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Matt Smith in 'The Bells of Saint John' (Photo: BBC AMERICA)
Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John
Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

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We begin with a warning. A man on a webcam says that strange WiFI accounts, with odd characters, are out to get you. If you’re sat at your laptop, and subscribe to their network, whether accidentally or not, your soul will be sucked in, and you won’t know where you are.

But in medieval Cumbria, this matters not a jot. The Doctor is hiding in a monastic cell, processing the recent events in his life. But he is interrupted by news that the bells of Saint John are ringing. He rushes out, leaving behind a painting of Clara Oswin Oswald, and her catchphrase “run you clever boy, and remember.”

Meanwhile, Clara herself is in the nowadays, in a family home, and ringing tech support because she can’t get on the internet. Her WiFI popup offers two options: the right one and the wrong one.

Back in 1207, in a hidden cave in the ground, the phone is ringing on the Doctor’s TARDIS. The bells of Saint John is the phone hidden in the TARDIS door (the opposite door to the one with the sticker about Saint John’s ambulance, geddit?), and suddenly Clara and the Doctor are having a confused conversation about tech support.

Clara’s WiFi password is RYCBAR123, or “run you clever boy and remember.” Suddenly the Doctor realizes who he is talking to, but Clara has inadvertently clicked on the wrong WiFi feed. However, before she notices, there’s a hammering on the door.

It’s the Doctor, in monk’s robes! She has no idea who he is! He babbles, she shuts the door in his face!

Oh hang on, where are we now? In the office of the gatheration network where all the souls arrive, called the Data Cloud. And just as humans can be uploaded, it seems certain human qualities, like obedience and paranoia, can be hacked, and fiddled with, by Miss Kizlet, the boss. The workers mention something called a spoonhead. Wonder what that could be?

In the midst of not letting the Doctor in, a young girl comes down the stairs towards Clara. She sort of recognizes her but can’t remember why at first. Then it clicks, she’s the manifestation of the front of a book. Then the girl’s head spins around and she’s… concave! Like a SPOON! This is not good news.

Not, all told, an ideal time for the Doctor to disappear off to get changed, but never mind. He’s now back, but oh no! Clara is being uploaded! She doesn’t know where she is.

The Doctor gets stuck into some serious hacking, and gets Clara back, leaving a stern note to say she’s protected. This causes Miss Kizlet, to confer with her mysterious client, the one who had warned her the Doctor would come.

Back at the house, the jammy dodgers are out, and the Doctor has found Clara’s (empty) travel journal. There’s a leaf inside. He goes to sit outside to guard her. She comes down to see him, and the Doctor explains about the WiFi. However, something seems to have happened to Clara, her experience of being uploaded has given her nerd cooties! She’s suddenly good with computers.

But there’s no time to think about that, because the houses are flashing threateningly, there’s flirting to be done, and… hang on! Is that a PLANE? Quick! Into the TARDIS! And let’s put the TARDIS… ON THE PLANE!!

The Doctor switches the WiFi off, having just about stopped the plane – which is full of unconscious and uploaded people – from crashing, and the pilots awake. Disaster averted, it’s time for breakfast, after a brief motorbike ride.

But the thing is, everywhere the Doctor goes, people’s tourist snaps reveal where he is to the Data Cloud people. So while the Doctor tries to find out why Clara is a nanny, and she demands the chance to hack the Data Cloud, their whereabouts are constantly being revealed, as the Doctor discovers as he tries to eat a scone. Miss Kizlet is speaking through the heads of the people in the cafe.

The Doctor attempts to cross-examine Miss Kizlet, who is using the restaurant’s WiFi to control everyone in the cafe. And on the telly too. It turns out she is farming human minds for her client, who consumes them.

Clara, meanwhile, has discovered their office is in the Shard. She tells the Doctor, but he isn’t the Doctor, he’s a spoonhead. There’s nowhere to run, Clara has been uploaded. She doesn’t know where she is.

The Doctor takes to his bike, which is an anti-grav bike (natch). So up the side of the Shard he goes and into Miss Kizlet’s office. He demands Clara is downloaded, and everyone trapped in the Data Cloud. Including, as it turns out, Celia herself.


And with a quick twiddle of her second-in-command’s obedience setting, Miss Kizlet, Clara and everyone in the Data Cloud is downloaded, and set free. The WiFi menace is neutralized, thanks to UNIT, and Miss Kizlet has been set free by her client, who turns out to be the Great Intelligence. Y’know, from The Snowmen.

Miss Kizlet, on the other hand, turns out to be a small child.

Back at Clara’s house, the Doctor offers her a ride or two in the TARDIS. She mocks him (and his “snogbox”), and tells him to come back the next day and ask again.

This gives the Doctor 24 hours to find out who she is. But will he?

Find out next week…

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By Fraser McAlpine