Having seen so many clips leading up to this episode I can say without exaggeration that I was thoroughly excited for it.  Not only is this the first official adventure where Clara is the full time companion, but it is the first episode where things are back to normal on Doctor Who.  And by that I mean it’s all solving mysteries, running about, and getting into trouble.
the-bells-of-saint-john-pics-batch-10-170x125The first thing I want to mention is how well Clara and The Doctor fit together.  There is an obvious chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman, and I don’t mean anything naughty.  They just have a wonderful onscreen chemistry that makes you feel as if she’s already an only friend of the Doctor’s.
The first thing I noticed about this episode is that it feels like the show has evolved.  The new TARDIS control is gorgeous.  It harkens back to the control rooms of Classic Who that NuWho had gotten away from, and I think it is a brilliant move.  Let’s not forget the TARDIS is a time machine, and its appearance should reflect this.  It feels like something old, yet something new.  There’s also a sense of “sci-fi-ness” to this episode that seems more refined and established.  When the TARDIS doors open and the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a plane that is falling from the sky something just, well, clicks.  This episode seems to set the stage for a new era of Doctor Who. It almost feels as if the Matt Smith era has finally “grown up”. 
The whole episode is an adventure the likes of which could only ever be told through the lens of  Doctor Who.  An exquisite quirkiness permeates the episode, and again, this probably has to do with Matt and Jenna, but the fact that the writing is superb doesn’t hurt.  In fact, it’s one of the best written episodes in a long while.  It’s funny, clever, well-paced, chock-full of wit, and all around good fun.  
the-bells-of-saint-john-pics-batch-9-170x125The episode starts with the Doctor living in a monastery and brooding over the mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald.  Other monks warn the Doctor that the bells of Saint John are ringing and off he goes.  Next we’re introduced to “modern” Clara who happens to be a governess just like her previous incarnation in the Christmas Special.  Well, for some reason she can’t access the internet.  She calls customer support and when the TARDIS’ phone rings the Doctor picks up.  Here is where the most intriguing bit of the episode happens.  It’s snuck in there, and I only noticed it on my second viewing.  The Doctor states that it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to call him on the TARDIS and he asks Clara, who he doesn’t know is Clara at the moment, where she got the number.  She says she got it from a woman at a shop.  This struck me like smack upside the head because “a woman in a shop” is a very obvious reference to Rose Tyler.  With recent news that Rose, as well as the Tenth Doctor, will be returning for the 50th anniversary, are we supposed to make the obvious connection here?  I think we are.  Moving on, as Clara and the Doctor are chatting she utters the phrase “run you clever boy” and The Doctor realizes who he’s talking to.  
The very next scene, the Doctor shows up at her door dressed as a monk, and of course she has no idea who he is.  Meanwhile, some mysterious corporation “uploads” her using a Spoonhead, a sort of camouflaged robot Wi-Fi hotspot.  You find that this corporation is uploading people to preserve their minds in a sort of immortality, but it is not out of kindness, it is because their mysterious client demands it.
The episode gets weird quick when some strange girl descends the stairs in Clara’s house.  A girl Clara doesn’t know.  Clara recognizes that it’s a character from a book referenced earlier in the episode.  A book, I must note, authored by Amelia Williams, better know as previous companion Amy Pond…  It’s when the girl’s head swivels 180 degrees and reveals herself as a “Spoonhead” that Clara becomes legitimately frightened. 
the-bells-of-saint-john-pics-batch-4-170x125After a quick and amusing wardrobe change in the TARDIS the Doctor returns just in time to save Clara and whisk her away for her first…er…third adventure…for the first time.  Unfortunately he’s a bit late and finds that Clara has been uploaded into the Spoonhead’s…well…head.  After a quick meddling with his sonic screwdriver and some brisk hacking he brings Clara back from her virtual prison.  Also of note is that this happens to be the second time “Clara” has been detained in a sort of virtual prison, the first being in Asylum of the Daleks, her first appearance.
What pique’s the interest of the viewer at this point is that someone, presumably that nefarious corporation’s client, warned them about the Doctor.  Just who is this mysterious client?  As the Doctor is explaining the current situation to Clara, that something is in the Wi-Fi is absorbing people, they realize that Clara, previously uneducated in the ways of technology, now knows quite a bit.  Somehow she brought back knowledge from her upload.  The Doctor notices someone—a Spoonhead as it turns out—is watching them, just as all the power seems to be going out around London.  When they notice an airplane heading towards them the Doctor ushers Clara to safety into his blue box and away goes the new TARDIS team!
In comparison with her first incarnation in the Dalek Asylum, Clara, now a tech wizard, takes to hacking to seek out the source of the Wi-Fi attack, which turns out to be The Shard, an unmistakable tower in the middle of London.   The continuous linking of this Clara with her previous two incarnations gnaws at the viewer in a way that lets us sympathize with the Doctor’s frustration about her mystery.  One of the best scenes in a long while on Doctor Who is when the lady in charge of the corporation takes control of everyone around the Doctor to warn him of the power she wields.  It’s a clever scene where he learns the Spoonheads have infiltrated the whole world.  This is when the Doctor gives his trademark warning about the Earth’s protection on his watch.  Just as Clara tells the Doctor she found the source of the Wi-Fi attack, the Doctor is revealed to be a Spoonhead and his doppelganger uploads Clara.  
bells-of-saint-john-celia-imrie-2-570x320I didn’t expect the twist of the Doctor hacking his Spoonhead, sending it into the corporate lady’s office, and uploading her into the data cloud.  Once again we’re reminded never to mess with The Doctor.  The Doctor’s plan works, forcing them to release all those absorbed into the cloud, including, of course, Clara.  Another delightful surprise is the appearance of UNIT as the security force in charge of securing the building.  Along with having previously establishing Brigadier Lethridge-Stewart’s daughter as the new head of Unit in The Power of Three, this latest appearance makes me think UNIT is here to stay.  The best surprise, however, is the big reveal that The Great Intelligence was behind the Spoonheads. Of course The Great Intelligence gets away, leaving it open for a return sometime later.
I actually didn’t expect The Great Intelligence to be brought back into the fold so quickly, but it seems obvious now that it will be the driving force behind the rest of the season, and I’ve no doubt it will be behind whatever 50thanniversary extravaganza Mr. Moffat has planned.  I can say without sarcasm that I’m thoroughly excited to see what comes next.  What’s interesting is that Clara doesn’t actually leave with the Doctor at the end of the episode, rather, she tells him to “come back tomorrow” for an answer.  I have no idea what’s to come, but I eagerly anticipate finding out.  This episode was great.  Actually, there’s something about it that reminds me of Torchwood.  It had surprisingly few plot holes for a Moffat episode.  It was a complete success in that it gave us an interesting and unique adventure (well, it does remind me a bit of a mash-up of School Reunion and Idiot’s Lantern) and it furthered the mystery of Clara all while establishing that a new era of Doctor Who has begun.  I can’t wait for next week!
image source: [doctorwhotv]