Doctor Who Recap: “The Bells of Saint John”

By April 2, 2013

There’s something in the Wi-Fi…

It’s in your laptop, your desktop, your tablet, and your phone. It’s everywhere, and if you just click on the wrong button, your information falls into the wrong hands. And it isn’t any old virus. It’s your mind, being uploaded onto the internet…while your lifeless body stays behind.

Who would click on such a network, one might ask? Someone who knows absolutely nothing about computers, of course!

Enter Clara Oswald, nanny, would-be-traveler, doppelgänger of a Victorian governess and a hacker-extraordinare trapped in the body of a Dalek…who, in this lifetime, doesn’t even know how to access the worldwide web!

She calls a helpline, and, five minutes later, a strange man shows up on her doorstep, dressed as a monk. He claims to know her, but she’s never seen him before. She closes the door, but he’s persistent, begging for entry until she finally speaks to him over the intercom. As she hangs up on him, a little girl comes down the stairs–a child straight from the cover art of a book. The back of her head is shaped like a metal spoon; with it, the ‘girl’ sucks Clara’s life-force from her body.

Meanwhile, the Doctor casts off his monk’s habit (“Monks are not cool!”), trading it in for a new, purple tweed coat and his favorite bow tie. He returns to the house in “sensible” clothes, again begging for entry. He hears her frantic words–words that are echoed by every other person trapped in the Wi-Fi. She’s lost and alone, uploaded to the data cloud.

The Doctor will have none of it. He’s already lost her twice; he won’t lose yet another version. The upload is only partially complete; with a sonic screwdriver and Clara’s laptop, he reverses the data stream, downloading Clara’s consciousness back into her body. He tucks her into bed, leaving water, flowers, and a plate of jammy dodgers on her nightstand.

She awakens that night, finding him waiting patiently outside her house. When she comes out to see him and makes a joke about Twitter, he realizes she’s brought something back with her from the data cloud: prolific computer knowledge. There are spoonheads down the street, preparing to send her back, and the Doctor urges her inside his tiny blue box–or, as Clara calls it, his “snagging booth”–but she’ll have none of it. That is, until a plane comes barreling toward them, and the Doctor yanks her inside, a coffee mug still in her hand.

The adventure’s just beginning; moments later, Clara finds herself inside the crashing plane, following the Doctor to the cockpit. Crew and passengers alike are unconscious, switched off by the Wi-Fi. The Doctor figures out how to fly the plane just in the nick of time; one near-miss later, the pair return to the TARDIS and jump ahead to morning.

The Doctor collects money in a fez for his magic trick–a blue box that appears out of nowhere, and a motorcycle stored inside–and he and Clara hop on the hog and ride into town. At a rooftop cafe, Clara snatches the laptop and puts her newly acquired hacking skills to good use. She hacks the webcams of the people running the nefarious Wi-Fi service and, matching their photos with those on social networking sites, is able to find out where they work. The Doctor, in the meantime, has gone to get breakfast, but the wait staff inside the cafe have been taken over by Ms. Kizlet, the evil project’s leader.

A spoon head, disguised as the Doctor, uploads Clara while the real Doctor is distracted, but the Doctor uses the technology to his advantage. Hacking it, he sends the faux-Time Lord to Ms. Kizlet’s headquarters, where he uploads her to the data cloud. Her only hope of return? The entire cloud being downloaded, returning everyone to their bodies.

Ms. Kizlet is not the project’s mastermind, however. The Great Intelligence is her client, and he has been whispering in her head since childhood. He frees her and everyone else she’d hacked, but at a cost: her memories and persona, reset, are those of a child’s.

The Doctor leaves Clara at the cafe, but returns to her house later, asking her to come away with him. She teases him, asking him if his line about time and space works, and asks him to come back the next day. Tomorrow, after all, she might say yes.