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Published on April 6th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

The Bells of Saint John Reaction!

One week on from The Bells of Saint John, we’ve brought together some of the most intriguing interviews from around the web for the first episode of Doctor Who Series 7b (which we all know is really Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 8. But enough of this digression).

Oh, it's Clara!

Initial overnight audience figures were reasonably good for the episode, with 6.18 million tuning in, amounting to 29.8% of the total available audience. That’s pretty much par for the course in terms of percentages, and hopefully delayed viewing figures will add another 1.5-2 million. Doctor Who was aired opposite ITV’s You’ve been Framed! which limped home with 3.6 million, but the winner was Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with 7.19 million. Is that the same show they were doing in 2005?

Kasterborous readers, meanwhile, voted hugely in favour, with 67.9% enjoying, 27.78% considering it “okay” and 4.32% decrying the episode as “lifeless”. (This is from a sample of 324 votes.) But what did the press think?

You know, often we take issue with reviews that tend to miss the point of an episode, attributing criticism to elements that are insignificant. This happens a lot with the press and one wonders if they just make controversial comments about good episodes and baffling comments about bad ones just to attract attention. Take The Independent, for example:

The Bells of Saint John felt unfulfilling as a standalone episode but perhaps I’m wrong to judge it so harshly. Perhaps this is only the beginning of the Doctor’s battle with the Great Intelligence yet as a self-contained episode I ended up feeling empty and cheated…Overall the episode did not live up to the hype and left me feeling quite dismayed.

Someone else who didn’t “get it” was Wired’s Graeme McMillan, describing the episode as “unsatisfying”, “self conscious” and “haphazard”. There are criticisms that you can make about The Bells of Saint John, but none of these fit, in our opinion.

Souls were being uploaded to the Cloud, and it was irreversible, except it wasn’t, and they were being uploaded to the Cloud for … some reason that was never really explained, to serve a villain who wasn’t properly introduced. Worse still, the episode depended on that least-visual of all movie and television tropes, people typing quickly into computers to hack stuff, on two separate occasions. Even a random, easily averted plane crash couldn’t raise excitement levels after that.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Mr McMillan was paying attention…)

Elsewhere, The Telegraph seems to have finally shed Gavin Fuller in favour of someone who knows how to review. Welcome Ben Lawrence, who awarded 4/5 stars for the episode – a fair score, we feel.

Big-budget effects, a rapid pace, a sense of fun – there was much in The Bells of Saint John to enthral a 21st-century child.

However, there was still time to manage a few digs at classic Doctor Who. Still, you can’t have everything, can you?

Which leaves us relying on SFX for some better observations. A score of 4.5 stars out of 5, the result is favourable, with a key observation:

Surprisingly few Who stories locate their chills in the very place the audience interfaces with the programme but Moffat’s determined to mine the shiver-potential of mundane suburbia, tripping all its traditional mouse-traps for the imagination: the unexplained sounds from upstairs, the stranger at the door, the faceless figure beneath the streetlights.

Meanwhile, remind yourself of our thoughts on The Bells of Saint John by reading our review, downloading our podKast and if you missed it, stay up to date with our reKap!

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About the Author

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




5 Responses to The Bells of Saint John Reaction!

  1. BrandonM says:

    I also felt the episode was a little underwhelming. As much as I love Steven Moffat’s work, a lot of his recent episodes, in my opinion, lack that special oomph. In truth, and as much as it kills me to say, I think Moffat would be better sticking to one or two eps a series like in the Davies era.

    Thinking on it, maybe he just writes super long stories and they are underwhelming because the bulk is cut out.

  2. heather says:

    One of my favourites and a GREAT opener, watched it over and over. Fabulous Murray music, completely revelled in it,WONDERFUL and 10/10.


  3. So if you criticise the show you didn’t “get it”? Weird!!


    • Not at all. But you need to understand the episode you’re watching before you can intelligently criticise it, more so if the review is then going to be published on the website of a respected journal.

      It’s called professional integrity.

    • DoctorWhoLover says:

      The episode wasn’t particularly intellectually challenging so clearly the critic didn’t pay enough attention to “get it”. The uploads could only be reversed by downloading all the data once they were fully integrated into the system. The Doctor was only able to download Clara alone the first time because her upload wasn’t complete. The people who were uploaded were used to feed the Great Intelligence as shown by the quotes “my client requires a steady diet of living human minds” and “I have feasted on many minds, I have grown”… It’s also pretty obvious that the villain wasn’t properly introduced because he’ll have a more significant role later on in the series. As River Song would say “spoilers”…

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