One of my favourite Doctor Who stories to revisit is 2013's “The Bells of Saint John”. Doctor Who, and Science Fiction in general, would do well to talk about the Internet and social media more, which is one of the points I was trying to make with my fan fiction a few weeks ago. So often such stories still dwell in ideas from great stories predicting the future we now live in, like The Matrix or Neuromancer, without extrapolating ideas from our lived in reality.
Not that “Bells of Saint John” digs very deeply into the subject. It’s enough that Steven Moffat taps into the worrying ease with which we became a society that happily connects to the convenient wifi and shares personal info. But mostly this episode is terrific to watch because of that trademark Moffat cleverness.
Yes, the cleverness of making Clara (Jenna Coleman) use “Run You Clever Boy And Remember” as a mnemonic device to remember a wifi password—the same words the Doctor (Matt Smith) had heard her use in previous incarnations. The cleverness of him introducing the magic of the TARDIS to her by whisking her up to a plane in mid-flight. The wordplay over the title of the show when she meets him at the door.
And Smith and Coleman deliver all their lines rapid fire but with feeling, like they’re in a great 1930s screwball comedy. All this stuff people used to complain about but it sure looks really good now, doesn’t it? I told you you’d miss Moffat when he was gone, didn’t I?
Of course, the sexual chemistry is a big part of it. Him getting flustered when she calls the TARDIS a “snogging booth”, him protecting her while she sleeps.
It doesn’t all work. Him licking her leaf is a bit over the top and there are some awkward moments in Murray Gold’s score here. Though mostly, particularly when it comes to the character themes, Gold’s is another dearly missed presence.
Twitter Sonnet #1375
The glowing apple fed the village green.
The answer lunch appeared beyond the dawn.
A dinner question posed a sight unseen.
We fight the paper towels with bount and brawn.
The loading screen contains the secret things.
Completed bars report the world in full.
In times the glasses stack to clicks and pings.
The varnished drawers respond to ev’ry pull.
Behind a metal mist abides the air.
A fractious word refused a fervent lead.
To talk of cooking things we must prepare.
We packed a fish to fill a tiny bead.
Distinctive smells inspire lots of love.
The spirits give the scent a hearty shove.