Are you a Whovian who has waited since the Christmas episode to learn who Clara Oswald/Oswin is? Or waited even longer since “Asylum of the Daleks”? I had high hopes, especially with the release of the prequel which I thought was cute and clever.
Well too bad.
Episode 7 of Series 7, “The Bells of St. John” and the premiere of the second half of the Doctor Who season does not tell us much. Unfortunately, it seems like just another case of Moffat thinking he’s clever.
This episode begins with the Doctor spending time in a monastery in the year 1207. Apparently he’s “hiding” in order to figure out the mystery of the twice-dead Oswald. Immediately I had a problem, as the Doctor isn’t known for hiding out, in fact, a good portion of his character is based on his ability to figure things out as he’s moving (usually running) around. However, he’s knocked out of this self-imposed exile by another monk telling him that the Bells of St. John are ringing. Very cleverly, the bells turn out to be the phone on the exterior of the T.A.R.D.I.S and it’s Clara Oswald on the other end, apparently trying to reach tech support as her wi-fi isn’t working.
The Doctor does not at first recognize her voice (which given his obsession seems unlikely) and there’s a bit of back and forth that results in the Doctor ending up on her doorstep.
The resulting episode is not particularly engaging or entertaining. A Big Bad is siphoning off/downloading the complete consciousnesses of humans who are clicking on an unknown wi-fi signal. These people then drop dead. The Big Bad has the bad luck to download Oswald, so of course the Doctor rescues her and gets down to the business of defeating said Big Bad.
The episode ends, not with Clara accepting the Doctor’s offer to run away and see some of the 101 Places to See that she has marked in her book, but instead with her telling him to return again tomorrow, and maybe she’ll say yes. After months of waiting for at least some clues as to who she is, and why she continues to pop up alive in different timestreams, this was a big disappointment. I wonder if Moffat realizes that irritating such a vocal and dedicated fan base is ill-advised. Actually, I know the answer- Moffat doesn’t care. Despite being a self-professed fan, he pulls some pretty crap moves, especially lately (like excluding John Barrowman a.k.a Captain Jack Harkness from the upcoming Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special).
There were a couple of interesting tidbits to be found in this week’s episode, including Clara OswaldOswin owning (and obviously having on her mind) a book by Amelia Williams. It’s interesting that after cutting Amy and Rory out that Moffat would choose to then use Amy as a plot device (and we know she writes, because her book is the whole basis for “The Angels Take Manhattan”). The one thing we do learn is that Oswin is apparently a nickname Clara gives herself for doing well- Oswald for the win = Oswin.
It looks like Richard E. Grant is going to be our hovering Big Bad this season, but given his unimpressively written character in “The Snowmen” (which I discussed here), I’m not holding my breath for that to be entertaining. Plus, is this a new Moffat thing? Take a character and just have them keep appearing without giving us any clues as to why?
Now I will be the first to admit that Moffat is the king of painting himself into a corner, making all the fans wonder what the hell he is up to, only to (mostly) pleasantly surprise us (“Pandorica Opens”, “Big Bang”, “Impossible Astrnaut”). But there’s also the issue of fan fatigue. There’s only so often you can keep pulling off the same old trick without wearing out the patience of your fans.
I’m a Whovian, so I’m happy the season has begun again, but Moffat is definitely on notice.