Doctor Who Season 7 Review “The Bells of Saint John”

Doctor Who returned from its season 7 hiatus this week with “The Bells of Saint John.” Although the Doctor has had adventures with Clara – or some form of her – in the past, this was the first regular season episode that would introduce us to the version of the character that would be traveling with The Doctor as his companion.

In the same way that there were slight variations between “Oswin Oswald” and “Clara Oswin Oswald,” this version of Clara Oswald was just a little different than the woman we had met in previous episodes. For starters, there was no Oswin associated with her name at all until she used a portmanteau of “Oswald wins” to create her online username. Present day Clara also didn’t seem quite as curious, fearless, or brilliant as her previous incarnations. Her computer skills were uploaded to her, and although the folks working for the Great Intelligence noted that she was clever, she didn’t seem all that remarkable on her own. To be honest, it was a little bit of a disappointment to discover that this version of Clara was just an adorable average girl with no notable skills.

Clearly there were characteristics that were the same for all three versions of the character. Her sharp sense of humor and her ability to banter with The Doctor had not been lost. The two of them have a fantastic chemistry and even when they’re discussing a menace plaguing humanity, The Doctor and Clara somehow do it with a twinkle in their eyes. Although there was no souffle talk this time around, the phrase “run you clever boy and remember” stuck around and once again she was working with children. There’s no doubt that somehow all of these versions of Clara are linked, and that’s the mystery that has kept The Doctor bewildered all this time.

I really loved seeing The Doctor excited about the prospect of a new companion in this episode. For so long, he’s operated with a fear of growing too close to the companions because of the inevitable heartbreak that happens when their adventures come to an end or because of his fear of his own failure to protect them. Enter Clara, an enigma that somehow manages to cross his path over and over again even after The Doctor fails to save her. The simple fact that she exists at all seems to have reinvigorated his lust for adventure.

The monks that The Doctor had been staying with described Clara as the woman twice dead. She came close to dying two more times thanks to the Spoonheads zapping her mind into The Cloud to feed the Great Intelligence. This time, The Doctor was able to prevent a permanent end for Clara, but given her track record for near-death-experiences thus far, The Doctor better stay on his toes.

As expected, Steven Moffat tossed in a ton of little teasers for us. “Summer Falls,” the book Clara grabbed at the start of the episode was written by an Amelia Williams. Her comment about a chapter of the book, “11’s the best, you’ll cry your eyes out” seems to either be a tease about what’s to come, or a call out to the emotional end to Amelia Pond and Rory Williams’ adventures with the 11th Doctor. After Clara gets a hold of The Doctor using “The Bells of Saint John” aka. the phone on the T.A.R.D.I.S, she explains that a girl in the shop gave her the phone number telling her it was the best help she could get in the Universe. We never find out who the girl in the shop is, but there are only a handful of candidates out there who might have access to the T.A.R.D.I.S. direct line.

It appears that good old Dr. Simeon is still the face of the Great Intelligence that was behind all the human-hacking in this episode. The Great Intelligence had anticipated that The Doctor might eventually stumble upon their operation and it had a plan to escape capture by UNIT when the office space was busted, so it seems the Great Intelligence will continue to antagonize humanity and The Doctor throughout the season.

Although we already knew that Clara Oswald was destined to be The Doctor’s next companion, she has yet to actually travel across the Universe in the T.A.R.D.I.S. This week’s Doctor Who used the T.A.R.D.I.S. to quickly get across town and skip ahead to breakfast, but Clara wasn’t exactly traveling the universe just yet. From the previews for next week, it looks like she’ll finally get on the most powerful ship in the Universe and really start her travels with The Doctor throughout time and space. No doubt as they travel together, we’ll get more pieces to the puzzle behind the mystery of Clara “Oswinn” Oswald.