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The Bells of Saint John

The Bells of Saint John was the sixth episode of the seventh series of Doctor Who, produced by BBC Wales. It marked the first regular appearance of Clara Oswald as a companion, and the debut of a new costume for the Eleventh Doctor. He changed to a purple cashmere coat with a black bow tie and darker-accented garb. As the first story broadcast in 2013, its marketing had a similar feel to that of a “series opener”, but the BBC firmly maintained that it was merely the beginning of the second part of series 7. The episode also introduced the concept of “the woman in the shop” who was a mysterious person somehow keeping the Doctor and Clara together. This arc would be carried on well into Series 8 and would be of vital importance in the Series 8 finale.


Nabile warns anyone listening about the dangers of the Wi-Fi. He shows a placard with some odd symbols, and warns not to connect to any networks with writing like it. If you do, you may get chosen. And people who get chosen die within 24 hours. At least temporarily — their souls live on, trapped. Sometimes you can hear their cries, “I don’t know where I am!” on the radio, on the telly, or on the net. Nabile says that he knows this because, “I don’t know where I am.” He’s trapped in a screen, surrounded by a wall of other victims who are all calling out in fear and confusion, “I don’t know where I am!”

In 1207 Cumbria, a monk named Paul pounds on the doors to an abbey, calling to wake the Abbot because “the bells of Saint John are ringing.” As they head into a cave, Paul asks the Abbot why they call the Doctor “the Mad Monk”. The Abbot informs him that they should not, as the man is hardly a monk. They give their message to the Eleventh Doctor, who asks for a horse. As he goes to prepare, the monks discuss the painting in his room of “the woman twice dead”, and her last message: “Run you clever boy, and remember.” The Abbot observes that if the Doctor is mad, this is his madness.

Meanwhile, in 2013 London, it is 3:30pm and Clara Oswald is having trouble with connecting her computer to the internet. She tells Angie that she’s been ringing the help line but they haven’t answered. George comes through on his way out, saying that the adverts to replace Clara are in. Clara catches sight of the book that Artie has, Summer Falls, by Amelia Williams. He tells her he’s on chapter 10. She replies that, “Eleven is the best. You’ll cry your eyes out.” They head out, and Clara chants “pick it up, pick it up” as she goes upstairs to her computer and continues to try the help line.

Back in 1207, the Doctor and the monks arrive to find the TARDIS police box telephone, next to the St John’s ambulance sticker, ringing. A very confused Doctor picks up the phone, to be told that the caller can’t find the Internet. The Doctor slowly realises that the caller is in modern-day London. Clara was given his number by a “woman in the shop”, and told that “it’s the best helpline out there. In the universe, she said.” The Doctor starts to explain he’s not actually a help line, but gives up and asks if she’s tried clicking on the Wi-Fi button. She first tries the Maitland_Family link, but needs the password from Angie, who gives her a mnemonic to remember it. She mutters the phrase aloud on the phone as she enters it. “Run you clever boy and remember.” The Doctor recognises her voice and the phrase, and shouts, spoiling her concentration. She puts in the wrong password. She goes back to the screen this time choosing the open network with the strange symbols.

Other lines of symbols appear on her computer, and Clara’s room appears in a wall of little screens showing people. Clara runs out of screen to answer her frantically ringing doorbell. The Doctor, still in his Monk’s robes, greets her in excitement. “Clara Oswin Oswald?”

Revealing that Oswin’s not part of her name, Clara states that she doesn’t remember him. “Doctor who?” He asks her to repeat herself, twice, and tells her that he never realized how much he enjoyed hearing that said out loud. Clara takes that moment to close the door in his face, locking it. She pauses on the stairs as he continues to pound on the door.

The wall of little screens is in a dark room full of computers and people, where an analyst approaches his superior. Alexei calls Clara borderline, meaning she’s “very clever, but no computer skills”. Miss Kizlet tells him to “upload” her anyway, and “splice” her a computer skills package. He responds that he’ll activate the Spoonheads, which Kizlet complained were called “servers”. As she returns to her office, Kizlet discusses him with Mahler, then decides that they should probably kill him, but only after he gets back from holiday — “let’s not be unreasonable.”

Mahler is worried that they’re uploading too many people too quickly, that they’ll get noticed. She tries to comfort him, calling this “immortality, only fatal”. She then picks up a tablet with his name and picture, and sliders marked conscience, paranoia, obedience and IQ. She lowers the conscience slider, and he backs down. Mahler then realises that she hacked him, as reflected by his rising paranoia slider. He voices his concerns, to which Miss Kizlet coolly asks, “Because you changed your mind?” and lowers the paranoia until he’s walked out of the office.

Back with Clara, the Doctor begs to be let in. Clara talks to him once more, during which he states that he was in the area “with his mobile phone”, indicating the TARDIS as he says this. When asked why, he says, “Because it’s a surprisingly accurate description.” Clara cuts him off again and turns to go back upstairs. Suddenly, she hears footsteps. A little girl walks down the stairs. Clara asks if she’s a friend of Angie’s, and the girl repeats just that. When asked what she was doing upstairs, the girl replies that she was upstairs. Clara thinks she recognises her — and the girl repeats, “You know me, don’t you?”

