Doctor Who‘s seventh season returned for the second half Saturday on BBC America with the first real episode featuring the Doctor’s newest companion, Clara Oswald. Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Jenna-Louise Coleman on the show, but the two previous times the Doctor met her, she died. How does a woman who died twice still stick around? That’s a great question.
In “The Bells of Saint John,” the Doctor has his first adventure with present-day Clara and it involves people’s souls being uploaded to the Cloud thanks to evil wi-fi. We also get a ton of clever references to the show’s past, some of which may hold clues to the bigger mythology surrounding Clara.
The Phone Call
The episode begins with the Doctor in a monastery in the 13th century, reflecting on the mysterious Clara Oswin Oswald, a woman who he’s met twice, who’s died twice, and whose final words both times were “Run you clever boy and remember.” That phrase is sure to be important, just like the Face of Boe’s final words, “You are not alone,” back in season 3 (where the acronym’s namesake, Yana, turned out to be another Time Lord).
The titular bells of Saint John start to ring, only the “bells” are the phone on the TARDIS. The Doctor picks it up and it’s Clara on the other end, calling about the fact that the Internet is gone (maybe it’s with the bees from season 4). Clara tells him that she got this number from “the woman in the shop,” which I’m sure will come into play much, much later this season. The obvious answer is that the woman is probably River Song, because who else would know the Doctor’s phone number?
The Doctor gets interested when he learns that the computer password for Clara’s wi-fi is RYCBAR123, which she remembers with the mnemonic device “run you clever boy and remember.” The next instant he travels to the present to meet her.
The adventure this week finds people’s souls being uploaded to the data cloud via wi-fi base stations that are actually evil robots nicknamed Spoonheads (because, well, their heads look like spoons). They possess the ability to mimic any form, so Clara’s looks like a character from her favorite book (Summer Falls by Amelia Williams, a wonderful little reference to the previous companion which will hopefully not be the last).
Luckily the Doctor is able to reverse it and, with Clara’s newfound Internet-savviness, they track the headquarters of the Spoonheads. There we learn that the people are being uploaded as a food source for a mysterious client, and in the end we learn that it’s none other than the Great Intelligence, the same name as Dr. Simeon’s company in the Christmas special “The Snowmen” (the GI is even played by the same actor as Dr. Simeon, Richard E. Grant). Obviously the Great Intelligence is the big bad for season 7, much like Harold Saxon, aka the Master, in season 3.
Who Is Clara Oswald?
The episode ends with Clara agreeing to run off with the Doctor, mostly because she has a book of 101 Places to See, therefore she’s up for an adventure. But the Doctor is more interested in finding out who she is. Why is she still a governess (or nanny) in the present, just like in 1892? What is the meaning of “run you clever boy and remember”? How is it possible that the same woman, living in totally different times, has died twice before? What is the meaning of the leaf in her book being page one, and why did the Doctor seem confused or intrigued by the taste of it? Why were 16 and 23 missing on the list of ages Clara had crossed off in the book (maybe it’s just a shout-out to the Lost numbers)?
Hopefully all those questions, and more, will be answered this season on Doctor Who. For now, I’m left intrigued and captivated by the newest companion, so kudos to Doctor Who for always finding a way to survive big cast changes.
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(Image courtesy of BBC America)