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 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 Great Intelligence
, still played by Richard 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.
- Allergic to Routine: Linear time still doesn't agree with the Doctor, leading him to do an insane amount of things while waiting for Clara to wake up from a nap.
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!
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Never heard of quadricycles? They actually do exist.
- 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?".
- Badass Biker: The Doctor rides a motorbike. Up the Shard.
- Bad Boss: Miss Kizlet, with a dash of Faux Affably Evil and Even Evil Has Standards.
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".
- As in "Human Nature", the Doctor paints a portrait of a potential love interest.
- The Call Put Me On Hold: Inverted. In the end, Clara puts the Call (and the Doctor) on hold.
- 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.
- Cool Bike:
- 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.
- Crash Course Landing
- Creator Thumbprint: Captions floating around to signify what happens on people's computer screens. Just like in Sherlock.
- 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.
- 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.
- Everything Is Online: Everything is connected to the wi-fi. Laptops, streetlights, aeroplanes, people...
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.
- Failed a Spot Check: When the Doctor's riding his motorcycle to the Shard, Miss Kizlet commandeers the body of a nearby pedestrian and snidely comments that it doesn't seem his style, to which the Doctor casually remarks that he rode it in the Anti-Grav Olympics in 2074. Miss Kizlet then smugly points out that it doesn't matter, the building is in lockdown and he's not getting in. The Doctor in turn points out that Miss Kizlet doesn't appear to have been paying full attention to what he was saying:
The Doctor: Did you even hear the words 'Anti-Grav'? [Proceeds to ride up the side of the building]
- 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.
- Fate Worse Than Death:
- 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.
- Miss Kizlet reverts to the mind of a small child in the body of a post-menopausal woman.
- 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).
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Miss Kizlet and Mahler. The former had been nurtured by the Great Intelligence since a young girl, while the latter was originally hired at the Shard to fix the toilets.
- Funny Background Event:
- The monk with the Doctor crosses himself when the Doctor explains that a woman is on the other end of the TARDIS phone.
- There is an upset-looking Human Statue in the background when the Doctor collects donations for his "magic trick".
- Hack Your Enemy: People from the Shard can hack people. The Doctor hacked one of their robots for a counter-attack.
- Hoist By Their Own Petard:
- 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.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- 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.
- Insistent Terminology: As Miss Kizlet reminds Alexei, they're called "Servers", not "Spoonheads".
- Invisible Parents: Clara's parents are never seen here. Her father is only briefly mentioned and her mother appears in the prequel. We do get a few hints why in the next episode.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: The abbot thinks people shouldn't call the Doctor "the mad monk" because he's not a monk.
- I Want My Mommy: Miss Kizlet seems to have lost most of her life at the end.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base: The hidden base is in The Shard, though it doesn't remain hidden all that long.
- 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".
- Late to the Party: UNIT, who arrive shortly after the Doctor has ended the threat.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- Eleven emphasizes how much he loves to hear "Doctor who?"
- This exchange, which could also be a friendly Take That:
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 some offscreen hilarity that was a huge embarrassment to everyone involved.
- Logo Joke: The episode was introduced by the wi-fi assuming direct control of the BBC One Space Station Ident.
- Mad Artist: The Doctor's considered one by the other monks.
- Meanwhile, in the Future: Briefly, when Clara phones the Doctor.