Clara realizes that the girl is from the cover of Summer Falls, the book that Artie had. The girl’s head turns around revealing a spoon-like indentation in the back of her head. Clara backs away, scared.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor decides that a change of clothes is in order, since “monks are not cool.” He tries on a fez, then drops a tweed jacket in favor of a new purple one. With new clothes on, the Doctor opens up a compartment below the control room, and takes out a fancy box with a bow tie in it.

He walks out of the TARDIS, excited to make a better impression. He asks her to let him in through the intercom, but she instead responds, “I don’t know where I am!” Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor enters the house, and finds Clara lying on the floor, unconscious. If she’s not moving though, how can he can still hear her cries?

Looking up, he realizes that her voice is coming from the Spoonhead; Clara’s face can now be seen in the indentation. He uses his screwdriver on the little girl and it reveals the true form of the Spoonhead, a walking robotic base station. The upload halts and the Doctor thinks aloud that it is “hoovering up data. Hoovering up people.” It used a camouflage based on its victim’s thoughts. He quickly scans with the screwdriver, and finds Clara’s laptop upstairs. He grabs it and brings it back downstairs. He begins to reverse the upload on the computer, fighting hard not to lose Clara again.

At the secret base, Alexei is working on Clara’s acquisition when an alarm goes off. He, Mahler and Kizlet find that the download meter for Clara has halted and is going down rapidly. They marvel and Mahler reveals that such a reverse is possible, in theory. Alexei is typing rapidly, apparently attempting to block the reversal, but the Doctor prevails and the bar goes all the way down to zero. A pause, and then the Spoonhead transmits a pillar of light that returns to Clara. The Doctor checks her pulse.

At Kizlet’s office, they find that their hacker has left a message: “UNDER MY PROTECTION – The Doctor.” She shoos Mahler out, to contact her client. “Sir. The one you told me about. He’s here. The Doctor is here.”

In Clara’s room, the Doctor is tidying up. He takes out Jammie Dodgers, half-eating one and leaving it on the plate. He then leaves the room. Waking up from her sleep, she pokes out the window, and the Doctor, outside guarding her, recounts everything that she’d missed. Clara reveals that she is a friend of the family who live in the house, and she looks after the children — similar to the “governess” role that her Victorian copy held.

When Clara makes a tech-savvy joke about Twitter, they realize that she has gained greater knowledge of computers as a result of being partially uploaded. The duo spot another Spoonhead, presumably sent to re-upload Clara, before all the lights in the neighborhood switch on. The Doctor realises that the residents are being compelled to do so via the Wi-Fi. The lights in the rest of London go off, and the Doctor and Clara see an airplane that is plummeting towards them. He rushes her into the TARDIS and they quickly travel aboard the plane, where the confused Clara watches the Doctor managing to pull the plane out of its dive and revive the crew and passengers, who had been rendered unconscious via the Wi-Fi.

The Doctor and Clara travel forward to the next morning, and travel on a motorbike to a local café, where Clara uses her laptop to hack into the organisation’s webcams. She then searches for the staff on social network sites, where they have all detailed their work location — the Shard. In the café, the Doctor talks to several people who are being controlled remotely by Kizlet while Clara is re-uploaded by a Spoonhead replica of the Doctor. Upon realizing what occurred, the Doctor sets off for the Shard on his motorbike and uses its anti-gravity setting to scale the building and crashes into Kizlet’s office. He tells her to download Clara from the cloud. Kizlet states this is only possible if everyone else in the cloud is downloaded too and only a small percentage will survive and the rest would simply die after being reloaded back into their bodies. He says he knows, and tells her to download everyone to release them from ‘hell’. She refuses, so the Doctor finds a clever way to motivate her. As his head spins around, Kizlet realizes that this is not actually the Doctor… but a Spoonhead.

The Doctor speaking with a young Clara.

The Doctor speaking with a young Clara.

It is then revealed that the real Doctor is still at the café and has reprogrammed the Spoonhead, saying, “You hack people. Me, I’m old-fashioned. I hack technology.” The Spoonhead uploads Kizlet. Experiencing the fear that her prior victims felt, she then from a TV screen orders Mahler to download everyone. They initially do not, but the Doctor has the Spoonhead use Miss Kizlet’s tablet to hack Mahler into obedience. They download everybody from the cloud. Clara wakes up at the café to find the Doctor gone.

Later, as UNIT troops begin to take over the base, Kizlet reports a failure to the organisation’s leader, who is revealed to be the Great Intelligence — appearing via a large wall-mounted video screen. The Intelligence identifies UNIT as being “old friends” of the Doctor, and orders her to restore the members of the organisation to their “factory settings”, stating “It is time for you to reduce.” As a result, all the organisation members’ memories after being inducted are wiped, with Miss Kizlet revealed to have been aiding the Great Intelligence for most of her life — she now has the mentality of a scared child.

Clara and the Doctor then talk inside the TARDIS, where the Doctor invites her to travel with him. She declines, but tells him to come back the next day to ask her again. She leaves, and the Doctor says, “Right then, Clara Oswald. Time to find out who you are.”


The Eleventh Doctor
Clara Oswald