Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Bells of Saint John’

03.30.13 6 years ago 37 Comments

“Doctor Who” is back, and I have some thoughts on tonight’s episode, and the current state of the franchise, coming up just as soon as I invent the quadricycle…

There have been reports that Matt Smith intends to leave “Doctor Who” after this series to pursue a career in movies. And when you couple that with how much Steven Moffat has talked about the strain of doing both “Who” and “Sherlock” at the same time, it’s not hard to imagine a near future where both men depart together, like Tennant and Davies before them, handing the TARDIS keys to someone else. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the bulk of Moffat’s run, I don’t think I would object to that.

Moffat is a clever, clever man, but it feels like he’s emptied out his bag of tricks for this particular character and show, and is now just presenting minor variations on what he’s done before. Clara (now Oswald) is essentially a mash-up of Amy and River, another puzzle to solve where what she is becomes more important than who she is, even though I enjoy Jenna-Louise Coleman’s cheeky energy in the role. The people trapped inside the walking wi-fi base stations evoke the dead astronaut asking “Who turned out the lights?,” the gas mask people, etc. And the Doctor using one of the base stations to impersonate himself is like him using the people ship to fake his own death.

There’s always going to be repetition when you’re dealing with a character this old, but what felt fresh when Moffat succeeded Davies feels less so now, and it may be time for another writer to take a crack at things, whether or not they’re writing for Matt Smith or a new actor.

Or it may just be that the show returned from a hiatus with an episode heavy on the recycling. (As I noted back in the Christmas episode, my default is to trust Moffat.)

I’m curious how everyone else is feeling about the show right now. This is Coleman’s third episode, albeit her first playing this version of the character (now with the super hacker skills of the “original” Oswin). We have some sense of what she’s like, what the mystery about her is, and how Moffat tends to structure a season. Now that the Ponds are gone and the show can focus on this new arc whole-hog, do you feel more or less excited about what’s coming next? And how did you feel about “The Bells of Saint John” overall? Do you think Smith and Coleman are a good match, or in danger of causing a chipperness overload?

Have at it. Due to scheduling conflicts, I don’t know if I’ll be able to review the show weekly this spring, but I’ll write what I can when I can, especially if (hopefully) there’s a great episode or three coming up.

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