Recap: Doctor Who S33 E6 "The Bells of Saint John"
Yep, the problem of the week involves Wi-Fi. Be afraid.
"Walking base station... walking Wi-Fi base station, hoovering up data, hoovering up people!"
— The Doctor
The first episode of the second half of season 7, written by Steven Moffat, the captain of the Nightmare Fuel ship headed right towards your dreams."Prequel to The Bells of Saint John": The Doctor sits on a swing at a playground, where he meets a little girl who asks him why he looks so lonely. When the Doctor says it's cause he can't seem to find his friend, the girl tells him that when she loses things (like her nan, or her mojo), she just goes to a quiet place. She then says goodbye to the Doctor and, without him knowing, is revealed by her mother to be a very young incarnation of Clara. Watch this prequel on YouTube."The Bells of Saint John": The Doctor has found a tremendously quiet place: a medieval monastery. When the local monks inform him that his TARDIS phone is ringing, there's a modern-day Clara Oswald on the other end, working as a governess and calling for tech support (she got the number from "the woman in the shop... She said it's the best helpline in the universe"). She asks him where the internet went. And she has no idea who he is. After the Doctor vworps to her space/time coordinates, with a gorgeous new outfit, he finds Clara about to be uploaded into a London-wide wi-fi network, through a very creepy spoon-headed robot thing. He hacks into the system and draws her back to reality, pissing off the leaders of a very evil corporation which is uploading people through wi-fi from all over the world.Clara remains unconscious, so the Doctor puts her to bed, leaving her with some biscuits (Jammie Dodgers!) and flowers. He also reads her childhood notebook, and discovers that she wants to see the world. Once she wakes up (hours later) and pokes her head out of the window, the Doctor is still camped outside the house, and Clara eagerly joins him outside to find out what on earth is going on. The corporation turns out to be controlling people through wi-fi. Rather distressingly, Clara Came Back Strong from the other end; the corporation adjusted her mind to include everything there is to know about computers. Both decide to make good use of this, and (after a quick detour to halt a plane the corporation's crashing into London) take a shortcut to next morning. The TARDIS vworps into central London, the Doctor quickly collects some spare change by passing off his magically appearing box as a busking prop and the two go have breakfast. While Clara uses her new skills to hack into the wi-fi (although the Doctor still insists he should do it), the corporation uses the staff as People Puppets to taunt the Doctor, distracting him until they can reclaim Clara using a spoonhead that looks just like Eleven.The Doctor traces the signal to the Shard (the tallest building in Western Europe as of 2013) and takes his anti-grav motorbike there as soon as he can, riding vertically up the building. He confronts the Consummate Professional woman in charge. And reveals that it was a distraction — he's actually still enjoying his coffee at the café, watching over Clara's lifeless form. The spoonhead-with-the-Doctor's-face takes off its helmet and draws the CEO into the network, then manipulates the corporation into shutting down everything. By that time, UNIT have arrived. To the supreme annoyance of the villain behind it all: the GreatIntelligence, still played byRichard E. Grant. The people enslaved into working at the corporation finally snap out of their hypnosis. Sadly for the CEO, who's easily in her 50s, her hypnosis seems to have lasted about 50 years. She's terrified when she sees UNIT surrounding her.The Doctor, happy that Clara survived for once, invites her to become his companion. She tells him to ask her again the next day.
Adorkable: The Doctor repeatedly, adorably freaks out every time Clara suggests the TARDIS is a "snog box". Clara has her moments too, especially when dealing with computers (both before and after she gains her mad hacking skills).
Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Doctor kisses Clara's forehead after saving her from the Spoonhead. When he does this the second time, he strokes her hair, causing Clara to sleepily whisper, "Doctor...". D'awwww.
Alas, Poor Villain: At the end, it turns out that Miss Kizlet was brainwashed as a little girl by the Great Intelligence, who stole most of her life from her. Judging by the frightened way she calls out for her parents, she wasn't even a Creepy Child like Simeon.
The Doctor: ... I fixed that rattling noise in the washing machine, indexed the kitchen cupboards, optimised the photosynthesis in the main flower bed and assembled the quadricycle. Clara: Assembled the what? The Doctor: I found a disassembled quadricycle in the garage. Clara: I don't think you did. The Doctor:...I invented the quadricycle!
And I Must Scream: The people stuck in the wi-fi are trapped in little TV screens with absolutely no way to call for outside help, while "the client" feeds on them for possibly the rest of time.
...And That Little Girl Was Me: The man in the opening gives a lengthy explanation about the mysterious wi-fi network and its dangers, before revealing that his knowledge comes from first-hand experience of its effects.
