Doctor Who: The Bells of St John

The Bells of St John

I'm surprised. I actually really liked this episode!

Yes, the episode had problems, so let's get those out of the way first. I was disappointed that the Doctor planned to whisk Clara away from the beginning, because it loses that fun element of the Doctor stumbling upon his new companion, who is, in essence, a regular human being. In fact, I was somewhat upset with two elements of their meeting. First, the Doctor didn't seem to actually care about the problem facing humanity, and just cared about Clara. If the evil of the week hadn't targeted Clara specifically, it seems like he would have shrugged his shoulders and moved on. If the evil could have removed Clara from the database without removing everyone else, it seems like he would travelled on and left all those other people stuck. It wasn't a story of "something's wrong here, let me help!', but one of "I must protect Clara, so let's take down the people targeting her." And the fact that the Doctor was willing to act like the villains and manipulate someone's obedience levels without even a moment's hesitation was worrying to say the least.

My other, bigger problem was with Clara herself. In her first appearance as Oswin, she's shown as an absolute computer genius. And that's awesome! She's a companion with skills and interests of her own, with confidence in her abilities. But the Clara who actually becomes the companion isn't like this. She's so computer illiterate that it defies belief. She's a modern day educated British 24-year-old woman, but she needs to call a helpline to connect her laptop to the WiFi? The fact that she evens knows what Twitter is is treated as a big change in her brain. Her computer skills aren't part of her, but something that was added to her by the Big Evil. A useful skill, but not a part of her character. Disappointing.

Luckily, Clara in general was completely awesome, and her charm and energy brought an otherwise mediocre story to life. And she has interests and people she cares about and dreams of her own. She wants to travel (the perfect attribute for a companion for the Doctor). She gave up those dreams in order to help some family friends, but still intends to do it, one day. She doesn't have it all figured out, but she has things that she wants to figure out. She even talks to her dad on the phone! And of course she's Steven Moffat's typical female character, with sass and flirtatiousness and a teasing refusal to appease the Doctor's ego, but Jenna Louise Coleman brings such adorable energy to the role that it seems fresh and new.

Fun, generally non-offensive, with a wonderful new companion to discover. It was far better than I could have hoped! If it wasn't for the timey-wimey element of Clara's character, I would be really excited to see the rest of the season. As it is... well, fingers crossed that the skill of the actress manages to keep the character lively and interesting, and prevent her from becoming little more than a plot device.