WARNING!!! If you are not currently up to date with DOCTOR WHO and do not want spoilers, STOP READING NOW, because this review is full of them.
DOCTOR WHO has finally started back up again, and while the spring opener pales in comparison to the season opener, it does get things rolling again in a very 11th Doctor way. The Doctor, played by Matt Smith, has been on somewhat of a downward trajectory ever since losing the Ponds to the weeping angels, and despite his enthusiasm over the mystery of Clara at the end of the Christmas special, we find him being a hermit in the basement of a 12th century monastery, pondering the girl who has died twice. In short order the Tardis gets a telephone call from yet another Clara Oswin, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER), and he is off to modern London to try and recruit a new companion. Of course no DOCTOR WHO episode is complete without some nefarious goings on, and in this case an organization is using a wifi network to upload the souls of the inhabitants of London. Unfortunately this menace is pretty forgettable, but it does provide enough of a back drop for what the episode’s true focus is: the resurgence of the 11th Doctor and the introduction of the new companion.
Now I know that some of you are thinking “But we’ve already seen Clara twice, how can this episode be introducing a new companion that we have already met?” and the answer is simple, this is the first episode we see the version of Clara that is going to actually travel with The Doctor, and she certainly seems to be made of the right stuff. This version of Clara is at times stern, bossy, playful, curious, but above all independent, in short, she seems like the kind of companion the show could use after having a couple as the companions for the last two seasons; a real breath of fresh air. Besides giving us a peak at what the new companion will be like, we also get the return of the fun and quirky side of the 11th Doctor many fans have come to love. Besides the return of his quirks with food that started back with custard and fish sticks, we get a great scene where The Doctor sorts through his wardrobe to find something cooler than monk’s robes, and while this inevitably leads to a coat and bow tie, we get some homage to episodes past as a fez briefly makes an appearance. As the saying goes, the clothes make the man, and once The Doctor is back in his proper attire his attitude loses its solemnity and returns to the more light hearted Doctor that has been a trademark of Matt Smith’s run on the show.
THE BELLS OF SAINT JOHN plays out like an extended introduction, but that is exactly what was needed as the series changes companions and gears up for some long hinted at monumental moments later in the season. We get to take a deep breath before the plunge, and while it may not be overly obvious now, I think that the breath is going to be greatly appreciated later on. While this episode was certainly nothing I expected, it did deliver many things I didn’t realize I wanted and I am now even more excited for the rest of the season.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
DOCTOR WHO airs on BBC America at 8pm eastern / 7pm central