Arc Words: The wi-fi password for the house Clara is staying at is rycbar123, which Clara remembers with the mnemonic "Run, You Clever Boy, And Remember". When the Doctor introduces himself, Clara replies "Doctor Who?".
Miss Kizlet: I'm ever so fond of Alexei, but my conscience says we should probably kill him. Mahler: I'll inform HR. Miss Kizlet: Actually, he's about to go on holiday. Kill him when he gets back. Let's not be unreasonable.
Beeping Computers: The Doctor's "under my protection" ultimatum appears complete with teletype noises.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: "Riots", likely recent riots in London, were caused by massive brainhacking. It was not established why Kizlet and her people had to do this.
Bittersweet Ending: The world might have been saved, but the fate of Miss Kizlet — who suddenly finds herself mentally a little girl again, likely about to learn both her parents are dead or very old — is one of the most depressing denouements in the series' history.
Brain Uploading: Miss Kizlet's plan involves uploading the minds of intelligent humans into a wi-fi computer cloud so "the client" can feed on them indefinitely.
Bullying a Dragon: "The client" knows the Doctor and even warned Miss Kizlet about him. This doesn't stop her from mocking the Doctor and believing herself unbeatable. The Doctor responds by destroying that arrogance.
Call Back: A number of events from previous episodes are discussed.
The Doctor comments repeatedly on Clara acquiring attributes of the previous Claras through unlikely events, such as becoming a nanny after her friend died suddenly, becoming a hacker after the villains nearly uploaded her brain and choosing the portmanteau "Oswin" ("Oswald for the win") as a user name on a whim.
"The client" comments UNIT are "very old friends" of the Doctor, as UNIT was formed in the aftermath of the Intelligence's attack on London in the '60s. This technically also makes them old friends of the Intelligence as well, since it was the reason for their formation.
In "The Web of Fear", the Intelligence threatened that if it couldn't absorb the Doctor's mind, it would instead "seek the help of lesser mortals." This episode shows how it carried out that threat, both using humans as slaves, and "feast[ing] on many minds".
Came Back Strong: After her mind is restored, Clara goes from not knowing how to log onto a wi-fi network to being a super-hacker. Miss Kizlet said that they would buff her computer skills when she was uploaded, so that is presumably the source.
Cassandra Truth: Mahler is constantly pointing out that what Miss Kizlet is about to do has the potential to backfire or draw unwanted attention on them, and she's constantly ignoring him. He's proven right pretty much every time.
Comforting Comforter: The Doctor to Clara, twice. The first time, he tucks her gently into bed to let her rest and leaves her a plate of jammy dodgers. (Though he does borrow one of them for himself...)
Chekhov's Skill: Earlier it's shown that the Doctor was working on one of the "spoonheads". Certainly helped to hack one and use it against Miss Kizlet.
Clipboard of Authority: Miss Kizlet's tablet, which she uses to control the emotions/skills of her employees. Even when she uses the wi-fi to control other people, they hold a clipboard substitute, such as a magazine or a tray.
Continuity Nod: Multiple minor references are made to previous episodes.
The phone of the TARDIS' police box camouflage still inexplicably works, as in "The Empty Child".
The Doctor: That is not supposed to happen.
The book the Maitland son is reading is by Amelia Williams — Amy Pond.
The Doctor picks up a fez from a box of clothes, referencing his comment in "The Big Bang" that he'd get another one.
The end of the episode implies "the client" began its plans with Miss Kizlet in the 1960s, placing its involvement with her right after its chronologically previous defeat in "The Web of Fear".
The Doctor defeating the Great Intelligence by subverting one of its own robots also mirrors "The Web of Fear".
"The client" is implied to have been involved with Miss Kizlet from childhood into middle age, mirroring its relationship with Dr. Simeon in "The Snowmen".
The Doctor says monks aren't cool, and gets called a "mad monk". Reference to The Meddling Monk?
The novelisation of "The Green Death" had an employee of Global Chemicals waking up from brainwashing at the end of the episode and saying how he had a completely different job and what the hell was he doing here?
Couch Gag: The title has a grey-ish texture, resembling the Shard. Note: up to this point in the series, the title logo has changed with each episode; however, this is abandoned after this episode and remaining episodes retain the same texture as seen here.
Creepy Child: A Spoonhead takes the guise of the little girl on the cover of Summer Falls.
Death Is Cheap: It depends of whether or not you consider the episode's method of yanking out your soul and uploading it to the wi-fi a death or a fate worse than, and whether or not both instances shown "count" since one wasn't completed, but you could say that Clara bit the dust twice in this episode, once at the bottom of the staircase, the second at the café. This leaves her with four deaths in three episodes. Not even Rory can compete with that.
