It’s Matt Smith riding up the side of skyscraper in a motorcycle and rescuing a crashing airplane. That’s the definition of fun. And Clara seems like she’d make a good companion, even if her chirpiness sometimes grates on our nerves. Plus: the return of the fez.

But a story was set up in this episode and we can’t say we’re dying to find out what happens next because it feels like they’re setting up a story they just got finished telling.

Still, we’re wondering who the woman in the shop was that gave Clara the Doctor’s number. River seems like the obvious choice, but it’s kind of hard not to think of Rose Tyler or Sally Sparrow when you hear “shop girl” in the context of Doctor Who.

So yes; fun, but it felt like we were watching an entertaining clip show of previous episodes.

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