After two episodes teasing us with other versions of the character, Doctor Who returns for the second-half of Series Seven to unite The Doctor (Matt Smith) with the current version of Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman). I like the casting of Coleman as the new companion, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed that the previous versions of Clara, at least at first glance, seem vastly more interesting than the one that that’s going to be hopping around time and space with The Doctor for the foreseeable future.
After a recording warning about the dangerous new WiFi stealing peoples’ souls, the episode opens with The Doctor living in a monastery in 11th Century Cumbria only to be summoned by Clara who someone manages to call the TARDIS (producing “The Bells of Saint John”) and sending The Doctor back into action. The third first meeting doesn’t go well, but after her saves her from a robot disguised as a fictional little girl which was downloading her soul into a database to be fed to “The Great Intelligence.”
To keep Clara safe The Doctor begins guarding Clara, but to trace the people stealing peoples’ souls he relies on her increased understanding of the Internet (via the download process) to find the company responsible. When he’s unable to save Clara from being uploaded again The Doctor does a little hacking of his own and uses the system itself to force the woman in charge (Celia Imrie) to download all the victims, including Clara, back into their bodies.
The episode ends with Clara tempted, but still not yet agreeing to take a tour through all of time and space. However, I don’t think we need worry that she may decline. As a premiere (mid-season or not) “The Bells of Saint John” has some fun sequences, but overall it feels derivative, the monastery sequence doesn’t make much sense, and, as I stated before, it gives us a slightly blander version of Clara than we’ve seen before. However, the episode raises a couple of interesting points: 1) Who was the “woman in a shop” that gave The Doctor’s number to Clara? and 2) Why does her fate seem bound to that of the Great Intelligence? For the answers to that, and the reason behind Clara’s Rory-like resurrection skills, we’ll just have to wait and see.