Sunday, 31 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

“Run, you clever boy, and remember!”

If you’re visiting my blog for the first time since the last episode of Doctor Who or you have never viewed my blog before, welcome. This is where I review TV, films and such like, but I use the word “review” in its loosest possible sense. Expect many digressions, especially when it comes to Doctor Who, and especially especially when it comes to wondering whatever the hell the Moff is up to.

In a sense, this is a typically light and fluffy opening episode, and a good jumping on point for new viewers, much as RTD used to do. This being the Moff, however, it is also at the same time a fast-paced modern thriller, a semi-romantic comedy worthy of the creator of Coupling in the interaction between the Doctor and Clara, and seeding an awful lot of stuff for the rest of the season and the fiftieth anniversary. This blog entry will be mainly bibbling on about the latter of these.

Basically, this is an excitingly excellent and well cool bit of entertainment with a great baddie in Celia Imrie, loads of action and fantastic usage of modern London as a setting. As my girlfriend remarked, this may be the first time that The Shard has been used like this as a landmark. But it’s also re-establishing the programme for new viewers, introducing Matt Smith as the Doctor in such a way as to gently ease the new viewer in to his habits and personality. It helps here that he needs to introduce himself, for the third time, to yet another version of Clara/Oswin/whatever name she has to be using. Jenna-Louise Coleman is bloody good here, again, this time using her native Lancashire accent and a modern idiom, but recognisably the same personality, plopped in to a different life.

The Moff, being the Moff, gives us an uber scary concept plucked from everyday life, in this case WiFi. In fact, this isn’t the only familiar Moffat motif we have here; the concept of human minds being uploaded on to a hard-drive harks back to Silence in the Library, while the TARDIS phone ringing is a nostalgic reminder of his first ever Who script, as well as an excuse for the rather cool title.

Let’s just get it out of the way: this was bloody good. Now we can get on with the speculation. I couldn’t help noticing that the Doctor rather tended to draw attention to the fact that he rather likes the phrase “Doctor Who?”, which is a rather obvious piece of foreshadowing. I also couldn’t help noticing a novel written by a certain Amy Williams! It was a nice subtle tribute to her. Similarly nice was the reference to the real life police box at Earls Court.

Other little things include Clara’s diary, in which she has changed her age every year except when she was twenty-three. This is most probably going to be significant later in the season. I also noticed that the script did not identify the “woman” who first got Clara to ring the Doctor about the internet. The villain, of course, is still The Great Intelligence, a nice subtle shout out to the Troughton years, with a certain actor returning after the Christmas special.

Oh, and the Spoonheads are a typically scary monster in a horribly imaginative way, while the concept of underlings being controlled by means of an equalizer for such things as obedience, intelligence, and the like it utter genius.

I mustn’t forget, of course, that the TARDIS interior has had a suitably nostalgic makeover, looking rather like it did in the 70’s mixed with the last version. I love the roundels and the retro yet modern console with grindstones above, decorated with Gallifreyan text. We also have a new theme tune and title sequence, which, for the first time since 1989, at last shows the Doctor’s face! The new, Hubble Space Telescope influenced starscapes look awesome! This is the greatest title sequence ever, except for the uber-weird Hartnell version, obviously.

Yeah, basically this rules. One interesting final point, though. The Moff may have done a bit of a Robert Holmes in including a rather unsubtle vegetarian message, comparing the baddies’ treatment of the free range humans to a humane abattoir.

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