Declaration of Protection: When the Doctor saves Clara the first time from a spoonhead, he sends her would-be kidnappers one message: "Under my protection". They surmise he is referring to Clara (accurately, given his clear protectiveness towards her throughout the episode), but it's likely he's also referring to the human race as a whole given his tendency to act as their champion.
Development Gag: The numbers in Clara's 101 Adventures book skip ages 16 and 23, years in the "classic" Doctor Who run the series didn't air. 16 years was the gap between the classic series and the 2005 revival. The numbers also imply Clara was born in 1989, the year the series was first cancelled. The first year skipped would then be 2005, when the series was revived, and the second 2012, when Oswald first appeared on the show.
Dueling Hackers: The Doctor and Alexei duke it out for Clara's soul the first time they try to upload her with a spoonhead.
Even Evil Has Standards: Miss Kizlet feels that killing off an underling is much more reasonable if they let the guy enjoy his holiday vacation first.
Clara: Is the Wi-Fi switching on the lights!? The Doctor: No, the people are switching on the lights; the Wi-Fi is switching on the people.
Exposition Fairy: The man at the beginning helpfully explains what the bad guys are doing, before revealing that he, too, is trapped in the wi-fi.
Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: The Doctor and Clara. Although wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle on public roads is the law in the UK, and the Doctor would hardly want to be stopped and booked by a policeman. It also serves to hide the fact that the Doctor sent a hijacked spoonhead in his place at the end.
When Miss Kizlet argues shutting down their cloud would kill most of the minds trapped inside, the Doctor matter-of-factly states that death would be preferable to suffering forever trapped as a spirit in the wireless cloud.
Various employees say their "conscience" is telling them to do something, hinting that "the client" has been whispering into their minds.
The Spoonheads use memories of those they attack to shape their appearance and their dialogue mostly consists of repeating what others say, calling back to the snow-constructs in the previous episode and foreshadowing the appearance of the Great Intelligence.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: The book in the episode is written by Amy (credited on the cover as Amelia Williams).
Miss Kizlet. She gets uploaded into the same network into which she callously uploaded others. The Doctor also steals her employee-modifying tablet to get her employees to behave as he desires.
Also, when Clara was being uploaded her computer skills were boosted to make her more useful. When the Doctor reversed the upload her increased computer skills remained, and she was thus able to use these against the bad guys and hack them.
Hollywood Hacking: First Clara, then the Doctor. Given a slightly realistic twist in that Clara uses a Social Engineering method; the employees were foolish enough to post where they work on social networking sites, which is exactly the sort of human error real hackers can use. It's still this trope that while she can't get into the Shard's security she can activate their webcams and apparently has access to flawless Facial Recognition software, though.
The Doctor explains how dangerous the TARDIS could be in the wrong hands... and lets go of his motorbike while explaining it. Sure yours are the right hands, Doctor?
In addition, it's lucky for the Doctor the TARDIS apparently can close her doors of her own accord when he exited with the motorbike and left the doors wide open in front of a bunch of people.
I Need a Freaking Drink: Clara gulping the rest of her drink after surviving a near plane crash thanks to a madman in a time machine. Played for Laughs in that it's just tea. She also slams the cup down like it were a shot glass.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: All Miss Kizlet's employees in the end reverted to the state they had before working for her. She herself became mentally a little girl.
Laser-Guided Karma: Miss Kizlet, in her remote confrontation with the Doctor, compares her employer's harvesting process to a farmer tending a flock of cattle, coldly remarking that "the abattoir is not a contradiction; no-one loves cattle more than Burger King." She gains a very different view of the situation when the Doctor uploads her into the wi-fi at the end, putting her in the shoes of one of the "cattle".
This exchange, which could also be a friendly Take That:
The Doctor: What chapter are you on? Clara:Ten. The Doctor:Eleven is the best. You'll cry your eyes out.
Yes, there is a replica police box in Earl's Court and yes, it was at least partially motivated by this show, as well as out of respect for the history of the British police force. In this episode it gets accidentally mistaken for the TARDIS by the people at the Shard, leading to someoffscreenhilarity that was a huge embarrassment to everyone involved.
Morality Dial: Miss Kizlet's tablet can be used to adjust the personality traits of her employees. Mahler gets his paranoia and obedience messed with at various points, and Alexei gets an IQ boost so he can cook up a clever solution to take care of the Doctor.
Neural Implanting: When Clara is first uploaded, Miss Kizlet orders Alexei to splice her a computer skills package to make up for her lack of them.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Doctor's shocked yell when Clara reveals who she is by repeating "Run, you clever boy, and remember." This distracts her sufficiently to result in her clicking the wi-fi link that gives the bad guys access to her.
Miss Kizlet, when she realises that it's not the Doctor in her office.
Everyone is also very concerned when, after uploading Clara, they discover the Doctor's coming for them ... and that his motorcycle defies gravity. Although Miss Kizlet puts a stiff upper lip on, she's clearly more than a little worried when he smashes into her office.
One Dialogue, Two Conversations: When Clara's talking to the Doctor on the phone about her wi-fi, he incredulously points out that it's 1207. She assumes he's talking about the hour; he's talking about the year he's currently in.
Clara: Am I phoning a different time-zone? The Doctor: Yeah, you really sort of are.
Orange/Blue Contrast: When the Doctor is hacking head-to-head versus Alexei. The Doctor's code is in various shades of orange, Alexei's blue.
Parental Substitute: Clara, who felt obliged to stay on to help out after the death of a family friend, whilst she was staying with them.
The Password Is Always Swordfish: Averted; the wi-fi password for Clara's network is "rycbar123", a reasonably strong password containing six semi-random lettersnote The numbers "123" are closer to the trope; they might be tacked on to satisfy a "must include digits" rule. This becomes significant when Clara uses "Run You Clever Boy And Remember" as a mnemonic to remember it, alerting the Doctor to who she is.
People Puppets: Miss Kizlet can take over people with the wi-fi, with the victims having no memory of what she's done with their bodies.
Rip Van Winkle: Miss Kizlet, at the end. The Great Intelligence reduced her mind back to childhood.
Robotic Reveal: The Spoonheads go through a lengthy Transformation Sequence when they reveal their true nature. None of their victims tries to escape while they are doing this, suggesting either that it's quicker in-universe or they have the ability to immobilise their prey first.
Robot Kid: The first Spoonhead who appears does so in the form of a little girl.
The exchange between Clara and the Doctor about their mutual inability to fly a plane, ending with the Doctor saying "Fine, we'll do it together", is very similar to a conversation between Ford, Zaphod and Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about their mutual inability to fly the Heart of Gold.
The call Clara makes to the Doctor for wi-fi help may seem quite familiar to anyone with Tech Support experience.
Clara's claim that she can find the bad guys by focusing on the people, not the computers, and use of social networking, mirrors real-life security concerns. For example, the head of MI6was compromised by his wife's postings.
The Slow Path: The Doctor's reason for jumping forward a few hours is to tire out the people searching for them.
Smug Snake: The amount of things that Miss Kizlet says that aren't dripping with smugness can be counted on one hand.
Something Only They Would Say: The Doctor identifies Clara over the phone when she uses "Run, you clever boy, and remember" as a mnemonic for her wi-fi password.
A Spot Of Tea: Clara carries around a cuppa after going outside to talk to the Doctor. She clings to it throughout seeing the TARDIS for the first time and surviving a few minutes on a rapidly crashing plane. Amazingly, she avoids spilling it over everything as there's enough left for her to take a healthy swig after all is said and done.
Summon Bigger Fish: Since losing his Ponds, Eleven has become noticeably more careful and protective of his humans. He saves the day in this episode by sending in a robot substitute and simply calling UNIT, while he watches over Clara and enjoys his coffee.
Both are set in the present day (at the time "The War Machines" aired, this was very rare).
Both have modern-day computers at the core of the plot and both deal with then-current real-life paranoia over computers (War Machines has a computer trying to take over the world, Bells deals with loss of identity online).
Both are focused around brand-new and controversial London landmarks (War Machines: the Post Office Tower; Bells: The Shard).
Both have new independently minded modern-day companions joining the Doctor (War Machines: Polly; Bells: Clara).
Sweet Tooth: The Doctor's love for Jammie Dodgers returns, and seeing him walk around at a café messing about with the cakes is like watching a kid in a candy store (which being The Doctor, he kind of is).
Mahler warns that uploading too many people will get them noticed. Turns out he was right, as both the Doctor and UNIT show up.
Mahler: Should we pulp [Clara], or keep her as a hostage? Kizlet: There's no point. She's fully integrated now. She can't be downloaded again. I'm sure he knows that. Alexei: I'm not sure he does. He's coming. (cue Oh, Crap faces)
The Doctor: You and me, inside that box, now. Clara: I'm sorry? The Doctor: Look, just get inside. Clara: Both of us? The Doctor: Trust me, you'll understand once we're in there. Clara: I bet I will. The Doctor: Clara, please!
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Upon failing to upload Clara and having outfitted her with enhanced computer skills in the process, the bad guys decide the next logical step is to crash a plane into her block.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Subtly set up, then quickly subverted: rather than kill his underlings, "the client" orders Miss Kizlet to activate every employee's "reset" protocol, erasing all memories from when they started their work with the organization but leaving them alive. As Miss Kizlet's memories of working for "the client" apparently started when she was a very young girl, this may not be quite a mercy for her.